The people who make the songs you hum and books you read weren’t totally tied up with creating in 2018.
They saw shows, heard new music, read books and poems and saw movies, too.
These are year-end picks from some notable folks in Juneau’s arts community. Some had one pick, others had a whole rundown of favorites, but all had something they enjoyed in 2018.
Here are their favorites in their own words.
Alaska Writer Laureate and professor of English for University of Alaska Southeast
Favorite reading of 2018
Right now, I’m reading “Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward. As most of my reading is for courses I teach, this semester I had the pleasure of re-reading “The Boys of my Youth” by Jo Ann Beard, “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” by Dave Eggers, and Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.” I’m preparing for a class for next semester by reading “The Transforming Image,” which came highly recommended. And of course, I read students’ essays and memoirs, which is always the most meaningful, engaging and surprising.
Associate Professor of English for Univiersity of Alaska Southeast and poet
Favorite poetry collection of 2018
I just finished reading Tom Sexton’s new book “Li Bai Rides the Celestial Dolphin” and it’s pretty amazing. Sexton is a former State Writer Laureate and one of the most powerful poets in Alaska, in my opinion.
Julie Coppens York
Perseverance Theatre’s director of outreach and engagement, director and former theater journalist
Favorite stage shows of 2018
The American classic “Oklahoma!” is enjoying a renaissance/revolution, with at least two remarkable revivals this year: one will be transferring to Broadway this spring … and the other one, which I was lucky enough to see, was a hit this season at Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
These stagings are part of a larger, and in my view thrilling, trend of younger theater artists reclaiming some of these Golden Age works for themselves and a new, more diverse and demanding generation of audiences. These productions challenge us to see and hear these stories from a fresh perspective, to consider what has changed in our American landscape — and what hasn’t, for better or worse.
Among the new Broadway musicals this year, there’s only one must-buy cast recording, in my opinion: “The Band’s Visit.” David Yazbek’s score is such a refreshing, seductive blend of Middle Eastern styles, both ancient and contemporary, with unfailingly clever lyrics. Even my 4th- and 5th-grade Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM) students at Glacier Valley found “The Band’s Visit” irresistible — the number “Waiting” and two of the instrumentals were a much-enjoyed part of our musical theatre soundtrack this semester. And if you don’t trust their recommendation: the show won 10 Tony Awards. Give it a listen.
Favorite music of 2018
Revilla-“The North Sea EP”: You may have heard them at the Alaska Folk Festival performing as the Amish Robots. Revilla features Juneau’s own Alex Nelson with Alejandro Chavarria and Patrick Troll of Ketchikan. What started as three high school friends from Southeast Alaska has grown to a full on Seattle band with an even fuller sound. Chavarria’s voice will make you swoon, Nelson’s fretwork is fire, and anything Troll touches is wholeheartedly weird and wonderful. Their artwork was even designed by Ketchikan’s Matt Hamilton. Think we can ever get them to move back?
Izaak Opatz- “Mariachi Static”: This Montana mountain man is one of my favorite new songwriters. This fall Izaak Opatz toured the 49th state with the bad-babe Alaska/Texas/Montana songwriter Christy Hays, performing this record on solo electric guitar in Juneau. He was featured in Rolling Stone’s “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” but don’t let the C-word scare you away. His songs are beautifully layered with a mean sense-of-humor, and ragged rock edge. He also makes gorgeous stuff out of leather and really wants to bike the Alcan someday.
Foghorn Stringband- “Rock Island Grange”: Forgive me, but his old-timey supergroup from Portland may be the best part of the Alaska Folk Festival. Foghorn Stringband is a gateway string band and some of the best folks in the genre. Legend has it they had people crowd surfing in the Rendezvous on a Thursday night! Their new record will take you back to the best moments of April, sweating and shuffling at the Alaskan Hotel.
Rob Cohen, local composer
Favorite music of 2018
Wayne Shorter-“Emanon”: Wayne Shorter turned 85 this year and continues to make music with audacious creativity. His work with Art Blakey and Miles Davis in the 1960s Weather Report and Joni Mitchell in the ’70s and ’80s and his own quartet for the past two decades, is of the highest order. On the three-disc Emanon, he reinvents a number of his lauded compositions in an arrangement for quartet and 34 piece chamber orchestra. Accompanying the CDs is a 77 page graphic novel with the chamber orchestra as interplanetary protagonist! Shorter co-authored the frewheeling sci-fi olume, which is superbly illustrated and transforms the experience into a multimedia dimensional journey. Discs two and three present the quartet in recent concert in London, lovingly exploring, assessing and reconstructing some of Mr. Shorter’ finest tunes. This man is the premier living legend of jazz today, and nothing is slowing him down.
Collette Costa, Gold Town Theater manager
Favorite films of 2018
1: “Hereditary” — The whole package: a wholly original script, meticulous art direction, beautiful cinematography, a stunning and unparalleled performance by Toni Collette and one of the most wonderfully disturbing films in the last decade.
2: “Leave No Trace” — Uncompromisingly sparse and honest, with sublimely revelatory performances from Ben Foster and newcomer Thomasin McKenzie. If Hemingway had been a director, he’d be Debra Granik.
3: “Shoplifters” — One of those films you can’t explain why you love, but you can’t stop thinking about. Deeply touching and achingly sad, just like family. Unless “Roma” is nominated in the same category, it’s a shoe-in for Best Foreign Language Film.
4: “The Death of Stalin” — No person alive or dead does political black comedy as sharp as Armando Iannucci. Genius casting and an untouchable script.
4.5: The opening credits of “American Animals”
This list will unquestionably include both “Roma” and “The Favorite” once I’ve seen them.