Those of us, professional and otherwise, who obsess over realms of culture, high and low, cinematic and musical, are annually drawn into the elusive game of list-making at year’s end. Henceforth and forthwith … one culture omnivore’s backward, logic-seeking glance at 2013.
FILMS WORTH LEAVING THE FLAT-SCREENED DOMICILE FOR: When it comes to forming a Top 10 list for films screened in Santa Barbara in a given year, one caveat is that we tend to get some of the prime items in January, which explains the presence on this list of the great, sobering and stunning 2012 film Amour. On a semi-related note, the fact that The Master’s Joaquin Phoenix and Amour’s Emmanuel Riva didn’t win Oscars this year seems further proof of the Academy’s warped, venal agenda. But we digress.
Additional 2013 contenders include the following: Inside Llewyn Davis (the Coen Bros.); Her (Spike Jonze); Nebraska (Alexander Payne); Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche); 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen); Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón); Don Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt); The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance); The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg); and Amour (Michael Haneke).
DISCOGRAPHIC NOTATIONS: In 2013, the first album that duly knocked me out was the sneak attack release of David Bowie’s smashingly good, Berlin era-ish The Next Day in January, the best pop album of the year, according to me and many others. In jazz, the album which most rearranged my senses, and visions of the past, was a release from the Miles Davis vault, Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2, a revelatory two-CD and one-DVD package showcasing the transitional “lost band” between his acoustic and electric periods, with Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette. (Full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes but would have loved it regardless).
Some fave records, in rough order of favoritism: David Bowie, The Next Day (Columbia); Miles Davis, Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 (Sony/Legacy); Christian Wallumrød Ensemble, Outstairs (ECM); Wayne Shorter, Without a Net (Blue Note); Bill Frisell, Big Sur (Okeh); Atoms for Peace, AMOK (XL Recordings); Craig Taborn, Chants (ECM); Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Red Hot (Hot Cup); Laura Mvula, Sing to the Moon (Columbia); and Jason Isbell, Southeastern (Relativity/Southeastern).
LIVE AND IN THE FLESH: There are always good reasons for music fans, and those who believe in the importance of the live music experience, to get outta the house in the 805 — especially where pop and classical are concerned. In pop, The Flaming Lips and Atoms for Peace stole the Bowl season show (although I missed Sigur Rós and Robert Plant), and the classical calendar was seized by the sublime András Schiff’s essaying on Bach’s English Suites at the Lobero, as well as visits from The Knights/Brooklyn Rider.
Jazz had a relative drought year here, what with the Lobero’s six-month hiatus and UCSB’s ongoing near-shut-out of jazz programming. Still, we had two great nights out in the line of jazz, when Wynton Marsalis’s Jazz at Lincoln Center hit the Granada Theatre, and when the potent alt-piano-trio double-header of Brad Mehldau’s trio and the lean but mighty and meaty The Bad Plus rocked, rolled, swung, and cerebrally energized the Lobero. (The Bad Plus also returned to the Ojai Music Festival a month later to do its rendition of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring).
The live list, in reverse chronological order: Jeff Tweedy at the Granada; The Flaming Lips at the Santa Barbara Bowl; American String Quartet (nailing Ives’s Quartet No. 2) at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Formalist Quartet at UCSB’s Geiringer Hall; Atoms for Peace at the Bowl; Jason Isbell at the Marjorie Luke Theatre; cellist Joshua Roman at 240 Studio (part of the Music Academy of the West’s festival); Tony Bennett at Montecito Country Club; The Bad Plus and the Brad Mehldau Trio at the Lobero; András Schiff at the Lobero; Jazz at Lincoln Center at the Granada; The Knights, with Wu Man at UCSB’s Campbell Hall; L.A. Philharmonic at the Granada; Christian Tetzlaff at the Lobero; and Father John Misty at SOhO.