Gimme 5 (aka the best of everything so far in 2018)

It’s the time of year when established media outlets and blog boys alike put out their “Best ____ of 2018 so far” lists. Ya know I’m no different. However, I don’t make money off of my last name dot com, so I don’t need 50 different lists to appease my advertisers. I limited myself to five of each. If you don’t see your favorite album/film/goldfish, it was probably 6th on my list. Or I haven’t encountered it yet.


Gimme 5: albums from the first half of 2018

One Stone by Trixie Mattel (self-released) March
A drag queen superstar goes against making EDM club music in favor of earnest Americana. Must listens are “Little Sister” and “Red Side of the Moon.”

Clean by Soccer Mommy (Fat Possum) March
The cream of the crop when it comes to college-aged people mastering their feelings with a guitar. Must listens are “Your Dog” and “Scorpio Rising.”

Saved by Now, Now (Trans-) May
These high school besties turned pop power duo didn’t disappoint after it took five years to make this album.  Must listens are “SGL” and “Holy Water.”

Nightstand by Tancred (Polyvinyl) June
Jess Abbott could have written the soundtrack to any angsty teen movie from the late-90s. Must listens are “Apple Tree Girl” and “Underwear.”

Verdugo by Richard Edwards (Joyful Noise) June
The result happens when your life and health go to shit but so you write two albums – the bummer one and this one. Must listens are “A Woman Who Can’t Say No” and “Olive Oyl.”


Gimme 5: books from the first half of 2018

The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara (Ecco)
Before RuPaul made drag mainstream, there was the queer community of NYC in the late ’80s struggling to find acceptance. This is their story. [My interview with the author can be found here.]

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (Grove)
Modern-day Nigerian folklore crossed with a sincere coming-of-age story is perhaps the best way to describe this novel.

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley (MCD)
Essays about topics ranging from porn to volcanoes to personal musing. Expect to laugh, cry, and dry heave.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder (Hogarth)
A woman in the midst of an existential crisis mixed with a cocktail of depression and anxiety has a sexual relationship with a merman. Or does she?

Florida by Lauren Groff (Riverhead)
A collection from one of the best writers out there. She explores different characteristics of the state through time and location with such emotional precision. [My interview with the author can be found here.]


Gimme 5: returning TV shows from the first half of 2018

The Americans (FX)
A final season about Cold War Russian spies in America that wasn’t watched or respected by nearly enough people. Standout episode: “START.”

Atlanta (FX)
Completely different, yet somehow exactly the same from the first season. Auteur television perfected. Standout episode: “Teddy Perkins.”

Brockmire (IFC)
Baseball is America’s pastime. Hank Azaria is America’s future. Minor league baseball has never been so fun. And that’s saying something considering how fun MiLB is already. Standout episode: “Knuckleball.”

Santa Clarita Diet (Netflix)
It never takes itself too seriously and is lighthearted and hefty throughout. Sometimes even in the same scene. Standout episode: “Suspicious Objects.”

Westworld (HBO)
Well, well, well. If there was a show I turned sour on, it’s this one. Still, I can’t stop thinking about it week in and week out. Standout episode: “Kiksuya.”


Gimme 5: new TV shows from the first half of 2018

Barry (HBO)
Bill Hader proves he’s more than a funny man in this dark hitman comedy. 

The End of the F*ing World (Netflix)
Two disturbed teens go on a dangerous roadtrip across England that is filled with drugs, sex, and murder.

Queer Eye (Netflix)
Five men so fabulous a second season came out less than half a year later.

The Looming Tower (Hulu)
Problematic, sure, but an honest retelling of America’s darkest hour.

Killing Eve (BBC America)
A twisty murder mystery that avoids the typical tropes and has stand out performances lead by Sandra Oh.


Gimme 5: films from the first half of 2018

A Quiet Place by John Krasinski, Bryan Woods and Scott Beck (Paramount)
It took 90 minutes to explore the themes The Walking Dead still hasn’t figured out.

Black Panther by Ryan Coogler(Marvel)
The best(?) superhero flick since The Dark Knight. Wakanda forever.

Isle of Dogs by Wes Anderson(Fox Searchlight)
The film auteur returns to stop motion and surpassed all expectation.

Love, Simon by Greg Berlanti, Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger(20th Century Fox)
Queer stories are more important than ever; especially for teens.

You Were Never Really Here by Lynne Ramsay (Amazon Studios)
Joaquin Phoenix returns to form and might as well be nominated for Best Actor right now.


Gimme 5: podcasts from the first half of 2018

Keep It with Ira Madison, Karen Brown, Louis Vitrell (Crooked Media)
Pop culture commentary with a political twist.

Homophilia with Dave Holes and Matt McConkey (Earwolf)
One of the best podcasts on queer culture other than Nancy.

Nancy with Tobin Low and Kathy (WNYC)
Speaking of Nancy. The best podcast from 2017 is back and better than ever!

Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo (CBC)
Canadian true crime about indigenous women. More light needs to be shed on this.

I Think You’re Interesting with Todd VanDerWerff (Vox)
One of my favorite critics chatting with people he thinks is interesting. VDW has great views on culture and is a must read.

Richard Edwards – “Verdugo” review

The fact that Richard Edwards isn’t a household name hurts my heart. He is one of the most poetically talented writers producing music and has been for over a decade. His second official solo effort, Verdugo, is the perfect follow up to last year’s Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset. It’s bolder, stronger, fuller.


Here are 30 songs from the first 3 months of 2018

The first three months of 2018 produced so many great songs. I have a working Spotify list where I throw singles when I dig them. There were a lot of ones that burned fast and fell by the wayside, but then there were those I could listen to every single day. Here are 30 I enjoyed ranging from synthy indie dance tracks to souldful R&B to relaxing folk.


“All Nerve” – The Breeders

Give Kim Deal two minutes and she’ll create more complexity than most do in numerous songs. She tells us she won’t stop in this song. I believe it.

“All the Stars” – Kendrick Lamar and SZA

These two were the King and Queen of 2017 and I love them together. It’s time Hollywood starts recognizing their blockbusters need blockbuster songs again. Black Panther saved this song for the closing credits and it was so juicy.

“AZ” – Now, Now

When the MLPS due returned with “SGL” in 2017, I was shocked at how acoustic the song was. With the band’s third single off of their forthcoming Saved, they returned to poppy synths and rhythmic lyrics. This is a warm, sing-a-long perfect for summer road trips.

“Bad Boys Need Love Too” – Bahamas

This was one of my first favorite songs of the year. It’s leaps and bounds about the musician’s other songs. It takes risks where normally Afie Jurvanen plays it safe.

“Catch It” – Iceage

That garage rock, I don’t give a damn attitude seeps through this entire nearly 6-minute song. Whoever Iceage is, you know they’re cool.

“Clutch Burning” – Jay Summer

Summer covers so many sounds in this song. It’s the type of song that swims through an entire sunlit apartment on a warm weekend afternoon.

“Cool” – Soccer Mommy

It’s a poppy song about the pressures of trying to be cool. It shifts between apathetic lyrics with jangly guitars filled with fuzz. This whole album is a complete stellar debut. Picking just one song was difficult, trust me. I’ll cheat then: “Your Dog” is 100% awesome as well.

“Django Jane” – Janelle Monáe

She’s back and thank goodness for that. She is on a flat-out mission as she raps hard and doesn’t stop. She covers everything from being a proud black American to female empowerment. She released this alongside “Make Me Feel” to introduce April’s Dirty Computer album.

“Get Out” Chvrches

The Scottish synth-pop trio sounds massive on this track. This is the indie hipster version of a club banger and you can catch me with my car windows down ruining Lauren Mayberry’s perfect vocals.

“God’s Plan” – Drake

Degrassi’s Jimmy Brooks knows how to put out a radio smash. The actors (and sometimes rapper/singer) has refused to play by the music industry’s games and put out two songs in January. We haven’t been able to talk about anything since.

“He Will” – Emma Cole

Her album was years in the making and it was worth the wait. Cole’s vocals rival Amy Winehouse and her melodies are infectious sing-a-longs. There’s everything you want in a song wrapped up in a perfect bow.

“High Horse” – Kacey Musgraves

I’m just getting turned onto Musgraves. The album is sneaking up into my rotation, but this song is how I was introduced to the musician. She’s making pure pop joy regardless of how much of a bummer the lyrical content is.

“How Simple” – Hop Along

This Philadelphia band is on its way to the top. This single is heartbreaking, but you’d never know it. On the surface, it’s tingly and fizzy. They put out a very radio friendly track while never compromising.

“How to Socialise and Make Friends” – Camp Cope

Close your eyes when you’re listening to this and get transported to some dingy venue in the early 1990s. The band knows how to put out some lite riot grill vibes for the modern era.

“I Can’t Quit” – The Vaccines

With some nice oooh-oooh-ooohs and moments to clap along, the Vaccines offer a refined sound that would play well in underground DIY venues or stadiums. They definitely know how to write a damn good song.

“Little Sister” – Trixie Mattel

This drag superstar loves folk and American. The lead track off of One Stone is an older sibling’s advice to younger ones. It’s about growing up and getting out. I love how much Trixie is herself while other drag queens put out club hits, she put out something that would make Johnny Cash proud.

“Minefield” – Richard Edwards

The former Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s maestro went softer on his last album, but this first single highlights how he can orchestrate multiple instruments into pure pop fantasy. He’s turns of phrases highlight how masterfully smart his lyrics are.

“Mistake” – Middle Kids

These Aussies had a terrific self-titled EP in 2017 and are expanding that effort to a full-length album. If you loved their breakout “Edge of Town” you’ll love this smooth, cathartic anthem.

“Next of Kin” – Lucy Dacus

There is something about women in their early-20s producing top-notch rock. Dacus is just one of those on this list and this song may be the pinnacle of what we could expect for years to come from this group of songwriters.

“One Night Only” – Sonder

We need a new Usher and maybe Sonder’s vocals can be up to the task. There’s a lot going right for the singer in this song and he has a solid foundation for something special with his ability to croon.

“Pristine” – Snail Mail

If you’re seeking watered down emotions, look elsewhere. Lindsey Jordan is coming full force with how she feels and she isn’t afraid to hide it. She’s another strong writer who has a lot of moving pieces but never lets her songs feel like a gimmick.

“Rat of the City” – Sidney Gish

Gish is studying jazz guitar at Northwestern and if this song is any indication, she is ready to graduate valedictorian. The whole song is just her soft voice over a barely distorted guitar. She’s in the same class as Julien Baker in the sense of that is all she needs to produce greatness.

“Reviews” – Tancred

Jess Abbot’s vocals on this album have a refined tune to it whereas her previous release sounded rawer. She continues to master writing catchy lyrics over swirling guitars littered with effect pedals. It’s the first single off of June’s Nightstand and knowing Abbot’s songwriting skills, this will be the most single-worthy, but far from the best song.

“Rosebud” – U.S. Girls

Mashing up different melodies and sounds ranging from that music featured in an action flick’s trailer to 1960s girl group vibes, Meg Remy has a firm grasp on what genres and styles go together.

“Standbye” – Death on Holiday

This song sounds like a mid-2000s indie track written in a cabin in Kansas. Or something like that. There are Death Cab vibes or whoever your favorite MySpace band was.

“Suck the Blood From My Wound” – Ezra Furman

Furman’s evolution has hit a new peak here. The opening track from Transangelic Exodus is fuzzy with the best hook and chorus around. There is so much passion behind the shout-singing throughout the track that you’ll need a breather after listening.

“Sweet Holy Honey” – Sango with Xavier Omar

If there was ever a song that should be in an erotic sex scene in an Oscar-winning film, it should be this. It oozes arousal in the slow-burning R&B parts and then even picks up its pace at the right moment.

“Voicemail” – Staasia Daniels

I don’t know when or how I heard Daniels for the first time, but I am so glad I did. Her voice just makes me feel like she should be opening for Beyoncé on a world tour.

“Wasted Time” – The Weeknd

My favorite Weeknd is a sad Weeknd. This song is in the middle of his surprise 6-song release Dear Melancholy, and he sure is bummed. He doesn’t want to wake up if he doesn’t have Selena Gomez or Bella Hadid laying next to him. Which one? You decide.

“Wild Child” – Shopping

You may not think punk when you hear the butt swaying bass line that plays throughout this song, but this trio has that attitude in their veins.

“Youth (Quiet)” – Luna Shadows

The LA-songwriter’s 2017 EP had a terrific pop song called “Youth.” This version is stripped down and was fully produced by the singer herself.  If 2018 isn’t the year of Luna Shadows, 2019 will be.

Tancred and Richard Edwards both released new songs and my heart exploded

Tancred (aka Jess Abbot) and Richard Edwards (fka Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s) have been releasing some of my most favorite music for the last half-decade. Abbot helped craft Now, Now’s Threads back in 2012, while Edwards fronted my favorite band dating back to 2006. Now, they’re both officially solo artists releasing new albums on the same damn day. June 1, 2018 is going to one hell of a day.


50 favorite songs from 2017

I made a playlist on Spotify of my favorite songs from the year. I’ve listed the 50 below by artist (as alphabetized by Spotify). You can play the mix on shuffle or I threw it together in a nonsense way that sort of flows. Just enjoy it like the radio station and get surprised with what comes next though.


The best music (and podcasts) from 2017

This year has been sweet to my ears. My favorite musician Richard Edwards released his first official solo album. Then he released a stripped down LP of some newer and older songs. Now, Now released two songs after a five-year hiatus. Lorde, Alvvays, and Haim put out their highly anticipated sophomore efforts. Then there were albums that crushed my soul like Mount Eerie and Phoebe Bridgers albums. Selecting ten was difficult but I tried. I added five EPs to the mix as well. Because I wanted this to encapsulate all of my favorite aural candies, I threw in five podcasts. I could have suggested dozens, but am trying to control myself.


Richard Edwards Reborn

Richard Edwards doesn’t sound tired anymore. His voice is still soft, but there is an optimistic vibrancy that hadn’t been there in recent years.

He is in a quiet room in his home in Indiana talking to me on the phone. I apologize for not being able to meet in person; I couldn’t afford a flight halfway across the country. He gets money woes, though. He gets health woes, too. In fact, Edwards gets most woes that come in life. They’ve all knocked him down. He’s gotten up every single time.

The Indiana-based songwriter was diagnosed with C. Diff – an infection of the intestines – and spent most of 2015 recovering from a near fatal attack that robbed him of 40 pounds, his energy, and a tour. He says the rare disease essentially forced him into retirement. He’s since recovered, but the ailment still lingers.

“My stomach issue is a pretty consistent part of my life, but I do have longer stretches where I feel really good. I’m in one of those right now.”


‘Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset’ is a vulnerable masterpiece

[Read my feature “Richard Edwards Reborn” for an in-depth look at the album from musician himself.]

For nearly a decade, Richard Edwards released music as a band called Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s. Don’t be fooled; he was the band. The players came in on different albums to help, but he was always the maestro. His lineups changed year to year, as did his music.

Now, Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset is his first true solo album under his own name. I wrote a feature about it that will appear sometime shortly on All Things Go about why this was time for him to step out from behind the Margot moniker.