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.

Advertisements

2016 a look back


Regular visitors to this blog will already know what my major highlight of 2016 was … hey, I still can’t stop talking about it.  Yes it was going to watch my favourite band Garbage perform at the Troxy theatre in London and to actually meet them.  Wow, I still pinch myself that it actually happened but it did and I feel so proud of myself for achieving a true dream of mine.  Their latest studio album ‘Strange Little Birds’ also impressed.

garbage troxy

Other than that event, I think 2016 has been a decent year for quality movies, something that will be reflected in my end of year Top Ten coming on New Years Eve (make sure you check back here then!).  But it hasn’t all been great.  There’s also been a number of disappointments and rubbish I’ve had to sit through just to bring my opinion to you, my readers.  Particular disappointments include the rather poor Legend, a new movie about the British gangsters Ronnie & Reggie Kray, and despite the casting of Tom Hardy in both roles, this was a borderline insulting Hollywood-isation of a violent and gritty true story that was done so much better when the Kemp brothers from Spandau Ballet did it in the early nineties.  I really didn’t get much out of The Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar! either, which should have been a fun, fascinating snapshot of old Hollywood, but had a limp script and a confusing plot that just felt like a slog despite good production values.  Also along the way I felt underwhelmed by Deadpool … probably the most hyped and acclaimed comic book movie of the year that left me a little ‘meh’ despite finding it funny, it just seemed a bit of a one note show.  The summer also brought with it some further disappointments … let’s all agree that Batman V Superman could have been better, and well, wasn’t Suicide Squad a let down, promising so much and delivered so little?  I wasn’t that impressed with Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! either – a deflating spiritual follow up to his classic Dazed & Confused.

deadpool

It was also the year that I tried to branch out, listen to more music (not just the aforementioned band) and discovered new artists like Kristin Kontrol, PVRIS and Against The Current … yeah, thankyou Apple Music.  So broadening my horizons has been fun, even if in the music industry it has been sad to see the passing of legends such as David Bowie and Prince this year.  With that said, the music industry continues to irritate me however and I find myself left cold by much of today’s most popular music (Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and to an extent Gwen Stefani all delivered rather ‘average’ albums despite plenty of publicity and hype).  Yet I find solace in those artists existing outside of the heavily publicised, record label controlled mainstream and well, there’s some really good stuff to find if you’re willing to look beyond what you’re told to listen to.

game of thrones

On the TV route highlights of the year for me have definitely been the last season of Game of Thrones, arguably the best yet and some of the best TV I’ve witnessed all year.  I also got a lot of enjoyment out of House of Cards (I’m still behind…currently on season 3).  Daredevil was also good, despite a slow start.  However the big surprise this year has been just how good West World turned out to be, of which I’m due to watch the final episode any day now.    Orange Is The New Black was underwhelming this year though and despite some shocks towards the end, really needs to step up it’s writing and characterisation for the next season or I can see myself switching off.

titanfall 2

Oh and hasn’t it been a packed year for videogames?  I enjoyed and completed the following:  Uncharted 4, Deus Ex Mankind Divided and Titan Fall 2 … but have played many other titles, some of which have been too huge to finish (yet) or have caused me to lose interest.  One such game like that has been The Division, which managed to lose it’s appeal after a while and I haven’t gone back to it in ages … something I can’t say for the similar Destiny which with it’s expansions and still-intriguing concept keeps on pulling me back even two years since release.  The news of updated versions of current systems wasn’t so good however, having spent a great deal of money on owning the PS4 and Xbox One only to have the advent of PS4 Pro and Xbox One Scorpio to eventually replace them.  But for now I’m still happy with what I’ve got and will continue to be until games stop getting released for these machines.

I wanted with this post to touch on the various things that have interested me and stood out for good or bad this year and with that I’ll sign off for now.  There’s some more reviews on the horizon and of course my end of year Top Ten.  So watch this space for much more soon.

Craig.