On Our Minds in 2017: The Sweetness of Nostalgia

Luke Chesser (CC0)

As we at To the Best of Our Knowledge start off a new year, we wanted to talk about some of the books, movies, music, games and other media that we think might play a role in shaping the ideas that find their way onto the show in 2017. Since that list was massive, we’ve chopped it up into a few core themes that emerged from our collective media diet.

A clear pattern emerged from the poppier selections on our collective lists — there’s a circular quality to much of what we watch and listen to. Bands find new inspirations in old classics, or reunite for unexpected follow-up runs (a new Monkees album?) Stories are rebooted, re-thought, re-imagined, and re-digested. As a serving of that sweet addiction that is nostalgia, we’ve rattled off a few new takes on old classics that we enjoyed in 2016 or are looking forward to in the coming year.


Invisibl Skratch Piklz, “The 13th Floor”

De La Soul. A Tribe Called Quest. A host of hip hop’s greats reunited this year. Topping my list, the reunion of the original members of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, who got together after 16 years to release a stunning LP called “The 13th Floor.” This is the old school turntablism that’s been almost forgotten in today’s computer-fueled hip hop. Legends Qbert, Shortcut, and D-Styles scratch their way to DJ perfection. And, here you go, the entire LP. — Charles Monroe-Kane


The Monkees, “Good Times!”

The one album released in 2016 that I enjoyed more than any other was “Good Times!” by The Monkees. Yes, I’m serious. The Prefab Four released one of their best albums ever. You might think that’s not saying much but I would kindly disagree. Produced mainly by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne fame, “Good Times!” features songwriting contributions from Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, XTC’s Andy Partridge and a collaboration between Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller. The standout track is the melancholic “Me & Magdalena.” It was written by Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and features gorgeous vocals from Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz. Released fifty years after the band was formed, “Good Times!” offers solid aural evidence of the Monkees’ talents. — Doug Gordon


“Fargo”

I didn’t get out to the cinema much this past year but I have no problem choosing a standout film: It’s the second season of the FX television series, “Fargo,” which is based on Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1996 film of the same name. You’re probably thinking that I’ve lost what little sanity I still have left. Since when is a TV series a movie, Doug? Well, creator and show runner Noah Hawley approaches the making of each season as a “10-hour movie.” And he’s right. The richness of the writing, the quality of the acting and attention to detail are evident in every episode. One of the highlights of this past season was a grisly montage impeccably scored by Jethro Tull’s classic 1971 song, “Locomotive Breath.” The show also features clever cross references to the film’s story world. If you’re looking for something to binge-watch, look no further than the first two seasons of “Fargo.” They’re two of the best, if not the best, 10-hour movies you’ll ever see. You betcha! And keep an eye out for the third season. — Doug Gordon


“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

The trailer for “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” acclaimed director Guy Ritchie’s forthcoming epic fantasy action adventure film, checks every box on my guilty pleasures list. Gorgeous British landscapes. Gorgeous British men. A magic sword, an evil king, and an underdog hero straight out of legend. The King Arthur story generally doesn’t translate well to film — the temptation to double down on the swashbuckling seems impossible to resist. But Ritchie, who directed the Sherlock Holmes films, has dusted off the noble knight. His young Arthur, played by Charlie Hunnam (FX’s Sons of Anarchy) is a reluctant hero, a brawler and gang leader raised on the mean streets of medieval Londinium. Add Jude Law as the king-killing, throne-stealing tyrant Vortigern, plenty of moody Welsh and Scottish landscapes, some computer-generated black magic, and I can already smell the popcorn. Release date was originally March 24, 2017, but seems to be delayed until May — which gives us just enough time to re-read “The Once and Future King.” — Anne Strainchamps

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