Since 2012 when I first began this blog, I have frequently used my love of all things pop culture to influence my blog posts. I often write on pop culture-influenced subjects like the Netflix takeover on television or the problem with the Oscars in my open letter to the Academy, and each year I have always done some type of best of “insert pop culture category” year end list. I enjoy taking a deep dive into focused segments of pop culture, such as The Best TV Shows of 2013 (hello, Breaking Bad!) or Best Albums of 2012 (get back together already Lost in the Trees!), but I felt I was missing a larger opportunity.
So in 2015, I decided to scrap my individually focused and randomly chosen year end lists and go a new route. You may have guessed by now that my new direction was to develop a comprehensive year end list (find 2015, 2016 and 2017). Discovering and uncovering of new things, from heralded movies like this year’s A Quiet Place to niche bands such as the forever under-appreciated Grandaddy (my top album from 2017), is me at my core. I love “researching” books, films, music, etc. to compile my “best of” lists into a simple, comprehensive and, most importantly, shareable format. And given that my interests go beyond pop culture, I’ve expanded my list to include a few broader categories (hello, hiking trails!).
As such, there’s truly something for everyone on this list. I hope it will prove helpful as you navigate your own path to discovery. Here is my top ten everything of 2018. Enjoy!
Best of Film
1. The Rider
This year’s must-watch film is as heart-wrenching as it is beautiful.
Standout Performance: Brady Jandreau as himself
A truly explosive, exceedingly tense look at racism, gentrification and more.
Standout Performance: Daveed Diggs as Collin
Alfonso Cuaron’s autobiographical masterpiece intimate and impactful.
Standout Performance: Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo
Stylishly direct and uncompromising, Revenge is brutally brilliant.
Standout Performance: Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz as Jen
5. First Reformed
Paul Schrader has delivered a truly poignant and thought-provoking film on faith.
Standout Performance: Ethan Hawke as Reverend Toller
6. A Quiet Place
Jon Krasinksi’s wholly original thriller is a captivatingly tense masterpiece.
Standout Performance: Emily Blunt as Evelyn
7. You Were Never Really Here
This generation’s Taxi Driver is moody, unflinching and quietly uplifting.
Standout Performance: Joaquin Phoenix as Joe
8. The Insult (L’insulte)
Conflict in the Middle East captured brilliantly through the pride of men.
Standout Performance: Adel Karam as Toni
9. The Endless
Eerie and compelling, The Endless is a truly unique mind-bending thriller.
Standout Performance: Justin Benson as Justin Smith
A film that is equal parts art and bloodthirsty revenge. Wowza.
Standout Performance: Nicolas Cage as Red
Just Missed: The Wife; BlacKkKlansman; RBG; Ciambra; Hereditary; Film Worker;
Biggest Disappointments: Isle of Dogs; Mohawk; Leave No Trace; Death of Stalin
Best of Television
1. Atlanta, FX
Donald Glover’s week-to-week shapeshift masterpiece says everything, I think.
Standout Performance: Bryan Tyree Henry as Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles
2. Insecure, HBO
Equal parts commentary and comedy, Issa Rae’s show is real life, magnified.
Standout Performance: Yvonne Orji as Molly Carter
3. Elite, Netflix
Big Little Lies meets The OC meets Pretty Little Liars. Debes ver esto!
Standout Performance: Miguel Herran as Christian
4. Legion, FX
Television as high art in what is easily the best Marvel adaptation ever.
Standout Performance: Aubrey Plaza as Lenny Busker
5. Silicon Valley, HBO
Captures real-life Silicon Valley in the best, and most humorous, way imaginable.
Standout Performance: Jimmy O. Yang as Jian-yang
6. Maniac, Netflix
Jonah Hill and Emma Stone deliver on this mind-bending journey.
Standout Performance: Emma Stone as Annie Landsberg
7. Superstore, NBC
The best show on network television is fantastically and consistently hilarious.
Standout Performance: Colton Dunn as Garrett
8. Homecoming, Amazon
Julia Roberts is perfection in this quietly powerful, ever-churning drama.
Standout Performance: Julia Roberts as Heidi Bergman
9. Haunting of Hill House, Netflix
A series that actually delivers an engrossing, film quality horror experience.
Standout Performance: Victoria Pedretti as (older) Nell
10. Last Week Tonight, HBO
John Oliver is the voice that America desperately needs.
Standout Performance: Gritty as itself
Just Missed: Blue Planet II, BBC; 3 %, Netflix; Better Call Saul, AMC;
Narcos: Mexico, Netflix; The Chalet, Netflix; Barry, HBO
Biggest Disappointments: Altered Carbon, Netflix; The Walking Dead, AMC; Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Netflix; Mayans, MC, FX
Best of Television Episodes
1. “High-Like,” Insecure, HBO
Flat-out the most entertaining episode of television made this year.
Standout Performance: Natasha Rothwell as Kelli
2. “USS Callister,” Black Mirror, Netflix
Sci-fi at it’s absolute best, even if more of a self-contained movie than an “episode.”
Standout Performance: Jesse Plemons as Robert Daly
3. “Teddy Perkins,” Atlanta, FX
Michael Jackson meets Get Out in a truly increasingly weird and eerie episode.
Standout Performance: Lakeith Stanfield as Darius
4. “Grow Fast or Die Slow,” Silicon Valley, HBO
The hilariously ruthless Jian-yang becomes a new, much meaner Erlich (RIP?).
Standout Performance: Jimmy O. Yang as Jian-yang
5. “Leyenda,” Narcos: Mexico, Netflix
The true king of the cartel is revealed in a powerful, surprising finale.
Standout Performance: Diego Luna as Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo
6. “Together Forever,” Forever, Amazon
Genius storytelling in an inviting yet truly surprising pilot television episodes ever.
Standout Performance: Maya Rudolph as June
7. “We Are Gone,” The Terror, FX
The finale of this real-life inspired tragedy finally provides a glimpse of hope.
Standout Performance: Jared Harris as Captain Francis Crozier
8. “Jeremy Bearimy,” The Good Place, NBC
Watching the typically calm Chidi come completely unhinged is must-see tv.
Standout Performance: William Jackson Harper as Chidi
9. “Charlie’s Home Alone,” It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, FX
The gang leaves Charlie behind and he goes full Kevin McCallister against himself.
Standout Performance: Charlie Day as Charlie
10. “Amazon,” Patriot Act with Hasan Minaj, Netflix
The fully “woke” Hasan Minaj takes on, yet embraces, the giant that is Amazon.
Standout Performance: Hasan Minaj as himself
Just Missed: “Episode 6,” The End of the F**ing World, Netflix;
“The Good Twin,” GLOW, Netflix; “Birthday Party (Part 1),” Camping, HBO;
“The Commuter,” Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, Amazon
Biggest Disappointments:“Out of the Past,” Altered Carbon, Netflix;
“Stradivarius,” The Walking Dead, AMC; “Rough Ride,” Ballers, HBO
Best of Albums
1a. Be the Cowboy, by Mitski
Standout Tracks: Nobody; Washing Machine Heart; Why Didn’t You Stop Me
Standout Lyric: “I don’t want your pity/ I just want somebody near me.”
1b. El Mar Querer, by Rosalía
Standout Tracks: BAGDAD -Cap.7: Liturgia; MALAMENTE – Cap.1:Augurio
Standout Lyric: “I think of your look, your look, nailed, is a bullet to the chest.”
3. Poem Unlimited, by U.S. Girls
Standout Tracks: Rage of Plastics; Rosebud; Pearly Gates
Standout Lyric: “These vital lies just don’t come in my size.”
4. DAYTONA, by Pusha T
Standout Tracks: If You Know You Know; The Games We Play; Santeria
Standout Lyric: “The only kingpin who ain’t sinkin’ / My third eye ain’t blinkin.”“
5. Make Way for Love, by Marlon Williams
Standout Tracks: Can I Call You; I Know a Jeweller; What’s Chasing You
Standout Lyric: “I feel about as lucky as a snowman in the Spring.”
6. Heaven, by DILLY DALLY
Standout Tracks: Sober Motel; Sorry Ur Mad; I Feel Free
Standout Lyric: “When I’m so sober, my soul comes screeeeeeching!”
7. Historian, by Lucy Dacus
Standout Tracks: Night Shift; Nonbeliever; Addictions
Standout Lyric: “Everybody else, everybody else, looks like they’ve figured it out.”
8. Onion, by Shannon and the Clams
Standout Tracks: The Boy; Backstreets; It’s Gonna Go Away
Standout Lyric: “Now that it’s over, did you love me?”
9. Invasion of Privacy, by Cardi B
Standout Tracks: I Do; I Like It; Bodak Yellow
Standout Lyric: “My little 15 minutes lasted long as hell, huh?”
10. All My Shades of Blue, Ruen Brothers
Standout Tracks: All My Shades of Blue; Aces; Walk Like A Man
Standout Lyric: “The coldness of the night wraps ’round me like a blanket tight.”
Just Missed: Con Todo El Mundo, by Khruangbin; High Maintenance, by Saweetie;
I’m All Ears, Let’s Eat Grandma; Evil Genius, by Gucci Mane; The Now Now, by Gorillaz; Some Rap Songs, by Earl Sweatshirt; Sleepwalking, by Jonathan Bree
Biggest Disappointments: Delta, by Mumford & Sons; ye, by Kanye West;
Big Red Machine, by Big Red Machine; Man of the Woods, by Justin Timberlake
Best of Songs
1. “This is America,” by Childish Gambino
An utterly important, if not unexpected and unnerving, track that is damn good.
Standout Lyric: “This is America/ Don’t catch you slippin up.”
2. “Iowa,” by Exitmusic
Iowa, a powerful track named after the setting where a relationship finally cracks.
Standout Lyric: ” And the sun shines on our death, Iowa / Where is my heart?”
3. “The Story of Adidon,” by Pusha T
Push delivers a banger and, quite likely, the best dis track of all time. Bye Drake!
Standout Lyric: “You are hiding a son / Let that boy come home.”
4. “WTFK,” by Yowler
Maryn Jones sings urgent intimacy as she swallows hard pills of self reflection.
Standout Lyric:“If want is evil, I’m becoming dark / I wanna taste it.”
5. “Julia (or, Holy to the LORD’ on the Bells of Horses),” by mewithoutYou
Progressive and unique as ever, mewithoutYou returns with a powerhouse track.
Standout Lyric:“So my faiths to lose / So many faiths…”
6. “I Can’t Breathe,” by Shamir
An inspiringly rebellious, explicitly political beautifully tragic commentary.
Standout Lyric: “I can’t breathe / Somebody help me please / I see the light.“
7. “Night Shift,” by Lucy Dacus
Lucy Dacus has an all-time great voice that is fully unleashed on this epic track.
Standout Lyric: “I feel no need to forgive but I might as well.“
8. “Body,” by Julia Jacklin
As NPR wrote, Julia Jacklin is one of those “soft kittens who has the sharpest claws.”
Standout Lyric: “Heading to the city to get my body back.“
9. “Walk It Talk It,” by Migos feat. Drake
Migos are just flexing and having fun on this standout track from Culture II.
Standout Lyric:“I can’t breathe / Somebody help me please / I see the light.“
10. “2 Down 2 Dance,” by Sorry
Sorry are a young band still figuring it all out, but their future is a bright one.
Standout Lyric: “Too down to dance / Too depressed for romance.”
Just missed: “Gallipoli,” by Beirut; “BAGDAD -Cap.7: Liturgia,” Rosalia;
“Run the Road,” by Santigold; “Cops Shot The Kid,” NAS feat. Kanye West;
“Womp Womp,” by Valee ft. Jeremih; “Future Me Hates Me,” The Beths;
“F*** Being Friends,” by Jessie Reyez; “Come Through,” by The Regrettes;
“FUN!,” Vince Staples; “PettyWap,” by Young M.A.; “Ionou Jack,” by Aha Gazelle;
“Bite the Hand,” by boygenius; “Heavyweight Champion Of The Year,” Nilufer Yanya
“Inclined,” by Eartheater; “We Appreciate Power,” Grimes; “Nobody,” by Mitski
Best of Concerts (attended in 2018)
1. U.S. Girls, at Sunset Tavern
The smaller the venue, the more powerful Meg Remy’s voice. Have mercy!
2. Dilly Dally, at The Showbox
The sheer raw power and energy of Dilly Dally is so wonderful to witness.
3. St. Vincent, at Moore Theatre
Annie Clark’s high art one woman tour is truly captivating and beautiful.
4. Tacocat, at Mural Amphitheater
I dare anyone not to have loud fun at any Tacocat show, especially one outdoors.
5. Shannon and the Clams, at The Crocodile
Choosing to spend at night with this band feels like attending an old school party.
6. Marlon Williams, at Biltmore Cabaret
Marlon Williams is a modern day Elvis whose velvety voice is even better live.
7. Shamir, at Chop Suey
Every word sung by Shamir feels so deeply personal it’s hard not to be moved.
8. Angel Olsen, at Moore Theatre
The ‘Tiny Dreams’ solo tour is wonderfully intimate and a joy to experience.
9. SAINt JHN, at The Crocodile
Hearing “I Heard You Got Too Litt Last Night” live is worth the cost of admission.
10. Erin Rae & the Heartbeets, at Columbia City Theater
Pure musical joy resonates from the stage from the outset and never stops.
Just Missed: Michete, at Chop Suey; The Coathangers, at Mural Amphitheater
Biggest Disappointments: The Sorority; Taylar Elizza Beth; Benjamin Clementine
Best of Literature (read in 2018)
1. The Southern Reach Trilogy, by Jeff Vandermeer
The rare trilogy that is continually brimming with imagination and intrigue.
2. The Epiphany Machine, by David Burr Gerrard
Fantastically original and deeply thought-provoking.
3. Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami
Instantly captivating, tremendously insightful.
4. The Story of a Brief Marriage, by Anuk Arudpragasm
Brief, powerful and heart-stirring. Impeccable.
5. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami
Deeply personal yet inspirational memoir on the power of routine.
6. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
Format trumps story, still tremendously innovative and poignant.
7. Ill Will, by Dan Chaon
The rare timeline-jumping narrative that actually pays off.
8. Elevation, by Stephen King
Surprisingly uplifting story of connection by Master of Horror. Float on!
9. The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin
Stylistically innovative and brimming with mostly realized potential.
10. The Secret Life of Cows, by Rosamund Young
An important look at the seemingly simple lives of cows. Yes, cows.
Just Missed: The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn;
Reservoir 13, by John McGregor; Give Me Your Hand, by Megan Abott
Biggest Disappointments: Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein; Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan; Ground Beneath Us, by Paul Bogard
Best of People
1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
A true powerhouse of a person who’ll never stop fighting for justice for all.
2. Donald Glover
Maybe the most talented artist out there, Glover uses his voice to impact change.
3. Queer Eye’s Fab Five
Like a modern day Mr. Rogers, the Fab Five help people embrace themselves.
4. Angela Merkel
The calm older sibling to baby Trump’s ridiculousness, she’s a true steadying force.
5. Gaetano Miccciche
Serie A leader who partnered with ESPN to bring Italian Soccer to the U.S. Grazie!
6. Meghan Markle
The defiant, unapologetically imperfect princess the world needs.
7. Mohamed Salah
Mr. Happiness plays the beautiful game with pure joy. What a shining star.
8. Issa Rae
An authentic storyteller who is “unapologetic in her blackness.” Issa rules!
9. Hasan Minaj
Who knew subjects like Amazon, Oil or Saudi Arabia could be so entertaining?
A true powerhouse of a singer who writes lyrics that are truly poetic and impactful.
Just Missed: Robert Mueller; Lucy Dacus; Michael B. Jordan; Nancy Pelosi
Biggest Disappointments: Donald Trump; Mohammed Bin Salman; Kanye West
Best of Hikes (completed in 2018)
1. Fremont Lookout Trail, Mt. Rainier (WA)
A truly breathtaking hike with amazing Mt. Rainier views, and mountain goats!
2. Chain Lakes Trail, Mt. Baker (WA)
A hike with a thousand stunning views, including Mt. Baker and alpine lakes.
3. Heliotrope Ridge Trail, Deming (WA)
The hike itself is beautiful, the final viewpoint of Coleman Glacier is spectacular.
4. Lake Ingalls Trail, Leavenworth (WA)
The larches, which turn bright yellow, are real and they made this hike fantastic!
5. Lake 22 Trail, North Cascades (WA)
Hearing avalanches up at the top makes this gorgeous hike more adventurous, no?
6. Franklin Falls Trail, Snoqualmie Pass (WA)
Hiking Franklin Falls in the deep snow yields incomparable frozen fall views.
7. Mt. Catherine Trail, Snoqualmie Pass (WA)
For incredible 360 views of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker, this hike is a must.
8. Redwood Regional Park Trail, Oakland (CA)
Well worth hiking for non-stop views of nature’s coniferous giants, literally.
9. Oyster Dome Trail, Bow (WA)
Steep incline at the outset ends with tremendous views of the Sammish Bay islands.
10. Stahlman Point Trial, Detroit (OR)
The stunning 360 views at Stahlman‘s viewpoint are seriously epic and worthwhile.
Just Missed: Rose Mountain Trail, Olympics (WA); Hobbit Trail, Florence (OR);
Bridal Veil Falls Trail, Stevens Pass (WA); Lena Lake Trail, Olympics (WA)
Biggest Disappointments: Poo Poo Point Trail, Issaquah (WA);
Mt Erie Trail, Anacourtes (WA); Quinalt Loop Trail, Quinalt (WA)
Best of Beer (consumed in 2018)
1. Supplication, Russian River Brewing (CA)
A Sour Brown Ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels with sour cherries is pure nirvana.
2. Heady Topper, Alchemist Brewery (VT)
Second only to Swish by Bissel Brothers, Alchemist‘s hazy East Coast IPA is sublime.
3. Preservation, Urban Family Brewery (WA)
Sour Ale with tons of black/raspberries with bright fruit notes and a tart finish.
4. Greenbugatti, The Veil Brewing (VA)
VA’s best brewery only brews great beers, and this Triple IPA is a slam dunk.
5. Triple Crush, Reuben’s Brews (WA)
A surprise knockout of a Triple IPA loaded with bold and delicious citrus flavors.
6. Guavasicle, Urban Family Brewing (WA)
A smooth Milkshake IPA made with lactose, vanilla, Citra and, yep, guava.
7. Pliny the Elder, Russian River Brewing (CA)
This well-balanced Double IPA is top of the class for West Coast IPAs.
8. Imagine (2017), Block 15 Brewing (OR)
A powerhouse Belgian-inspired Imperial Stout from one of Oregon’s best breweries.
9. Focal Banger, Alchemist Brewery (VT)
This near perfect American IPA delivers a perfect touch of sweetness. So good.
10. Infinite Reflections, Triple Crossing Brewing (VA)
A double mashed, boiled forever massive Stout that brings layered sweetness.
Just Missed: Propitiation, Russian River (CA); Mantra, Urban Family (WA);
Offering #42 – Seahorse Captain, St. Boniface (PA); Darkness (2018), Surly (MN);
Personvl Personvl Spvce Spvce, The Veil (VA); Ministry of Truth, Cloudburst (WA)
Biggest Disappointments: Schreck Tavern Stout, Black Forest (PA);
Rosetta, Perihelion (WA); Perseus Porter, Elysian (WA)