Jay: Well, some said it couldn’t be done. And by “some”, I mean myself and my illustrious colleague. But here we are! 100 posts on Fraudsters’ Almanac, filled with all sorts of inane opinion and less than canny observations. We here at the Almanac thought we’d take our hundredth post to reflect on some of favourites, the best art and beer and such that we’ve consumed since that inauspicious day when I remarked offhandedly to my now-colleague, “We should start a reviews website.”
Do you have anything to add, dear colleague and friend of mine?
Mark: In some ways, I’m really surprised that we’ve written 100 posts. I feel conflicted about it. What if I had put that energy into writing a book? Any old slob can get a book published these days. But then again, I’ve gotten a great deal of enjoyment out of writing these reviews, and have often felt disappointed that I’m not writing more of them.
So here’s to the first 100. And here’s to trying to reach 200 before our first anniversary in March or April or whenever that was.
Jay: Difficult category to start with! I’ve got some love for Hamilton and their Collective Arts pale ale, especially because it was a fun night when I drank it. Dogfishhead’s Punkin ale was the best pumpkin-flavoured anything I’ve ever had, and it’s got that awfully pretty label. And Green Flash’s Cosmic Ristretto porter was the best dark beer I’ve drunk in ages. But I’m most craving balanced beers these days, ones with a decent amount of malt and hops, that are delicious without being too extreme in any one direction. And Down the Road’s Pukwudgie pale ale is the best one of them. That beer can do anything. One tallboy or four? A drink after work or a “session” with your friends? Pukwudgie’s got you covered.
Mark: Although I’ve been on a hell of a lager kick lately, I can say with absolute confidence that the best beer that I’ve reviewed thus far is Amsterdam’s Cruiser. It is still a favourite and a frequent selection that doesn’t stick around in my fridge for very long. I have a backlog of great craft lagers that I have yet to write about, but I have pictures of the cans. A picture is worth a thousand words and beer is generally delicious, so long as it isn’t gluten free. I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I drink a lot of beer. I even made some.
Jay: Somebody told me the other day, “Ugh, I’ve never been able to get through a Don DeLillo book.” And you know, I get that. But that’s not me. On a line-by-line level, he’s hands down my favourite writer, and many of his books explore themes I find really compelling. What’s perhaps most extraordinary about DeLillo is that, with that incredible prose of his, he can render virtually any subject and set-up interesting. In his newest, Zero K, nothing much seems to happen, and it’s filled with mostly introspection and dialogue. And still I found it the most emotionally engaging (in that disengaged way, at points), thought-provoking book I’ve read since we started the site. Definitely worth a read, as far as I’m concerned.
Mark: I tend to write about fewer books than Jay, partially because the books I read tend to be for school (so I’m writing about them elsewhere anyway). Incidentally, I’ve recently read 200 pages of an 800 page Don DeLillo novel and ha hah I don’t know if I will keep on reading it. But that’s beside the point. I’ve reviewed exactly one book for the purposes of this website, and it was the infuriating Ready Player One, a book that I suggest that you avoid. I should really get around to writing about some more books before the year is up.
Jay: Having a kid is pretty great!
Mark: Having a kid kind of seems like grandstanding on some level. I went to the beach.
Jay: Looking back on this category, I’m pretty happy to see how sparse it is. Glad to have spent my time doing many more productive things, like playing video games. As far as experiences go, nothing has beat seeing Don’t Breathe with my illustrious colleague in Toronto. But in terms of the movies themselves, I’m still utterly fascinated and impressed by Nightcrawler. It works for me at basically every level.
Mark: Yes, Don’t Breathe is at the top of my list of recommendations from the crop that I’ve taken a look at since March, and I’m hoping that we tackle some more tag-team reviews in the near future. I also have very kind feelings towards 10 Cloverfield Lane. It may be The Lobster that winds up being my favourite film of the year, through sheer force of mean-spirited strangeness.
Jay: Surprise winner here. It’s been a good year for music, and for artists I already enjoy releasing more. I was sure Big Thief’s Masterpiece was going to be my record of the year, and it really hasn’t disappointed in its quality or making me feel as though I can survive another day. But it’s Lucy Dacus‘s wide-eyed, honest, sincere, occasionally exuberant record No Burden that I go back to the most. I can really identify with where she’s singing from and the people she is singing about, I suppose. And the instrumentation/recording are exactly my favourite kind: warm and rich without being lo-fi. Go give it a spin.
Mark: It would be pretty easy for me to just talk about The Armed here, because they’re the greatest band in the world. The strange thing is that I’ve found that the records that have really gone to work on me and gotten under my skin this year have been releases from singer-songwriters that I didn’t 100% love at first blush.
I covered “Shapeshifter“, Lera Lynn’s single from Resistor in my May 2nd NEW MUSIC MONDAYS, and gave a rather middling take on the song. It’s fine, even good, but I didn’t think it too special. Upon listening to the rest of her album out of curiosity, I was pleased to find a very tight, very dark set of gloomy pop numbers. It’s a decidedly low-key affair, but frequently clever and rewarding. Lynn’s voice is terrific and the album’s recording is impeccable. It is a recent favourite of mine.
Even more recently, my interested was piqued by Katie Dey’s album Flood Network. I’ve listened to this album repeatedly and am completely taken with it. It sounds for all the world as if someone broke the internet’s heart and the internet sat down in its bedroom and recorded an art-pop record about its feelings. The tracks appear to be painstakingly constructed from digital elements posing as organic, and organic instruments being blurred beyond recognition. The resulting songs are noisy, ugly and sound liable to fall apart into an unintelligible mess at any moment – and they are all the more beautiful for it. This album was a complete surprise to me and this may wind up being my favourite record of the year. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think that it’s fantastic.
Jay: Another tough one for me. In terms of pure hours invested and perfect polish (and fffffffffuuuuuuck you, video game!), it’s Dark Souls III. In terms of a strong emotional reaction to the game’s story (and it had completely fine mechanics, too), it’s Inside. But somewhere in the middle of those lies Hyper Light Drifter, a throwback to games like The Legend of Zelda but with subtle and evocative story touches that really resonated with me. Hyper Light Drifter manages to balance compelling gameplay with world exploration, environmental storytelling, and absolutely the best soundtrack I’ve heard since Fez (which was the same composer). Despite the action getting tense, I found playing Hyper Light Drifter to be a peaceful experience. All three of those games (DSIII, Inside, HLD) are fantastic and worth spending time on.
Mark: Given that I’ve primarily covered retro games and bad mobile games, all that I’ve really got to recommend is The Banner Saga 2. It could be worse, though, because it’s quite a good game. Perhaps I’ll find more time to devote to gaming in the coming months. Probably not, but we’ll see.
Mark: Honestly, I think that the best Pearl Jam that I’ve written about so far is probably Pearl Jam, but I’m not willing to commit to saying that with 100% certainty.
Jay: Who knew that when Veddie sang, “Thoughts arrive like butterflies”, he was talking about the Fraudsters’ Almanac? (Vs. or bust.)
Jay: Looking back on the things we’ve consumed since we started this website, I realize how goddam lucky we are. There are so many great records to listen to, games to play, books to read, beers to drink. There’s only one kid to consume huge swaths of my time, and he’s the best. It feels like we have more access to great art than at any previous time in my life. I look forward to seeing what the next hundred posts brings us!
And you, illustrious colleague?
Mark: I couldn’t agree with you more. About the us being lucky thing, I mean. There are plenty of other things to disagree with you about.
Onwards and upwards, old friend. I don’t know where “there” is, but last one there is a rotten egg. From what I understand.