A Good List Goes a Long Way: 2019 Edition

Sometime halfway into December I realized we are approaching the end of a decade (or not, depends on how you count it) and felt maybe I should do some sort of a roundup/celebration. Then immediately also realized that I have, in spite of what I consider a decent memory, no clear recollection of what I was watching/reading/listening to in, say 2013. The only years I have a vague idea about in general are, it pains me to say it, the ones with a football championship, so even years with either a World Cup or a Euro. Odd years should be redeemed by women’s tournaments soon, until then all I can do is scour the yearly lists I’ve been churning out on this blog, but they sadly date back to 2014 only- this being said, I birthed a playlist of my top songs, 2014 to 2018, because 2019 is being covered separately in a 75 strong list. Now you should understand why the motto of this year has been: all my friends raise children, I raise playlists

We’ll tear into the songs then, a disciplined ten, no more straying into random numbers here, which means I occasionally woke up in the middle of the night and replaced certain tracks on the list- as we all know, raising playlists is a hard job.

If I were to choose a number one (order is otherwise random) I would probably go for Light Years, which, pompous as it may sound, feels like a perfect song to me, one of those tunes that must have existed from the very first second our universe was created and were just waiting to be (re)discovered and (re)written. It’s also one of those songs I mouth on the metro with a transported look on my face, to the probable panic of my fellow travelers- another one is James Blake’s Mile High, while Exits and Ready to Let Go make me feel like I’m the coolest character of a film making their grand entrance, while I’m actually just walking into Lidl for ham and tomatoes. A special shout out goes to Coldplay, whom many consider to be the Nickelback of the thinking wo/man yet have always impressed with their willingness to reexplore their sound and wear their heart on their sleeve even when it looks a bit naïve or misguided. And another special shout out to Mahmood, who should have been the first Eurovision winner with a genuinely brilliant song, taken off an equally brilliant album that explores his divided identity and draws on both musical cultures- he is the son of an Italian mother and an Egyptian father, living in Milan. Besides my own best of playlist for the year, there’s a vastly improved version I’ve co-parented with my musical co-conspirator Carmen, because kids tend to turn out better when they’re raised through shared efforts.

On to albums then, which I chose based on my Spotify Wrapped- yes, I am one of those weak minded people who actually pore over their listening stats and draw far fetched conclusions based on them, one of these being that I did accomplish my resolution of training my attention span by listening to more albums. Interestingly enough, many of them became connected to specific life situations: Gioventù Bruciata to walking home on warm summer evenings through the 7th and 6th districts, Norman Fucking Rockwell! to days spent doing not much at the seaside (generally the perfect setting for Lana Del Rey), Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost to getting ready for work in the morning and Ghosteen to the slow arrival of autumn, with long dark afternoons and ever colder nights. My overall favourite nevertheless remains James Blake’s Assume Form, but I have already sung its praises in this year’s Sziget preview, so I will refrain from further swooning here.

When it comes to concerts, I still feel that Budapest is shunned by most edgier artists and we keep getting recycled dinosaur superstars with ever more prohibitive prices. I staunchly refuse to attend dinosaur shows, although I do have one name in the dinosaur repository that I would probably dish out the cash for, but they never come, so it doesn’t matter. My list is therefore a mix of club concerts, shows from abroad, Sziget performances and one single arena show- Ghost, whom I enjoyed tremendously on account of their successful marketing of what are fundamentally Eurovision earworms to an audience of rock and metal listeners. The dEUS show will remain forever memorable as I managed, for the first time in my long and adventurous career as a concert goer, to show up at the wrong venue. My surprise at so many of Budapest’s disparate youth attending what I assumed was a dEUS show was only matched by the surprise of the usher when after several unsuccessful attempts to read my ticket she finally noticed I was a confused moron. Luckily the right venue was just across the Danube, with a bridge to facilitate handy crossing, so I did make it on time to the correct place after all. The overall favourite is perhaps the odd one out- Apparat’s show in the Budapest Palace of Arts was an absolute gem, the brilliant acoustics of the hall proving a perfect match for Apparat’s multi layered sonic universe.

I’ve also kept my resolution related to films- namely, watch more of them, and maintain the pace even outside of awards season. Plus, I went all serious film critic and rated them from one to five in a handy little tracker, so all I had to do now was filter the fives- of which it turned out I had nine, so a four sneaked onto the list, but I will keep mum about its identity. If I were to pick a top three (they’re in random order below, as all other lists here) I would probably go for Foxtrot at three, You Were Never Really Here at two and Burning at one- while they’re essentially rather different films, I felt as if they had a common denominator in the way they managed to create a very well defined and perfectly mastered universe that they inhabit and which lingers on in your mind long after you’ve watched them

Finally, I still ain’t got time for series, but I did manage to watch and enjoy a few (nowhere close to ten obviously). Everybody’s darling Chernobyl– the sentence sounds quite wrong, but then again, we are hopelessly drawn to the dark side, aren’t we. Star Trek Discovery– which has divided trekkies, obviously, just as we endlessly bicker over Star Wars too, but which I found to be a fabulous return to form and to many beloved tropes in the Star Trek universe while at the same time embracing many current issues and ideas as well. I’ve had great fun watching seasons one and two of The Good Place (yes, criminally late to the party, I know), though I am being told the last season is a bit of a disappointment, but that remains to be a 2020 discovery for me. True to form, I will sign off with two football related documentary series, which happen to chronicle two adventurous, engaging and I would go as far as to say illuminating failures, Sunderland til I Die, and Maradona in Mexico.

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