Django Amorosi at Kimpton Hotel Monaco | photo by Reese Amorosi | courtesy of the artist

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key contributing writer A.D. Amorosi turns to his greyhound Django for another pass at the year’s hits and misses.

After the rush of respect, acclaim and fame from 2017’s The Django Pages at The Key – his critical debut – my fleet greyhound certainly felt a serious sense of responsibility when it came to documenting his continued love affair (and occasional disgust) with the music around him, and the multi-culturalism surrounding that. Plus, he got a gig writing for Pitchfork, something that has, so far, alluded me during my career as an arts journalist.

As it was a weird year (politically, socially), so much of what Django took in, and appreciated/dissected had to be filtered through the noise of rhetoric and correctness. With that came an addition to his usual outward signs of approval and disapproval (relaxed ears or laying with legs akimbo for the former, grimace and growls for the latter): a side-eyed glare as if to say, “c’maan, really?” Many of these looks got shot at me at the sound of anything having to do with Kanye West (from his innumerable rants to his Kids See Ghosts), Asia Argento, Jeff Sessions, 6ix9ine (even though his performance at Made in America was stellar), Larry Krasner and Justin Timberlake (really, just JT’s whole Man in the Woods burly guy routine. Everything else is cool).

For 2018, what Django liked was:

Portugal. The Man’s “Live in the Moment”
Yes, it was a 2017 tune, but the Woodstock album track got big time Billboard traction in 2018, to say nothing of its Colbert bump when the band played his Late Show. While I’m still on the fence as to what I think of P.TM’s move into T-Heads-like disco, my wife Reese and Django prick up their ears when this comes on.

Anderson.Paak and Kendrick Lamar on Saturday Night Live
.Paak’s new album Oxnard is a highlight of winter 2018 releases, but his late in the season appearance on SNL with feature guest K-Lamar on the rough R&B “Tints” was funky, chic and made Django’s ears stand up – a great sign.

When my dog sneezes, he sneezes the name “Mitski.” And then he smiles. Django can also do Childish Gambino’s backwards jiggling “This is America” dance.

Thom Yorke vs. Goblin: a Suspiria comparison text
Django digs Radiohead and is pretty keen on them getting a Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame nod (more so for Roxy Music) but finds its singer a bit of a numb and mumbly mess. Yet, when it comes to his atmospheric folk soundtrack to the new Suspiria, my greyhound finds that Yorke is audacious, bold and concisely clear; so much so, this 2 LP solo album (green vinyl, if you got it early) has made it into Django’s 2018 Top Ten.

Still, there can be little comparison to the horror-core original film from director Dario Argento and its soundtrackers, the Italian prog-metal band Goblin. After careful consideration and time in to comparative listening, Django found Yorke’s songs and score to be more deeply nuanced and equally eerie when to comes to the new Suspiria’s spookiness. And far less cheesy. And, despite his devotion to Dario Argento’s first Suspiria, Django is very fond of Dakota Johnson’s dance of death in the new film.

Django is big on K-pop, and wears the same smile he has when he eats non-grain peanut butter banana bones for these guys.

boygenius: “Me & My Dog”
What do you think? He’s a dog song guy… dog. He also very much appreciates all things Rosalia, what with his own Latin lineage.

Django thinks the world of Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus, alone and together, and yet believes that Dolly Parton might want to call her lawyers in regards to the “Jolene” sound-alike “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart.”

Django is on the fence about the whole Beyoncé / JAY-Z Everything Is Love album and Carters tour. My greyhound was ape shit about the frenetic “Apeshit,” and thought the album to be “decent for old married types,” but yes, was much more riveted by the Beyonce elements of the Philly stadium live set up than Hova’s same-old same-old.

Beyonce | photo by Raven Varona | courtesy of the artist

Django is on the fence about Maroon 5 as the Super Bowl 2019 halftime entertainment and wouldn’t be part of the 50 yard line show if they asked him. Not so much for the Kappernick thing. It is the Adam Levine thing.

In 2018, Django most definitely did not care for:

Offset and Migos: the 2018 version
When the Atlanta trap trio dropped 2017’s C U L T U R E, Django was a fan of what was a Bad and Boujee snapshot of Southern hip hop life, sex and drug consumption. But, repeating the same sound and vibe for 2018 (Culture 2, really?), and marrying off the act’s centerpiece – the AutoTune king, Qffset – to Cardi B – only have him cheat on the up-and-coming queen? A woman who bore his son AND whose debut album, Invasion of Privacy and new singles such as “Money” are highlights of any year? Fuck Migos, man. Django got that look of disgust big time here.

Bruce Springsteen’s Special Tony Award showing
We’re big Tony Awards watchers at the Amorosi household, and Django is always a fan of anything Radio City Music Hall, let alone Sara Bareilles‎ and ‎Josh Groban. Sprinsgteen though? Was “My Hometown” a show tune? To Django and I, a show tune is “The Ladies Who Lunch” or “Hey, Big Spender” or “Luck Be a Lady.” “My Hometown,” not so much. While we’re at it… a brick wall and a black t-shirt and jeans? That’s a show?! Not in my day, mister, or Django’s.

Ariana Grande
2018’s Sweetener could have been her most poignant work to date, and yet, all Django can think of is how she jerked around one deeply feeling and troubled man (the late Mac Miller) for another deeply feeling and troubled man (Pete Davidson), only to jerk him around as well. Mostly, Django and I do our level best to separate those who make art from the mess they make as mortals or civilians, but, just as what has occurred with Kanye Kardashian, that’s now impossible for Ariana. Besides, it’s not as if he or I thought think Grande was that great to begin with.

Janelle Monae
Django preferred the old alien Little Richard Monae and her robot music, as opposed to 2018’s Dirty Computer and its watered-down Prince sound-alikes.

Ryley Walker
Not a lot flies below Django’s radar, but we slept on Ryley Walker for a sec. Forever, Django heard that this Chicago singer-songwriter was a word jazz poet type and we probably helped set him up for that by playing earlier records such as Cannots. But, then we get to 2018 albums such as Deafman Glance and The Lillywhite Sessions, Walker’s covers album of the loneliest Dave Matthews Band songs, and what Django came away with was….well…. an impression of an artist that was little more than watered-down, flanged, lo-fi, not-so-sensical-but-not-so-interesting-either-indie rock. Django doesn’t dig that middle ground.

G Eazy & Halsey’s “Him & I”
Django didn’t feel good about either one of these hop-lite and pop tarts before this tune with, so teaming this gruesome twosome was like pouring laxatives into a bowl of Muesli – a literal shit show.

Almost anything Lil
If you’re Lil Wayne and Carter 5, and Lil Uzi Vert and his new Philly rap, stop reading this now. You’re fine. Django thinks the world of what you both did in 2018. If you’re the late Lil Pump, Lil Baby, Lil Xan, Lil Meerkat, Lil Mosquito Disease and/or Lil Dicky, you get a big loud Django cough-hack-sneeze-snort.