The Best of 2019

Songs, albums, essays, movies, TV, apps, podcasts, YouTube clips, and books...

Looking back on my favourite songs, albums, essays, movies, TV, apps, podcasts, YouTube clips, and books of 2019…

Music

Songs

The best song of 2019 was James Blake’s Where’s The Catch, featuring Andre 3000’s otherworldly verse:

Harmony, harmony, how many?
How many days of amazing will it be before it phases
And I say I told you so? (Told you so)
Summer bee, summer bee buzzing
Some will be hovering over nothing
All of a sudden, it's falling, it's over though
Come with me, come with me, calming me down
Be chamomile, calamine lotion, camel motion

It’s like listening to the genius of a Coltrane saxophone solo. And it’s that genius that makes his conversation with Rick Rubin recently all the more interesting.

My most played song of 2019 was The 1975’s I Like America and America Likes Me which I listened to for the first time on a sunny afternoon walk from the Presidio to the Tenderloin in San Francisco April.

Nils Frahm’s My Friend The Forest made me cry when I heard it live in December. Though in my defence, Nils was playing when both my sons were born, so his music carries a particular weighted resonance for me.

I also had three playlists on high repeat: David August Radio, oriental deep house, and El Buho’s Tulum Boiler Room set.

My top 100 most played songs of 2019 are here.

Albums

I think 2019 was a bad year for albums. Pitchfork’s top 50 albums list is… kinda flat? I mean, Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell! is the album of the year? Really? 😱

I thought Bon Iver’s new stuff wasn’t as good as his old stuff. Ditto for James Blake.

Maybe I’m just getting old.

In any case, the highlight records for me were The 1975’s A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships from 2018, and I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It’ I had studiously avoided The 1975 for many years, only dipping into them accidentally, and finding them too herky-jerky, too gimmicky. But in full album form, they’re glorious, and I spent hours lost in both records.

East Atlanta Love Letter by 6lack, another 2018 release, was also on high repeat.

And that’s it!

Just three records that I can say I genuinely loved this year, none of which were released in 2019.

Essays

Movies & TV

Halfway through Parasite, at about the point where they shave the peach, I thought to myself, this is a charming movie, so light and airy… and then an hour later I left the cinema in a daze, wondering what had just happened to me.

Marriage Story was five stars. I love Noah Baumbach. A Star Is Born was equally good.

You are missing out if you haven’t watched The Price of Everything, American Factory, and Free Solo.

Drive To Survive was my TV series of the year. A mesmerising look into the world of F1.

Succession was 10/10. Chernobyl was 9/10. Fauda was 8/10 (and still worth watching).

And LeBron’s The Shop was truly compelling viewing.

Apps

Podcasts

And I feel asleep most nights to some mix of Bill Simmons, Ryen Rusillo, Zach Lowe, Woj, Winging It and All The Smoke talking about the NBA…

YouTube

YouTube was and is my happy place content-wise… you can dip in for 15 minutes or 150, the algorithms are scarily good, and they get better the more you watch. We are finally in the era of hyper-personalised content.

I think we haven’t come close yet to tapping how good YouTube as algorithm-driven TV will be… and I haven’t even quite wrapped my head around how to explain it. Much like watching House of Highlights clips on Instagram instead of a 2.5 hour NBA game, YouTube is the highlight reel of your favourite movie, with the DVD extras thrown in.

Maybe another way to explain it is just to compile the best clips I watched in the past month into a playlist (I just scanned my watch history to compile it)… this list is likely <5/10 interesting to you, but that’s kind of the point - to me it’s 10/10 interesting: stand-up comedy, single scenes from TVs show and movies, random meme-phemera, bites from around the edge of music, NBA clips, F1 analysis, boxing, a Warren Buffett interview, and a handful of classic SNL clips… perfect.

Books

Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing was the best book I read this year.

I also loved:

  • Bob Iger’s Ride of a Lifetime

  • Helen Garner Everywhere I Look

  • Malcolm Gladwell Talking To Strangers

And I devoured Catch And Kill, Bad Blood, Super Pumped, and Red Notice.


If I missed something this year you think I’d love, just hit reply to this email :)

Happy New Year.