2013 has been the Year of Top 10 lists. Here are my own, all compiled into one long, get-a-blister-from-scrolling list:
Top 10 Songs
This year I finally got bit by the Spotify bug, which got me into new music through both my friends’ recommendations and my own exploration. These are the top songs that had an influence on me this year. Note that movie scores are not included — that would make this list way too hard to compile.
- “Do I Wanna Know” by Arctic Monkeys — Or any song off AM, their 2014 release and the best album they’ve ever done (which is saying something). This one in particular has a driving beat and relatable lyrics.
- “Kate” by Ben Folds — I finally found my theme song. ‘Nough said.
- “Four Simple Words” by Frank Turner — The theme of my Lost St. Louis Weekend and how I discovered Turner’s Brit rock.
- “The Love Club” by Lorde — Everyone knows “Royals,” but “The Love Club” is my favorite Lorde song, from her debut EP.
- “Q.U.E.E.N” by Janelle Monàe — A better bass-thumping, rebel dance anthem there never was. Bonus points for getting Erykah Badu to rap the ending.
- “Who Did That To You” by John Legend — My roommates had to hear it on repeat during February after I had seen Django Unchained. For that, I have no apologies. It’s the perfect revenge anthem.
- “Suit and Tie” by Justin Timberlake — Not my favorite off The 20/20 Experience, but whenever I hear it, WHOOP I start dancing.
- “The Walker” by Fitz and the Tantrums — Ellen’s using it to promote her Oscar appearance, that show Suits used it in…something. I used it to bop my way to my last round of college finals.
- “Whaddup” by LL Cool J — Because my sister says so.
- “Feeling Good” by Michael Bublè — Thanks to my friend Ryan Keeler, Bublè’s cover is now known as the best song for the morning after partying too hard.
Top 10 Artists
I was going to leave it at top songs, but there were some great artists who either captured my attention for the first time or had fantastic comebacks in 2013.
- Fitz and the Tantrums — In January I discovered them just in time for their second album to hit the charts. Their vintage funk style in the recording studio translates flawlessly to the stage, as seen in their Blue Note performance in April.
- Arctic Monkeys — Their release of AM inspired a rare album review from me and 10/10 rating from British music authority NME. The band’s newfound success drew out the most hipster “I’ve been listening to them since I was 15” from me since ADELE hit it big in 2011.
- Caro Emerald — The Danish pop-jazz-swing singer’s newest album The Shocking Miss Emerald was a delightful sophomore collection of original tunes. Favorites include Bond theme-esque “I Belong to You” and drinking anthem “Liquid Lunch.”
- Frank Turner — Think Dropkick Murphys cut down to one man with insane talent and fantastic writing skills.
- Childish Gambino — I own maybe four or five full rap albums. CG’s Camp is one of them.
- Eartha Kitt — Toward the end of the year I discovered I loved old-school vocal jazz, in particular the Catwoman actress’ recordings of “I Want To Be Evil” and “C’Est Si Bon.”
- 30 Seconds to Mars — Their return with Love Lust Faith + Dreams was good, but their documentary Artifact on how they sued their label makes them a fascinating subject. Also, Jared Leto’s performance in Dallas Buyer’s Club will probably garner him an Oscar nomination.
- Raphael Saadiq — As a solo artist and Joss Stone’s producer, Saadiq earns a spot on this list for being a throwback king, especially in his cover of “It’s a Shame.”
- April Smith and the Great Picture Show — Most people recognize “Colors” from a Lowes commercial, but their whole album is a cabaret-style folk masterpiece. My favorite track is “Wow and Flutter.”
- Fall Out Boy — I hated them in high school because everyone else loved them. Now I realize what I was missing out on, from their newest album to From Under the Cork Tree’s deep cuts.
Top 10 Movies
This year I participated in the 365-Film Challenge, through which I watched as many movies for the first time. These are the top 10 I saw for the first time in 2013 (not that were released this year):
- Gravity — As I wrote in my review, Alfonso Cuaron’s survival story is more of an experience than a film. What a thrilling experience it is, too.
- 8 1/2 — Fellini’s autobiographical struggle with making his ninth film is one of the most artistic, influential pictures of all time (and one of the more cerebral ones I’ve ever seen).
- Skyfall — Writing, direction and performances make this the best Bond since Sean Connery’s original Dr. No.
- Dogma — This weird movie with an even weirder cast (Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Salma Hayeck, Jason Lee, Alan Rickman, Jay and Silent Bob, Chris Rock and George Carlin to name a few) explores faith rather than destroys it.
- Shaun of the Dead — Zombies and British humor blend perfectly. Simon Pegg is also a part of the Monty Python reunion scheduled for next year.
- Argo — Ben Affleck’s attention to detail and filming technique show that he’s well past the days of Gigli and Daredevil.
- Modern Times — In my opinion, the best (sorta) silent film ever made.
- Heathers — Winona Ryder and a young Christian Slater star in the best teen movie satire. “Veronica, you look like hell.” “Yeah, I just got back.”
- 12 Angry Men — Precise, thoughtful writing makes this one-room drama a character study and civics lesson.
- Shattered Glass — The true story of Stephen Glass’ plagiarism at the National Republic is both a warning and discussion-starter for journalists like me.
Top 10 TV Shows
I spent a lot of time watching TV, which this year was found to decrease my lifespan by a few years. Oh well — at least I got to see my generation’s Sopranos end in real-time.
- Breaking Bad — Guess we got what we deserved with one of the best TV series of the decade calling it quits after five tumultuous seasons. It was sad to say bye, bye, “my baby blue.”
- Arrested Development — Hailed as the best of 2013’s TV — er, Netflix — seasons, the return of AD was a triumph. Also, I got to introduce the show to my sister, who quotes it at least once a day.
- House of Cards — The West Wing meets Breaking Bad.
- American Horror Story — 2013 was a year of being terrified. AHS: Asylum got me hooked, and Coven has kept me coming back week after week for my daily dose of fear.
- Orange is the New Black — Netflix wins again with a drama filled with developed female characters and quashed prison stereotypes.
- I, Claudius — This fall my parents and I watched the 1970s miniseries, during which I saw Patrick Stewart with hair and John Hurt dancing around in drag. A fun time was had by all (except for all the people Livia poisons in the first half of the series).
- Downton Abbey — This lands a spot on the list simply for that one episode in the middle of the third season that had every fan of the show crying, in shock or almost vomiting from emotion.
- The Walking Dead — I almost gave up on you, TWD. Then you ended the first half of the fourth season by finally killing off the Governor. You had my curiosity. Now you have my attention.
- Person of Interest — It takes courage to kill of a main character at the halfway point in your season. RIP Joss Carter; I’ll miss your sass.
- Hawaii Five-0, “Ho’onani Makuakane” — I watch the show like I watch any CBS drama (sporadically), but the Pearl Harbor Day episode was so masterfully done it deserves accolades. The story focused on the internment of Japanese-American citizens, an aspect of WWII that goes overlooked in the history books.
Top 10 Books
Another year, another shelf needed for my bookcase.
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn — As a writer, I studied the plot structure as an example of perfectly executed character twists. As a reader, I was captivated by the suspense.
- World War Z by Max Brooks— I never thought I’d say this, but it tops the Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant with its in-depth look at a zombie uprising.
- Zealot by Reza Aslan — Soon to be put into production as a movie, Aslan’s research on Jesus of Nazarath as a historical figure was controversial but faith-affirming.
- Welcome to Night Vale — The cult podcast is not technically a book, but there’s no other way to list it. The bimonthly community radio broadcast captures the black humor and terror of a “small desert community where strange things happen.” All hail the Glow Cloud.
- Rant by Chuck Palahniuk — I discovered the beauty of fictional oral histories, and Rant was one of the more twisted ones. Friends and acquaintances describe Buster Casey, a “Party Crasher” that plays covert rounds of demolition derby on the midnight city streets.
- A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) series by George RR Martin — I’m through the first three books, which has taught me as a writer that it’s OK to kill off characters like it’s a season finale of The Walking Dead.
- Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut — A professor recounts his time teaching dyslexic millionaires in New England in a way that only Vonnegut could tell it.
- Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier — Despite its pretentious descriptions that both frustrate and provoke envy, DuMaurier’s suspenseful romance novel was one of the more intriguing old classics I read this year.
- Blackout by Mira Grant — The last book in her Newsflesh Trilogy, Blackout ends the series happily, a rarity in the world of zombie apocalypse literature.
- Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero by Chris Matthews — 2013 brought a love of non-fiction reading, including Matthew’s biography of our 35th president. I wish I had read it before blogging about the JFK anniversary, because it would have added valuable insights.
Top 10 News Stories
These are the ten news stories that evoked the greatest reaction from me, be it “Wow!” “Yay!” “Really?” or “REALLY?”
- The Boston Bombing happened and pulled the country together through compassion, fellowship and a united hatred for how the cable news programs covered it.
- Edward Snowden blows the NSA’s cover and bounces around China and Russia while spewing national security secrets under the guise of telling the American people what we already knew — that the government knows how to read your Facebook posts.
- The government shut down for a couple weeks, cutting pay for its employees, leaving food stamp families starving and suspending needed public service programs. But don’t worry: Paul Ryan could still go to the Congress fitness center to work on his marathon time.
- Wendy Davis literally stood up for women’s rights in Texas during her filibuster. For the first time I wanted a pair of hot pink running shoes.
- The Supreme Court struck down DOMA and Prop 8, resulting in 17 states (including Illinois!) now having gay marriage rights. Wedding planners also saw a spike in their businesses.
- Sixteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai addressed the UN about equal education for women and made everyone feel bad for skipping their 8 a.m. classes in college.
- We avoided a serious issue with Syria by letting the press redirect our attention to something else that I can’t remember anymore.
- Mary Barra became the first CEO of General Motors. “Who run the world? GIRLS.”
- Duchess Kate gave birth to baby George, perpetuating a purely decorative monarchy but giving us great baby pictures and another reason to envy her.
- J.K. Rowling revealed herself as the author of The Cuckoo’s Calling, proving to critics of A Casual Vacancy that she can write for adults as long as she doesn’t put her name on the book.
Top 10 Personal Events
Lots happened in the world of Kate this year. Many events inspired blog posts on Quills and Typewriters, but let’s pretend this list isn’t just another way to promote past content.
- I graduated from the University of Missouri with my degree in journalism, minors in Italian and film studies, Latin honors and my multi-cultural studies certificate.
- In July I got my very own chronic illness that allows me to enter the Matrix (i.e. get hooked up to an IV for four hours) ever eight weeks.
- My sister, Bee, announced that she will attend the University of Missouri for her degree in international business.
- I was a contributing writer for Vox Magazine, worked PR for a jazz organization and started writing blog posts for Lydia Magazine and Greatest Films, all of which honed my communication skills.
- In October I learned the true meaning of Homecoming when I attended MU’s 102nd Homecoming festivities.
- Unlike the past three years when I was in college, this year I got to see Bee’s golf games, from the first matches in blistering August to her turn at sectionals in Rockford during chilly October.
- The feature I worked on at The Chicago Reporter in 2012 won a Peter Lisagor Award from the Chicago Headline Club and inspired the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times to conduct their own investigations of DCFS cases ending in homicide.
- After covering it for two years, I volunteered for the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Mo. Not only did I sell (and buy) cool merchandise, but I also saw five documentaries about everything from Pussy Riot to the hunt for Bin Laden.
- Through my own forwardness, I acquired an Italian pen pal. Her name is Beatrice, she lives in Naples and has a blog. We email in Italian and English about movies, music and life. You wish you were that lucky.
- “Second Christmas” came in February, when my roommates and I hosted a Oscar party rivaling Vanity Fair’s gala. It included nominee-inspired food (pie for Life of Pi, “stolen” French bread for Les Miserables) and jamming 20+ people into our tiny living room.
Top 10 Things To Look Forward to in 2014
These are a combination of resolutions and reasons to be glad it’s a new year (a new start, if you will).
- 2014: A Film Odyssey — There’s a post coming soon about this one, so stay tuned.
- A year of fitness — Illness killed my drive until mid-year, so I’m looking forward to the new year bringing a full 12 months of running, yoga, zumba, pilates and perhaps even some kickboxing.
- Bridget will be shipping off to Columbia, Mo. in August for her first year at my alma mater and her own chance to find her version of the Twainers, Love Club, Italian Gals and Mini-Me.
- The Ghost Novel Challenge — By Halloween 2014, I will have finished a novel-length ghost story. Note: those 30-page Cam Jansen mysteries we read as kids counted as novels.
- (Hopefully) my first freelance feature — I’ve been shopping an article pitch around to a few magazines, and we’ll hope that I’ll pull it off.
- The Winter Olympics in Sochi — Let’s kick some Russian homophobic ass, preferably in Ice Dancing and Luge.
- Did I mention employment?