My 2017 – a look back (part two)


As I learnt writing the last look-back, 2017 has been a pretty packed year as far as entertainment is concerned, and there’s been plenty of highlights over the months.  So continuing this little bit of nostalgia, I thought I’d give a portion of this to my music highlights of the year, of which there have been many.

In the summer, Garbage made a return to the stage going on the road with the iconic Blondie for their co-headlining ‘Rage and Rapture’ tour which over 20+ dates travelled the United States and from what I hear was a roaring success.  During the tour Garbage released a stand alone single, the politically charged ‘No Horses’ accompanied by a powerful, hard-hitting video (see below).  It was another belter of a track from my favourite band, but wasn’t the only highlight of the year for me…

PVRISIndie electro-rock band PVRIS returned with their second album ‘All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell’, and it was a step up from their impressive debut and cemented them as a new, unique voice in my music landscape.  Add to this British four piece Wolf Alice also delivered their second album ‘Visions Of Life’, and like PVRIS it was an improvement over their debut and a haunting, artistic experience full of emotion and effective songs that has made them one of my favourites.  A couple of more veteran artist also released new material and although I don’t listen to everything out there, I am glad to have discovered Paramour with their fun, energetic album ‘After Laughter’ proving worthwhile.  I was also happy to see the return of possible my favourite female solo artist Kelly Clarkson and her latest release ‘Meaning of Life’ really impressed and proved this singer still had it after her previous, otherwise forgettable ‘Piece by Piece’ album.

Well back to the movies and such…

July to December

As the blockbuster season continued, I didn’t get around to all the big hitters but was pleased to see the latest of one of the best franchises around right now, War For The Planet Of The Apes which again proved powerful and exciting with stunning effects.  Less engrossing but still fun was the rather hypoed but run-of-the-mill Baby Driver.  Adding to the disappointment was the surprisingly un-engaging Christopher Nolan WWII drama Dunkirk which for a war movie directed by one of the best around, proved strangely boring and lacking in character or spectacle.  It sure was ‘pretty’ though.

war-planet-apes

Get Out was a rather unsettling thriller and an interesting take on the racial tension subject, and hyped book adaptation Girl On The Train was an enthralling mystery with a great central performance from Emily Blunt.  One of my favourite directors, Park-chan Wook returned with The Handmaiden, an erotic period movie that although a tad drawn out was an engrossing love-triangle thriller.  Mark Wahlberg’s based on true events thriller Patriots Day was also powerful and gripping, whilst Jake Gyllenhaal sci-fi thriller Life was particularly effective and scarily-relevant.  August finished up with one of my personal horror highlights of the year, the far better than it should have been sequel Annabelle Creation.

Twin Peaks

Around this time I also watched the highly anticipated and very long awaited new season of Twin Peaks.  This was probably one of my most perplexing, strangely gratifying and definitely unique experiences of the year.  David Lynch’s magnificently bizarre and utterly surreal 18 episode ‘TV event’ is still something I am trying to piece together in my head even months after finishing it.  I had the box set for Christmas so may well be diving back in.  That ending though….yeesh.

French cannibal horror / coming of age drama Raw  proved effective if disturbing and distasteful but has certainly stuck in my head.  However, the latest entry in a once beloved saga, Alien Covenant was very underwhelming, having more in common with the tiresome Prometheus than the Alien movies.  Then I stumbled upon Netflix movie Gerald’s Game, a surprising, engrossing and creepy-as-hell Stephen King Adaptation.

I finished (at least the story) of the highly acclaimed and heavily hyped The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and as if testament to just how much fun and appealing that game was and still is to me, I still find myself going back to finish every shrine, find every weapon and do at least the majority of side-quests.  I even recently purchased the season pass.  Yeah I can’t get enough of this game.

Super Mario Odyssey CappyThe highly anticipated Blade Runner 2049 disappointed, with a plodding pace, forgettable visuals and was only marginally saved by a good turn from Harrison Ford.  However all was not lost as November rolled around and the much anticipated Super Mario Odyssey was finally released … and proved to be everything I had hoped it would be.  Add to this I finally got my hands on the highly acclaimed Japanese animation Your Name which proved to be a decidedly clever and thought-provoking body-swap drama.

So we come to December and particular stand-outs were Despicable Me 3 and the otherwise maligned Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  Bigger name movies like Spider-Man Homecoming and even Star Wars The Last Jedi didn’t fair as well for me but still had their moments.  With Christmas upon us again, I always enjoy writing these look backs and considering the movies that will eventually make up my Top Ten.  I’ll have that particular post out on New Years Eve, so please drop by then and check it out.

I also managed to get my hands on a new phone.  Previously and for about 3 years I’ve had the Samsung S6.  However now I have the recently released iPhone 8, which I’m loving so far and along with my iPad, that’s me all Apple’d-up going into the year ahead.

So there we have it.  That was my 2017 in two big entertainment nutshells.

Roll on 2018.

Craig.

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Garbage – Strange Little Birds


(updated 24/06/2016)  After a long wait the one album I have been looking forward to for the last few years has finally landed.  Yes ladies and gentlemen my favourite band Garbage are back … and could this be one of the best things they have ever created?  Let’s see…

Garbage logoAfter extensive play over the last two weeks I can confidently say this is a particularly polished, quality album from the alt-rock pioneers who first made waves back in 1995.  21 years later and Garbage have still got it, even to the point of further developing their sound to create something with a well defined mood through the whole album, which I feel the band hasn’t totally nailed in years.  Strange Little Birds tells a story of obsession, jealousy, regret and eventually hope.  It’s really quite powerful.  Personal highlights include the sublime rock-ballad ‘Night Drive Loneliness’, the powerhouse anthem ‘So We Can Stay Alive’, moody stadium rocker ‘Blackout’, and the heart-breaking ‘Even Though Our Love Is Doomed’ – but really I like every track and I haven’t felt that way since Version 2.0.  ‘Sometimes’ whilst possibly my least go-to track, is still a perfectly ominous opening and powerfully introduces ‘Empty’, which is the most radio-friendly track at least as far as today’s radio songs go.  Yet there’s a lot of potential here for singles; Night Drive being an obvious one as well as ‘If I lost You’ with it’s decidedly Madonna-like chorus.  I also really enjoy the slightly trippy vibe to ‘Teaching Little Fingers To Play’.  I should also add the closing, suitably epic ‘Amends’ makes me think of a moody western about a woman seeking redemption.

25.-Garbage

‘Magnetized’ is possibly the only track on the album I don’t totally enjoy … but I still like aspects of it.  Also the subjects explored, despite best intentions are not exactly new ground for this band.  However it’s the delivery and the craft that impresses most.  It’s also an album that left me wanting more … no bad thing, but I’d have loved a couple more tracks than the 11 we get here.  So overall, stellar work from Shirley Manson and her band mates; musicians & producers Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson.  You’ve proved the nay-sayers rather foolish indeed and have delivered some of the best work of your career.  I’d say Strange Little Birds will surprise a lot of people, critics especially, and in this homogenized, cookie-cutter musical landscape we find ourselves in – that’s a very good thing indeed.

Verdict:  4 /5

My music memories


I have thought this might be a good idea for a post for a while.  It’s very much off topic for this Blog but then this is MY blog and I guess I can write about whatever I want … so let’s take a look back at the singers and bands / artists who have meant the most to me throughout my life.  My tastes have varied wildly and I see I have never been just into one type of music, but many genres and styles.  Hardcore music fans may cringe at some of my choices here but rest assured I’m being honest and every name mentioned still means something to me even if my interest in them in some cases has lessened over the years for whatever reason.

Michael Jackson

michael jackson

I grew up loving his music, his dancing and his music videos.  He was as a kid to me, the epitome of cool and although his standing was wilted over the years due to the controversies and accusations, I still can’t skip a song of his when it appears of the radio or my brother throws one of his on the stereo system.  I have his greatest hits on my i-pod and although with his death I’ve sometimes found it difficult to listen to his music, I still find myself going back to the greats like ‘Smooth Criminal’, ‘Thriller’ and ‘Billy Jean’ from time to time.

John Lennon / The Beatles

john lennonI’m an admirer of The Beatles but more of John Lennon both as a cultural icon and for his solo music.  I have found his songs incredibly thought-provoking and meaningful and also find much of The Beatles back catalogue as iconic as everyone has said them to be.  They are as a band a bit before my time, but during my early years Lennon’s solo songs like ‘Imagine’ or ‘Woman’ seemed to strike a cord and still do.

Abba

abbaI loved and still love Abba … the writing talents of Benny and Bjorn and the incredible vocal performances of Anni-fred and Agnetha.  Timeless songs with a lot of meaning and well, their stuff is legendary and incredibly enjoyable.  They were fantastic performers, icons and their music deserves to last forever.  I think songs like ‘Super Trooper’. ‘Does Your Mother Know?’ and ‘Chiquitita’ will remain firm favourites of mine forever.

Bananarama

bananaramaForget The Spice Girls, this was the first really popular girl group if you don’t count The Supremes.  I loved this band and enjoyed a lot of their music over the years even following several line up changes.  Catchy pop songs like ‘Venus’, ‘Cruel Summer’ and the powerful ‘Robert DeNiro’s Waiting’ are firm recommendations.  What can I say I’m a sucker for a catchy pop song and not many had as many as this band.

Belinda Carlisle

belinda carlisleI love a strong female vocalist and I think in the 80s Belinda Carlisle was one of the best, and doesn’t really get the appreciation she deserves beyond the universal love for ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’.  She had some great songs and her best of is very enjoyable and packed with solid tracks and good song writing.  My favourites would be ‘Circle In The Sand’, ‘Summer Rain’ and ‘Leave A Light On’.

Kylie Minogue

kylie monogueI can’t say I have loved her entire career, but there was a time in the nineties and some of her early 2000 stuff where she had some amazing songs.  She’s a bit of a early boyhood crush of mine too and when she transformed from pop-princess into pop-vixen, I was sold.  Favourites are ‘What Do I Have To Do’, ‘Better The Devil You Know’ and ‘I can’t Get You Out Of My Head’.

The KLF

the klfThis short lived band in my opinion were my first real obsession.  A creative and unique duo of music producers who had their own style and experimented with sound and music like nothing else around at the time.  They only had one album and a handful of chart songs but tracks like ‘3am Eternal’, ‘Last Train To Transcentral’ and ‘What Time Is Love’ still for me, pack a hell of a punch.

Britney Spears

britney spearsYep, I love pop music and some of Britney’s stuff is still some of the best I’ve ever heard.  Dancey and catchy and with tons of sex appeal.  Spears for me was sort of a guilty pleasure but I don’t care and still love songs like ‘Oops I did It Again’, ‘Baby One More Time’ and ‘Toxic’.  I think it’s a real shame she’s never quite got back that midas touch she once seemed to have.


I think as the nineties came around and such eras as Brit Pop became all the rage I think I discovered music on a more serious basis.  Looking back I would never put music as high as movies or video games in my interests, but at this particular time and as I matured and life became more involved and about responsibilities and work etc. … music hit home more personally than ever before.

Radiohead

radiohead

One of the most acclaimed and influential British bands of all time and multi-award winning for especially their albums ‘OK Computer’ and ‘The Bends’.  There are songs on these albums that have struck a cord both emotionally and sonically.  Thom York’s vocals are at times heart-breaking, even if I can’t say I always understand what he is singing about.  But something about this band went deeper than maybe any other band ever has.  Sad then that they’ve never really seemed to hit the highs of these two albums since.  Favourite songs are: ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, ‘High and Dry’ and of course their industry defining ‘Creep’.

The Manic Street Preachers

manic street preachers

Guitar rock at it’s finest.  Catchy, rebellious and iconic.  Songs such as ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ and ‘A Design For Life’ are genuine classics and rock the house down, and with a troubled history such as Guitarist Richey Edwards’ disappearance their legacy and stamp on British music should not go ignored.  Still making music today and I’d love to see them live.

Oasis

oasis

Who wasn’t into Oasis at this time?  Liam Gallagher’s swagger, their don’t give a shit attitude, their slightly misjudged belief they were the next Beatles, the squabbles but most importantly – the music.  For a brief period Oasis could do no wrong and although I feel I have moved on from their style, tracks like ‘Live Forever’, ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ and ‘Roll With It’ will always be favourites.  They did a lot for British music at the time and seemed to really put us on the map back in the day, and Noel Gallagher continues to still be an icon.

Garbage

garbage

What Can I say that I haven’t already said about this band?  At the time I was searching for a band that I could follow and for twenty years (off and on), I have never looked back.  I wouldn’t say they quite made a mark on the industry like some of the other artists I’ve mentioned here, but for me personally with my love of dance beats, guitar rock and female vocalists, Garbage brought all my tastes together in one perfect combination.  They still manage to surprise and excite me even five albums later…and I can’t say that about any other band.    Favourite tracks are ‘Why Do You Love Me?’, ‘Only Happy When It Rains’ and ‘Queer’ among many more.

Avril Lavigne

avril lavigne

Never before has an artist so let me down when I loved her so much.  Her first and second albums were ahead of her years, angst-filled classics with stand out tracks like ‘Sk8terboy’, ‘My Happy Ending’ and ‘Nobody’s Home’ but then she just seemed to turn into a silly teenybopper, which she never really was.  People once compared her to Alanis Morrisette and that was justified, but hasn’t been for many years.  Like Britney Spears she once could do no wrong.  A real shame in my opinion.

Pink

pink

I think there was a time when Pink’s style of attitude driven pop was all the rage and her brand of two finger salute female sass seemed to work fantastically in a way similar artist alike Katy Perry haven’t quite managed to do justice.  Songs like ’Don’t let Me Get Me’, ‘Just Like A Pill’ and ‘U + Ur Hand’ will liven up any party.  I think she’s failed to really re-capture that sound and attitude since which is a shame, but for a moment there she kicked all sorts of ass.

Kelly Clarkson

kelly clarkson

One of the best female vocalists I have ever heard who can effortlessly jump genres and is equally suited to rock, pop and love songs.  Her latest album ‘Piece By Piece’ may have been a bit of a let down but for a while and hopefully for a long time to come she has been my favourite female solo singer.  Favourites include ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, ‘Because Of You’ and ‘Stronger’.


Today, I can’t say I’m as strongly into music as I was during the nineties and early 2000’s, and my focus is less diverse as I try and fail to seek out new bands I can get into.  I still find myself listening to a variety of bands like R.E.M. The Foo Fighters, Green Day, Placebo and singers like Lenka and James Morrison, but can’t say I really listen to them all that much.  As much as I feel the need to branch out from my obsession with Garbage, they currently fill a musical gap in my hobbies meaning I’ll probably remain fixed on them … for now.  The above however should give readers here a clear idea of my tastes and where I’m coming from when I say I like a certain song or band.  As I said I don’t focus on a particular type of music but a catchy song, a great beat or guitar riff will sell me every time.

Ziggy Stardust has gone to the stars


Well, I was shocked and saddened today to hear of the passing of music and culture icon / legend David Bowie.  Apparently he had been battling cancer for the past 18 months, but his illness was kept out of the media.  He also released his latest album ‘Blackstar’ last week to much critical acclaim.

I wouldn’t say I was a fan in the traditional sense, and much of his main output was either before my time or when I was a lot younger.  However I have always respected him as a talent and the impact he has had on modern culture and music as a whole.  He was one of a kind and will be sorely missed the world over.  My thoughts go out to his family and those closest to him.David Bowie

R.I.P.

Update


Movie Night

What have I been up to lately?  Well I can’t recall if I had mentioned this but over the last few months I’ve begun a ‘movie night’ with my Dad.  Each Tuesday we watch a movie and have some popcorn.  It’s nice and also an excuse to get some movie watching in.  It’s not always a new movie though so sometimes I don’t have a review to post afterwards.  Last Tuesday was such a case, as we watched the horror ‘Oculus’ which I previously reviewed.  Again I enjoyed it and my Dad got a lot out of it too.  So in coming weeks you may get to see more reviews, but if there is a lull, it’s probably down to us watching something I’ve already reviewed (I have ‘John Wick’ lined up for Tuesday).

metal-gear-solid-5-the-phantom-painIn other news I have been playing a great deal of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.  It’s my first proper stab at a Metal Gear game since Metal Gear Solid 2, and even though I purchased Metal Gear Solid 3, I didn’t play it all that much, and I skipped Metal Gear Solid 4.  What do I think of this latest entry?  Like many games these days, it’s open world and huge, with side quests (ops) and a large storyline that I am only really touching the surface of.  Graphically it’s pretty lush.  The wildlands of Afghanistan are immensely detailed and atmospheric and look fantastic, especially with sand storms, day to night cycle and great textures, lighting and effects – even if the water is a bit last-gen.  I like the concept of mother base too, your hub location where you can build up your army (from kidnapping enemy soldiers) and adding to the facilities for developing better equipment for use in the field.  It’s very absorbing stuff.  It also plays really well.  Metal Gear pretty much invented the stealth genre and the ideas here work superbly, with the Fulton delivery system (the ability to attach a balloon to a knocked out enemy, animal or piece of equipment, and immediately send it back to mother base) proving a great deal of fun.  That’s not to say it’s easy as the game takes no prisoners if you get discovered, and the intelligent enemies will hunt you down and nine times out of ten, end your game swiftly.  I’m having a great time with it, but like I said – it’s still early days.

I also got my hands on Gears of War: Ultimate Editon, which looks great…it was always a very well made shooter and had some good characters and a great concept.  The gameplay hasn’t aged badly at all and you can see how the game has influenced a ton of games since it came out, especially with the rock-solid cover-mechanic and the satisfying gunplay.  Graphically it’s quite a step-up from the original, and the textures, lighting and everything looks really good.  I’d say some of the design; of the characters and levels has moved on a bit, but it’s still worth revisiting.

Garbage-20Other than this, I’m still in run up mode to November, where two things are happening…firstly on November 9th I finally get to see in concert my favourite band of all-time ‘Garbage’ of which it’s a special 20th anniversary tour to celebrate the anniversary of their debut album, and loads of things are happening online at the moment, such as regular updates on the band’s Twitter, Facebook, Periscope and Instagram accounts, as well as a re-release of the album in special packaging, on CD, Vinyl and digital complete with remixes, b-sides and specially re-mastered versions of the individual tracks.  I obviously have stuff pre-ordered, and am looking forward to it a great deal.  Next up is my 40th birthday on the 14th.  Now I’m not big on fuss or attention, it can make me uncomfortable…but hey I’m hitting the big 4-0 so may as well make the most of it.  Not sure what that’s going to be right now, but as I’ll be in London leading up to it, that’s a good a start as any.

On TV I’ve been finishing up season 3 of Orange Is The New Black which has once again been great.  I’m also watching Game of Thrones (currently working my way through season 3) and Australian prison drama Wentworth, which I highly recommend.

orange

I’m sitting here also at the start of a week off from work.  Damn work has felt gruelling of late.  I’ve also got my head in a slightly better place than it’s seemed to have been in a while.  Depression, thoughts of things that have happened to me in the past etc. can linger and it’s easy to wallow in it, but it never does me any good or solves anything … so even though moving completely on seems like the hardest thing to do some days, I’m trying my hardest.  I really am.  Having good work colleagues and a job I enjoy and a good family around me helps a great deal and makes me wake up to myself.

So here’s to relaxing, watching movies, playing games and a few days out.  I’m looking forward to it!