As one of the heads of the “online TV network” Network Awesome, I sift through a lot of cultural artifacts on a daily basis. You see, our network is based on curation of YouTube, and considering that nearly eight years’ worth of video material are uploaded to YouTube every day, our source is virtually endless, ever-changing and expanding like the universe. It’s difficult to comprehend, actually. How can YouTube possibly keep enough server space on hand for each day’s video material? That too must expand like the universe. The logistics are mind-boggling. But I digress. In addition to Network Awesome, I also co-run a video production company called Radosaur Productions—a sort of sister company to Network Awesome which we use to produce original content for our channel and beyond. Because of these two roles, I am constantly straddling the media of the past and the media of today, and I suppose that’s why I was asked by the good people at Keyframe to provide my take on the media of 2013. For me, and I imagine for a lot of people, the media of the past and present blend together in the constant torrent of information we all experience on a daily basis. There is no differentiating between the “new” and the “new to me.” Keeping that in mind, I present my subjective take on the highs and lows of 2013.
Best music video: Beach House “Wishes,” dir. Eric Wareheim
This was easily my favorite video of the year. Epic in its absurdity and somehow touching at the same time, Eric of Tim & Eric is making some of the best music videos around these days.
Best film (new): Post Tenebras Lux, dir. Carlos Reygadas
Apparently this is technically a 2012 release, but it first hit German theaters in 2013, so I am including it in this list. I love Reygadas’ ability to mix painfully real situations with restrained and highly effective splashes of surrealism. Like his other works, the images from this one kept coming back to me long after I saw them.
Best film (old, but new to me in 2013): Message From Space, dir. Kinji Fukasaku, 1978
One of the most incomprehensible, yet totally entertaining sci-fi films you’re likely to see. The story makes little to no sense and the special effects are cheap and absurd, and none of that will matter to you once you get started. Kind of like Starcrash, but Japanese.
Best concert: Yoko Ono’s eightieth birthday concert, Volksbühne, Berlin
I’m a big fan of Yoko Ono and had never seen her perform live before. Turns out she’s an enchanting performer (duh)! The concert was electrifying and her all-star band (including Sean Lennon, Nels Cline & Yuka Honda) was tight and exciting. The Volksbühne is one of my favorite venues in Berlin and everything about the whole experience was just right.
Best curated show on Network Awesome: Live Music Show: The Other Side of Glam
We like to think of Network Awesome as not only an online TV network, but also as a discovery platform. One of our favorite things is when we surprise ourselves with our discoveries. This show collecting lesser-known Glam bands is bristling with rock-n-roll energy and goes to show how interesting and exciting a curated show can be. It was one of our most-watched shows of the year, and it’s easy to see why.
Best video shoot in which I took part: The Network Awesome Show, Season 2
We began shooting the second season of our original production, “The Network Awesome Show,” in April and had the pleasure of working with great bands like Veronica Falls, Art Brut and Psychic TV as well as Berlin heroes Mary Ocher and Heatsick in addition to luminaries such as Bob Rutman and Martin Eder. It was an extremely fast-paced and fully-booked shoot, but it could not have been more fun. All of the artists were top-shelf and we can’t wait to release Season 2 on NetworkAwesome.com early in 2014.
Best new TV show with Matt Berry: Toast of London
Matt Berry is just a super funny guy. While not quite as bizarre as his earlier series Snuff Box, the simple premise (washed-up, second rate actor doesn’t seem to realize he’s washed-up or second rate) still provides lots of belly laughs. The recurring scenes in the recording studio with Clem Fandango are especially amusing.
Best album (new): Melt-Banana, Fetch
These guys have been at it for a long time, and even though they’ve trimmed down to just a two-piece, they’re still recognizable as Melt-Banana. That’s not to say they’ve gone and rehashed old sounds and served them up as a new record. Their sound is still delivered at a breakneck pace with cartoonishly shouted vocals, but to this mix they’ve added a kind of whirlwind psychedelia and a refined pop songwriting touch. Twenty years on, they’re better than ever.
Best album (old, but new to me in 2013): Julia Holter, FACT Magazine Mix, Feb 2012
OK, well it’s not really a Julia Holter album per se, but it’s still totally worth checking out. It’s a quiet and surprising mix composed mostly of field recordings, presumably made by Julia Holter herself. I find the great aural textures and mysterious sound sources quite intriguing and listenable. It is still available for streaming or free download on the FACT website, and I would highly recommend doing one or the other.
Bummer of the year in Berlin live music: Festsaal Kreuzberg destroyed by fire, July 21, 2013
In my (and many other people’s) opinion, it was the best live music venue in Berlin—perfect size, great atmosphere and sound, awesome staff—and it was destroyed in a fire in July. Luckily no one was injured, but it left a gaping hole in the Berlin live music scene. They just recently achieved their crowdfunding goal to rebuild, so hopefully the rebirth of this great club is not too far off.
Bummer of the year in electro-acoustic music: Bernard Parmegiani’s death
Another of the greats of electro-acoustic music is gone. Sadly, there are very few of the pioneers still around. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Parmegiani perform a tribute to another great, Ilhan Mimaroglu. Like so many electro-acoustic performances, there was almost nothing to look at during the concert, but of course, that’s not what this kind of music is about. In any case, I’m glad I had the opportunity to witness such a pioneer in action.
Bummer of the year in the film world: Karen Black’s death
Any film lover worth their salt felt this loss like a kick in the chest. I will watch any film just because Karen Black is in it, because I know she brought something unique and visceral to any performance, no matter how small the role.
For the complete list of year-end lists on Keyframe, go to The Year in Film: 2013.
For the complete index of the films on these lists, go to 2013 Year in Review: Indexed.