Best of 2021 (So Far) Edition
The year in pop culture is already off to a great start.
One of the few comforts during this pandemic has been knowing that even when everything shuts down and we’re stuck inside, we can always escape into a good movie, show, album, or book. Seriously, how would we have made it if we couldn’t STREAM anything?? Lots of releases got pushed due to shuttered theaters and production shutdowns, but this first half of the year still gifted us with plenty of outstanding releases from across mediums and genres. Things are thankfully opening up now, and the next half of the year offers an amazing crop of releases to look forward to, but these 17 will always hold a special place in my heart for how they, just for a little while, offered a thrilling, hilarious, wholly original, etc. escape into the world of a great story.
Anyway, here are my picks for the best movies, TV shows, albums, and books of 2021 (so far)!
Judas and the Black Messiah
A no-holds-barred thriller and powerful condemnation of racial injustice that couldn’t be more timely. (Available on VOD)
No Sudden Move
A clever and complex crime caper with a stacked cast and old-school style. (Available on HBO Max)
It has all the jokes and charm of your typical rom-com, but the platonic love at its core makes it transcend the genre. (Available on VOD)
Bo Burnham: Inside
A claustrophobic comedy special/experimental film that darkly, hilariously, and profoundly comments on the Internet and performance. (Available on Netflix)
Summer of Soul
An absolute revelation of a concert film documentary filled with rapturous performances from iconic musicians all in service of a music festival all but forgotten until Questlove got his hands on the unbelievable footage. (Available on Hulu)
Mare of Eastown
A small-town murder mystery elevated by remarkable attention to detail and a phenomenal lead performance from Kate Winslet. (Available on HBO Max)
A wholly strange, nostalgic trip with a genius premise and devastating emotional stakes that proves Marvel still has some fresh ideas. (Available on Disney+)
Top Chef: Portland
An instant classic of a season thanks to the camaraderie amongst the outstanding group of diverse chefs and an inspired array of challenges. (Available on Bravo)
I Think You Should Leave
Somehow Tim Robinson’s unhinged sketch show reaches even new heights of absurdity and hilarity in season two with several sketches sure to become memeable comedy classics. (Available on Netflix)
Arooj Aftab - Vulture Prince
An exquisite collection of soundscapes influenced by jazz, Hindustani classical, and folk music bound to be one of the most gorgeous things you’ll listen to this year.
Arlo Parks - Collapsed in Sunbeams
A string of catchy, confessional songs culminating in a dreamy debut bed-pop album that one critic called a “spot of brightness in a dark year.”
Modest Mouse - The Golden Casket
The singular rockers made a triumphant comeback with this psychedelic pop and funk-infused record that retains Isaac Brock’s signature caustic wordplay but takes the band in a thrilling new direction that’s their best output in over a decade.
Olivia Rodrigo - Sour
The perfect breakup soundtrack and a confident debut with plenty of relatable melodrama and damn good hooks.
Lord Huron - Long Lost
The lush, epic, and expansive magnum opus of the nostalgic pastoral pop-band that’s meant for long road trips full of dreamy detours.
A deeply affecting and understated sci-fi masterpiece with an unforgettable AI narrator and profound meditations on what it means to be human.
A razor-sharp and twisty workplace satire/thriller that’s a brutal indictment of the predominately white publishing industry alongside being a pulpy page-turner.
An epic “can’t believe this happened” maritime thriller and gothic horror that grippingly recounts a 19th-century ship’s winter frozen in the Antarctic ice and its remarkable escape.
That's it for the list! We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming in a couple of weeks. If you have a friend who might like this, please forward it along, and if you got this from a friend, you can subscribe below.
Until next time,