Okey doke, time for our annual round up of favorites from throughout the year. These are predominantly personal picks, albeit ones with an eye toward Mocking-resonance. TV went live last week. (Click here to check out last year’s list).

Music

Favorite Discoveries

  1. David Bowie 1991-1997. When he died, I first spent some time with his mid-to-late 70s work. And I love that stuff. Who doesn’t? Then I went back to his final few records (from hours… on), and unearthed a few gems I’d missed (“I’ll Take You There”, “Safe”). Eventually, though, I wanted something fresh, something I hadn’t heard. So I did the unthinkable and grabbed both the Tin Machine records. I listened to shows from the Outside tour and invested hours in trying to make sense of that record (still lost). I found acoustic versions of the drum and bass stuff. I played The Buddha of Suburbia, incessantly. I was blown away by how much amazing music I’d missed. Now when I want a Bowie fix, my first stop is our February playlist, the glorious fruit of that sad time.
  2. roywoodThere’s a Light by Liz Vice. Holy moly this record cooks. If I’d had it when it came out in 2015, it would’ve taken the top spot in last year’s list. But thank God for Matt Magill, our head honcho in Tyler, for persisting in his recommendation–and for inviting Liz to play at the upcoming conference in Tyler (which, contrary to the letter we sent out, happens 2/24-25). How to describe? Think Ann Peebles and the Hi Records rhythm section playing a selection of St Paul’s greatest hits–if the man from Tarsus knew how to write a hook. I could go on and on about Ms. Vice’s impressive pipes, or the retro-soul sugar sprinkled so liberally throughout (Leon Bridges, eat your heart out!), but what sticks out most a few months after my first listen is the material itself. She could teach a course on How to Write a Song About Jesus That’s Neither Creepy or Cheesy. I’m really intimidated to meet her.
  3. Roy Wood & Wizzard. The erstwhile Move leader (and co-founder of ELO) hasn’t done his ‘legacy’ any favors over the years by refusing to properly remaster or re-release any of his 70s output. So it takes some work. But I decided I couldn’t read Roy’s name in a list of Brian Wilson acolytes again without some idea of what they were talking about. Needless to say, those who don’t mind the relatively low fidelity of the recordings will find that “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” is the very tip of the iceberg. “Rock and Roll Winter”, “Ball Park Incident”, the entire Mustard record–the well is deep deep deep. The costumes are pretty cool too, in a proto-Gwar kind of way.
  4. Late period Bay City Rollers. I have The Federalist to thank for this one, which definitely takes the “Nazareth Principle” Award for least expected phase. Turns out that in the years after the Scottish heartthrobs popularity had waned (everywhere but Japan, that is), they hired a guy from South Africa and turned out a series of terrific power-pop records. At least, power-pop sanded to a Lynne-like sheen with some Queen-isms thrown in for good measure. I consider it a genuine sign of God’s grace that every time I think I’ve exhausted discoveries like these, another one pops up, out of nowhere. PtL!

Eleven Favorite Songs Released in 2016

  1. “Lazarus” – Bowie
  2. “Mercy” – Jon Parks
  3. “A 1000 Times” – Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam
  4. “Mixed Signals” – Robbie Williams
  5. “Redbone” – Childish Gambino
  6. “It’s Quiet Uptown” – Kelly Clarkson
  7. “Jesus Alone” – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  8. “Birth of an Accidental Hipster” – The Monkees
  9. “Virtue” – Bloc Party
  10. “Waiting Around for Grace” – Pond
  11. “Love, Hope & Misery” – Jake Bugg

Twelve Favorite Songs Discovered in 2016

  1. “Love Anyway” – Mike Scott. Our new anthem.
  2. “Down By the Train” – Tom Waits. Slightly embarrassed I hadn’t heard this before.
  3. “Obscurity Knocks” – Trashcan Sinatras
  4. “Something Soon” – Car Seat Headrest
  5. “Fran” – The Beckies
  6. “Who Can I Be Now?” – David Bowie
  7. “When the Bridegroom Comes” – Judee Sill
  8. “When I Had My Legs” – Zookeeper
  9. “Strange Man” – Dorothy Love Coates
  10. “God” – Attic Lights
  11. “Is That Loving in Your Heart?” – Patti and the Lovelites
  12. “Goin Home” (live) – Neil Young

Six Favorite Albums Released in 2016

  1. Black Star – David Bowie. Kind of duh.
  2. Night Thoughts – Suede. Continuing to defy all expectations of what a reunion can be.
  3. Side B – Carly Rae Jepsen. Seriously, she’s that good.
  4. Sing Street Soundtrack
  5. Cardinal – Pinegrove
  6. You Want It Darker – Leonard Cohen. RIP.

Guiltiest Pleasure: I guess Carly Rae. Though I don’t feel remotely guilty. Maybe Weezer’s White Album? But I don’t feel guilty about that either. Maybe this category needs to go.

Most Grace-Tastic Worship Music: Lamentations by BiFrost Arts and Olney Hymns by The Americana Congregation. On the archival front, though, nothing beats this:

Media

Favorite Columnist (AKA The Surviving November Award): Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic and LA Times

Best Relationship Advice (Column): Ask Polly by Heather Havrileksy, with bonus points for her amazing one-off article on “What Marriage Looks Like 10 Years In”.

Long Reads We Got the Most Mileage Out of: “I Used to be A Human Being” by Andrew Sullivan, “Act Naturally: Pretentiousness, Coolness and Culture” by Barrett Swamson, and “Why The Kids Are Not Alright” by Susanna Schrobsdorff

Most Bonkers Religion Story of the Year (by Far):The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’ Wife” though the Justin Welby parentage thing was pretty wild.

Most Missed Website: The Toast, hands down

Don't forget this guy: Arrested for driving his Delorean 88 mph.

Let’s not forget when this guy got arrested for driving his Delorean 88 mph.

Most Fascinating Interviews, Two of Which Actually Aired in 2015: Colbert on Howard Stern, Bruce Campbell on Nerdist, Bo Burnham (#3) on You Made It Weird, Francois Clemmons on Storycorps, and Krista Tippett with you know who.

Favorite Newstory: King Tut’s Dagger Came From Outer Space

Most Entrancing Photo Essay: The Chinese Art of the Crowd, with SUR-FAKE by Antoine Geiger and “Sing, Hug, Jump, Laugh, Pray, and Scream for the Lord” tying for second.

Favorite Non-OJ Documentary: One Guess. Also, Raiders!, Herzog’s Lo and Behold, and Mifune. 

Favorite Podcasts We Don’t Host: Invisibilia, Unorthodox, Revisionist History, Homecoming

Favorite Movies Other than Manchester by the Sea, Bearing In Mind That I Haven’t Seen a Ton of What’s Getting Press (And We’re Posting A Serious List Soon): Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Sing Street, Love and Friendship, Hell or High Water, The Lobster, Midnight Special & The Nice Guys

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Humor

Most Relevant Onion Headline: “50% Of Heaven’s Population Just Assholes Who Begged For Forgiveness At Last Second” . Runner-up would have to be “Boss Wants Friendly, Relaxed Company Culture In Place By Friday”

Most Relevant New Yorker Cartoon: This One

Great Job Internet Award: Episcopal Skeletor

Best Star Wars Memes: Han Solo Dad Jokes or Drewbacca

Favorite Babylon Bee Headline:Man From Year 2249 Asks God For Time-Traveling Mercies” or “‘The True Election Was In Eternity Past,’ Annoying Calvinist Keeps Reminding Everyone”. And how could we forget the ooof-inducing “Mainline Protestantism Declared A Safe Space For Those Offended By The Gospel”?

Funniest (and Most Excruciating) Photo Essay: Humanitarians of Tinder

Books and Literature

Favorite Novel I Read This Year: The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder

Favorite Non-Fiction I Read This Year: Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious by David Dark

Favorite Mixing of the Two: The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

Favorite Social Psychology Travelogue: America the Anxious by Ruth Whippman

Book-Length Personal Reflection That Made Me Cry the Hardest: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Most Recommended/Helpful Non-Academic Religious Work (Top Theology Books Post Coming in a Couple Weeks): Falling Into Grace by John Newton

Favorite Print Essay (Other Than “Church of the Deconstruction”): “The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism” by Kristen Dombek

Favorite Poem of 2016: “The Good News” by Paul Hostovsky

Favorite Poem Discovered in 2016: “Original Sin on the Sussex Coast” by John Betjeman