Year in Concerts 2015

I had fun doing a little recap of all my concerts last year, that I wanted to do another one for this year’s many concerts.

1. PENTATONIX – On My Way Home Tour

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When I went to see these guys, I went with an old friend of mine and he said something along the lines of “Isn’t it funny that we’re seeing a group who will sound exactly like the CD?” Legit question because of course, these guys are acapella. What else were we supposed to expect from them at a live concert? And you know what? They delivered a concert, as if they were any other musical act, and just doing their thing. Unfortunately, short people problems so I had a tough time actually SEEING them but still a fun time. I hope next time to come to Toronto, they do the show at Massey Hall, which would be SO PERFECT for them with the acoustics and everything.

2. MAROON 5 – V Tour

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Can you believe this was my 8th time seeing these guys in concert? As always though, the concert never felt long enough, especially considering they are five albums in. I love them dearly, but I’d be happy if they went back to basics on their next album/tour. They put on a great show regardless and makes me a happy fan every time I see them (even if they don’t play my favourite ‘non-M5 but still sung by Adam Levine’ song, “Lost Stars”)

3. JESSIE J – Sweet Talker Tour

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A sign of my skills lacking this year in the concert department, I totally didn’t hear about Jessie J touring. When I finally found out, tickets to the Toronto show was sold out. As luck would have it though, the venue released more tickets a week before the show. DONE! First time seeing Jessie in concert and she did not disappoint at all. I mean, the girl was battling a cold and still KILLED IT with the vocals.

4. THE SCRIPT – No Sound Without Silence Tour

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It has been four years since I last saw The Script in concert. Partially my fault because I didn’t particularly like their #3 album. But in my opinion, No Sound Without Silence was a return to form and I couldn’t miss them coming through Toronto. Great guys, putting on a great show.

5. KELLY CLARKSON – Piece by Piece Tour

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I made it a point to avoid all Toronto traffic this summer because of the PanAm games and knowing that traffic was going to be crazy. My exception was to see Kelly. Not to mention, Pentatonix was opening for her. I thought I was safe heading into the city on the last day of the games but no such luck there. I missed PTX and made it JUST in time to see Kelly. Also, because the show was at the Molson Amphitheater, concerts have to end at a certain time, meaning judging by the setlists of other cities, we got gypped of three songs. Besides all the crummy stuff, it’s effin’ KELLY CLARKSON; she kills it every time. AND she did “Heartbeat Song” with PTX, so I didn’t miss them entirely.

6. KATE VOEGELE & TYLER HILTON

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What’s a year without seeing Tyler Hilton these days? This time, he was joined by another One Tree Hill alum, Kate Voegele! Both very chill music artists and as much as I love the big shows with full band and all that, sometimes all I need is an acoustic show like this one.

7. JANET JACKSON – Unbreakable Tour

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Janet is a complete legend, so who am I to miss out on seeing her perform her greatest hits and new material?

8. MATT NATHANSON

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At this point, I’m pretty sure it’s obvious how much I love seeing Matt Nathanson in concert. Even moreso when he does an acoustic show like this one. For added fun, Matt brought along a Wheel of Songs (see picture)! Songs from all his albums, as voted by fans, were put onto the wheel and fate (sometimes with a little help from Matt lol) decided some of the songs Matt would play. Like I said, fun times!

9. JAMES BAY 

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I got to end off my year going to see one of my favourite new artists this year, James Bay! I once again suffered through going to the Sound Academy (a terrible Toronto concert venue) to see James, only because I had missed him coming through town twice before this year. Again, short people problems, and I couldn’t fully enjoy the concert as a result.

It was once again a great year for concerts; majority of them being relatively inexpensive ones at that! With such a busy concert year, I’m surprised I still got in some travel, two Cons (SDCC and Heroes/Villains Fan Fest), TIFF, and two other shows (Shaping Sound, Cinderella the Musical). Now it’s still too early to call, but I’m guessing that next year won’t be so concert-busy. Trust me though, that’s a good thing, as I’m still planning to do SDCC (even though I didn’t get pre-reg badges) and I’ve got a New York trip on deck as well. So lots of fun times are still to be had in 2016!

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Pop Cultured Summer 2015 – August

Summer is upon us! Which means its that special time of year where a lot of things happen, but also don’t happen. The movie blockbusters are coming in at full force, while TV takes it easy (sorta). There will also be plenty of concerts and events to fill up those wonderful summer days and nights. So here are some of the things I’m looking forward to!

AUGUST

After a jam-packed July (so much so that I didn’t have a chance to go see ANY movies I wanted to see), August slows down considerably. Once I actually get around to seeing my July (and honestly, some of the June movies), the one movie coming out this month I want to see is Fantastic 4 (Aug. 7). I know a lot of people have their doubts about it and I’m still not entirely sure about it, but I’m trying to be optimistic! Plus, how could I say no to this cast? Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, and Jaime Bell! That’s an awesome young cast and I want the best for them.

I’ve been spending my summer catching up on shows I hadn’t gotten around to watching. Among those shows was Playing House (Aug. 4), which is going into its second season. If you haven’t seen the show, it’s a comedy about two childhood best friends, who now face a new challenge in their lives. In season 1, with Maggie pregnant and her marriage ending, Emma decides to uproot her entire life and move back to their hometown to help Maggie. Season 2 will see more of the awesome friendship and what happens now that Maggie and Emma are taking care of baby Charlotte.

And what’s summer without concerts? Some of my One Tree Hill faves, Tyler Hilton and Kate Voegele, are taking their joint European tour to Canada for a few dates! They’ll be hitting Toronto on August 24th, and I’m just SO excited about it!

Music Monday: My Year in Concerts

As a music fan, I’ve always loved going to concerts. There’s just something about hearing music live that just makes me so happy and feels like everything is right in the world, if only for a couple hours. So for this Music Monday, I thought I’d feature the concerts I went to this year.

1. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience Tour

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I wrote about my thoughts on this tour back when I saw it, but let me repeat – my dancer’s heart loved every single minute of it.

2. Lady AntebellumTake Me Downtown Tour

Lady Antebellum Take Me Downtown Tour

I’m very limited in my tastes when it comes to country music. Country pop I can deal with to an extent; I can’t handle real southern country twang. When I first heard Lady Antebellum, it was when they released ‘Need You Now’ and I remember thinking these guys are really cool and sound really great. I quickly became a fan, to say the least. After missing out on their Own the Night tour (which I’m still kinda bummed about because I absolutely LOVED that album), I had to make sure I got to see them the next time they were in town, which was for this tour. Though to be honest, I felt really out of place at the concert. Being a minority and a generally awkward person, I’m typically used to feeling out of place. For some reason, I felt VERY odd being one of few Asians at a country music concert (and not wearing plaid – believe me, there was A LOT of plaid). My being-out-of-place aside, Lady A are wonderful live and it was a great concert overall.

3. Gavin DeGraw

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For years, a friend and I had complained about Gavin not doing a show in Toronto. Lucky us this year, he did 2 separate shows. This first show he did was a solo show in support of his Make A Move album. I remember still being sick/jet-lagged from my trip, but I still had so much fun seeing Gavin perform. His opening acts were Rozzi Crane (signed to Adam Levine’s label) and Parachute (a pop-rock band I’ve followed for some time now), both of whom were really solid.

4. Justin Nozuka

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It had been years since I’d last seen Justin Nozuka in concert and when I found out he was releasing a new album and coming back to Toronto, I jumped right on it. Personally, I don’t really like the new album; it’s a little too mellow for my tastes. And most of the concert was comprised of the new material so I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more of the old stuff. I still cherished him performing ‘After Tonight’ midway through the show; it was quite a pick-me-up that got everybody grooving and singing along. I just wish there was a little more of it.

5. Michael Buble – To Be Loved Tour

Michael Buble To Be Loved Tour

I love seeing Michael Buble in concert. I always say this but when you go see him, you get a little bit of a comedy show as well. It’s his natural sense of humour and self-deprecation. Once again, he brought out Naturally 7 (a very cool acapella group) as his opening act, and who later returned to do a couple songs acapella with Michael. And one of my favourites parts of the show was actually when Michael performed part of a song by himself, with no accompaniment and no mic – a feat all in itself considering he was playing in a huge arena.

6. Matt Nathanson & Gavin DeGraw

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I always love seeing Matt Nathanson in concert (this was my 5th time seeing him) and add to that, getting to see Gavin for a second time within 3 months? Yeah, it was a no brainer. Despite the fact that the show was at the Sound Academy, a venue in Toronto I have associated with bad memories. Even so, I had to go see this double headlining tour of two of my favourites. My friend and I actually got lucky and received a VIP upgrade when we got there, allowing us to go to the second floor of the club. But after about 20 minutes upstairs, we made our way back down to stand with the masses; it just felt weird standing up top and what’s the point of VIP if you don’t even get to meet the artists? Regardless of that, it was a fantastic show!

7. Tyler Hilton

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It wasn’t that long ago that my friends and I complained about Tyler never playing a show in Toronto, despite the fact that he was constantly in the area (his now fianc√©, Megan Park, is from London, Ontario). Since seeing him in 2012 for the first time, this was show number 5. I remember Tyler was actually battling a bit of a cold and kinda losing his voice, but he powered through his (albeit shortened) set. AND to make up for the fact that he didn’t do as long a set as he normally does, he agreed to do a meet and greet, taking pictures with fans.

8. Jason Mraz and Raining Jane

Jason Mraz & Raining Jane

For his new album Yes!, Jason Mraz worked exclusively with a wonderfully talented female band, Raining Jane. It was more a collaborative album than a simple Jason Mraz album. That being said, the two took the album on the road, and I got the chance to see them at the historic Massey Hall. Massey Hall is a venue that is known for its amazing acoustics and ended up being a fantastic place for Jason and Jane.

9. Kris Allen and Boyce Avenue

Kris AllenTechnically, it was Boyce Avenue’s show, with Kris Allen supporting, but I was there to go see Kris since I had yet to see him live in concert. Plus, I wasn’t going to say no to a $30 concert ticket. Kris’ set was a short 45 minutes but he managed to squeeze quite a number of songs from all three albums, plus a couple cover songs (Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ and Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’). ‘Monster’, a song from his 2nd album, is one of my favourites from Kris, but man, to hear it live? Kris and his band took it to another level. I even went so far as to compare it to hearing Maroon 5 perform ‘Sweetest Goodbye’ (my absolute favourite M5 song) live. Pure perfection. As for Boyce Avenue, I was familiar with their cover songs but not their original material. Honestly, I thought their originals were a little blah, and I actually got a little bored hearing them perform. Talented guys, just not into them.

10. Justin TimberlakeThe 20/20 Experience Tour (again!)

JT 20/20 TourIt only seemed appropriate that I end my concert year the same way I started it – seeing JT. The guy never ceases to amaze me and I always have SO much fun at his shows. I feel like I’m just gushing at this point, but what can I say, I’m a dancer at heart and loved singing/dancing along.

With 10 concerts, I feel like that’s the most shows I’ve ever been to in a year, and that’s not even including theatre shows, plus TIFF and SDCC. At this point, concert-going is like my life, so I can’t even keep track anymore. Here’s to another fun-filled, musical year in 2015!

Pop Cultured Summer 2013 – May/June

Summer is usually a time reserved for sunshine, beaches, and vacations. For pop culture fans like me, it may mean the end of my regularly scheduled TV programming but the start of a batch of other summertime shows. It also means the air-conditioned movie theaters are filled with the latest blockbusters, and live music abounds at stadiums/arenas/amphitheaters everywhere. Summer may be well underway, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go back and talk about what’s interested me the past couple months (also, wanted to get this out before posting next month’s).

MAY

Before going forward, I figured I should go back ever so slightly. The month of May is typically known as the start of the summer movie season, and as has occurred for several years now, it started with a superhero movie. This year, we got the beginning of Marvel’s Phase Two with the release of Iron Man 3. A couple weeks later saw the Star Trek sequel, Into Darkness. I had time to go see both of those, but another movie that got released at the end of the month, that I still have yet to see is Now You See Me – I mean, magic caper thriller, an original story (meaning non-sequel/reboot/etc.) and an awesome cast to boot? What more can you ask for?

Concert-going is a big deal to me and my summer concerts actually started at the end of April, when I got the chance to see Sara Bareilles on her Brave Enough solo tour. The first time I actually saw Sara in concert was when she opened for Maroon 5 on their It Won’t Be Soon Before Long tour, and it was at that show that I got to meet her. It’s been such a long time since I had seen her live that I almost forgot how great she is, and with this tour being just her performing, it was such a great reminder. A week later, I went to check out Tyler Hilton, Teddy Geiger, and Ryan Cabrera on their joint tour and that was kind of a cool show to check out, because they actually came out during each other’s sets to play a song or two together.

On the TV front, May meant only one thing to me: the beginning of a new season of So You Think You Can Dance!! Regardless of how I felt about last season’s vast amount of changes, I love this show so much.

JUNE

Though it can sometimes be difficult to follow the cable shows, being from Canada and all, but it is those shows that make up most of my summer. One of the shows that I was really looking forward to seeing was Jeff Eastin’s (creator of White Collar) new show Graceland, starring Aaron Tveit and Daniel Sunjata, as two of the five undercover agents living under the same roof. Lucky for me though is that Bravo Canada is simulcasting the show on Thursday nights. The sixth season of True Blood recently premiered and I must admit that was only slightly excited about it. The show has had its ups and downs, with last season being not very good, so I was a little bit unsure as to whether I would want to keep watching. Under the Dome, based on the Stephen King novel about a town that mysteriously gets trapped under a dome, is one of the first shows by the major broadcast networks to adopt a cable-style season structure (that is, 13-episodes as opposed to a full 22). The final season of Dexter premieres June 30th, and though the show had a rough couple of seasons, it was back to form last season after Deb found out about Dex, and now we’re waiting to see how it all ends. Following Dexter is the series premiere of Ray Donovon starring Liev Schrieber as an L.A. professional fixer (think Scandal without the politics of DC, and the glitz of Hollywood).

Continuing on with the movie season is the recently released Man of Steel, the latest reboot in the Superman franchise. Coming from director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) and producer Christopher Nolan (do I really need to say the Dark Knight trilogy?), the movie sets Superman/Clark Kent firmly rooted in reality. This year’s big Pixar movie for the kids and the kids at heart is Monsters University, a prequel to their hit Monsters Inc. (so sadly, there will be no Boo in this one). Seth Rogen assembles an all-star comedy cast including Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, James Franco, and Craig Robinson among others for the end of the world comedy This Is The End, which also features many other celebs playing themselves (albeit a very comedic, some say deranged versions of themselves). A few years ago there was a big story about teens who stole millions from the homes of Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson, and Orlando Bloom, among others – flashforward to now where director Sofia Coppola brings the story to light in The Bling Ring, starring Emma Watson. A slight twist to the typical buddy-cop comedy is The Heat, which brings together Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.

One of the things that I was really excited about this month was seeing Shaping Sound when they came through Toronto on their tour. Shaping Sound, for those who don’t know, is a dance company founded by SYTYCD alums Travis Wall and Nick Lazzarini, along with Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson. The company is filled with so many fantastic dancers (including other SYTYCD alums Jaimie Goodwin, Alexa Anderson, Channing Cooke, Noelle Marsh) and the show itself was just phenomenal! Amazing dancing all around and I only wish I could see it again.

Favourites of 2012

Another year has come and gone, and with that, a look back on some of my personal favourites in music, movies, and television.

FAVOURITES IN MUSIC

  • Maroon 5 – Overexposed: Not gonna lie, M5 is kind of here by default. There was no way that I wasn’t going to include them, even though I have made it known that this album wasn’t exactly my favourite of theirs. However, with songs like One More Night, Lady Killer, and Tickets being standouts on the album, I can sort of justify picking it among my favourites of the year.
  • Tyler Hilton – Forget the Storm: It was a long-running thing between my friend and I, complaining that Tyler (alongside Justin Timberlake and Michelle Branch) was taking TOO DAMN LONG to release his sophomore album (his debut was released in 2004). This year, Tyler FINALLY made good on his promise to release new music, with him independently releasing the album. The outcome was a great mix of several musical influences.
  • Delta Goodrem – Child of the Universe: I’m still including this album, despite the fact that it hasn’t been officially released in North America. Delta returns with her fourth album, that plays with some different sounds for the singer-songwriter. The album features some piano-driven songs that Delta has been known for, but she also has some songs that very much play up the pop sound.
  • Kris Allen – Thank You Camellia: I kind of loved this album, and I find it a damn shame that Kris hasn’t found bigger success. I enjoyed his self-titled debut after his Idol win back in 2009, but Kris was able to really take his time with this record and personalize it. Camellia ended up being a very solid collection of songs, that found him collaborating with Jason Reeves on the first track “Better With You”, as well as rocking it out a little with “Monster.”
  • Dia Frampton – Red: Okay, so I’m cheating a little bit here. Dia’s album came out in December of last year, but because of my travels, I didn’t get a chance to listen to it until the beginning of the year. That being said, I think Dia made such a great album, really showing off all her musical tastes, with touches in everything from pop to dance to hip-hop to country.

FAVOURITES IN MOVIES

For the record, I am ridiculously behind on movies, particularly the movies with awards buzz, so this list is kind of lacking.

  • Pitch Perfect: When the movie was initially released, I didn’t think much of it, even though it has music and singing and I am such a sucker for it – but after watching it, I totally get it. The movie was fresh and funny, and the soundtrack (consisting of all the movie’s performances) was fantastic. And seriously, the riff-off in the movie was pure perfection (says the music geek who loves a good mash-up or…10)
  • The Hunger Games: I finished the entire series of books before watching this first adaptation, and it completely lived up to the books. Don’t dismiss it as a tween/teen thing, because fluff it is not.
  • The Avengers: I have never been a comic book geek, but I myself have to admit that I have a soft-spot for superhero movies. Give me a superhero that’s at least cool, with a decent storyline for a movie, and some cool looking special effects, and I am in. The Avengers is the culmination of several years’ worth of Marvel movies, featuring Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, as well as Black Widow and Hawkeye. With Joss Whedon at the helm, Avengers turned out to be every fanboy’s dream and a good time for all movie viewers.
  • 21 Jump Street: I was barely alive when the original TV series initially aired, but with most people, I knew this was the show that jump-started Johnny Depp’s career. This year, the show was adapted for the big screen starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, swapping the crime drama of the series for a buddy comedy movie. The result was pure hilariousness, and a great role for Channing to show off his comedic chops.
  • The Cabin in the Woods: Horror movies aren’t my thing, because for the most part, they kind of suck (I’m talking movies from the past decade). The more buzz that I heard about Cabin, the more intrigued I was by it. When I finally got around to watching it, as a movie fan, I must say I really liked it. It is not your atypical horror movie, at times playing up those cliches, and at times surprising you in its direction.

FAVOURITES IN TV

  • Let’s get this out of the way first – shows that I have loved/been a fan of and have continued to love over the past year: Nikita, Fringe, Happy Endings, So You Think You Can Dance, The Voice, How I Met Your Mother, Community, Hart of Dixie, Once Upon A Time
  • Arrow: Action, drama, good looking people, a little bit of humour. I’ve said it before and I will say it again until it becomes reality, this show is the perfect schedule companion to Nikita.
  • Nashville: I’ve said it before, I’m kind of a sucker for anything that includes music. Despite the fact that this is settled in the world of country music (granted, my tastes have been widening over the years), all involved have put together a great show that welcomes you in, regardless of whether you are a country music fan or not.
  • Suits: This year, in its second season, Suits really stepped up in their story-telling. Not to knock down the first season, which was good, but this year, they turned it up a whole other level. Gripping drama, with a great deal of charm, charisma, and humour, the show surpassed White Collar and Covert Affairs as my favourite show on the USA Network.
  • Parks and Recreation: I really hate to admit this, but this was the year I caught up with Parks. I had watched the first season when it aired, and wasn’t particularly impressed with it, so I didn’t continue on. Man, was that a mistake. After watching season 2 during my travels, I continued catching up on the show every chance I got, until I caught up to what was airing in S4. I am so happy I gave the show a second shot, because no other comedy on the air can be simultaneously so hilarious and so endearing.
  • Homeland: The plot about a war veteran suspected of being a terrorist, sparked very negative/eye-rolling responses in me. However, after hearing such great buzz about the first season, I sat down and watched it over the summer. When the show came back for its second season, I was committed to it. Fantastic writing, and without a doubt, award-worthy acting from Claire Danes, Damien Lewis, and Mandy Patinkin, the show breaks all the TV rules of you should tell a story. What most shows would’ve done in 5+ seasons, Homeland did it in under 2.

DISAPPOINTMENTS IN 2012

Just for a little bit of a change, I thought I would include some music, movies, and shows that disappointed me over the year.

  • Music in general has disappointed me this year. Looking back at the music I’ve collected this year, I bought a lot less than previous years. I’m almost certain that half of this year’s music that I have is all from The Voice (U.S., U.K., Australia).
  • Glee: The show continued its descent into ridiculousness and lazy writing/creative music ideas. What I’ve come to finally realize is that I much prefer when Glee covers older songs and when they re-arrange the songs. Over the past year (maybe even 2), Glee continues to cover songs that are currently on the radio, which irks me to no end because I already don’t like 3/4 of the stuff on the radio, and they don’t even do anything different to the songs. I feel like the final straw was them doing Gangnam Style for “Regionals” and that this was the song they gave lead vocal to Jenna Ushkowitz’s Tina – can you say racist much?
  • Smash: Continuing with the music theme, Smash did not remotely live up to its fantastic pilot. The plus that it had was that it featured original music for its musical. After that, it was just ridiculous. Characters like Ellis and Leo were downright annoying. We’re supposed to like Debra Messing’s character Julia, but she did some really stupid things (and wore a lot of scarves). Don’t even get me started on Uma Thurman’s arc on the show. There’s an overhaul for season 2, with a bunch of dispensable characters gone, and some fresh blood in both newcomers (Jeremy Jordan, Andy Mientus) and familiar faces (Jennifer Hudson, Sean Hayes). However with Joshua Safran (previous showrunner of Gossip Girl) taking over for Teresa Rebeck as showrunner, I still have my reservations.
  • True Blood: Speaking of ridiculous, season 5 of TB was pretty frickin’ bad. All that religion, cult, Lilith stuff that went down was terrible. I can’t even bring myself to remember anything else about that season.
  • Prometheus: Straight up, I didn’t like it, didn’t get it. For being scientists and stuff, these people were pretty stupid, doing the typical movie things you should never do (ex. NEVER split up from the group!) There was also, for me at least, a complete lack of character development – we never fully understand why any of these characters are doing what they’re doing.
  • Rock of Ages: I had VERY low expectations for this movie and somehow they managed to make it even worse than I thought. I watched the movie because I’m a fan of Julianne Hough, but you have to admit, the rest of the cast was so incredibly random – Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige, Bryan Cranston, Catherine Zeta-Jones? Random. The movie was just all over-the-place.

So there you have it, some of my pop culture favourites and disappointments of the past year.