A week of 2011 has gone by and I haven’t finished my listings yet! Oh gosh! As we all know, a new year means we all have to list things in order of preference. So here, fellow humans, are my favourite things of 2010, listed in order of preference, in a few different categories of interest. If you fancy comparing, here’s last year’s.
Hmmm. There hasn’t, for me, been a perfect album in the last year. I sort of knew which one my winner would be, but even that came as a slight disappointment, with an odd choice of track listing given some of the excellent stuff on the EPs that preceded it. Still, it’s the album I’m listening to most at the moment, and the one whose songs are most frequently stuck in my head.
RUNNER UP: Sleigh Bells – Treats
Phill Cameron introduced me to Sleigh Bells earlier this year, just before the album was released. I went to see them live shortly afterwards, and it was rubbish. Treats absolutely relies on the fearless, dirty, horrendous production. The bass is huge. It’s all huge. It’s powerful and wonderful and gloriously stupid. A fantastic debut.
RUNNER UP: Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
More reserved than Ys, less catchy than The Milk Eyed Mender, Have One On Me is probably Newsom’s most mature album. While I thought it was brilliant on first listen, it’s not the one I’d put on now, probably instead opting for Ys, then Mender, then this. There are some outstanding moments on this record, and it’s very carefully constructed. But, as a triple album, it’s just far too long, with far too many forgettable tracks. Still great, tellingly.
WINNER: Robyn – Body Talk
I can’t believe that Dancehall Queen is on it when Criminal Intent isn’t. That’s just an utterly barmy decision. Dancehall Queen is an awful track, while Criminal Intent is the best of the Body Talk EP songs. However, Body Talk is still a remarkable effort by Robyn. Five years since her eponymous previous record, it’s not quite the perfect follow-up I’d hoped for. Robyn is still a considerably more impressive piece of work. But Body Talk, more straight-up pop than before, still retains Robyn’s wondrous quirkiness, and there are some glorious melodies and lyrics on display. Ace.
An easy winner this year, and you’re going to hate me for it. I promise I am not a bad person.
RUNNER UP: Sleigh Bells – Infinity Guitars
Firstly, it’s called Infinity Guitars. Infinity Guitars! The other Sleigh Bells single, Tell Them, wasn’t called Infinity Guitars. It is the one I loved more immediately. But Infinity Guitars is called Infinity Guitars. More than that, though, it builds slowly, cautiously, despite the raucous distortion. And then, at the end, the bass. Oh, the bass! The bass, which turns up at an odd moment, halfway through the second bar of a phrase, and knocks down your entire fucking house. It’s wonderful.
RUNNER UP: Robyn – Dancing On My Own
I’m still not entirely sure that this is the Robyn song I want to pick. I just changed it from Indestructible, for example, and I almost considered Hang With Me at one point. All Robyn’s 2010 singles have been absolutely brilliant, perfectly constructed pop tunes. But Dancing On My Own is the one. Lyircally, it’s simple and just a tad emo, but it’s a sentiment we all know. The melody fits it perfectly. Seeing it live with Matthew Lee would have been even better had all the people in the crowd not drowned out Robyn’s own gorgeous voice.
WINNER: Ke$ha – Tik Tok
No, wait, come back. Please don’t go. Look, I can explain.
Actually, no, I don’t think I can. Not again. Just have a read of this, and try to see where I’m coming from.
Computerised Electronic Video Games
I’m still waiting for a year in which there’s a game that completely trounces every other for me. One of those hasn’t happened in quite a number of years. Most people would probably say that was Mass Effect 2 in 2010, but meh. The winner of this category came so, so close to being that game. When I reviewed it, I gave it the highest score I’ve ever awarded in my time as a games journalist. That felt good.
RUNNER UP: Digital: A Love Story
Christine Love’s hour-long freebie melted my previously ice-solid heart. It’s a sort of love story version of System Shock 2, dropped into a game that’s like Uplink without all the uplinking. There is such minimal interaction, but that interaction draws you into the game perfectly. And the story itself is beautiful in its simplicity, and truly heartbreaking in its conclusion. This is an astonishing achievement for its solo developer.
RUNNER UP: Stalker: Call of Pripyat
The second Stalker game, Clear Sky, had some great ideas. But it was as broken as a snapped stick. Call of Pripyat rectified all those problems, maintained the spectacular atmosphere, and told quite a brave story to boot. As in, it didn’t. It threw in a load of elements, some mysteries and creepiness, but never felt the need to tie everything up. Instead, it showed you a snapshot of life in the Chernobyl Zone, and it was as terrifying and moving as you could expect.
Oh, how I loved Limbo. I played through this in a single sitting for a review, and was captivated from the moment I began playing until those glass-shattering final seconds. Contrary to what quite a few people have said, I didn’t think the ending was a let down at all. It turned from puzzle game to high-tempo platformer, but the tension and atmosphere ramped up remarkably. For me, it never outstayed its welcome. And it was, of course, easily the most beautiful game of the year – all greyscale gorgeousness. An easy Game of the Year.
Every year, I say I need to watch more new films. Then every year, I spend most of my movie-watching time catching up on stuff from the previous year. I really should see more films. The cinema is too expensive. So here’s my favourite stuff in a year where I didn’t watch Toy Story 3 or The Social Network.
RUNNER UP: Youth in Revolt
A lovely film, and one that shows that there’s life in Michael Cera after he graduates from looking about 15. Here, he plays an awkward teenager again. But he also plays his invented alter-ego, a moustached, cigarette smoking smoothy called Francois. And he plays it perfectly, breathing so much life into a quirky but actually fairly standard film. I enjoyed this one heck of a lot more than I expected to.
RUNNER UP: Machete
Machete! Machete! It’s an absolutely bonkers film which my girlfriend, Nia, introduced me to. A Grindhouse spin-off, it’s a film about people’s arms and legs being chopped off and loads of blood gushing out. Starring a whole bunch of famous faces, it still manages to present itself with a gloriously authentic low-budgetness, which only adds to the madness of what’s going on on-screen. A marvellously silly picture.
It’s the obvious choice. Inception is a complex film, but it’s a story told with such clarity. I did not understand the reviews that claimed it was difficult to follow. I found it to be the exact opposite, a film executed with absolutely perfect internal logic, but still managing to twist around unexpectedly in several places. Ellen Page, disappointingly, is a bit nothingy in it. But DiCaprio is outstanding, making up for it. It’s also super-cool while still being incredibly cerebral, and exactly the sort of film I needed to see at the time that I saw it.
Some thoughts on 2010
Man, what a year. Which I kinda say every year, but I think it’s kind of warranted this time.
The story is that I expected to be living elsewhere by now, but those plans went to shit. I’d also planned to blog once a day throughout 2010’s entirety, which also went to shit. It would have served an interesting purpose, though: to track the steady stream of changes, and see what and how exactly everything came to be the way it is now. I’m being a bit nonspecific, because – frankly – it’s none of your business. But it does lead on to what I want to say about 2010:
It’s been a fantastic year.
Which is unlikely. You kind of assume that major, unexpected and essentially negative alterations in your life will lead to a bad year. However, this year, they haven’t. They’ve been the kick up the backside I needed to get on with everything, and to actually make some stuff happen for myself.
So in 2010 I finished my degree and, instead of getting a rubbish job somewhere, decided to register as self-employed. I’ve been writing words for money for a couple of years now, but never in anything more than a pocket money capacity until this June. At which point I decided to take a real punt on this freelance thing. And around the same time, I landed the BeefJack gig – a part-time but secure retainer deal that sees me pocketing enough money to sort rent and bills, with my freelancing racking up my additional funds. Which, while I’m by no means rolling in cash, has worked surprisingly well. I’m able to pay my own way by writing about computer games. That’s such a wonderful thing to be able to finally say.
I’m still in Leeds, for now. I hope to be in London by this time next year. I’ve ended up moving in with a truly great friend of many years, the first time we’ve lived together. And I’ve met someone very special, whom I’m very happy with. Yeah, I’m being soppy. I think, if there’s one time you’re allowed to do that, it’s when you’re being sentimental about the year just passed.
I spent New Year’s Eve in the company of marvellous friends, drinking marvellous drinks, in a marvellous house. After we went home and things died down, Nia and I stayed up for most of the night, just talking about stuff. It was nice. It made me happy about the year to come.
I’m not doing the One A Day blog thing this year, but I have embarked upon an equally ludicrously ambitious writing project. Ssh, I’m not talking about it yet. But hopefully I’ll see it through. Let’s see what happens, huh?
Happy New Year, everyone. You’re all beautiful. Except those of you who aren’t, in which case, bad luck.