By Gauntlet Staff, January 23 2020 —
2019 was a year so packed to the brim that we waited until the first month of the next year to fully look back on it. With so much happening we needed some time to reflect on all that went on. We went through a provincial and federal election, “Old Town Road” conquered the world, the Toronto Raptors won an NBA title and Joker threatened to upend society and invoke a new dark age, only for Cats to end up doing just that.
The Gauntlet staff is going to take this chance to reflect on the year behind us and all of the bizarre and amazing things that were contained to those 365 days.
Album: Sabaton — The Great War
The Great War is the ninth studio album by Swedish power metal band Sabaton. The band’s lyrics are all related to historical battles and wars, and as a history student, their music combines my love of epic metal with my love of historical accuracy. The Great War’s 11 tracks are all related to the First World War and while the album is not my favourite Sabaton offering, it certainly a great introduction to a band that will entertain you and teach you at the same time.
Moment: The Toronto Raptors win the NBA Championship
The Toronto Raptors historic championship win was not only the best sports moment of 2019 — it was my favourite moment. The Raptors’ marketing team chose some fantastically patriotic slogans. “We the North” and “North Over Everything” firmly cements the Raptors as Canada’s team. It included people from all over the country and united us under one banner, one common goal. The game intro-videos made me tear up. “We are more than who they think we are. We turn an empty square into a national park. We don’t just win — We make history.”
The Raptors united this country behind a different type of net, rallied my beloved nation around a ball instead of a puck and made us feel connected and unified in a way we hadn’t in years. In the words of the goosebump-inducing final ad — The North has spoken. Loud and clear. And I hope we continue to feel as unified.
– Kristy Koehler
Album: The Mountain Goats — In League With Dragons
Riding a fine line between enchanting and haunting, nostalgic and expectant, The Mountain Goats’ seventeenth studio album In League with Dragons provides a patchwork quilt of emotions in all twelve tracks. Channelling strong, occasionally discomforting, essences of tabletop roleplay games like Dungeons and Dragons, the album captures a fantastical escape from reality. One component of the album that is particularly exceptional is how distinct each song is from another while still maintaining a thread of hopefulness and underlying unease. Much like how games like D&D speak of humanity through metaphors and adventures in fantasy worlds, In League with Dragons does the same, with style.
Moment: A Decade of Superhero Movies
Avengers: Endgame marked the decade of the rise of superhero movies. The Marvel Cinematic Universe began a revolution in the comic book and movie industry with the release of Iron Man in 2008. My personal first exposure to the Marvel universe was with The Avengers in 2012 — knowing nothing about comic books, my initial reaction when my friend asked if I wanted to go see the movie was that the title sounded boring and my first thought was it was a bad spy movie. Clearly my perceptions were changed, and I was thrilled to follow the Avengers and all other Marvel movies to the culminating finale. I look forward to seeing what more the MCU has to offer.
– Nikayla Goddard
Album: Stormzy — Heavy is the Head
UK hip hop is a criminally underrated art form. If you’ve ever wanted to listen to what the underbelly of London sounds like, listen to UK drill and raise your eyebrows at the unreal flow of some of these artists. It is one of those few forms of art where it’s entirely acceptable to be openly mocked by your fans and fellow artists for having a clean criminal record, and that is exactly the kind of shady shit I live for.
At the moment, Stormzy is the don of this particular mafia — dominating sales and headlining the 2019 Glastonbury Music Festival — and this is the album he released at the height of his career. He’s also currently in a bit of a Twitter war with his mentor. It is a very petty but entertaining spat where they release diss tracks at each other every week. I make popcorn for it.
My point being— check this guy out. You won’t regret it.
Moment: Baby Yoda
I’ve never even seen Star Wars — however, the cinematic birth of Baby Yoda is a gift for which I will be eternally thankful. He’s fantastic— he’s got the grace and wisdom of that ancient Jedi master we’ve all come to hold dear to our hearts while also looking like the most hauntingly beautiful creation to never have existed.
I’m a bit obsessed with him. How can you not be, though? That cute little bastard.
Also, TIME is asking the important questions– which is cuter, Baby Yoda or Baby Jabba? Find out in this potentially-Peabody-winning work. We all know what I think.
– Gayathri Peringod
Album: Rex Orange County — Pony
2019 was a good year for music — frankly any year which features Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X deserves to be heralded as the greatest year for music of all time. Personally, though, my favourite album from this past year has to be Pony, by Rex Orange County. While listening to this album, the chord progressions and melodies he uses are so catchy, these tunes are definitely ones that can get stuck in your head for weeks. He hits a certain kind of sadness when he writes songs that strangely doesn’t really make you sad, but allows you to commiserate — dare I say, vibe — with the collective notion of feeling alone. What a 2019 mood.
Moment: Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan that refused to wear pants for nearly 20 years
I think we’re all just happy 2019 is over. However, some stand-out moments come to mind when I think back. From the Fyre Festival going up in flames (haha, get it?), to the college admission scandal coming to fruition. There were moments like the birth of another royal baby to the premier of the end of the Avengers saga. People attempted to storm Area 51 and films like Joker and Cats exist. I think the best moment for me, however, was when the Winnipeg Bluebombers won the Grey Cup after more than 20 years, which prompted a fan known as “Shorts Guy” to don pants once again. Hurrah! The power of human sacrifice and endurance.
– Cristina Paolozzi
Arts & Culture Editor
Album: Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats – Anger Management
2019 was a year where a lot of people felt a lot of justified anger. But for the most part the music released during the year didn’t reflect all of the anger in the air. Enter Rico Nasty — the Maryland MC packed enough rage and indignation into this 19 minute EP to last for the whole year. Anger Management may not be the best project of 2019 but it has almost certainly soundtracked more punched holes in drywall than any other release this year and harkens back to a more pissed era of music when machines were raged against and distortion reigned supreme.
Moment: The Righteous Gemstone’s “Misbehavin’ ”
While most of the ink spilled in year-in-review pieces has gone towards Lil Nas X’s record setting “Old Town Road” while describing the unprecedented crossover success of country music. My personal choice for yeehaw song of the year has to be the relentlessly catchy country-gospel banger “Misbehavin’ ” from Danny McBride’s The Righteous Gemstone’s TV series. The song combines a melody so earwormy that it seems impossible that you haven’t heard it before, along with some of the best non-sequitur lyrics — “Running through the house with a pickle in my mouth” — since Beck’s “Loser” took radio by storm a quarter century ago. For a few joyful weeks this past fall we were all misbehavin’.
– Troy Hasselman
Album: Orville Peck — Pony
This isn’t the first time the Gauntlet has written about Pony — it isn’t even the first time it’s been declared one of the best albums of 2019. But considering how much I’ve listened to this album and have been planning to get matching Orville Peck tattoos with my friend, I would be remiss to not write about him.
It’s one thing to listen to Pony, it’s another to hear it live. I got to see Peck perform at the Coca-Cola stage during Stampede. I can’t think of a better place to hear the campy, absolute banger, “Take You Back (The Iron Hoof Cattle Call)” live. It has whip cracks, it has gunshots, it has a “yeehaw” — come on.
If you find yourself on a long drive, I recommend putting on “Turn To Hate,” and “Dead Of Night,” when it turns dark. Yeehaw, baby.
Moment: The Lighthouse
Although Parasite is definitely the best film of the year, I’ve never had a theatre experience quite like watching Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson just losing it on an island. I was borderline giddy as the credits were rolling. I kept pestering my friend for their opinion and was repeatedly met with, “I don’t know what that was.”
I can’t in good conscience say that I knew what it was, either. Is it Greek myth? The societal trappings of masculinity? A breakdown of guilt and trauma? A manifesto against seagulls? Pure, unbridled nautical horniness? It’ll definitely take me a few more watches — which I’ll happily do — to start unravelling The Lighthouse.
From the seagull to Dafoe’s “Hark, Triton!” monologue, a lot of this film is going to haunt me for a while. Perhaps there is, in fact, enchantment in the light.
– Frankie Hart
Album: Freedom Fry — The Seasons
If you count a single as an album, like I do, then my favourite would have to be The Seasons by Freedom Fry. An airy way of confronting change in people as the seasons change with a generally alternative style of music, it hit me just the way it needed to at the right time to be stuck in my head all year since it came out. For me, it sort of summed up my attitude towards not only 2019 but the last five years coming up to the end of the decade. And it’s a bop which definitely helps.
Moment: Summer 2019
2019 ended up becoming a very politically engaged year for me, between rising concerns surrounding climate change, the introduction of the UCP’s austerity budget, the federal election and whether the Cats movie was a human horror or a Lovecraftian one to experience, it became difficult to find much solace from the world of debate and politics in the world in 2019. The little glimmer of joy came for me in the fact that it was the first summer in a few years in Alberta that came with so much rain and had so much greenery, it was a beautiful summer and honestly, that kept me going.
– Cole McCracken
Album: Vampire Weekend — Father of the Bride
Just as I felt like I was beginning to overplay Vampire Weekend’s Contra album for the millionth time, they gracefully blessed us with Father of the Bride. I think “Harmony Hall” became the official theme song for all of my road trips, late night study sessions and even my main request at any shindig. Seriously, even if you don’t have time to listen to the whole album just take a listen of “Harmony Hall” — your ears will thank you for it.
Moment: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Oh boy, watching all three seasons of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in the last two weeks of December was a wild ride from start to finish. I’m a huge fan of period pieces, but nothing captures my heart quite like New York City in the ‘50s. This spunky comedy revolves around Midge Maisel as she begins a career in stand-up comedy after her husband leaves her for his secretary — and that’s just the first episode. Between the colourful outfits, the witty humour and the doo-wap music, there’s a little something for everyone.
– Mariah Wilson
Album: Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell
Norman Fucking Rockwell was released by Lana Del Rey in August of 2019. She is a goddess. Her album was excellently on par with Lust For Life — which was released in the winter of 2017. I have always loved how moody Lana’s vibe stays. Song between song manages to exude a plethora of emotions. She has taken ballad writing to a new, feminine level that I cannot get enough of. There is something hauntingly nostalgic about the way she tells each story. My favourite song on this album was “Beautiful people beautiful problems” because her lyrics pack way more than a single punch. Listen to it. She sings way better than I could ever summarize.
Moment: When 2019 Ended
The best event of 2019 was falling asleep on New Year’s Eve knowing that I would never have to be apart of it ever again — what a trash ass year. I can not be the only person who felt like 2019 was the realest year of uncomfortable change. I say “uncomfortable” because the diction choice I would prefer to use is not appropriate for this article. From relationship ends to personal realizations, from politics to drastic rollbacks on feminine rights in the US — it has been a real effort trying to keep my footing. I will be honest, I am pretty sure I crawled through the entire 12 months at a fittingly infantile pace. The true upside to 2019 is knowing without any doubt that the new year will be so much better. It can not POSSIBLY be worse. No exaggeration. #mattlauercansuckit