Sensitive Skin Contributors 2016 Favorites – Books, Movies, TV, Art, Performance and Music – Reasons to Live

Before we get on to the 2016 Favorites, first things first, I need to get this off my chest: Hey 2016 – go suck a bag of d***s, will ya?

OK, and now, without further ado, presented without rhyme or reason, here’s our annual list of books, essays, events, records, openings etc. that helped the Sensitive Skin editors and contributors make it through this annus horribilis (which, of course, is Latin for “lousy asshole”). A reminder – this is not stuff which necessarily came out in 2016, but which we enjoyed in 2016.

Editors and Contributors 2016 Favorites

 

Bernard Meisler

Books
I briefly met Paul Beatty at a party in NYC in the early ’90s. He was mean to me. Someone introduced us and I was so wasted he just started laughing at me. I suppose I deserved it. No hard feelings on my part—The Sellout was by far my favorite book of the year. Hilarious and thought provoking, just a delight to read—and if you’re not offended by it at some point, you’re not paying attention. All is forgiven, Mr. Beatty. I also enjoyed Joshua Mohr’s terrific, harrowing memoir Sirens, David Ulin’s Sidewalking, Doug Rice’s Here Lies Memory: A Pittsburgh Novel and two great new books from Stalking Horse Press, Annihilation Songs by Jason de Boer and A Child of Storm by Michael J. Wilson.

When things get shitty, it’s time to read detective novels. So I re-read (and enjoyed immensely) Charle’s Willeford’s four Hoke Moseley novels.

I also finally got around to reading Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo. Hard to believe it came out in 2003-very timely and (as usual) a terrific read.

Music
I listen to all sorts of music, new and old, all the time. And I’ll admit, I still buy CDs. They’re cheap, and sometimes I want to listen to music without any computers on. I also listen to them when I’m driving around; I have a single-CD player in my car, and usually put something in there that I listen to death. This year there were two. First, Arise Black Man, a collection of Peter Tosh singles. This is not the later, over-produced Peter Tosh of the late ’70s, when Mick Jagger was trying to make him a bigger star than Bob Marley. No, this is a compilation of his singles from ’69 to ’71 or so, when the Wailers had temporarily disbanded while Bob was working on the night shift, driving a fork lift in Baltimore. The other is Sweetheart of the Rodeo, nominally by the Byrds, but really a Gram Parsons record. I love classic country—Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, George Jones, and Merle Haggard (RIP), but can’t stand modern country. By the same token, I don’t like modern alt-country much either. But I love the original alt-country—anything by Levon Helm, Dylan’s John Weseley Harding and of course, the guy who (maybe) started it all, Gram Parsons. So good…. Will there even be a hundred years from now?

I supposed I should also mention the classic Pink Moon by Nick Drake, which is what I was listening to while I wrote this.

Movies
I love comic books, but with a few notable exceptions, hate comic book movies. But I enjoyed the hell out of Dr. Strange because, despite being burdened with the typical Marvel film tropes (snark, a cameo by the reprehensible Stan Lee, etc.), it was trippy as fuck. And Doc’s fight with his cape was straight out of Evil Dead II. Some were angered by the film’s “whitewashing”—casting Tilda Swinton in the role of the Ancient One, instead of an Asian actor—but Tilda Swinton is a goddamned space alien and I couldn’t imagine anyone possibly being better in this role.

Mads Mikkelson from Pusher

Speaking of Mads Mikkleson, I watched Pusher I, II and III over the course of a couple of nights. (The original Dutch versions.) What could be more fun than watching the hi-jinks of a bunch of violent, psychopathic Danish junkies/street criminals/low-level dealers? The third entry depicts the most realistic twelve-step meeting I’ve ever seen and even has a happy ending! (Sort of.)

High Rise was pretty good, but I loved Ben Wheatley’s Kill List. A psychological family drama that turns into a hit man movie that turns into a horror movie. Wild.

I watched Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy for the first time in many years recently. A very dark comedy (do you see a pattern here?). Probably the best-ever DeNiro performance-he’s Travis Bickle, but pathetic and simpering, without a trace of cool. Also probably Jerry Lewis’ best performance and, dare I say, Scorsese’s best film, even though it is a radical departure from his usual style-no slow motion. It essentially has the same message as Taxi Driver-a loser turning to violence to achieve celebrity-but is handled in a better, more mature way. Brilliant.

Robert DeNiro as Rupert Pupkin, from Martin Scorsese's "The King of Comedy"
Robert DeNiro as Rupert Pupkin, from Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy”

Last but not least—Hitchcock/Truffaut is a must for any and all film buffs. Did you always want to be a film buff? Here’s your big chance.

TV
I started binge-watching Breaking Bad the other day, starting in the middle of season 4 (which is when the show transitioned from good to great; season 5 is even better.) There were some good TV shows this year (see Mark Netter’s post below), but man, nothing can touch this show, probably the best thing that’s ever been on television. Except maybe Deadwood, which I also started re-watching.

Podcasts
Marc Maron’s WTF podcast is a mixed bag—sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s unbearable. Like Mr. Maron himself, I suppose. His make-up episode with Lorne Michaels is essential listening for all fans of SNL, comedy history, and learning how to let go. In general, I find the interviews with musicians boring, but love the ones with alter kocker comics – JJ (“Dy-no-mite!”) Walker, Shecky Greene, Marty Allen, Mel Brooks, etc.

When I was a kid, I loved getting under the covers and listening to GE’s Mystery Theater on my transistor radio (yes I am old.) I just discovered the revival, from GE Podcast Theater, whose first entry, The Message, was just an old-timey ball, and a Borgesian hrönir of a podcast.

Franklin Mount

The Shipwrecked Mind, by Mark Lilla

In a year dominated by Reaction with a capital “R,” Lilla’s slim volume explains the oldest ideology and demonstrates its enduring appeal. To the reactionary, everything is wrong, and it all went wrong when some ancient foundational truth was abandoned. The beauty of this approach is that this ancient foundational truth isn’t true and never existed, thereby dispensing with accountability and verifiability. Whatever this supposed truth was doesn’t even matter. The notion that all is wrong and the reactionary has access to ancient truths gives the reactionary infinite comfort, a ready defense, and unlimited material. Lilla requires only 164 pages, which is more than enough to cover the least thoughtful and most widespread philosophy in human history.

James Reich

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize
This was true in true in 1965, and it’s twice as true in the brown wake of Donald Trump: “Ballad of a Thin Man” should be the national anthem of the United States; a carny depression, a bewilderment, a conspiracy, the decay of lying, an overlay of newsprint and nausea, the hip and the straight, the cool and sometimes cold ambivalence of America. After the arguments—and I’m no Dylan apologist—the literary world is better for fighting over the stream-of-consciousness influence of a skinny Rimbaud-copping Jewish contrarian with a guitar.

Don Letts’ The Story of Skinhead, BBC documentary
The intersections of British youth with Jamaican culture, the evolution of working-class alliances through the tail end of mod, into reggae, ska, and punk defined the finest aspects of British culture, now betrayed by the reactionary idiocy of Brexit. Like all youth subcultures, skinhead was corruptible, but arguably, no hopeful youth scene has been stolen so viciously. I watched Letts’ skinhead doc with a keen sense of nostalgia, but also with nostalgia’s essential element: a sense of loss. The infiltration of, and perversion of skinhead by racists, crypto- and neo-Nazis was and is tragic. An important history lesson for those unfamiliar.

Laurence A. Rickels’ The Psycho Records, Wallflower Press
The most interesting, challenging, and eclectic psychoanalytic theorist of our time, Larry Rickels puts the serial killer, the voyeur, killer mascots, slashers and zombie fathers under his Freudian lamp. There is no writer who works the seams of between academia and B-culture with Rickels’ intelligence and connoisseurship.

Matt Donovan’s A Cloud of Unusual Size and Shape, Trinity University Press
Between the eruption of Vesuvius and the Manhattan project, Hercules and H.G. Wells, the erudition and craft in Donovan’s hybrid texts constellate the apocalyptic and the personal. The genius of this book is in quietly, persistently questioning what it is to observe, and how to confess what is seen—delicate details—against monolithic catastrophes.

Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky
25 years since I read this novel for the first time. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it, or referred to it, but no novel has affected me so profoundly as The Sheltering Sky. Nuff said.

steve dalachinsky

maholy-nagy at guggenheim
kris davis cd – duopoly
various kris davis concerts
tom rainey trio with mary halverson and ingridid laubrock
andrew cyrille-sam newsome duo at cornelia st
wadada leo smith and miriam parker at vision festival
weimar pre-war german art at neue museum
craig taiborn at the stone
stuart davis at whitney
bruce conner at moma
frank stella at whitney
ahhhhhh on and on and on

Yuko Otomo

Art
Art Brut in America: The incursion of Jean Dubuffet (@ American Folk Art Museum); Picasso Sculpture (@ MoMA); Irvng Pen: Personal Work (@ Pace); Giogio Morandi (@ Ctr. for Italian Modern Art); Martin Wong: Human Instamatic (@ Bronx Museum); Phillip Guston: Painter, 1957–1967 (@ Hauser & Wirth); Marcel Broodthaers: A Restrospective (@ MoMA); Edger Degas: A Strange New Beauty(@ MoMA); Danny Lyon: Message to the Future (@ Whitney); Stuart Davis: In Full Swing (@ Whitney); Bruce Conner: It’s All True (@MoMA); TOLD and UBTOLD: The photo stories of Kati Horna in the illustrated press (@Americas Society); Dian Arbus: in the beginning (@ MET Breuer)…

Music
The Conduct of Jazz: Matthew Shipp Trio (Jazz @ Lincoln Ctr.); Open Plan: Cecil Taylor, an exhibition & concerts (@ Whitney); Connie Crothers Final 2 Concerts: Connie Crothers Trio & Steve Swell Quintet (@ Vision Festival); Thelonious Monk 99th Birthday broadcasting (@ WKCR); Nao Nishihara/Oki Onda (@ Issue Project Room) …

Cinema
Embrace of The Serpent (by Ciro Guerra); Song of My Brother (by Chloe Zha); Thomas Chapin, Night Bird Song: the incandescent life of a Jazz great (by Stephanie J. Castillo); I Don’t Belong To Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Ackerman (by Mariane Lambert); Destiny (by Fritz Lang): Notfilm: a ducumentary on the making of Film by Samuel Beckett (by Ross Lipman); Don’t Blink – Robert Frank (by Laura Israel); Hieronymus Bosch: Touched by The Devil (by Pieter van Huystee); The Apostate (by Federico Veiroj).

Publications
Time Extends Life To Those Who Survive by Jim Feast (Fly by Night press); Paris Scratch by Bart Plantenga (Sensitive Skin); Ronnie Burk: a man of letters (Unrequinted Records); The Invisible Ray by Steve Dalachinsky (Overpass Books); The City Keeps by John Godfrey (Wave Books).

Theater/Performance/Dance
The Spinning Wheel (by Baba Israel); Kazuko Hirabayashi Memorial Celebration.

JD King

Nothing new, or even remotely 2016, on this list, but here goes:

• Jazz LPs: Various by The Dave Brubeck Quartet on Fantasy, The Bill Evans Trio on Riverside, André Previn & Pals on Contemporary, The Duke Ellington Orchestra on Columbia

• Pop LPs: The Supremes on Motown, The Beatles on Parlaphone, The Jam on Polydor

• Classical LPs: JS Bach, Andrés Segovia

• Novel: The Moviegoer (1961) by Walker Percy

• Oddball novel: All the Comforts (1967) by Joseph Papaleo

• Poets: Philip Larkin, Anne Sexton

Jim Feast

Best Chinese/Korean Films of 2016
(in no particular order)
1) Saving Mr. Wu (dir. Ding Sheng

2) Mr. Donkey (dir. Zhou Shen and Liu Lu)

3) The Age of Shadows (dir. Kim Jee-woon)

4) Train to Busan (dir. Yeon Sang-ho)

5) The Tunnel (dir. Kim Seong-Hun)

6) Three (dir. Johnnie To)

7) Cold War II (dir. Lok Man Leung, Kim-Ching Luk)

8) Lost in Hong Kong (dir. Xu Zheng)

9) Our Times (dir. Frankie Chen)

10) The Beauty Inside (dir. Baik)

(The complete reviews will be available in a post later this week -ed.)

Jenny Wade

Movies
Musician Adam Greene’s new film, Aladdin, is a hoot.

Music
My daughters turned me on to Next Thing by Frankie Cosmos, now I love her too.

My old bandmate, the great percussionist Rick Brown (Timber) is doing perhaps the best work of his long, storied career with his new combo (Che Chen on guitar), 75 Dollar Bill.

TV
Stranger Things.

Performance
I was happy to discover the writing, artwork and performance pieces of Russian poet Dmitri Prigov.

Tate Swindell

Film
Miles Ahead (Don Cheadle does Miles a solid)
Son of Saul (Peeking thru fingers & misty-eyes)
Nocturnal Animals (Shit, add me to the list of people no longer sleeping)
A Bigger Splash (Tilda Swinton, silent, more please)
Loving (Jeff Nichols keeps it classy with a classic LOVE picture)
Midnight Special (Holy shit! Nichols has 2 films in my top 10 of 2016! Well done Lad!)

Some might get annoyed when directors (auteurs mostly) use repeat cast members. Tho when it works, it soars. Well, I hope that Michael Shannon (and Sam Sheppard to a lesser extent) continue to work with Jeff Nichols for decades ahead. (Tho that’s partly me just wanting Sam Sheppard to live until 177.) Not to mention the incredible scores put forth by David Wingo. The score for Take Shelter is my #1 argument for Wingo as the new Howard Shore.

Music
If every year produced a live show that bumps another out of the top 10 rotation, well, then life is good. August 28, 2016 delivered with Blood Orange opening for Grace Jones at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. Dev Hynes’ Blood Orange music is a lifeline for those that miss James Baldwin, Julius Eastman and Michael. Grace Jones, for those wondering, is still a bad ass, high-fashion diva stalking and strutting her way across the stage.

Two nights later, catching Explosions in the Sky at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, provided another evening of transcendence. Employing a new light show, subtle soothing pastels projected mostly from below, this vocal-less band says more than most. See them live if you are able!

I’d be remiss if not mentioning the lead-in to all of this…the return of the Living Theatre to San Francisco on the 25th of August. I believe the tour was about 2 weeks and there is absolutely no way, in a few lines, I can relate the importance of this night to you, dear reader. You simply had to be there. From the anticipatory buildup, to the buzz in the foyer of the Great Star Theatre on Jackson street in Chinatown, to the trepidatious steps crept by ‘audience’ members as they approached the stage, where a horseshoe shape of empty chairs awaited their presence. YES! YES! YES! I thought (and probably said aloud as i do these days) as I walked in and was greeted by this sight. We are all the Living Theatre and that sight reaffirmed this. Alright, that’s all your getting for the performance. Another time, I’ll tell you about how we all gathered at Spec’s afterward and the revelations and celebrations that occurred there.

And whenever I need a good laugh, I pick up any writing by Brontez Purnell.

For the old music, well, I can’t stop listening to Art Pepper.

Lastly, V.Vale’s new book Bruce Connor: The Afternoon Interviews. Buy this book!

Mark Netter

My favorite moviegoing experience this year (and there’s still a few weeks left to catch some contenders) was Yorgos Lanthimos’ THE LOBSTER, a surrealist masterpiece all about the tyranny of romantic relationships. Alternately funny and horrifying in a sort of David Lynchian way, stacked with great deadpan performances from the criminally underrated Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly, Rachel Weitz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw and the incomparable Olivia Colman, the movie posits that the only way to become a truly committed couple requires some sort of amputation/mutilation of a key part of yourself. Best seen in a theater where your own disbelief has companionship in an audience as mortified as you. Runner-up for me is MOONLIGHT, which gives you reason to look at someone you’d likely stereotype in an entirely different, more human way. HELL OR HIGH WATER, an elevated B-movie with a big nod to Raoul Walsh’s HIGH SIERRA, is a distant third.

Television continues to dominate narrative discussion – GAME OF THRONES, THE NIGHT MANAGER, MR. ROBOT (Season 2), NARCOS (Season 1), SILICON VALLEY, BLACK MIRROR and WESTWORLD were the staples for me this year. Science fiction has clearly become the lingua franca of our day. We’re living in a sci-fi world (wi-fi, miniaturization, abundant choice, Soylent food) so some of these shows feel like the present while the non-sci-fi MR. ROBOT feels like the future. And it’s been hard for movies to compete with the new TV serials. That medium used to be all about repetition but now is about depth and development, so that some very honorable features, those that actually have a point to them other than box office, seem to pale in perceived depth compared to these long-form sagas.

Musically, this year has been devastating. The one good thing to come out of all the deaths is David Bowie’s BLACKSTAR, an audacious last will and testament left by the smartest artist in the business, who knew what was coming and wanted us to know it. While the title track, “Lazarus” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away” appear the most predictive, my favorite is the hard-rollicking “Tis a Pity She’s a Whore,” proving that true artists don’t fade, they manage to rock, roll and instigate up to and even after The End.

Ron Kolm

One of my favorite books from this year was published by Random House. The title of it is Footnotes From the World’s Greatest Bookstores, by Bob Eckstein. It is a series of paintings/cartoons of bookstores around the world with a story from each one that were run in the New Yorker over the last couple of years. Three of the stories are mine, including my Patti Smith/Strand bit. The book made it to the NY Times bestseller list for awhile.

I also really like Carl Watson’s new book, Idylls of Complicity.

Patrick O’Neil

2016 has been one hell of a piece-of-shit of a year and I for one will be more that happy to see it die a quick yet painful new year’s death—although the prospect of what the future holds for 2017 does not appear that much better of a deal. That said, tough times and draconian politics instigate rebellion and discontent – two fertile grounds for sowing the artistic creativity of revolution – and we all know that the arts thrive during a repressive régime’s reign (think Reaganomics and the rise of Punk Rock, and Rap under Poppa-Doc Bush). But yeah, back to you 2016, here is my best of you—may you rot in hell:

Music:
Sigur Rós – new single and video: “Óveður.” It’s been three years since this iconic Icelandic post-rock band from Reykjavík has released a CD/album. While the video evokes intense violent and abusive visuals, the ensuing sounds are their trademark ethereal electronic sound. Good stuff Maynard.

Massive Attack – new EP: Ritual Spirit. Erroneously labeled as “trip-hop” (whatever the hell that means), Robert “3D” Del Naja and Grant “Daddy G” Marshall – continue producing huge engulfing beats.

Films:
2015 destroyed my faith in movies. My habit of hitting theaters every weekend came to a deadening halt. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten back into going. BUT, I did see Hell Or High Water and didn’t leave the theater.

Books:
Liar, by Rob Roberge — Is an intense awesome trip through addiction and mental health that plays with the non-linear-ness of memory. Roberge delivers an honest look at himself that many writers couldn’t achieve. His prose is breathtakingly smooth and the content is not only brilliant, but also heartbreaking, funny, sad, and incredibly compelling.

Grace, by Natashia Deon — the ghost of a runaway slave in the 1840’s south narrates her story. Foreboding and beautiful. If you ever get a chance to hear Natashia Deon read her work, definitely do not miss it, you will not be disappointed.

The Heavenly Table, by Donald Ray Pollock — Pollock goes full frontal Southern Gothic. The word “dark” doesn’t even begin to describe it all – pure awesomeness!

Television:
The Night Of – Richard Price and Steven Zaillian’s HBO project delivered everything that True Detective should have, made a hell of a lot more sense than The Killing, and restored my faith in cable shows as finally there was an ending where I didn’t feel let down. Probably the best thing I have ever seen on TV. The dark backdrop of NYC made for intense scenery that framed the stunning performances of Riz Ahmed, John Turturro, Michael Kenneth Williams and Jeannie Berlin.

Nightwatch – okay, this may sound a little cheesy and slightly voyeuristic, but this A&E ride along live series with the New Orleans’ first responders: Police, Fire and Emergency is pretty amazing. At first I had totally dismissed this show as some “reality Adam 12/Emergency” remake. But upon further viewing it became more than apparent that the intensity of the unscripted “realness” that the embedded camera crews were capturing was not only addicting but simultaneously horrifying as well—think bar fight stabbings, gun shot victims, comatose drunks, car wrecks, and arson. New Orleans has since revoked A&E’s contract (probably not the best advertisement for tourism) and the future for this show is iffy at best.

bart plantenga

High Rise: Ben Wheatley’s film version of the novel by JG Ballard. Great dystopic novel of a future stuck in a busted past, a failed high rise apartment complex where the floors represent nuanced differences in class… The great soundtrack features Portishead covering Abba’s “SOS,” The Fall with “Industrial Estates” and agitated music by Holger Czukay, Amon Düül, and DAF. This past summer I also listened to the audiobook version of High Rise while hiking along the Aqueduct up along the Hudson.

Pop Group: The greatest of the post punk-noise-funk bands returned, sounding better than ever live in Paradiso in November to promo their new album Honeymoon on Mars

Colin Stetson & group: Performs “SORROW: Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony Reimagined,” his dynamic version of this magnificent melancholic masterpiece @ Muziekgebouw in September.

Serge Gainsbourg Forever: With the Dutch couple Britta Maria & Maurits Fondse performing accurate but impassioned Gainsbourg at Paradiso Tollhuistuin in June. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UM9xo3jDho ALSO, I read the excellent Gainsbourg: The Biography by Gilles Verlant.

Helmut Newton: Retrospective at FOAM Gallery in Amsterdam in July. Moving from his fashion period in room 1 to his nudes period in room 2, Paloma noted: “I guess he became less interested in fashion.”

Dorothy Ashby: Hip Harp & Afro-Harping, 2 overlooked, really swinging, ethereal and magical jazz albums proving that the harp is definitely capable of inspired bebop.

Rijks Museum: Visiting the majestic Rijks in February with 3 Syrian artist refugees was an amazing experience as I tried to see what they observed during their first trip. They sometimes zoomed in so close to the realistic details on a Vermeer that their noses almost touched the painting & made the guards nervous.

Davd Bowie: Traveling interactive biographical exhibit called “David Bowie Is.”

Green Kingdom: “Expanses” and other ambient albums, which seem heavily influenced by Durutti Column & Vini Reilly, by this bedroom electronica whizz kid.

World Press Photo: Exhibit of the world’s best, shocking, provocative press photos. Even when crowded you can hear people breathing the way you do when faced with inspiring and distressing images juxtaposed.

Justin Clifford Rhody

I have to admit that the idea of compiling a list of my “favorites of 2016” initially felt like somewhat of an insurmountable task, considering the unprecedented and overwhelming personal loss and political misfortune that occurred during these 12 short months. Though after some time attempting to meditate on it all, it began to feel more like an invitation to acknowledge the duality of existence and allow myself a chance to also recognize the uplifting aspects that make life worth living. Revolution really is an everyday action and the sun will shine (or not) regardless of your feelings on the matter. Special shout out to everyone who’s putting in work. Still no love for the police and their backers /// All disrespect directed toward the opportunist (worldwide): “May you find solace in your grand design.”

Cube – “My Cube” LP
After an unexplainably long delay, this Bay Area stalwart finally receives some vinyl treatment and the results were well worth the wait. Sounds like: Alien cipher transmissions push through a distorted throb and find themselves lost and indecipherable, yet liberated and capable of more than originally intended. Buy in duplicate.

Travis.djPTSD – live performance @ Archer Beach Haus, Chicago
At the end of a long night, I was floored by this solo performative sound/dance piece. Simple & straightforward yet graceful & full of intention, a gowned person moved wistfully about in the loft space along to a pre-recorded tape while reciting (in a tone both hopeful & melancholic), “Where is my killer tonight?”. Like all great art: I don’t think that I can do it justice in a written description, but it sure made an impression.

Anya Davidson – “Gloom Planet” comic book
A beautiful risograph printed sci-fi comic book about street harassment and forms of mental defense from one of my favorite artists working in the field. Ms. Davidson is an absolute master of subtlety in form & text. Her most recent graphic novel, Band For Life, was published by Fantagraphics.

Frank Ocean – “Blond” digital download
If you don’t like it, listen to it until you do.

DJ Larva – live @ William Kerr Foundation, St. Louis
A mesmerizing and seemingly casual assemblage of largely anti-police anthems mixed from cassette tapes & effects pedals play while the DJ screamed/sang along with the swirling audio hemmorage pumping out of a massive sound system. In my memory it was abrasive & visceral while at the same time miraculously well composed, with thoughtful transitioning techniques and elegant pairings. Although she was “just” playing between the scheduled touring performers at the gig, to my ears she stole the show.

Stephanie Lister – “East to El Rancho, West to Walt Disney” photobook
An excellent collection of photography and the first bookwork by this Bay Area artist (the photographs themselves were created while living in Florida, before moving out West). In some ways comparable to Nan Goldin (although certainly more proficient technically with a camera), Lister explores personal relationships and offers the viewer a fragmentary glimpse into her direct experience. “East to El Rancho…” also includes a series of thoughtful portraits that Lister shot while working as camera operator on John Meyer’s Florida documentary, “Ain’t Nothing Like Being Free”. Looking forward to what Ms. Lister shares with us in the coming year!

Max Eilbacher/Alex Moskos/Duncan Moore – “SEF III” LP/Cassette
A great document of actions from this post-music sound trio that pulls on 20th Century composition, non-linear spoken word poetics, radio broadcasting segues and the frontiers of computer/tape music. Highly recommended! I hope to someday see em perform live, but in the meantime at least we have this:

Sam Lefebvre’s writings on music & socio-political journalism
Whether he’s writing about the Bay Area’s housing crisis, E-40’s latest CD, the forced closure of a recycling center or obscure hardcore demo tapes, Lefebvre always brings an elevated respect and insightfully larger context to the topic at hand. In an age of biased news behavior that blatantly operates as Entertainment vs. Information, it’s a breath of fresh air to read from someone who is neither out-of-touch nor sensationalistic. As well as regularly making contributions to The Wire/Pitchfork/NYT/Guardian/East Bay Express and KQEDarts, Lefebvre self-publishes a free, monthly xeroxed broadsheet titled Degenerate Digest. One side features a calendar listing all-ages shows of interest as well as political functions (ranging from Anti-Police Terror Project meetings to Oakland City Council meetings), while the flipside features xeroxed artwork, “other” writings, old ephemera, etc. Keep your eyes peeled!

Abigail Smith – “21 Collage” book
Truth be told: I live with this person – and it’s been such a joy to spend time “behind the scenes” and regularly witness the workings of someone who is clearly doing it because they enjoy it. In this polished, perfect bound collection of Smith’s hand assembled collage work, reoccurring themes seem to include the politics of representation, male sexual obsession with technological machinery and the schematic underpinnings of drapery. While I grandly speculate on possible meaning, Smith is probably sitting at a desk somewhere sorting minuscule clippings under the warm glow of a halogen bulb – hard at work. “What the world needs now…” is another book of this woman’s collages!

Truck Stanley’s Night Dreams – live
While touring with a photo slideshow earlier this year, I had the privilege of sharing 2 bills with this solo sound project by Mark Johnson. During a sonically frantic portion of his set in Chicago, Johnson began quickly shaking his head from side to side while illuminated by a simple, crude clamp light – and it was this rather nuanced and brief moment that’s been burned into my memory ever since. Granted I was caked-up on gateway, but at that moment the sounds being pounded out of a pile of electronics and the blurred image of a man’s face internally coalesced into a fragmentary phantasm of cartoon imagery last seen as a child and subconscious emotional meanderings on aging and human existence. Coupled with 15 seconds of deep breathing, that’s some powerful stuff!

Eli Reed – @ Angkor Photo Fest, Siem Reap Cambodia
An extremely inspiring talk from this photographer (of the Magnum Photo Agency) was given in a grassy lot while a retrospective slideshow of his life’s work played overhead. Without any semblance of ego in tow, Mr. Reed shared some incredibly moving and casually spoken thoughts on life, work and intention. A joy to take in… During the Q&A session afterward, the microphone was literally taken out of my hands so that first the American Ambassador (who had sponsored Reed’s visit) could say something: [paraphrased] “I see a lot of political struggle in your images, but there also seems to be a lot of hope…” As if that wasn’t enough, someone identifying as “anonymous” (who held more clout than me still!) was given the opportunity to drop the bomb of “What do you think about President-elect Trump?” before the mic was handed back to me and I was allowed to ask my theoretical photo-philosophy thought. Yeesh!

Knxwledge – random mix tapes
Daily plays in the studio, dubbed to tape for when I’m in the car.

Ginger Wagg & Wild Actions – live performance @ Nightlight, Chapel Hill NC
While slowly moving throughout the room in a stream of arching convulsions and momentarily held agile positionings, two dancers were accompanied by the sounds of a single drummer. The sounds ranged from subtle scrapings on the sides of marching band barrels to brief roll passages of a more traditional nature. The correspondence between the sound & movement appeared dynamic, with the conversation at times being led by one and then the other – sometimes in conjunction and at other times in apparent defiance of each other. Eventually, both dancers came to dragging themselves across the filthy cement floor as the drummer stood at the far edge of the space like a distant, scared snake charmer – lunging his head forward with each slap of the drum head as if operating via forced wave matter. Near the end of the performance, Ginger Wagg slowly came to wrap the other dancer in a large black fabric amidst their conjoined writhing movements and then crawled/dragged them both beyond sight.

Erin Allen – “Don’t Tell On Me” exhibit @ EM Wolfman, Oakland
An incredible show of paintings by this great Bay Area artist & true underground lifer. Extremely well played spatially within the gallery, featuring Mr. Allen’s signature 2″x4″ in full swing to boot!

Angelina’s Restaurant, Espanola NM
Always order it christmas-stylee.

Jeff Zagers’ impromptu 5am DJ set, Far Rockaway Beach NY
Long after the party has ended and the gracious hosts have gone to bed. In the basement sipping on cans of bullshit-Budweiser, while making jokes and occasional heartfelt confessions. Only the right channel of Curtis Mayfield’s “Curtis/Live!” coming through with a flourish of reverb and an occasional splash of delay. 2 middle-aged men joyously dance by themselves on a tiled floor while the DJ’s face is wet with illness from consumption. No one else is there and there’s nowhere else to be. As the sun begins to rise our host descends the stairs and hints at the hour. Knowing full well that all life on earth now recognizes us as the true victors in this endless battle, we crawl under our disgusting blankets and sleep.

RIP Charles Gatewood, RIP Joey Casio, RIP Kenneth Miller, RIP Micah Danemayer, RIP Nick Gomez-Hall, RIP Ara Jo, RIP Cash Askew, RIP Em B, RIP Jonathan Bernbaum, RIP Barrett Clarke, RIP David Cline, RIP Chelsea Dolan, RIP Billy Dixon, RIP Alex Gahssan, RIP Michela Gregory, RIP Sara Hoda, RIP Travis Hough, RIP Johnny Igaz, RIP Donna Kellogg, RIP Amanda Kershaw, RIP Edmond Lapine, RIP Griffin Madden, RIP Jason McCarty, RIP Draven Mcgill, RIP Jennifer Mendiola, RIP Jennifer Morris, RIP Feral Pines, RIP Vanessa Plotkin, RIP Wolfgang Renner, RIP Hanna Ruax, RIP Benjamin Runnels, RIP Nicole Siegrist, RIP Michele Sylan, RIP Jennifer Kiyomi Tanouye, RIP Alex Vega, RIP Peter Wadsworth, RIP Nick Walrath, RIP Brandon Chase Wittenauer.

–The Editors