So, 2017. I'll try to stay on-task and directed here. We both know how that part's going to turn out.
Let's pretend to at least have some focus here and I'll talk about the music that I most loved/resonated with coming out of this year. This is in no particular order.
Algiers - THE UNDERSIDE OF POWER
Wow. And I thought their debut album from 2015 was great. This was a significant step up, both in terms of aggressiveness of sound, but also in embrace of the past without sounding dated. There's plenty of call-outs to older arrangements and instrumentations, but none of it sounds like fan-service, for lack of a better word. And while there's plenty of righteous fury, there's quiet and thoughtful expansiveness. The rage is not formless and aimelss, nor is it the only emotion you're going to get.
EMA - EXILE IN THE OUTER RING
This is the stuff that's blasting out of boomboxes in the 2020s segment of William Gibson's THE PERIPHERAL. Sparse and enervated, on a slow drive through post-Pax Americana rust-belt suburbs. Damned maybe but not doomed, driven by the ability to make terrible choices and not be destroyed by them.
Emma Ruth Rundle - MARKED FOR DEATH
Personal and dreamlike, but utterly fiery. Filled with a longing that can't be satisfied and understanding the comfort in that kind of hunger. There's no stopping what can't be stopped, and this woman can't be.
Noveller - A PINK SUNSET FOR NO ONE
I hesitate to say the most mature work from Noveller, but I wouldn't be wrong if I did. Perhaps the most fully-realized. From the slow sweeping, echoes of both Eno and Copland "Deep Shelter" to the cathedral and Krautrock-infused drones lf "Emergence," one of the most outstanding records of the year. Cerebral and emotional, a perfect ticket to another place.
Perturbator - NEW MODEL
Only an EP from Perturbator this year, but man, does it ever come hard (as noted by pal Jeff Treppel). "Vantablack" is an outstanding track here, trading a more traditional synthwave vibe for blackest and coldest trap rhythm leading down darker alleys to straight-up Barkeresque horrors. You think you've got a grip on these uncomfortable things then they transform in your hands, becoming a crushing and inexorable break as the puzzle box opens and your brains are devoured. If this is the direction he's embracing on future releases, I'm fully on board.
TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN
Both the Roadhouse and incidental music releases from the television show of the year (and there is no competition in this category, just utterly laughable to even think of one) are amazing and worth examination. The mark of a great show is one that takes the utterly familiar (in this case, ZZ Top's "Sharp-Dressed Man" and making it not only new, but perhaps terrifying in contrast to the on-screen events.) Angelo Badalmenti's score, augmented by David Lynch, Muddy Magnolias and others remains haunting and worth examination. But it's far from a light snack.
Chelsea Wolfe - ABYSS (I guess from 2016, but only snagged it this year)
Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch - BLADE RUNNER: 2049 soundtrack
Heron Oblivion - HERON OBLIVION
Josefin Öhrn and the Liberation - MIRAGE
Lazerhawk - DREAMRIDER
Marriages - Salome (another 2016 release)
Ritual Howls - THEIR BODY ep
NIN - WITH VIOLENCE ep
Thayer Sarrano - LIFT YOUR EYES TO THE HILLS
Ulaan Passerine - LIGHT IN DUST and MOSS CATHEDRAL
Vum - CRYPTOCRYSTALLINE
As mentioned before, in terms of television, TWIN PEAKS made all other comparison ridiculous. There was nothing with the sweep or the weight, the raw daring and belief in art on the screen. Sorry anyone else in 2017. You just tried to follow one of the great acts in history. Just bad timing.
The best book I read this year was DESIERTO by Charles Bowden, only what some thirty years after it was published. But Matthew Newton's SHOPPING MALL was pretty great. Again, just rough to be up against competition like Bowden. Oh, and THE LAST DAYS OF THE LATE, GREAT STATE OF CALIFORNIA by Curt Gentry (sold as a novel, but primarily a history with some speculative fiction as a sugar-coating) was outstanding as well.
And here's where I'm supposed to work on my brand and talk about the great things that happened with my work this year. Literally nothing that was supposed to happen with published work this year actually happened. So I guess I have 2018 to look forward to in that regard, right? Did a whole lot of writing that has yet to see the light of day. A whole lot of development work that has led only to pitches that are either with folks or will live on my hard drive for awhile and gather quantum dust. I'll be honest. That part is really, really depressing. It's a lot of work to get deep into pre-writing and not have much to show for it. I mean, I can post the pitch to my website, but there's no utility in that. So, hooray.
"Oh just finish the thing and put it up on Amazon."
Yeah, I've done that before. There's a reason I call this place the Howling Pit.
So, to be more optimistic, I'll just keep working on things for next year. Have a bunch of stuff that could go longform prose: SHORE LEAVE, THE CITY THAT BURNS, EMPIRE OF LIES. These are all developmental titles, you understand. They could be chucked in a second.
Gotta say, though. In all honesty it's harder and harder to justify trying to pitch comics. Even at a reasonable rate for pitch pages and time in development, you're talking realistically a thousand bucks or more to come up with one package to throw at editors. Without a reasonable expectation of any kind of attention? Yeah. That's looking like pissing up a rope from here.
As for other achievements, the big one for this year has nothing to do with work and everything to do with helping my wife recover from last year's brain surgery and see her reassume a regular life, one that anyone might have an expectation of living. Because what was going on before was something I wouldn't wish on a stone adversary. That's a big one, and I'm thankful and grateful for having been part of it.
Let's all pull for more of that in 2018.