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Mike Jones Picks His Favourite Things of 2021

Well, 2021 – you were a lot better than 2020, but I’m not sure if that’s something to be proud of. As we returned to (somewhat) normal, we enjoyed in-person concerts and movie theatres again, off and on of course. In the entertainment world, at least we had a lot of quality material to enjoy. We had an abundance of new movies with plenty of big-release 2020 films pushed back a year. And the isolation of 2020 created ample time for our favourite artists to write and record new music.

Let’s look back at the year that was. My list is subjective, and I didn’t have time to see or hear everything so please tell me what I missed by emailing me at mike@balsom.ca.

FAVOURITE ALBUM OF THE YEAR:

HEART & SOUL – ERIC CHURCH

Eric Church excited fans in late 2020 with the announcement that he would be releasing THREE new albums in 2021 (with & being exclusive to the Church Choir). He recorded them while isolating with his band and producers….and in true Chief form BEFORE it was cool. In the early parts of 2020, when the virus-we-won’t-mention was still in its infancy, Church gathered his band and a few co-writers for a 28-day trip to the mountains of North Carolina with the challenge of writing and recording a new song every day. What followed are three brilliant albums with a mixture of rock, soul, r&b and country. The hard-rocking Stick That In Your Country Song released in 2020 was followed up with the number one single, Hell of A View, and another rocking track, sure to cause speeding tickets to increase in Heart On Fire. Other highlights range from the theatrical (Heart Of the Night, Crazyland) to the danceable (Look Good And You Know It, Break it Kind of Guy) to the soulful (Jenny, Never Break Heart, Russian Roulette).

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Honorable Mentions: Rise Against Nowhere Generation, Origami Angel Gami Gang, The Last Gang Noise Noise Noise

Looking forward to 2022: The United Kingdom’s favourite folk-punk singer Frank Turner is set to release his ninth studio album FTHC in February. The album’s early releases have shown a decidedly heavier sound than his previous release. And while his 2019 release, No Man’s Land took a left turn and saw Frank featuring a famous strong woman as the inspiration behind each track, FTHC promises a return to more personal songwriting such as Miranda which deals with the tumultuous relationship with his father who has recently transitioned and is living as a transgender woman. Elsewhere in 2022 Our Lady Peace will release the sequel to one of their most critically acclaimed albums with Spiritual Machines II and on the local front Edmonton’s Fire Next Time featuring Fort McMurray born James Renton have announced they are working on a new album.

 

MOVIE OF THE YEAR:

NO TIME TO DIE

As a lifelong James Bond fan, it was nice to see Daniel Craig get the farewell he deserved. Although he didn’t have as many films as Roger Moore (7) or Sean Connery (6, plus the unofficial Never Say Never Again) he spent the longest timespan as the character with Casino Royale releasing in 2006. No Time To Die brings everything you want in a James Bond film: epic set pieces, throwback references, amazing gadgetry and of course a car wash or two. No Time To Die also carries on something the Daniel Craig films have done very well at with a fantastic villain portrayed by Bohemian Rhapsody’s Rami Malek. It also ranks as the longest Bond film in history, beating out SPECTRE by a whopping 15 minutes – but yet, it never overstays its welcome.

Honorable Mentions: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, The Mitchells vs The Machines

What to look forward to in 2022: At press time, 2021 isn’t even over yet with new Spider-Man and The Matrix films set to be released over Christmas. 2022 also looks promising with the highly anticipated Thor: Love and Thunder and Jurassic World: Dominion set to be released. In a world of sequels and remakes, the comedic The Man From Toronto starring Woody Harrelson and Kevin Hart also looks promising.

 

TV SHOW OF THE YEAR:

WandaVision

Although a good chunk of my TV time was dedicated to watching Seinfeld reruns after the show debuted on Netflix (okay fine I was watching it before on Crave also), one of the real highlights of the year was the MCU series released on Disney+. The Falcon and Winter Soldier, and even the Christmas-themed Hawkeye (currently running) were all fantastic, but the one that started it all was WandaVision. With each episode showcasing a different decade of sitcom style, it isn’t until episode three until we start to unravel just what the heck is going on and how the show connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This was a ballsy move, as many viewers turned it off or skipped ahead out of frustration. But many others enjoyed the film’s whimsical opening before incorporating action, darker themes and yes even the fantastic tune Agatha All Along in later episodes.

Honorable Mentions: Loki, The Goes Wrong Show, The Mandalorian, Letterkenny, Curb Your Enthusiasm

Looking forward to 2022: Yellowstone is currently airing it’s new season with the Tim McGraw starring prequel 1883 set to debut in December but it looks like 2022 will once again be all about Disney+ with four live action Star Wars shows set to air with The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: Andor (set five years before Rogue One) and the third season of The Mandalorian.

 

FAVOURITE THEATRICAL PRODUCTION OF THE YEAR:

Purge (Theatre; Just Because)

With restrictions constantly changing all year long, just the idea of being able to pull off a show with an audience is commendable. Theatre; Just Because and director Hanna Fridhed pulled no punches with this brooding drama, originally written in Finland and making it’s Canadian debut. In a region where Farce and Hit Musicals are the proven draws, picking a dark show that conquers the very serious topic of human trafficking as your first show out of the gate in “these unprecedented times” was a gutsy choice, but one that paid off. The show featured some outstanding acting with two of the biggest performances coming from long-time theatre superstar Jenny Price and newcomer to the scene Taylor Vincent playing the character of Aliide through two different timeframes. The show was also a technical achievement for locally owned Twisted Gears Studios who were able to livestream the performances, with tickets being sold all over the world and as far as Australia.

Honorable Mentions: Keyano Theatre Company premiered All Together, Now a compilation of some of Broadway’s greatest hits with only a small three-week rehearsal time to put the show together.

Looking Forward to 2022: Who knows what the later parts of 2022 will bring but we do know for sure that Mary Poppins will fly on to the Keyano Theatre stage February 10th – 19th and the brand new theatre company Swamp Rat Experience will make their debut with the uproarious farce Suite Surrender in March.

 

FAVOURITE LOCAL CONCERT:

JOEY D TRIBUTE NIGHT with Fresh Cut Lime, Fire Next Time @Paddy McSwiggins

Joey Delusong was no ordinary musician, and when he passed away suddenly in 2015 the news reverberated throughout the Fort McMurray, Edmonton and Vancouver music scenes. As Fresh Cut Lime guitarist Adam Macleod said during the show “You’re never truly gone until the last time somebody speaks your name” – something Joey’s legacy won’t have to worry about for a long time. As fans from all over Canada packed Paddy’s to dance and sing Joey’s lyrics, it really felt like his presence was in the room that night. Making the night extra special, Joey’s sister Claudia was presented with Joey’s Lifetime Achievement Award in person by Arts Council Wood Buffalo chair Dave Boutilier. It was truly a magical night.

Honorable Mentions: Good Spread @ Blackhorse Pub, Back To The 80’s Battle of the Bands featuring Night Train a tribute to Guns N Roses and Bed of Roses a tribute to Bon Jovi @ Wood Buffalo Ribfest, Real Sickies @ Rock The Rails

Looking Forward to 2022: Although we can never truly see the future, hopeful eyes are set on full fledged returns for Rock The Rails, Wood Buffalo Ribfest and the Fort McMurray Food Festival in the summer. And it just so happens one of Fort McMurray’s proudest achievements Abandin All Hope are set to reunite with an Edmonton show opening for Pulley in March. Surely, a Fort McMurray reunion can’t be far behind.

 

Best of The Rest

  • Favourite Video Game: Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 & 2 Remastered
  • Favourite Gala: The Diamond Royale Gala at Earls
  • Favourite Documentary: Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage
  • Favourite Local Release: Adam Macleod Sick Word Stories
  • Favourite Comedy Special: Bo Burnham Inside
  • Favourite Song: Coheed and Cambria Shoulders
  • Favourite Out of Town Concert: Eric Church, October 22 at Scotiabank Saddledome Calgary, AB
  • Favourite Music Festival: Punk Rock Bowling featuring Devo, Descendents and Dillinger Four September 23 – 26 Las Vegas, NV
  • Favourite New Restaurant: strEATS Fort Mac Kitchen

 

Photos:

  • Mike and friends all dressed up and ready to impress at Brand Connect’s Diamond Royale Gala on November 20, 2021 at Earls Kitchen + Bar
  • Local Realtor Paige Cyr and friends celebrate at Wood Buffalo Ribfest on Back To The 80s Night at Snye Point Park. The evening was headlined by Canadian classic rock group Honeymoon Suite.
  • Arts Council Wood Buffalo Chair presentes the Lifetime Acheivement Award to Claudia Manning, sister of the late Joey Delusong at Paddy McSwiggns on December 11th. Aliide Truu
  • Zara portrayed by Jenny Price and Devki Patel (Photo by Fantasie Frei Creations). Photos supplied

About the author

Author Profile
Mike Jones

Mike has called Fort McMurray home for the past eight years. A true man about town, Mike loves supporting local artists and small businesses by using his platform to promote them however he can. In his spare time, you can find Mike checking out new music, drinking craft beer or managing his fantasy football team!

Mike strives to live life to its fullest and adopts a glass half full perspective. He is a constant promoter of all things positive in Fort McMurray and can’t wait to help share the Good News with you!

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