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Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Best of 2021

The best movies, music and more from 2021, according to Daily Cardinal writers.

TV Show: Only Murders in the Building

Very rarely do I stay up past midnight to finish the last episodes of a show, but I absolutely had to know how “Only Murders in the Building” ended. True crime is one of the only genres of podcasts that I actually don’t listen to, but I thought this series was so smart at bringing a classic murder mystery plotline into the modern media era. The dynamic between Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez seems a little random, but the trio makes for a perfect blend of comedy and drama. The cinematography is stunning, and episode seven is such a creative feat that I don’t want to spoil. There were so many surprises packed into just ten episodes, and I’m really looking forward to another season. It’s a witty, fast-paced series that’s perfect to watch over break. — Hope Karnopp 


Japanese Breakfast is an indie rock band lead by Korean-American musician Michelle Zauner. 

Song: “Be Sweet” by Japanese Breakfast

“Be Sweet” is the signature song off Japanese Breakfast’s stellar third album, Jubilee. The song is dense and bright, with an absolutely infectious chorus. Originally, Michelle Zauner wrote “Be Sweet” to be played by another artist, but understandably fell in love with it as it became the album-defining track that it is now. “I think the distance of writing it for ‘someone else’ allowed me to take on this sassy 80’s woman-of-the-night persona,” Zauner recalls, capturing the aurora of the song perfectly. “Be Sweet” struts from verse to chorus and back again, oozing popstar confidence. It can often spell disaster when a band strays from their style, intentionally trying to write a pop song. But by initially disassociating herself, Zauner created a genuine pop track without sacrificing her soul. — Seamus Rohrer 

Song: “Leave the Door Open” by Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak & Silk Sonic

The epicenter of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s An Evening with Silk Sonic, “Leave the Door Open” is a sparkling throwback to classic soul. It’s slow, seductive and glamorous, and it instantly felt like an important track upon its release. The combined talent of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak is off the charts, and it’s on full display on “Leave the Door Open.” From Mars’ glistening harmonies to .Paak’s intricate rhythms on drums, the pair complement each other in a way only two artists at the height of their abilities can. — Seamus Rohrer 

Movie: No Time to Die 

Daniel Craig’s send-off as Agent 007 is a sprawling, 173-minute epic. Bond will always be remembered as the slick, womanizing characters played by Sean Connery and Roger Moore, but Daniel Craig has been giving us a stellar 007 since his debut in 2006’s “Casino Royale.” In his five James Bond films, Craig has been able to simultaneously capture Bond’s mesmerizing, ruthless talent as a spy and his deep ardor for those he cares about. “No Time to Die” is a thorough exploration of both. 

The movie felt more like a cultural event than it did a piece of entertainment, and director Cary Joji Fukunaga clearly understood its significance. Daniel Craig and fellow lead Léa Seydoux have incredible chemistry, and the film also boasts one of the most thrilling opening scenes in any James Bond movie. The wild, emotional ending is somehow both firm and ambiguous — the audience knows what they just watched, yet plenty of questions remain. — Seamus Rohrer

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Album: Little Oblivions by Julien Baker

Looking back at my Spotify wrapped for 2021, I saw many names you’d associate with me. At this point, I may have a bit of a reputation in our office for being a Coldplay fan, and as expected, they finished top of the pile. However, a name that had somewhat escaped my mind was Julien Baker. Seeing her name in my top five — she placed third — took me by surprise, but I remembered the spring semester and how much I enjoyed her album “Little Oblivions” that was released around then. My favorite track from the album is “Hardline,” although you cannot go wrong with the other tracks and the great songwriting all around which really makes you feel stuff, even when your own experiences are drastically different from Julien’s. I enjoy acoustic songs (the style of her earlier music) but this album marked a shift towards an alternative rock sound (especially with “Hardline”) and I found that even more favorable. I certainly regret not going to her concert in Madison this September gone by, but I won’t let that stop me from enjoying the album or recommending it to others. — Anupras Mohapatra 

Call Me If You Get Lost is the sixth studio album by Tyler, the Creator, released on June 25, 2021 by Columbia Records.

Album: Call Me If You Get Lost by Tyler, The Creator 

Tyler, the Creator doesn’t half-ass anything. To him, an album isn’t just a group of songs. He creates alter-egos, directs his own music videos and even designs fashion, all in the name of maximizing whatever his current aesthetic is. He may have a complex vision, but to him, it’s all very simple. Tyler Okonma does whatever he wants. So what did he want to do after producing seven solo music projects, creating and headlining his own festivals and winning a Grammy, all before the age of thirty? “I wanted to rap, like I just missed rap,” Okonma confessed during a HOT 97 interview back in August. 

Behold Call Me If You Get Lost, Tyler’s most recent endeavor into blending tastefully obnoxious 2000s rap with catchy love songs. Contributors to the record’s raw rap aesthetic include Detroit rapper 42 Dugg (“LEMONHEAD”), one of Tyler’s rap heroes in Lil Wayne (“HOT WIND BLOWS”), as well as Baton Rouge rapper NBA Youngboy (“WUSYANAME”). But it’s not just the guests that set the tone; Okonma delivers some of his most focused yet effortless and braggadocious rapping to date. Tyler’s production remains polished, but with a new intensity reminiscent of the aforementioned mixtape style - notably heard on tracks like “CORSO” and “LUMBERJACK”. 

A major storyline throughout the record is Okonma’s experiences navigating a love triangle — explained in detail on “WILSHIRE”. But these complicated emotions result in moments of beautiful pop-rap, with sonics reminiscent of 2019's IGOR. Songs like “WUSYANAME” and “SWEET/I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE” display Okonma’s evolving knack for crafting catchy yet exquisite love songs. — Donnie Slusher 

TV Show: Inside Job

With each passing release, my patience and respect for Netflix originals dwindle ever so slightly. It’s not that they’re never good — in fact, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed shows like “Black Mirror”, “Love Death + Robots” and “Mindhunter.”  What bothers me is the oversaturation of these Netflix-sponsored shows on the streaming service. Go to any page on Netflix, and you’ll find most movies and shows you see have the Netflix tag in the upper left corner. So when I started the Netflix show “Inside Job” one mindless morning, my expectations were low. I was dead wrong.

The new adult animation series stars Lizzy Caplan as Reagan Ridley, a young genius who is handed the keys to the United States’ deep state. Caplan has been a criminally underrated actress her entire career, and she shines as the voice of the all-business, uptight-but-entertaining Reagan Ridley. She’s perfect for the role, and she’d be perfect for the same role if the show was live action. 

While “Inside Job” is reminiscent of “Rick and Morty” with its jam-packed episodes and high-tech action, a good deal of the humor comes from the dialogue, which is refreshingly well-written and intricate. The great cast of supporting actors, including Christian Slater and Bobby Lee, help make every character entertaining and eliminate any semblance of filler. 

Despite the exhausted template of a Netflix original adult animation, Inside Job is worth investigating. The second episode, “Clone Gunman,” is one of the funniest episodes of television I’ve seen in recent memory. Enjoy this superb Netflix original while you can. — Seamus Rohrer

Video game: Deathloop

I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I restart songs and movies if I feel like I wasn’t enjoying them correctly the first time around, and I will set aside books for months if I’m not in the right frame of mind to read them. Understandably, this habit carries over to other pastimes. Whenever I’m playing a video game, I’m always ready to exit to the menu and hit return to autosave, erasing any slip-ups I made and starting over. So when I heard about a video game where you, an amnesiac assassin named Colt, are stuck in a mysterious time loop living the same day over and over again, I was hooked. The idea of being forced to restart every time you die is nothing new in first-person shooter games. But Deathloop, developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda, turns the idea of a “death loop” on its head. Instead of punishing you for dying, the game and its storyline become increasingly more complex and bombastic the more you play. You can learn, adapt and uncover more information with every rebirth as you investigate how to “break the loop”. With solid graphics, an intriguing story, colorful main characters and a robust world to explore, it’s no wonder that Deathloop was able to take home “Best Game Direction” at the 2021 Game Awards. — Addison Lathers

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Addison Lathers

Addison Lathers is the Editor in Chief of The Daily Cardinal. She has covered city and campus news and held two editor positions. Follow her on Twitter at @addisonlathers.

Hope Karnopp

Hope Karnopp is the news manager and dabbles in music reviews at The Daily Cardinal. She previously hosted the Cardinal Call for WORT-FM and edited state news.

Anupras Mohapatra

Anupras Mohapatra is a former opinion editor for The Daily Cardinal and currently serves on the Editorial Board. He is a senior double majoring in Computer Science and Journalism. 

Donnie Slusher

Donnie Slusher is the sports editor for the Daily Cardinal. He has written multiple breaking news stories, sports columns and an in-depth examination of race in Wisconsin football. Follow Donnie on Twitter at @DonnieSlusher_

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