2014 was terrible? Sure, in many ways it was. But I liked a lot of things that came my way. Here are some of them, with an emphasis on the good work of people I know.
The Southern Reach Trilogy: I bought the second and third book before finishing the first to avoid a gap in my reading. Without spoiling a thing, the trilogy ends with an Acknowledgements page that confirms that whatever you're thinking while you're reading it, whatever connections you're making, you aren't wrong. The author, Jeff VanderMeer, was thinking about them, too. I loved these books.
Have You Ever Done Something Evil?: I don't have a favorite song on this album because I can't choose. Hallelujah the Hills is a great band, and if you're not listening to them, you're missing out. Oh, hell, I'll choose "Pick Up An Old Phone" but I'd pick something different tomorrow.
Fine Line Comedy: Some friends in the Boston comedy community started a new production company in 2013 and in 2014 it's turned into a reliable home for fun, unpredictable shows. Holding down a spot at JP's Milky Way/Bella Luna with occasional shows elsewhere and now improv classes, they're demonstrating how to grow something small and purposeful in a sustainable way. I hope 2015 is big for them.
Hadron Gospel Hour: The scifi comedy chronicles the adventures of a mad scientist, his kidnapped friend, their AI assistant and a bunker full of weirdos as they try to reassemble the shattered multiverse through the medium of podcasting. It's consistently funny, weird, and really well-produced.
The return of The Best Show: Tuesday nights belong to Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster, or at least the did until December of 2013, when the two ended their 14 year run on WFMU. The show, 3 hours of "Mirth, Music, and Mayhem" had the most dedicated fan base I know, all conversant in the intricate details of fictional Newbridge, New Jersey. Two weeks ago, Scharpling brought the show back online. Set yourself an alert to go to www.thebestshow.net at 9pm on Tuesday night. It lives up to the name.
"Digital Witness" - St. Vincent: I really didn't expect to like this so much. I love this song. It's the wormiest earworm of the year for me. I dance to it when it's not even playing. The video is here, and it's typically St. Vincentish. I adore this song.
Going Deep With David Rees: You may know David Rees from his Get Your War On comics, or for being the best reality TV recapper of all time. Going Deep is my favorite thing that happened on TV this year. It's legitimately a science show that's far funnier than most comedies. Watch any episode, or even just the available clips on the Nat Geo site. He made an episode called "How to Dig a Hole" and another called "How to Make an Ice Cube" and both are phenomenal.
Too Late to Run: My friend John Perich writes this crime thriller series set in Boston, and the third book is the best so far. If you like a plainly flawed but dogged hero who seems to get more beaten up than John McClane, and makes life as hard for her friends as for her enemies, you'll probably like Mara Cunningham.
Brill Bruisers - The New Pornographers: I probably ran 200 miles listening to this album this year. It might be as good as Mass Romantic and Twin Cinema. If that means something to you, you know I mean business here.
Basic Help: I saw a bunch of plays and musicals I liked this year, but this one, at the Frigid Festival in March, is the one that I keep thinking about. Strangedog Theatre company in New Jersey made it happen, and if you're in New York or New Jersey, look for them. It was such a simple thing: a customer service agent and a disgruntled owner of a low-quality blender working through some issues. And it worked extraordinarily well.
Primer Stories: My friends Tim Lillis and Joe Alterio put together this site with weekly "visual stories about the most interesting things in the world." Just go and scroll through the titles, and if something doesn't grab you, I'm not sure if we're compatible as friends.
THE KANSAS CITY ROYALS WENT TO THE WORLD SERIES. Maybe you missed that. It was a big deal. My favorite artifact of that experience is this little video, which maybe doesn't do anything for you, but just kills me still:
I'm sure I loved many things I didn't think of while writing this. If that was your thing, my apologies. I make no claim to comprehensiveness here.