My Top Stuff of 2015

WELL. i’m making no pretense that anybody in the world could care about my thoughts about 2015 at this point, but i’ve been working on them anyway, just for myself, for posterity, to refer back to later, to remember and look back on the year in a digestible way. i do end up using these at unpredictable future points, like showing an artist years later that their last record was among my favorites of that year, or pointing out to some dude i met that i liked the movie he’s trying to tell me about long before he “introduced” me to it, or in giving an overview of my taste to future entertainment-biz employers, so i’m gonna keep doing that on the faith that something like that might happen again. so here this is!! i genuinely am just doing it for myself, because i like to have the record gathered together in one place, but if for some reason you see this and want to argue about 2015, well, i’m up for that too.

2015 was a really good one for me! i started to get pretty dug in to my main work/life activities in Seattle (in a really good way): aside from having pretty uniquivocally the best year yet in Band Mom history, i continued working as a show manager at the Vera Project, and also began working the door at my cool neighborhood venue, Columbia City Theater. (i can WALK to work for my first time ever!!!) i worked for my second year in the box office for the Seattle International Film Festival, which i really really loved. (i also did a day’s work as a PA on a corporate commercial shoot in Bellevue which was really fun.) in March i traveled yet again to Austin (and San Antonio) for my 9th SXSW in a row, then in October hustled back to NYC for my 10th straight CMJ: my first one ever where i got to host an official Band Mom CMJ showcase!! i also had the honor of acting as a guest speaker (as part of the “Music Industry One-On-Ones”) at an inaugural CMJ “College Day on Tour” event at Holocene in Portland. on top of all that, i got to participate (thanks to the Vera Project) in the Seattle festivals Bumbershoot (Sept) and Capitol Hill Block Party (July), and Sasquatch at the Gorge in May. AND i made trips to Anacortes for my 30th birthday, to Vashon Island and Kent/Bonney Lake to visit WA friends and family, and Ohio and Los Angeles in December for the holidays. i hosted or hung with friends visiting from all over the world, including from NYC, LA, British Columbia, Australia and New Zealand. PRETTY COOL YEAR ALL AROUND!

you’ll see my festival and venue work again reflected pretty heavily when we get down to my Top Shows lists, much as they were in my Top Stuff of 20142013, 2012 and 2011 (i didn’t have such jobs in 2010 and 2009, but the venues i’d later work at were reflected pretty heavily in those lists as well). i’m maintaining the rule that Band Mom Bands are ineligible for the Top Albums list because i couldn’t possibly rank them against each other, but that i can’t rule out shows where i worked the door or box office or show managed or was otherwise professionally involved in for my Top Shows lists, because then there would be almost no shows to consider.

as always, i never claim stuff on this list is the ‘best’ of the year. art is impossible to grade on an objective scale, and it’s insulting and ugly to posture as though one could do so. these are just my favorites:

my top 60 albums of 2015:

  1. sufjan stevens – carrie and lowell                                                                                                    suf-candl
  2. father john misty – i love you, honeybear
  3. hop along – painted shut
  4. low – ones and sixes
  5. courtney barnett – sometimes i sit and think, and sometimes i just sit
  6. sleater-kinney – no cities to love
  7. eskimeaux – o.k.
  8. little wings – explains
  9. dilly dally – sore
  10. the mountain goats – beat the champ
  11. mal blum – you look a lot like me
  12. ezra furman – perpetual motion people
  13. colleen green – i want to grow up
  14. mitski – bury me at makeout creek
  15. mount eerie – sauna
  16. beach slang – the things we do to find people who feel like us
  17. craig finn – faith in the future
  18. mac mccaughan – non-believers
  19. levoneh [aka osito] – what on earth
  20. heems – eat pray thug
  21. chastity belt – time to go home
  22. waxhatchee – ivy tripp
  23. pomegranates – healing power
  24. mates of state – you’re going to make it
  25. rocky votolato – hospital handshakes
  26. your heart breaks – america
  27. say hi – bleeders digest
  28. unlikely friends – solid gold cowboys
  29. joanna gruesome – peanut butter
  30. bully – feels like
  31. bad bad hats – psychic reader
  32. ought – sun coming down
  33. anna gordon – tuck your bones in
  34. el vy – return to the moon
  35. aqueduct – wild knights
  36. ibeyi – ibeyi
  37. jose gonzalez – vestiges & claws
  38. julien baker – sprained ankle
  39. oscar – beautiful words ep
  40. hot chip – why make sense?
  41. dick diver-melbourne florida
  42. elvis depressedly – new alhambra
  43. rhett miller – the traveler
  44. natalie prass – natalie prass
  45. the wonder years – no closer to heaven
  46. girlpool – girlpool
  47. car seat headrest – teens of style
  48. death cab for cutie – kintsugi
  49. titus andronicus – the most lamentable tragedy
  50. frog eyes – pickpocket’s locket
  51. jr jr – jr jr
  52. the decemberists – what a terrible world, what a beautiful world
  53. stelth ulvang – and, as always; the infinite cosmos
  54. son lux – bones
  55. third eye blind – dopamine
  56. belle and sebastian – girls in peacetime want to dance
  57. joanna newsom – divers
  58. unknown mortal orchestra – multi-love
  59. mew – + – [plus minus]
  60. beirut – no no no

the top 20 especially this year are albums i care a LOT about, like they’re particularly important to me. you’ll notice that this is a significantly longer list (and i’m expressing stronger feelings about it) than in 2014. this is a very nice thing. the amount of music i’m open to taking in at any given time is pretty directly tied to my emotional state, like you could make a pretty clear direct-relationship graph out of it, maybe one of the most obvious external barometers i give off of how i’ve been feeling. much longer music list than the recent past = much better year for me, emotionally. now you know. another factor is that i bought a car late in the year, my first for about a decade, and i was thus listening to full albums via my car’s cd player much more often than i have for quite a long time.

while i see my films list below as pretty definitive (with the couple of named possible exceptions and MAYBE like one or two wildcards that came out in 2015 but didn’t cross my radar), i see this music list as much less so. even so far past the end of the year, i still know there’s so much more music that was released in 2015 that never crossed my ears but that may end up being my favorite stuff in the future. so like, in ten years i bet i’ll probably largely stand by my top films list here, but my top music released in 2015 may look completely different (i’m talking additions, not deletions – the fact that this list of albums had a real impact on me can’t and won’t change retroactively). in fact i’ve got a list of about 40 more albums i just haven’t spent enough time with to include but i bet would be very likely to in a hypothetical distant-future accounting of this year. some of them are embarrassing, like bjork and beach house and panda bear and deerhoof – i love those bands, how could i have slept on those releases? WHO KNOWS

as mentioned and as always, Band Mom artists are ineligible for this list because I wouldn’t even begin to know how to rank them: this means you, kingsborough, san juan, ex’s with benefits, pocket panda, fred thomas, led to sea, anthonie tonnon, sara curtin, advance base, girls in trouble, eliza rickman, lonesome leash, matt bauer, jonas carping, and the effort award. that’s artists from California, Seattle, Michigan, DC, Chicago, Portland OR, New Zealand, and Sweden and beyond (and releases by Orindal, Misra, Polyvinyl and more – some of my very favorite, bucket-list-level record labels!! can’t believe I got to work with those!!!). you all put out FANTASTIC albums that are tied for number one in my heart, and I love you the most.

top 20 shows (concerts):

  1. sufjan stevens w/helado negro @ the paramount (seattle, june)                             
  2. sasquatch highlights: ryan adams, father john misty, sleater-kinney, courtney barnett, hot chip, st. vincent, new pornographers, jenny lewis, ex hex, gogol bordello, angel olsen, smokey brights, modest mouse, decemberists, spoon, dan mangan + blacksmith, sharon van etten, run the jewels (the gorge, may)
  3. low w/andy shauf @ the crocodile (seattle, november)
  4. polaris w/scarves @ the crocodile (seattle, april)
  5. stars w/leisure cruise @ the neptune (seattle, march)
  6. mxpx w/five iron frenzy & success @ the showbox (seattle, march)
  7. the both (feat. john roderick on “voices carry”) @ the crocodile (seattle, july)
  8. third eye blind w/dashboard confessional & ex-cops @ marymoor park (near seattle, july)
  9. the long winters/john roderick for city council campaign event @ the triple door (seattle, july)
  10. father john misty for a kexp intimate solo acousting show/interview @ columbia city theater (seattle, july)
  11. sxsw highlights: the zombies, fred thomas, mal blum, courtesy tier, alvvays, dott, dreamend, night school, the church, twilight sad, mew, fort lean, angel olsen, downtown boys, mitski, elijah wood dj set (with zach cowie, as ‘wooden wisdom’) (austin, march)
  12. cmj highlights: dilly dally, shannon and the clams, frankie cosmos, oscar, the album leaf, S, nai harvest, baeb rxxth (not to mention my aforementioned first-ever official Band Mom showcase!) (new york, october)
  13. creed bratton @ the sunset (seattle, october)
  14. luna @ bowery ballroom (new york, october)
  15. wilco for a kexp intimate solo acousting show/interview @ columbia city theater (seattle, august)
  16. dilly dally @ the sunset (seattle, october)
  17. bumbershoot highlights: neko case (w eric bachmann on guitar/keys), brand new, social distortion, lisa prank (seattle, september)
  18. capitol hill block party highlights: the julie ruin, father john misty, tv on the radio, ratatat, deep creep (seattle, july)
  19. okkervil river (will sheff solo playing black sheep boy & appendix) @ columbia city theater (seattle, december)
  20. oh! pears in twin peaks costumes @ the rendezvous (seattle, halloween)

this was a big nostalgia year, catching so many bands i loved ten years ago (some for the very first time)…i guess that’s what aging’s like, maybe no coincidence that this is the year I turned 30. many of them made this list, but it was so packed a few didn’t: like the ataris at el corazon, kevin devine at the vera project, death cab for cutie at deck the hall ball…this list was initially 35 shows long so i also cut out a lot of experiences i look back on very fondly, with friends’ bands, new fav bands, shows i worked, etc but just needed to get on with things so this doesn’t keep going for a million years (more). don’t be offended if your show that I was at didn’t make this list, it was still great!

it was also a big year for me and the New Pornographers: in addition to seeing the full band at Sasquatch, I was lucky enough to catch Kathryn Calder, Destroyer, and Neko Case each separately as well! ALL for the first time I think, like before 2015 I don’t think I’d seen any New Pornos (maybe Carl at a mostly-comedy show in Brooklyn once?) and now i’ve seen almost all of them, separately and together! (whoa)

my 10 favorite comedy/podcast/spoken word shows I saw (in chronological order):

-aparna nancherla and ron funches @ sasquatch 5.24

-jen kirkman @ vera project 6.25

-sharpling & wurster (with ben gibbard) @ neumos 8.27

-neil hamburger and hari kondabolu @ bumbershoot 9.5&6

-risk! (hosted by kevin allison) @ vera project 9.24&5

-alicia jo rabins poetry reading @ hugo house 9.29

-sparks nevada live @ littlefield 10.9, and then thrilling adventure hour @ bell house 10.10

-judge john hodgman with mark gagliardi and hal lublin @ le poisson rouge 10.11

-ask me another (hosted by ophira eisenberg and jonathan coulton) with bruce campbell & lucy lawless @ bell house 10.12; then also (hosted by ophira eisenberg and cecil baldwin) with peter sarsgaard @ bell house 10.19

-whiplash with james adomian and anthony atamanuik doing trump vs bernie @ ucb chelsea 10.12

top 50 movies:

  1. inside out                                                                                                                                                  inside-out-emotions
  2. what we do in the shadows
  3. love & mercy
  4. room
  5. clouds of sils maria
  6. people places things
  7. anomalisa
  8. me him her
  9. white god
  10. about elly
  11. tig
  12. magic mike xxl
  13. it follows
  14. he named me malala
  15. embrace of the serpent
  16. the look of silence
  17. dope
  18. the revenant
  19. spotlight
  20. the end of the tour
  21. merchants of doubt
  22. call me lucky
  23. cartel land
  24. racing extinction
  25. welcome to me
  26. me and earl and the dying girl
  27. do i sound gay?
  28. mistress america
  29. the hunting ground
  30. mustang
  31. winter on fire: ukraine’s fight for freedom
  32. coming home
  33. queen of earth
  34. ex machina
  35. nasty baby
  36. where to invade next
  37. deathgasm
  38. isabella rossellini’s green porno live!
  39. the danish girl
  40. 45 years
  41. night owls
  42. son of saul
  43. joy
  44. manson family vacation
  45. american ultra
  46. youth
  47. mad max: fury road
  48. theeb
  49. the hateful eight
  50. digging for fire

honorable mentions (roughly in order; this whole list was initially a numbered top 160 until I considered how ridiculous that is. but FYI I feel EXTRA strongly this time about the top 10 of the above list, but strongly enough about all of these to mention ‘em. I did see 85 other 2015 movies that didn’t make any list at all!):

goodnight mommy; the stanford prison experiment; entertainment; 4th man out, the overnight; the martian; the wolfpack; amy; phoenix; the big short; carol; going clear: scientology and the prison of belief; 7 chinese brothers; the invisible boy; don’t think i’ve forgotten: cambodia’s lost rock and roll; shaun the sheep; trumbo; tangerine; southpaw; jurassic world; crimson peak; experimenter; cub; turbo kid; the russian woodperker; hurricane of fun: the making of wet hot; brooklyn; bridge of spies; spring; steve jobs; cooties; ant-man; sleeping with other people; creed; manglehorn; love, theft, and other entanglements; jimmy’s hall; adult beginners; victoria; spy; project almanac; chappie; while we’re young; partisan; kurt cobain: montage of heck; boy & the world; shrew’s nest; romeo is bleeding; bloodsucking bastards; partners in crime; kingsman: the secret service; hits; tab hunter confidential; next time i’ll aim for the heart; results; when marnie was there; the man from u.n.c.l.e.; avengers: age of ultron; mommy; the good dinosaur; sisters; accused/lucia de b.; the young and prodigious ts spivet; all things must pass; slow learners; chuck norris vs communism; love [gaspar noe]; danny collins; mardan; woman in gold; i’ll see you in my dreams; iris; cop car; jenny’s wedding; 99 homes; star wars: the force awakens; straight outta compton; sicario; the diary of a teenage girl; slow west; home; the gift; guidance; dior and i; a second chance; a war [krigen]; miss you already; goosebumps; paper towns; best of enemies; strangerland; beasts of no nation; what happened, miss simone?; get hard; true story; jupiter ascending; macbeth; lost river; the nightmare; trainwreck; mission: impossible: rogue nation; unfinished business; the assassin; the intern; the lazarus effect; tomorrowland; ned rifle; truth; vacation; pan.

top NEW actors of the year (as in i’d never heard their names before/hadn’t noticed them in anything as actors and now they seem like a big deal to me, were each in several things i loved or at least were really impressive in one thing): jacob tremblay (room), john cena and lebron james (trainwreck)

standout actors of the year (who were not new to me, but were in a bunch of stuff i loved and seemed to have a really big year): jemaine clement (what we do in the shadows, people places things), jason schwartzman (7 chinese brothers, the overnight), donald glover (kept popping up unexpectedly in surprise small roles: magic mike xxl, lazarus effect, the martian, contributed to some songs in creed), tye sheridan (dark places, the stanford prison experiment, scouts guide to the zombie apocalypse, entertainment)

i usually only do those for actors, but this year i wanna make a special note about a particularly impressive filmmaker: max landis wrote american ultra AND wrote & directed me him her – both of which i loved, how’d ya do it all max!! (i also got to meet him at SIFF and he was so fun and nice!)

also as an aside, a few years ago I made up a ‘best sound design‘ category because I felt so strongly about black swan’s and then we need to talk about kevin’s and then upstream color’s and then the babadook’s, and was mad that they were slighted in oscar nominations, and this year I feel the same way about the sound in THE REVENANT (a lot was made of its natural-light cinematography but there were some really masterful touches in the sound as well!)

oh and I created a bunch more superlatives/notes of interest which tend to vary by the year, like this time i wanna talk about best cover song on a soundtrack: i was really impressed by lili rose mckay’s cover of the mountain goats’ “love love love” in welcome to me, as well as the polyphonic spree playing nirvana (on camera, not just extradiegetic soundtrack) in the big short.

how about, best score: i had strong feelings about disaster peace’s work in it follows, atticus ross’s work in love & mercy, and daniel lopatin’s work in partisan.

and the oddest coincidence i’d like to note: the young and prodigious ts spivet has a shot where the sister has 8 of herself sitting around a conference table in her mind – just like inside out. (they came out so close to the same time it’s really not possible one copied the other. just parallel thinking i guess!)

some stats notes on movies: in 2015 i saw 307 different movies. (148 of them were 2015-released movies.) exactly 98 of them were in theaters, and to date i’ve seen 245 movies that came out in 2015 (that’s by far the most i’ve ever taken in for one year! but i’m also publishing this like hilariously, unreasonably, late. i’ll never have this complete of an accounting of a year again, i’m sure, because i’ll never take THIS much extra time to think about that year. this includes several that i watched after the year ended, so they’ll be among the total i report having watched in 2016, but they’re also part of the group of 2015 movies i’m counting as eligible for this best-of list because i watched them before publishing this list, today).

as for movies with questionable release dates, the rule i made up is basically that if i saw it in like a festival or limited-engagement special event in 2015, even if it didn’t get even limited national release otherwise, it counts for my list, but if i did not see it in a festival before 2015 and its first limited release (a usa release that’s not a specific festival, even if it showed in fests pre-2015) was this year, then it counts. in other words it’s pretty subjective to my perspective, but it had to have its (limited or wide) release begin in 2015 OR be seen by me in a festival or special event (i saw movies at SXSW, SIFF and a few assorted micro fests and special screenings, and in theaters and homes in New York, Seattle, Ohio, and Austin) in 2015.

also of note, i saw 11 2015 movies in 3d, as well as 4 in IMAX (3 of those overlapped, IMAX 3d), and one in 70mm (the hateful eight). i continue to think 3d is a stupid cash grab that almost never adds to the film, but I suffer from pretty severe fear of missing out so i keep allowing myself to get suckered in. this year the only ones i’d really make a case for 3d being worth it were mad max: fury road, jurassic world, jupiter ascending, and the marvel movies (if nothing else, it enhances how fun it is to see ’em fly all around).

i saw only one movie twice in theaters this year: no coincidence that that was my number one, inside out. (one of the two screenings was in 3d.)

this is my longest movie list ever…there are just so many that I truly feel strongly about! also I keep seeing more and more movies every year in theaters, because of this service called Moviepass where I pay a monthly fee for nearly-unlimited movies so that it actually made financial sense to see MORE movies than less, and I was happy to oblige. i also included netflix/other VOD-only releases that debuted in 2015, even if they never showed in theaters. i think this is my first year doing that but it’s relevant these days.

here’s what 1.88 trips to the movie theater a week (plus a few extraneous otherwise tix) looks like, btw:


although i obviously saw a ton of movies this year, you’ll always miss a few; there are a few that i still intend to see. i feel very good about the above list, really got pretty much all of the serious contenders in for once (like for the first time ever since beginning to put these lists together, i caught every single feature-length film nominated for an oscar in any category before publishing!). even so, these stragglers might have had a chance at making the above lists had i been able to catch them: girlhood, gueros, uncle kent 2, stone barn castle, the secret in their eyes, labyrinth of lies, the glamour and the squalor, she’s funny that way, accidental love, grandma, gravy, samba, eden, mojave, tumbledown, life, staten island summer, amour fou, a hard day, jauja, meet the patels, everest, appropriate behavor, and freeheld. pretty much everything else, if it had a theatrical release in 2015 and it’s not listed here, it’s on purpose. SO THERE.

saw filmmakers/actors in person promoting:

-pod (director mickey keating and cast & crew q&a via live feed from the other room, SXSW @ alamo drafthouse at the ritz, march 17)
-night owls (director/co-writer charles hood, and co-writer/producer seth goldsmith, plus a producer, production designer, costumer, SXSW @ ‘rollins theater at the long center’, march 17)
-spy (paul feig q&a, SIFF opening night @ mccaw hall, may 14)
-love & mercy (composer atticus ross, SIFF @ egyptian, may 15)
-guidance (writer/director pat mills, SIFF @ harvard exit, may 15)
-shrew’s nest (co-director esteban roel, SIFF @ egyptian, may 19)
-do i sound gay? (filmmaker david thorpe w interview subject dan savage, SIFF @ harvard exit, may 27)
-it’s so easy and other lies (director christopher duddy with camera operator john jeffcoat, SIFF @ egyptian, may 28)
-the russian woodpecker (director chad gracia, SIFF @ uptown, may 31)
-saved from the flames (presentation of archival prints by Serge Bromberg, SIFF @ uptown, june 2)
-love, theft and other entanglements (co-writers and director rami and muayad alayan, SIFF @ pac place, june 3)
-experimenter (director michael almereyda, SIFF @ uptown, june 4)
-me him her (director max landis with producer peter saraf and cast members emily meade, dustin milligan, luke bracey [they also led an ‘i want it that way’ singalong pre-film, so fun], SIFF @ pac place, june 6)
-7 chinese brothers (director bob byington, star jason schwartzman, moderated by lynn shelton, SIFF @ egyptian, june 7)
-wayne’s world (intro by director penelope spheeris, SIFF uptown, september 18)

favorite new tv shows:

master of none
unbreakable kimmy schmidt
wet hot american summer: first day of camp
crazy ex-girlfriend
grace and frankie
marvel’s jessica jones
fresh off the boat
the jinx
w/ bob & david
documentary now!
wayward pines
better call saul
making a murderer
the last man on earth
man seeking woman
marvel’s daredevil
other space
scream queens
marvel’s agent carter

plus favorite returning (not new in 2015 but had 2015 seasons) tv shows:

parks and recreation
bob’s burgers
last week tonight with john oliver
adventure time
brooklyn nine-nine
bojack horseman
broad city
nathan for you
rick and morty
jane the virgin
new girl
comedy bang bang
drunk history
lucas bros moving co
the mindy project
house of cards
orange is the new black
marvel’s agents of s.h.i.e.l.d.

(fell behind on current seasons of american horror story, downton abbey, childrens hospital, hannibal, luther, scandal, silicon valley, and mozart in the jungle that might’ve otherwise made the list; also planning on someday getting around to happy valley, residue, sense8, the spoils before dying, narcos, american odyssey, ash vs evil dead, broadchurch, halt and catch fire, true detective, the knick, justified, parenthood, boardwalk empire, veep, shameless, enlightened, kroll show, key & peele, the affair…need more hours in the day)

also, never did a line like this in this post before, but a celebrity (or maybe “celebrity”, famous-to-me anyway…public figure?) death of 2015 affected me more than any other stranger’s death in my life has, i don’t think i ever even met this guy but always felt like he was one of my tribe, and he’s a tv-related person so i’ll put this here: eternal heavy-hearted RIP to harris wittels.


i’ve capped off these posts the last few years with “celebrity encounters”, where i humblebrag (RIP again harris) about meeting famous people then post my favorite photo, but all my “celebrity encounters” are really already detailed above…this year i’m just gonna go with an exciting thing i did, which was celebrate turning 30 by buying a Mount Eerie record in Anacortes (from The Business, a record store associated with Phil Elverum) and bringing it up to Mt. Erie. my kind of pilgrimage.

mt erie

THE END! I love you.


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