Even though they're overdone, I kinda love reading year-end best-of lists...now that I'm old and can barely manage to stay even remotely ahead of the curve on stuff like movies and especially music, I find them to be pretty helpful in finding stuff I missed over the course of the past year. I myself, however, often have a hard time coming up with lists like this...mainly because I'm usually catching up on last year's music until July or August!
So, you've been warned.
Sloan-Parallel Play This record seems to get no respect, even among fans of the band. While not approaching the heights of '07's Never Hear the End of It, it's still rock-solid, especially the first three tracks.
Deerhunter-Microcastle It took me awhile to decide whether I liked this massively-hyped indie darling, and I still haven't completely figured out why...But yeah, it's pretty great.
Baseball Project-Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails I was initially just attracted to the track names ("Ted Fucking Williams", "Harvey Haddix"), but I quickly realized this jangly gem was no gimmick, but a knowledgeable, savvy tribute to the national pastime. If you like baseball and know anything about it's history, you'll love this.
Nomo-Ghost Rock I read a good review of this someplace, and gave it a whirl on eMusic. Dig it a lot...all the things I like about Tortoise and Artanker Convoy, but kinda...I dunno, funkier?
Apples in Stereo-New Magnetic Wonder Okay, this actually came out in 2007, but it's probably the record I listened to most in the past year. Just great.
I should probably mention that I downloaded all of the records on this list from eMusic, which is a pretty colossal source for good music (especially if your tastes tend toward the independent labels), and super cheap to boot. If you want to get a bunch of great stuff without all the illegal downloading or paying .99 a track, that's the place.
I'd be surprised if I even saw five movies in the theater last year...I went to see Cloverfield, Iron Man, Wall•E, and The Dark Knight, all of which I enjoyed. Didn't get around to even seeing many of last year's critical darlings either, except for No Country for Old Men, which, great film or not, I pretty thoroughly disliked, and Michael Clayton, which was easily the best movie I watched all year.
Brush with Passion: The Life and Art of Dave Stevens I've been waiting for this book forever, and not only did it not disappoint, it exceeded my expectations. Ironically, I get the feeling that had Dave not passed away in March, this book might not have ever been published, perfectionist that he was. It's a loving, magnificent tribute, and makes the fact that he's no longer with us sting just the tiniest bit less.
Sixteen Miles to Merricks by Barnaby Ward The story that takes up about half of the book is good if not terribly overwhelming, but this cat's art is just freaking fantastic.
Skyscrapers of the Midwest by Josh Cotter Skyscrapers is on just about every best-of list I've read this year, and deservedly so. Beautifully drawn and designed, a treasure to read.
Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle Looser and more episodic in scope than Delisle's other travel books, it's just as interesting.
Too Cool to Be Forgotten by Alex Robinson I am so jealous of how easy Alex Robinson makes creating great comics look.
Honorable mentions: Empowered Vols. 3 and 4 by Adam Warren, Freddie and Me by Mike Dawson, Late Nights at Kinko's by Will Pfeifer, The Demon Omnibus by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer.