Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Music and Movies You May Have Missed

Every year, bloggers put out their Best Of 2015 lists. Every year, you read them and think, “Wait, I’ve never even heard of that movie/band/burger joint/cat video/etc.” Let this year be different. Here are a few recommendations for music and movies that might have flown under your radar.


wand-golem-coverWand, Golem: Singer Cory Hanson explains the origin of the band’s name by saying that a wand is “a means, a vessel to execute a superhuman thing.” With three albums released in the past three years, California’s Wand may seem superhuman, especially when their music tends to transport you into heightened levels of ecstatic consciousness. (Released March 17 from In The Red Records)
Best track: “Planet Golem”


Allie X, CollXtion I EP: Katy Perry fans who spend a lot of time on Twitter might remember the singer praising Allie X’s single “Catch” last year. CollXtion I features this track and six other confections that are catchy, but also have sometimes-creepy lyrics like, “When this is over / I’ll need a surgery /’Cause you were a tumor / You left a hole inside of me” (“Tumor”). Allie X is the kind of pop princess that even Goths can get behind. (Released April 21 from Label X)
Best track: “Good”

ffs-coverFFS, FFS: In the works for over a decade, but delayed until this year due to the busy schedules of the involved parties, FFS is a truly inspired synthesis of peculiar pop purveyors Sparks and indie darlings Franz Ferdinand. The resulting concatenation blends the humor and wit of both bands with their individual musical sensibilities, not to mention the delightful combination of Russell Mael’s peerless falsetto and Alex Kapranos’s debonair baritone. I dare you to find another album this joyful. (Released June 9 from Domino)
Best Track: “Police Encounters”


lost-river-movieLost River, directed by Ryan Gosling
He’s a heartthrob, a talented actor, a skilled musician and singer, and now, he’s also an impressive director. Sadly, Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut was not received well when it premiered in the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014 and was only screened in one Canadian theater, The Royal, right here in Toronto. It’s kind of mind-boggling as Lost River is easily one of the best films I saw all year, bleak yet beautiful, and genuinely gripping, with outstanding performances from Christina Hendricks, Saorise Ronan, and the eternally creepy Ben Mendelsohn. (Released on DVD/Blu-ray on May 15.)

pit-stop-moviePit Stop, directed by Jack Hill: If you haven’t been paying attention to the amazing films Arrow Video has been releasing in North America this year, Pit Stop should definitely grab your eyeballs. It’s a stock car racing movie from 1969 with heart-pounding racing footage, a groovy soundtrack, uberhottie Dick Davalos, and an outstandingly zany performance from Sid Haig, not to mention a meaty role for a pre-Exorcist Ellen Burstyn. More than a mere exploitation flick, Pit Stop is a great character study with a compelling narrative. Best of all, this reissue is packed with plenty of extras. (Reissued on June 30 by Arrow Video)

Bone Tomahawk, directed by S. Craig Zahler
Bone Tomahawk makes me excited that movies exist. All of the characters, no matter how minor, are rendered with believable precision thanks to a combination of amazing actors (Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, and many more), distinctive dialogue, and consummate costume design. The grisly splashes of pure horror fit snugly within the film’s unique atmosphere and add to the narrative. It’s shocking that a film this captivating was made for less than $2 million dollars and criminal that it didn’t take theaters by storm. If nothing else, Jenkins deserves the Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his pitch perfect performance as Chicory. (Released on Blu-Ray/DVD on December 29; preorder here)

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