The best of 2014

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Now that 2014 is nearing its end, we can finally step back and appreciate the amazing creative productions that were released this year. Four students with various tastes pick some of their favorite cultural moments of this year, from thrilling movies to melodic tunes. Through three categories, film, television and music, we see a glimpse of the multitude of genres that have dominated this past year. Although not every great piece could be included, this list highlights some of the peaks of 2014.

Turn Blue by The Black Keys

The Black Keys consists of guitarist and singer Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney. This rock duo hailing from Ohio are recognized for their vintage rock style. Their music takes the listener back to the era of garage bands with their classic blues tunes.Turn Blue, the band’s eighth studio album was released in early May. Throughout the tracks the band stuck with their trademark sound established in recent albums Brothers and El Camino.

Turn Blue opens with the longest track on the album, “Weight of Love,” which takes the listener on an odyssey of electric sounds. Throughout the album, Auerbach provides incredible, soulful guitar solos sure to move anyone. Much of the inspiration for this album is due to Auerbach’s divorce. You most likely recognize the single “Fever” from this album and your mom most likely loves it. Other great tracks include “In Time” and “10 Lovers,” both of which are infused with a retro beat.

I personally prefer this album for late-night driving (probably to and from Chick-fil-a) or whenever I feel sentimentally soulful after watching too many movies on Netflix.

Hozier by Hozier

Hozier, hailing from Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland, perfectly infuses blues and folk in his self-titled debut album. Songs like “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” and “Jackie and Wilson” highlight the bluesy side of Hozier with tints of rock.  The ballads on the album are hauntingly melodic— “Like Real People Do” blends the soulful backing vocals with an eerie metaphor of a person being dug up from the earth. “Work Song” is by far one of the best tracks and sounds like it was pulled from the heart of the bluesy South—not rural Ireland. However, what makes this album so spectacular isn’t just Hozier’s soothing and dreamy voice or the snazzy guitar riffs, but the heavy subject material. The lead single from the album, “Take Me To Church,” criticizes organized religion and preaches about love and sin, and the song “Cherry Wine” juxtaposes a sugary melody with lyrics about an abusive relationship. The album wonderfully contrasts dark and light, good and bad, creating one of the most spectacular music compilations of the year.

Orange Is The New Black

One of the most talked-about shows of the past year, Orange Is The New Black returned to Netflix for its much-anticipated second season in June.  Warning—this series is rated TV Mature. The story follows upper class convict Piper Chapman, who is sent to jail for transporting drugs a decade ago.  The best thing about the show is that it doesn’t focus solely on Piper; Orange Is The New Black tells the stories of many inmates, using flashbacks to show their former lives and how they ended up in prison. This season we got to know the back-stories of characters such as Lorna, Miss Rosa and Poussey and were drawn even further into the complicated lives of the inmates. This season provided more plot thickeners like the introduction of Vee, a deceitful and ruthless drug smuggler. Orange Is The New Black explores themes of race, sexuality, friendship and identity while wonderfully balancing the corrupt prison system and women attempting to hold their lives together.

The Flash

This brand-new CW show tells of the adventures of Barry Allen, a forensic investigator for the Central City Police Department who is struck by a bolt of lightning. Miraculously surviving the freak accident, he discovers he has powers of super speed. Teaming up with a group of scientists, Barry uses his newfound powers to protect Central City from threats such as Weather Wizard and Captain Cold and also struggles to uncover the truth behind his mother’s murder. The Flash neatly balances drama with smart humor and action-packed excitement. The series is thus far off to a great running start, sure to be a delight for both DC Comics fans and non-comic book readers.

Mad Men

No show is as much of a time capsule as Mad Men, a series about an advertisement agency in the 1960s. The show’s first part of the last season may have aired earlier this year, but it could not be beat. Although in its seventh season, Mad Men continues to grab viewer’s attention as the audience watches the lives unfold of the innumerable characters. Through the first few seasons, protagonist Don Draper was despicable, yet somehow still likable. By the end of this season, however, Draper has become a detestable character, but this works in favor of the show. Viewers have become incredibly attached to characters who have had increasingly large roles, such as Don’s daughter and his coworker Peggy. As always, the acting is phenomenal and costumes impeccable. The show is self-aware enough to understand that no major cliffhanger was needed at the end of the first half of this season; we’ll all be tuning in to see how they wrap up the show next spring.

Gone Girl

Through lies, deceit, murder and one huge plot twist, Gone Girl stunned audiences this fall. Based on the hit novel by Gillian Flynn, the film took us along the mystery of a wife’s disappearance the day of her and her husband’s (played by Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck) fifth anniversary. Director David Fincher creates a sense of an eerie, dismal nature in this hit crime thriller. This flick is perfect for lovers of the novel, or anyone looking for a reason to stay up hours after the film to piece together the mystery they just watched. Throughout the two and a half hour film, I could be found wide-eyed and more and more shocked as each minute passed by. Popcorn basically spilled out of my mouth at the plot twist of this messed-up story (don’t worry I bought a large bag of popcorn for moments like this). Gone Girl is the perfect way to diverge from the countless family holiday movies you’re bound to watch this break (There is no shame. I, too, will be found watching ABC Family’s countdown to Christmas movie marathon).

Boyhood

Shock value and extravagant CGI effects easily grab a viewer’s attention, but it is much less common that the simplicity of a movie is what becomes its selling point. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood gave viewers a chance to take a breath and sit through an honest movie. Although the plot—the arc of a boy’s childhood from kindergarten to freshman year of college—is straightforward, the filming process was anything but. The film was shot over a span of twelve years, and the crew would film a bit of the movie each year. Strung together, the clips create an incredibly nostalgic film, especially for high schoolers, who grew up at the same time as the main character. Music choices and shots of Game Boy Advances authenticate the film, and though the film is about a boy, it made me reflect more on my own life than his.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Based on the comic book superhero team of the same name, Guardians of the Galaxy focuses on Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), an arrogant, self-centered 70s-music-loving thief who stumbles upon a powerful artifact and becomes entangled in a galactic conflict. Quill reluctantly allies himself with anthropomorphic raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper), assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a living tree named Groot (Vin Diesel) and the savage Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) to defeat the ruthless despot known as Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). Woven within Guardians’ comedic, visual effects-driven adventure is a heartfelt tale of friendship, trust and overcoming grief. Moviegoers looking for a different kind of superhero film should look no further than this out-of-this-world spectacle.