Because I like a lot of things and am way too lazy to create a dozen lists to categorize them, I stick with my formula of whipping together all things I liked, enjoyed and discovered this year, so here ya go.
- The smartest man I know
This year was one hell-fest of newspaper-headlines and general tumult in my daily life. It’s great to have someone who is (and will be) there. To hate watch bad German TV with, read, see the world and go on lame adventures.
- Alabama Shakes
If it wasn’t for John Hubner, I probably never really would have given the sophomore a chance and I am eternally grateful for him always giving out the best music advice. The Alabama Shakes are a real revelation on their second record and dive more into the soul aspect of their soul infused Rock ‘n’ Roll. I gotta be honest – the whole Adele-craze left me a little cold but whenever I see Brittany doing her thing, my jaw drops and I am all over it.
- A good night’s sleep
My cat decided to not only go deaf but also go very loud most nights (around 4am). That’s partly due to my boyfriend’s weakness because he will stand up and get the cat some food – a cat knows, a cat remembers and a cat will use it against you if you ever show weakness like that. So, since a few months, I am very happy, whenever I get 6 hours of sleep without that little furry and lovely asshole crying in the hallway.
- Zsa Zsa Burger (Berlin)
If you want to get some burgers in Berlin, most people will give you horrible advice. Don’t take it, Hans im Glück, Rosen-Burger and the lot, they are all good but that’s it. If you want some really great burgers, you either pack yourself in the small confines of Shiso-Burger (a somewhat Asian-fusion but not really burger shack) or you go to Zsa Zsa burger and get some buttered brioche, fried onions (freshly made), good cheese and amazing fries – the whole combination tastes like heaven and it will be worth the admittedly steep price.
I am a fan of Noelle Stevenson since she marveled (wait for it) over the Marvel-heroes of Hulk, Iron Man and Co. Since then, I guess, both Noelle and I had to realize that Hawkeye, aka Jeremy Renner is not a cool dude to be around if you are a woman. But furthermore, I’ve come to realize that Noelle’s web comic Nimona – which I never read online but instantly bought when I saw it as a paperback – is funny, entertaining, very well paced and perfect for readers of all ages. That always sounds bad but consider this: Pixar is for all ages, and Pixar is amazing. So open up for a different take on a Jekyll/Hyde-scenario.
- Laura Marling
The more aggressive side of Laura took hold on her new album and the New York vibe “Short Movies” has (I am smelling Bruce Springsteen here) does suit her voice a lot. Speaking of her voice – Marling is one of the most fascinating artists given her ambition to test out what her voice can do and how it can take on different moods, personalities and styles. It’s absolutely mesmerizing and I will never not be a fan of her.
- The Decemberists
I saw The Decemberists live for the first time this year and boy, this is such a great live band mainly due to the chemistry on stage and Colin Meloy’s ease with the audience. Speaking of which, the audience was a beautiful mix of every (white) demographic you can imagine. Oh, and did you listen to their 2015 album? I am still hurting that they didn’t follow up “Hazards of Love” with only rock operas but this one features some beautiful songs.
- The Color of Water (by James McBride)
I think that we should talk more often about great things that haven’t been released in the last 12 months because this focus on the new shit is getting stressful. I, for example, read this beautiful biography about a white Jewish mother who raised 12 happy black kids and it was gorgeously written and very moving (the author – her son – is an author and musician).
- Bitch Planet
Feminist literature and music is nothing I seek out deliberately. I am the type of reader and listener who is happy about either by women and featuring women with or without a decisively feminist angle. But “Bitch Planet” sounded too good to pass on: it’s basically the ‘fuck you’ of a female comic artist after she was criticized for apparently pushing a feminist agenda with her popular Marvel (or some such) work. And she was like: you want a feminist agenda? I will shove it in your face like no one’s business – cue an outer space prison for unruly women who will fight against male sportsmen in an uneven fight. FUN!
- Sallie Ford
The award for most responsible for earworms this year definitely goes to Sallie and I thank her for that because otherwise it would have been something like “Hotline Bling”. Her mix of alternative R’n’R bunched up with some desert rock is like a caffeine boost at any time of day. Add to that some snappy songwriting and the greatest hooks and you have a winner – of my heart and my ears.
- Bird Box
One of the most depressing and beautiful books this year is a dystopian horror novel that is stark and pretty much all the way sad and hopeless – the premise is a world where people have to continuously have to close their eyes on the outside because something’s lurking there that is beyond human understanding and will drive everyone mad. Add the need for community, parenthood and love into the mix and this turns into an incredible read that makes you not believe in humanity at all (well, maybe a little bit).
- Ali Smith – how to be both
Ok, ok, the book came out in September 2014 but I read it this year and loved it and there you go. The story is hard to explain without spoiling the hell out of it but let me say this: “How to be both” is a story that excels in making you appreciate sound, sight and literature in a beautiful and very tender way. It is also a question of identity, loss and love (yes, again). It’s also somewhat of a coming of age story but not really. Confused? Just read a few pages and you see what I mean – it’s one of those books you can recommend to pretty much everyone (except to people who don’t like good books).
- Laura Mvula
Another discovery that was actually actual released in 2014 but it’s MY list, so you have to live by my rules.
Laura Mvula is a true revelation. I do think that “Make me lovely” is one of the greatest love songs I’ve ever heard and one that always gets me, regardless of my mood (similar to Kate Bush’s “watching you without me” and Peter Gabriel’s “In your eyes”). The whole concept of her album with the Metropole Orkest is such a lovely musically old-fashioned but lyrically modern project that it defies any definition. I don’t like bashing others in comparison but how in the world are Adele’s “25” (this year) or Beyonce’s weird surprise record (last year) the albums everyone talks about when we have this incredible piece of music right in front of our noses? I am not getting it. Mvula > Beyonce, Adele.
Norway & trolls – never change. A few years ago, I was nearly obsessed with “The troll hunter” one of the oddest movies in the found footage/documentary-genre. The novel “Stallo” is not as funny but equally absurd and therefore quite fascinating, given that trolls are really creatures that are not as universal as vampires or werewolves but deeply rooted into the Norwegian lore. To read a creepy story (not necessarily horror) about these creatures written by a writer who does not succumb to horror clichés and does some weird things with the plot developments, is just like watching “The Troll Hunter” – a strange delight.
- Key & Peele
I am always late to the party, so naturally, I discovered Key & Peele fresh right after the last season ended. I had tried some of their sketches first but apparently didn’t hit the sweet spot. My sweet spot apparently is tackling ridiculous clichés of male power and aggression:
- Amy Schumer
Oh Amy. As much as I love the geeky side of Amy Poehler and Tina Fey (the latter was the mean girl at school, though), I appreciate a comedienne who gets on the issue of dressing sexy, having a lot of sex and being sexy in general. It’s great that you don’t have to portray a certain image to do feminist comedy and it’s good that female stereotypes can be tackled without a “ha, women are so stupid” or a “men are the worst” at the end of the line.
Her “12 angry man”-spoof is one of the big sketches of 2015 and is the best test whether your friends are feminist or not (if you are not ready for heated discussions, tears and accusations, don’t test them).
Getting Jeff Goldblum say “Dildo”over and over again is a gift in itself.
- Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk
If I need a song to sing along to, so I can feel the constant dread of being alive subsiding a little, I turn to this song. It’s the best mixture of funk, pop and awesome singalong qualities (yes, I do the “whoo” as well).
I also want to point out that right now, Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae are the only famous performers that know how to work with a dancing crew.
- Janelle Monae
Juliane, are you cray? You haven’t listened to Janelle before 2015?
Yeah, yeah, whatever. I sure as hell don’t know why but now I am on the Janelle train and even if her vocals now and then remind me a little of Queen Bey, I highly prefer Janelle because her albums are tight (no fillers, y’all) and catchy and her whole style, crew and musical aesthetic has a personality that is a lot more defined than Beyonce’s ever was (wanna fight about it? I am willing to bring it on).
Urgh, I hate it but it’s the main choice to get a lot of stuff in one go at a reasonable price. Gosh darnit. The minute I earn a six figure number I switch to ethically sound furniture and never go to that hell hole ever again. Till then, I have to admit grudgingly, that it’s very practical to get picture frames, storage boxes, pillows, book shelves and super unhealthy Swedish mystery meatballs at once.
- Miley, what’s good?
I am mainly behind Miley Cyrus’ antics and think that overall, this girl has it together and will probably regret few things (the Terry Richardson shoots definitely, the MTV-outings less so). But her ignorance towards the criticism of appropriation as well as black artist’s struggles in the music industry has developed from mildly annoying to outright flabbergasting.
After pretty much accusing Nicki Minaj of being the “angry black woman” after she criticized not being nominated for best Music Video at the VMAs and suggested, it was because she was not white, I threw my hands up in the air and rolled my eyes like this little puppy rolls in a bucket and can’t get out.
Miley, what happened afterwards at the VMAs and what was – despite all your efforts to shine – the most perfect moment of the whole show, you pretty much begged for it by all the stupid-ass s*** you said in that interview. Don’t ever deny someone their outrage at social injustice, especially if you’re not in their shoes and furthermore belong to a very privileged group of people.
- A little black pony
We are sponsors for a little (fat) black pony in 2016 and that’s pretty neat. Maybe he’ll even go to pony college and become a ponytician.
- Stamp collections & Postcards
Because of my nerdiest of all nerdy boyfriends I recently got into the wondrous and creepy world of stamps and postcards. Wondrous because there’s a lot of stories these things can tell (we even once found a picture of a young man sent to another young man, maybe as a token of love?). The world of beautiful and beautifully tacky stamps is also a wonder to behold, if you want to see where teenager’s renditions of celebrities end up – S. Tome will put them on their stamps.
However, going to stamp & more-fares is the creepy part because most people involved in the stamp collecting business are sad old white men who tend to ignore you if you’re female and whose wardrobe looks like they once found a box of old East Germany clothing of the late 80s (the worst of all times for fashion) and stuck with it. It’s a dusty, joyless business but great for psychological field work.
- Old School Tomb Raider
So I bought the reboot of Tomb Raider (not the new one but the old-ass PS3-one) and I gotta say: I am a little disappointed given the very very very heavy shooter-element (it’s close to Uncharted but somehow worse). I like Tomb Raider for the creepy atmosphere, platform-elements and occasional big guys to fight. I do not like Tomb Raider for endless streaks of baddies coming at me (bro) and filling me with dread every 10 minutes. It’s a hassle, it’s stress, it’s not how I want to spend my spare time.
- It Follows
“It Follows” is not a perfect horror movie but it makes up for some sub-par parts with great acting, atmosphere and one of the greatest camera effects for ultimate creep. The story is somewhat a metaphor for adulthood and existential dread (also: teenage sex is bad) but works mainly because the entity (let’s call it that, so I won’t spoil the surprise) can’t be escaped. Back in the day I was absolutely terrified of “Ring” because once you got the curse you could not escape it – it’s the ultimate fear, something that you can’t escape (aka death or the cringe you feel when you read old diary entries). “It Follows” takes the same inevitability but amps it up with camera work that never lets you – dear viewer – off the hook because your attention is key. It’s a quite brilliant concept and scared me a lot.
- John Oliver
If you are not from Germany, you might not get this but every single day I prey that we’ll get someone like John Oliver, Amy Schumer, Trevor Noah, Jon Stewart, etc. etc. We don’t have anyone like that here. We have some incredibly dickish people who are funny at times and some nice people who are not really funny and a lot of dickish people who are not funny. There’s not one who seems genuinely concerned about the world, who is funny and still likeable. It’s a hassle.
So, I am clinging to someone like John Oliver who now and then tackles broader topics than the Daily Show and does so with a charming quality that I may call: the nerdist swag.
- Moving out
When I first moved to Berlin, I always thought that I would stay there for a year, get work experience and then head off to England or New York to become famous. Five years later, I am still in the same one-room-flat. Well, not any longer! I moved pretty much in a haze in September/October and despite a crying-fit one day before the movers came (how does so much stuff fit into one room and why are there never enough boxes?), it was smooth sailing. Don’t tell anyone that we didn’t even look for a flat that much but still found one within two weeks. This does not happen in Berlin.
- Desperate Journalist
My new musical discovery this year led me through Winter 2015 with angsty 80s-inspired wave-pop. It’s the right kind of music if the air is biting and the day consists of 3 hours light and 21 hours dreary grey and black tones mingled with depressed people on busses and trains.
- Spelt bread & milk
You know what sucks? A food intolerance that’s like “haha, I’ll be super illusive and you never know what works and what doesn’t because it’s all about freshness and hidden crap they put in food and don’t tell you about.”
And do you know what’s great? Food that’s like “fuck that, I’ll be good for you forever and always!” Thank you spelt bread and milk, I sure do love you!
- Introducing “The Court Jester” to people
“The Court Jester” is a staple of my childhood and quite possibly one of the funniest and most charming musical comedies ever created. Given that it ages gracefully it will never fail if you introduce it to people. They will be skeptical at first, leering at the musical numbers at the beginning but in no time, their little faces will shine with joy and glee and a new-found appreciation of Danny Kaye.
See 28. Plus: there’s nothing that potatoes can’t make better (even a rocky marriage, a difficult political situation or climate change, trust me).