Stage & Dance

A few things you should do before 2015 is history

Houndmouth’s Matt Myers and Katie Toupin performed at the Forecastle Festival in July.
Houndmouth’s Matt Myers and Katie Toupin performed at the Forecastle Festival in July. rcopley@herald-leader.com

Christmas Day means — among many other things — that there is exactly one week left in 2015.

This has been a busy year, lots of stuff happening nationally and locally, including The Breeders’ Cup, the new Star Wars movie and a singer from Harlan County making a championship run on The Voice. And that’s just what happened in the fall.

As the great philosopher Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it.”

Well, now it’s time to stop. With all that in mind, each of the Herald-Leader’s critics offer some suggestions of things you might have missed or you simply ought to do before the year is over. So, with a happy holidays, merry Christmas and happy New Year, here are our ideas.

Rich Copley, Weekender editor

▪  Harlan County’s Jordan Smith started dropping jaws the second he stepped on stage at The Voice, the NBC talent competition show that he won Dec. 15. If you need to catch up, you can find The Complete Season 9 Collection (The Voice Performances), which crystalizes Smith’s astonishing instrument, at iTunes and in Wal-Mart stores.

▪  If you have heard WUKY’s DeBraun Thomas only as a radio host, you have to hear him play guitar on his debut album, All My Colors Are Blind.

▪  The New Albany-via-Louisville band Houndmouth showed no sophomore slump in its second album, Little Neon Limelight, filled with colorful characters you’re probably better off not knowing, particularly My Cousin Greg.

▪  If there is a current media-consumption convention I cannot get into, it’s binge-watching. There’s not enough time in the day to watch an entire 13-episode drama in one sitting. My exception was Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a fast-moving, riotous and unapologetic comedy from the genius that is Tina Fey. Catch it before Season 2 drops.

▪  Marc Maron’s WTF podcast has been around since 2009, but it has really come into its own this year, with high-profile interviews of President Barack Obama, Maron’s idol Keith Richards (he might have gone too fanboy on that one), NPR icon Terry Gross and Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels. The constant is Maron, an untrained interviewer whose gift is genuine curiosity, and we benefit from some of the best interviews out there.

Jacalyn Carfagno, restaurant critic

▪  Eat at a local restaurant. Not just one that says it sources food locally but one whose ownership is local. There are lots of good ones, including Herbe, Stella’s, Smithtown Seafood, County Club, Athenian Grill and Crust and they deserve your support.

▪  In the same vein, buy food from a local business. Nothing against Kroger (I love the new store on Euclid) but we have a wonderful co-op, Good Foods, plus Marksbury Farms, Parisa, Lexington Seafood and several farms that sell what they grow.

▪  If you’re tempted to bemoan the times we live in, go to the Kentucky Digital Library and read a newspaper from 100 years ago. There are not many new problems under the sun.

▪  Get some exercise. Again, in the local vein, I recommend becoming active at one of our wonderful YMCAs. It will help you and our community.

Walter Tunis, music critic

▪  The emergence of Rhiannon Giddens as a solo artist constitutes the musical arrival of 2015. Possessed with a voice of effortless soul, immaculate tone and ridiculous stylistic reach, she triumphed with her spring debut album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, and a splendid, roots-fortified concert at the Opera House in March.

▪  When David Letterman retired in May, an entire TV generation seemed to leave with him. He was the last of the great old-school smart alecks. But Stephen Colbert and a retooled Late Show offered an intelligent, highly topical and often gut-bustingly funny reason to keep watching at the witching hour.

▪  Just when you thought country music had sold its last thread of creative decency to the pop world, along comes Chris Stapleton — a champion songwriter/stylist who embraced lean, rootsy tradition. A fall performance at the CMA Awards with, of all people, Justin Timberlake turned this Kentuckian’s critical success into stardom.

▪  Is there a more enviable actor on the planet than Sir Ian McKellen? A performance scholar of Shakespeare and yet a highly visible character in two major film franchises, Sir Ian scaled new heights in this year’s Mr. Holmes by playing two versions of the inexhaustibly popular detective, both younger and older than his real self.

▪  Every time Jason Isbell plays Lexington — and he did so twice in 2015 — his songs are sharper and more expertly emotive, and his performance smarts become more intuitive and electric. Add to that an extraordinary summer album, Something More Than Free, and you have the fortunes of the Americana artist of the year.

Walter’s roundup of the top 10 albums of 2015 is on Page 6.

Candace Chaney, theater and literature writer

▪  Ada Limon’s Bright Dead Things, nominated for the National Book Award for poetry, includes many poems inspired by the author’s move to Kentucky. Horse racing fans should be sure to check out the poem How to Triumph Like a Girl.

▪  Harlan-based author Robert Gipe’s Trampolineis an illustrated novel about a teenage girl in Eastern Kentucky that paints a picture of contemporary Appalachia that only insiders get a glimpse of. Funny and moving, Trampoline is an important addition to the canon of Appalachian literature.

▪  Former Kentucky poet laureate Frank X Walker coined the term Affrilachia, and in his latest volume of poetry, About Flight, tackles the difficult topic of drug addiction.

Patti Nickell, travel writer and restaurant critic

▪  Spend a day being a tourist in Lexington: See all that our town offers, including the spot where Lexington began at McConnell Springs, the coolest new neighborhoods, National Avenue and North Limestone.

▪  In the spirit of the season, pick up a copy of Fannie Flagg’s A Redbird Christmas. It’s an inspiring read, and her memorable characters will have you laughing, crying and cheering them on.

▪  Pop some popcorn and spend a day binge-watching the Hallmark Channel’s continuous showing of Christmas movies.

▪  Contact the Hallmark Channel and let them know that Thanksgiving, not Halloween, would be soon enough to start the continuous showing of Christmas movies.

▪  To beat the “post-Christmas blahs,” get a group of friends and have a progressive dinner on Jefferson Street.

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