The Atlantic Daily: Our Culture Desk’s Favorite Listening of 2019 ⏯

What our critics loved listening to, from music to podcasts. Plus: Increased anti-Semitism is changing how Jews express themselves in the West.

It’s Monday, December 30.

In today’s issue: First, reflections on the aftermath of Monsey, New York. Plus: Our culture desk’s favorite music and podcasts from 2019.


“It’s tapping into every fear.”

A recent machete attack at a rabbi’s Hanukkah celebration in Monsey, New York capped a month of brutal anti-Semitic violence.

New York State, home to the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, has been the site of 13 different anti-Semitic incidents in December alone.

Emma Green spoke with community leaders across the state about the security measures they’re now considering. But, she writes:

Increased security often places a financial burden on religious communities that have been attacked: Hiring security guards and arranging for extra police presence can be expensive. It can also reinforce people’s fears.

Read Emma’s full story.

Such attacks reflect growing anti-Semitic sentiment in the U.S. and Europe. Jewish communities being forced to adapt are in some cases forced to make stunning decisions, the Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt writes.

The news that most depressed me did not involve violence. It was not something done to Jews but something Jews did. A synagogue in the Netherlands is no longer publicly posting the times of prayer services. If you want to join a service, you have to know someone who is a member of the community.

Jews, she writes, are going into hiding.

We’re closing out 2019 by rounding up some of our editors’ and writers’ favorite things to watch, read, and listen to from this past year.

Today: What they loved listening to. (Come back tomorrow for our team’s favorite books of 2019, or check out last week’s edition on their favorite things to watch.) Isabel Fattal

(Naomi Elliott)

🎵 The 18 Best Albums

The selection from our three critics “shift between total doom and quiet optimism.” Here’s one pick each from Spencer Kornhaber, Hannah Giorgis, and James Parker.

From Spencer

1. FKA Twigs’s Magdalene, which “makes one idiosyncratic woman’s lamentation into a shared, almost uplifting spectacle.”

⏯ Song to start with: “Home With You”

From Hannah

2. Burna Boy’s African Giant, an album that “shows off the growth and savvy of a singer who’s tapped into his own musical potential—and into his continent’s.”

⏯ Song to start with: “Anybody”

From James

3. Torche’s Admission, on which “you can hear the artistry in Steve Brooks’s songwriting, his wizardly grasp of dynamics, his ability to infuse the weightiest riff with a strain of rare joy.”

⏯ Song to start with: “Extremes of Consciousness”

Read the rest of their selections.

🎵 The 14 Best Songs

Hannah and Spencer looked at both their “personal obsessions” and “a sense of what mattered in popular culture,” and came up with some yearbook superlatives for this year’s memorable songs.

A few of the lucky winners:

⏯ Best Bad Single: Taylor Swift, “You Need to Calm Down”

⏯ Best Bruno Mars Song by Someone Who Isn’t Bruno Mars: Lizzo, “Juice”

⏯ Science-Fiction Story of the Year: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road”

See the rest of the list here.

🎧 The 50 Best Podcasts:

The rise of podcasts, and the evolution of the format, continues in 2019. Laura Jane Standley and Eric McQuade made a list of 50 podcasts that are “emblematic of the year 2019, each a different version of what humans sound like or of what preoccupies our minds.”

One of their top picks: Crimetown Presents: The Ballad of Billy Balls, “made by storytellers who not only found the good stuff when they went digging, but also knew exactly how to use it.”

Read the full—ranked!—list.

(Bianca Bagnarelli)

Every Monday, Lori Gottlieb answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. This week, she advises an anonymous reader worried about deep spousal resentment:

My husband and I both retired two years ago, after I was successfully treated for breast cancer. I’m enjoying my retirement, but he isn’t. After my surgery, I had to have radiation treatment at a location that’s a subway ride followed by a long walk from our home. He decided to retire early so that he could drive me to the radiology clinic. I didn’t really want him to retire, but I told him I would support any decision he made. Now, two years later, he’s so depressed that he sits around the house moaning and groaning that he “never should have retired,” and calling it the biggest mistake he ever made.

→ Read the rest, and Lori’s response. Write to Lori anytime at

(Luci Gutiérrez)

We’re closing out 2019 by reflecting on some of The Atlantic’s top-read and standout stories of the year. Today’s selection comes from our July 2019 magazine.

The end is near—your career end.

Arthur C. Brooks has some sobering words for the professionals who think they’ll still be able to work at the top of their game as they age.

Scholars at Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research studied a wide variety of jobs and found considerable susceptibility to age-related decline in fields ranging from policing to nursing. Other research has found that the best-performing home-plate umpires in Major League Baseball have 18 years less experience and are 23 years younger than the worst-performing umpires (who are 56.1 years old, on average). Among air traffic controllers, the age-related decline is so sharp—and the potential consequences of decline-related errors so dire—that the mandatory retirement age is 56.

In sum, if your profession requires mental processing speed or significant analytic capabilities—the kind of profession most college graduates occupy—noticeable decline is probably going to set in earlier than you imagine.


How to handle this gracefully, then, is the question.

The Atlantic Crossword

(Araki Koman)

1-Across, 4 letters: Floating transportation

Try your hand at our daily mini crossword (available on our site here), which gets more challenging through the week.

→ Challenge your friends, or try to beat your own solving time.