2018 music highlights


Apple Music

KT TunstallAs someone who pretty much shuns the mainstream for the corporate beast it has always been in favour of the less celebrated or lesser known artists, this year a few albums have been in heavy rotation on my iPhone.  Firstly the return of KT Tunstall with her surprisingly enjoyable and polished album ‘Wax’ which harked back to that skillfull song writing that made her name in Eye To The Telescope, and well just has some really good pop-rock songs on it.

PearlHartsThen we come to the stripped back, moody guitar simplicity of ‘Glitter and Spit’ the brilliant debut from female duo The Pearl Harts, who initially grabbed my attention when they supported Garbage during part of their UK tour in 2016.  This album has a resemblance to The White Stripes but also adds gritty punk rock to it that made me think of Suzy Quatro.  The guitaring and the attitude driven vocals make for a very promising start to a career in my book.

ChvrchesChvrches impressed me previously with their excellent second album Every Open Eye, and even if their latest ‘Love Is Dead’ seems overly mainstream and a little bit lazy in places, it still has a sheen of slick production and Lauren Mayberry’s angelic vocals to carry it through.  Not a massive highlight but an album I’ve enjoyed none the less.

Against The CurrentAgain favouring a more mainstream sound than their last records, Against The Current still delivered a polished and entertaining second album in the shape of ‘Past Lives’ which features several decent songs even if some of their punk-pop sensibilities are mostly absent.

For a re-issue Garbage’s 20th anniversary of ‘Version 2.0’ not only brought with it a stellar remastering that made the album sound amazing, but a wealth of quality b-sides that made for a hell of a package.  Version 2.0 is not only my favourite Garbage album, it’s my favourite album … period.  So this version, despite some odd tinkering on certain tracks was a genuine highlight of 2018 for me.  Add to this the fact I got to experience it’s entirety live in concert at Brixton Academy, and well I think you can guess how happy that made me.

Garbage

Music for me is certainly still a difficult hobby to truly embrace.  I find myself trapped in the 90s or only listening to the same handful of artists.  We live in a culture that favours repetition and mediocrity and worships heavily promoted familiar names rather than promoting the freedom to go and seek out something ‘different’.  I feel it’s the only entertainment industry that really shuns creativity in favour of whatever music execs and narrow-minded radio stations consider the current cool trend, and so finding music that I can identify with and appreciate gets harder and harder every year.  The above named albums seemed to stick with me this year and stood out when so much else just felt boring.

Craig.

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My 2017 – a look back (part one)


I think at least as far as entertainment is concerned its been a pretty good year.  There’s been ups and downs as there is every year, disappointments and resounding successes.  So I thought I’d do a look back and therefore have decided to split this into two posts over the next week or so … leading up top my annual Top Ten of the Year on 31 December (please check back for that).

January to June

The year started off rather interestingly, with the absolutely nutty The Greasy Strangler … a movie I had heard a lot about.  The eventual experience was a bit ‘wtf?’ and remains probably the oddest, most out-there movie I’ve seen all year, and not in a good way.  The biggest let down though of the month (and year) was undeniably Trainspotting 2.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but this trapped-in-the-past, albeit entertianing sequel delivered nothing to either repeat the gritty cool of the original or offer anything new.  It’s not a terrible movie but it just had very little to warrant it’s existence.

iPadAir2One of my favourite gadgets this year has been my iPad Air 2 which I picked up in January, and use regularly for so many things…other than my phone (which I’ll get to in party two) it’s been my go to gadget of choice.  Hell or High-water was a particular highlight and a solid robbers on the lam sort-of western with two great performances from Chris Pine and Ben Foster, even if I thought Jeff Bridges was a little over-hyped.

Deepwater Horizon was a great disaster movie based on real events with a stand out turn from the always enjoyable Mark Wahlberg.  February was also when I played the return-to-form latest entry in one of my favourite gaming franchises:  Resident Evil 7.  One of the few games this year I saw through to the end, but this gripping, at times genuinely frightening and action-packed game truly put the franchise back on track.   Around this time I began to deep dive further into music having subscribed to Apple Music and I have discovered some really great artists this past year, which started out with Tegan and Sara as well as Chvrches, PVRIS, Royal Blood and many more (I’ll be covering my music highlights more in part two).

Train to Busan

March delivered one of my firm favourite movies of the year, the Korean zombie horror Train to Busan, which was a brilliantly executed thrill-ride with great characterisation and top-notch production values.  Look out for it in my end of year Top Ten.  March also delivered more highlights in the form of the enjoyable if a tad over-hypoed Doctor Strange, as well as the charming and touching A Street Cat Named Bob.  However the good times had to come to an abrupt stop in the surprisingly poor Kong: Skull Island which offered some truly awful characters, only saved slightly by some fun monster smack down action.  What Tom Hiddleston was doing in this is anyone’s guess though.  Thankfully it was only a short-lived blip as I then got to see another favourite of the year, Logan – with a career defining performance by the often underrated Hugh Jackman.  If you haven’t seen this one yet … remedy that immediately – it’s really that good.

Nintendo_Switch

The end of March also saw me pick up what has been a really worthwhile purchase this year, the Nintendo Switch!  As with any Nintendo console, it was a bit of a risk.  Gamecube failed after only a short run, the Wii was a major success but lacked games, and well I didn’t bother with the Wii U.  Thankfully with games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Steamworld Dig 2 and Super Mario Odyssey it’s been the games console I’ve played the most in 2017 without a doubt. 

April was the month this blog reached it’s 10 year anniversary.  Wow…had it really been that long?  I’m not popular, what I discuss on here is a crowded field to say the least, and standing out is difficult.  However let it be said I still very much enjoy expressing myself on here and appreciate every visitor, every like and every comment when I get them.  Thank you to all who stop by!

Despite being one of my favourite actresses, Scarlett Johansson’s much anticipated Ghost in the Shell, whilst entraining didn’t turn out to be all that it could have been despite some great visuals.  However Tom Hanks delivered a solid performance as always in the based on true events Sully.  I also recently started getting back into the highly-imaginative world of Persona 5 (released in April) which is unique and cleverly done, despite some typical Jap-RPG gameplay trappings.  Suppose all that Switch goodness proved a distraction this year and there’s many games I need to also go back to.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-2

In May I saw more highlights of the year, firstly the highly entertaining (if not quite as refreshing) Guardians of the Galaxy 2 boasting some great turns especially from Kurt Russell.  Then the Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal vehicle Nocturnal Animals was also an interesting take on a relationship drama that struck a cord and proved powerful and clever.  Yet the over-hyped and generally rather tiresome La La Land was a huge disappointment with a lack of memorable songs for a musical and bland characterisation despite featuring a great cast.

As June rolled around I finally managed to see the highly acclaimed Hacksaw Ridge and came away humbled and suitably impressed.  It was a very different approach for a war movie but director Mel Gibson and star Andrew Garfield nailed it.  Following this possibly the best comic book movie of the year was released; Wonder WomanGal Gadot was born to play this roll and with a great dirty-dozen meets fish out of water storyline I really had a great time with this one.  I also got around to watching bullet fest sequel John Wick: Chapter 2 which although simply more of the same was still pretty damn good and well, who doesn’t enjoy Keanu Reeves obliterating bad-guys?

Xbox One X

June also saw the annual videogame convention ‘E3’ arrive which promised a great deal from the three big gaming giants Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo and highlights included the reveal of the Xbox One X, more footage of the highly-anticipated Super Mario Odyssey and Sony’s God of War amongst many more.  It was a pretty exciting time to be a gamer and 2017 was only to prove itself as a classic year in gaming history.

Well, that’s it for part one of this look back.  Phew, it’s been a pretty packed year when looking back and there’s plenty more to come.  Look out for Part Two this time next week!

New toys, new music, new year!


Apple-iPad-Air-2Well it’s a new year and I managed after dipping into some savings to get myself a new toy.  Therefore I recently purchased the iPad Air 2 which following buying directly from Apple I got engraved with my name and my website address.  So far I’m finding it invaluable to further explore my growing interest in music, and having subscribed to Apple Music in recent weeks it’s given me a way of discovering new music and having more variety in what I choose to listen to … something I hadn’t really being doing for a long time.  It’s also enabling me to get more into some TV shows I previously missed out on and am currently enjoying Super Girl and also hoping to start watching Blacklist.

Garbage Autobiography Ltd EditionIn related news I was happy to see that last night Garbage’s lead singer Shirley Manson received the ‘powerhouse’ award at the She Rocks Awards ceremony in Los Angels that is held annually to promote women in the music industry, both on stage and behind the scenes.  In addition to this news I also saw a separate interview with Garbage drummer / producer Butch Vig where amongst other topics he revealed that the band is to release a cover of Cat Stevens’ “Where do the children play” as part of forth-coming charity album Music to Inspire – Artists UNited Against Human Trafficking.  It’s to be released on January 31.  In other Garbage news the band also recently revealed a limited edition of their forth-coming autobiography ‘This Is The Noise That Keeps Me Awake’ which for the first 1000 copies sold will be signed by the band and come with an exclusive vinyl consisting of 6 unreleased live recordings as well as a presentation box.  I some how managed to nab one of the first 1000 so am ridiculously looking forward to July when it will finally be in my hands!

Having been unwell last week and the week before I haven’t really been in the right mood to play games or watch movies, and have mostly spent my spare time chilling.  However now better I’ve been getting back into the sublime The Last Guardian which from the maker’s of cult PlayStation games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, is a breath of fresh air in an industry full of shooters and well, violent games like Grand Theft Auto and Mafia 3.  I love the exploration, puzzle solving and the look of the fantasy world the game inhabits, and well the icing on the cake is the unique concept of a little boy and his enormous dog / bird-like creature – the two having to work together and rely on each other to get through the world in one piece.  Seven years in the making, many rumours of it’s cancellation and the end result is everything I could have hoped for.  I’m also towards the end of Gears of War 4 to go back to a gun-obsessed kill-fest but hey, this series has really struck a cord with me and the fourth entry is just as action packed and gorgeous as the other games and I’m enjoying it a great deal.  However I’ve never been able to gel with the multi-player, which granted has become a big part of the franchise but I’m sorry…I just don’t find it ‘fun’. 

The Last Guardian

There’s also several movies I’d like to see but haven’t got around to as of yet.  The Golden Globe winning La La Land and also Passengers, Hackshaw Ridge and especially the imminent Trainspotting 2 are all on my radar.  Hopefully you’ll get to see reviews of all of these at some stage, so keep your eyes pealed.

That’s all from me for now.  Until nest time.

Craig.

Still not a music blog


A sort of follow up to that other blog post I did a while back regarding the music that has shaped the person I am today, but focusing on what music I’ve been listening to of late.  Garbage continue to be at the forefront of my thoughts of course, they’re my favourite band and continue to announce new things, touring and most recently an autobiography.  However Tuesday marked the release of their latest music video, namely for the song ‘Magnetized’ … not my favourite from their recent album ‘Strange Little Birds’ but has grown on me over the last couple of months with this perfectly freaky and bizarre video only adding to it’s growing appeal.  It’s certainly I’d say the best video the band have released in a along time, and it seems with this album Shirley Manson and the guys are really pushing the boat out.  See for yourself below.

Outside of Garbage I also recently went for the 3 month free trial of Apple Music and am finding it a great way to discover new music and listen to albums I’d previously been hesitating over, finding some real gems along the way.  The one album that has particularly impressed is ‘Every Open Eye’ from Scottish threesome Chvrches.  Electro-pop feel good anthems backed up by Lauren Mayberry’s amazing vocals and some technical wizardly with the music.

every-open-eye_thumb.jpg

Also I am really enjoying the similarly synth/electro vibes of Kristin Kontrol’s ‘X-Communicate’ (for those unfamiliar, Kristin was formerly Dee Dee of the Dum Dum Girls and also supported the aforementioned Garbage during some dates of that band’s current tour).  As if going for a hat-trick too, another electro-pop album I’ve been enjoying is Ladyhawke’s ‘Wild Things’.

The above has been a good, if slightly similar start to trying to explore music more, have a little more variety and well, just have a good time with what is feeling like a bit of a new world for me … so, you may start seeing more music themed posts in the future.

This is still not a music blog though.

Home entertainment setup – bedroom


Thought I’d give you all a quick look at my current entertainment set up for playing games, watching movies etc. in my bedroom.  The set up consists of my Garbage ahem… ‘shrine’ with my photo with the band I got after seeing them in London a couple of months back, as well as my 32″ Sony LED TV, my Denon sound system, my Q-Acoustic Speakers, My Beats Solo 2 headphones, my PS4 and my Xbox One.  You’ll also find various Blu-rays dotted around, some Funko Pop characters from various movies and my anime statue collection.