Albums I obsessed over in 2009:
The College Dropout by Kanye West
It really did change hiphop. The beats were nothing new, but you couldn't get around them. The lyrics were witty an interesting. The instrumentation and sampling was well-done. As concept albums go hiphop has tried a few times, but this proves to be my favorite.
Illinois by Sufjan Stevens and Fox Confessor Brings the Flood by Neko Case
Reviewed these back in August. Both are sonic treats.
Loveless by My Bloody Valentine
This is my first foray into 'shoe gaze'. So far it has been incredibly rewarding. It reminds me of the sheets of sound from artists like Coltrane. I had to look up the lyrics, but the catchy hook of 'Only Shallow' pulled me into this album and the rest drove me along a catchy and occasionally profound-ish journey.
MTV Unplugged in New York by Nirvana
Like many Nirvana was, to me, a one-album band. I knew there was more than Nevermind but since Nevermind was never one of my great favorites I'd not bothered with the rest. This raw and moving concert showed me that Nirvana was more than amplifier and snarl.
Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette
Roughly fifteen years later I finally got into the album my sister was listening to as I grew up. Part of the draw was the familiarity: I'd heard all of these songs so many times, they had already carved out solid neuron connections of familiarity and likableness. Anything I could add was said long ago.
Stop Making Sense by The Talking Heads
These guys always bugged me before. I didn't care for their sound, and as such didn't expect anything from this live album. But the infectious incredible energy and humour brought to this performance got me to like them. Maybe they just put too much sheen on their studio stuff. This I could dig.
Movies I obsessed over in 2009:
I'm a bit behind the times here, too.
This Italian movie tells the story of a projectionist and a director, and is enhanced, in my opinion, if you know a little something about Italian cinema in the first place. Nice love story, nice cinematography, nice plot. Frankly, one of the more twee movies I'll ever recommend.
As anime goes, this is the peak. From Akira and Ninja Scroll through Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon and Ottomo's Steam Boy, I think this hits the nail on the head. This is what Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind should have been.
Deals with: reality, dreaming, avatars, science and technological development, movies, ethics and change, love, etc. I've been humming it's theme for what feels like a lifetime. Expect great animation paired with a rarity in anime: character development!
La Dolce Vita
...And we're back to Italy. What can I say? It's not 8 1/2 but everything is superb: the director this time is looking on bemused by the antics of the rich and famous. Sort of a 1960's Rules of the Game. To be expected is top quality cinematography, acting, and wayward plot.
The 1972 Russian three-hour sci-fi epic. Sound like fun? Kubrick would late make a similar movie in 2001 but this treats very different themes on humanity and consciousness. Again, warnings about the future and incomprehensible worlds out there, but unsurprisingly perhaps, the real monsters/terror/caution is ourselves. Oh sci-fi.
Musings on the French and German side about war lead to deeper musings regarding roles in history, roles of class, and the dying aristocracy after WWI. Really they're all just human. No, really. The war is actually depriving us of our humanity that we share. Where are you going...?
Books I obsessed over in 2009:
On The Road by Kerouac
Kerouac has always been a bit iffy for me. I knew more about his ideas in philosophy than the story of his ramblings and rovings. What could this travelogue teach that others don't? Yet the language style, the characters (thinly disguised) and Paradise's demeanor throughout are intoxicating and real. I think he captured something and created a new archetype in Dean.
Ulysses by Joyce
I had tried reading this a few times without success. Eventually I was just in the right mood, the right frame of mind, and devoured it in a couple of weeks. Once I acclimated to his language the narrative was so wonky and engrossing that it couldn't be escaped. Laying the Odyssey over it all was tremendous. I didn't get all the references, and maybe never will. But those I did were so well-included that my jaw was often literally open.
Answer to Job by Jung
Jung debates the most important book int he bible from a psycho-theological perspective. A must read for those interested in theology or religious psychology or history.
Swann's Way: First Part by Proust
The middle section of this bothered me. Yet the opening, regarding the narrator's childhood and memory, was a delight. Swann was less so.
Also: Huckleberry Finn and Jane Eyre by Twain and C. Bronte. Neither quite lived up to what I was hoping for, but both were an admittedly great read. So too Mendel's Experiments in Plant Hybridization which I'd wanted to read for quite some time. If you like science and genetics it comes highly recommended. For those who are really really into genetics and medicine I also had fun this year with Virchow's Cellular Pathology and Boveri's Origin of Tumours. But you kind of have to be into that sort of thing.