Favourite Music of 2018

Last year I wrote about eleven new songs that I had fallen for. This year, this post is a little late coming because I wasn’t too sure whether I had much to write about. I listen to music every day, but unlike film, I don’t always actively keep on top of it. New albums and songs pass me by quite often. Years go by and I’ll still be discovering what is relatively old music by my favourite artists.

As such, it hasn’t been a particularly fresh year for me, music-wise. At least not yet. I have listened to more music in 2018 than I did in any of the previous five years, but I have only five new songs that I would like to share. Nonetheless, like my film list, I wanted to try and make my music favourites a yearly occurrence, whether I have many or not.

I find myself gravitating heavily toward alternative and indie artists these days, and I always have a love for an infusion of electronic sounds. Though I am rarely inimical to any genre. I hope you’ll find these choices worthwhile, whether they’re to your tastes or not.


Girl of the Year by Allie X (YouTube)184

Allie X is one of the few artists I do keep up with, and one I’m happy to say I discovered very early on, upon the release of her X extended-play in 2014. I’ve listened to her every year since, and find she always puts out an impressive collective, charged with rousing vocals amid an exhilarating medley of electropop and indie sounds.

I found the introduction and interlude a little obscure, but the rest of the material on Allie’s fourth extended-play Super Sunset fully exhibits her talent. That said, the absolute stand-out for me is Girl of the Year, a stupendously catchy song which I find difficult to play at any other volumes besides maximum.

The song’s energy is similar perhaps to something like Prime, but the lyrics aren’t as upbeat. I love the variance between the tuneful beat and the plaintive verses. As much as I love Allie the singer, I love Allie the songwriter. I still wish for a full-length album.

Favourite Verse
There’s a hollow inside you
And it won’t disappear
Oh no, baby the way we work
We’ve got about a year


All Girls Are the Same by Juice WRLD (YouTube)185

I am very fond of a couple of rap and hip hop artists, but it isn’t typically my most studious genre. That said, I discovered Juice WRLD on a complete whim through his song Legends and instantly fell in love with the combined rhythm and emotion. Like Girl of the Year (though very different musically) it is at once catchy and melancholic.

Legends, from the extended-play Too Soon, which was dedicated to Lil Peep and XXXTentacion, remains my most played song by the rapper, but I slowly found myself growing more fond of All Girls Are the Same from his debut album Goodbye and Good Riddance, largely because of the lyric content.

Of the album, Juice WRLD stated that he was “trying to make music to help people through their situations and tell them about some of my own,” and revealed that the content was all genuine. I think he achieved this tremendously. There’s a lot of affinity I find with this song and I think, when a piece effects you to such a degree, it is surely worthy of note. The rapper explicates his mindset in such a fluent and ingenious way that, when listening through the album, I often go back just to hear this one song again.

Favourite Verse
All this jealousy and agony that I sit in
I’m a jealous boy, really feel like John Lennon
I just want real love, guess it’s been a minute
Pissed off from the way that I don’t fit in


The Death of Me by Meg Myers (YouTube)186

Like Allie X, I discovered Meg Myers around the time of her debut, the Daughter in the Choir extended-play. Curbstomp and Monster were my favourites for a long time, and then came Desire, Make a Shadow, and Heart Heart Head. It took me a little while to warm to The Death of Me from her second album, but eventually I fell for it so entirely.

I adore the harmony between Meg’s enchanting intensity and the depth of Christian Langdon’s voice, whom she duets with. There’s a brilliant melody in the contrast, which reminded me of some tracks by Angelzoom (the solo project of Claudia Uhle) on their self-titled debut album. I’d love to see this song performed live. I sense it’s one of those pieces that would thoroughly capture and entwine you in the excellence of it all.

There is tremendous work on Meg’s sophomore album, Take Me to the Disco. It’s infused with many musical influences, moulded heavily by the singers own experiences, which are conveyed expertly through her stunning range and powerful lyricism. Little Black Death, Numb, and Tear Me to Pieces were other stand-outs, the latter of which displays the breathtaking vehemence of her voice.

Favourite Verse
I never had it bad like this before
I gained a couple of battle scars
But I never thought I’d be losing this war
Surrender doesn’t cut it like it did before


Risk by Metric (YouTube)187

My 2018 was largely dominated by two bands, Metric being one of them. I had loved their fifth album Synthetica (released in 2012), but never quite dived into the rest of their discography. When I finally did last year, there was a wealth of plunder awaiting me. Their entire catalogue is utterly brilliant, furnished with alluring sounds and dreamy lyricism.

Metric would likely make it into my all-time favourites at this point. They have a dynamic sound — each album very distinct — yet they are wondrously consistent in the quality of their music, perhaps owing to the fact the band members themselves have been together far beyond a decade. Their talent and camaraderie shines absolutely.

Risk was my favourite from their latest release, Art of Doubt. The heavenly voice of Emily Haines is, as ever, ravishing, complemented seamlessly by the instrumentals. Yet it is the songwriting (a combined band effort, simply credited to Metric) that utterly enraptures me. I find the chorus so beautiful and so haunting. That the band are still producing stand-out tracks amongst a discography already so profound is something magnificent.

Favourite Verse
Can I send this kiss right to you now?
‘Cause the risk belongs with you somehow
Can I return this kiss that you gave?
Already know it’s borrowed anyway


Paint Me by MAMAMOO (YouTube)188

MAMAMOO were my most played artists of last year. When it comes to Korean music, I am familiar with most groups and singers, though I seldom venture from the comfy genius of this heavenly four-piece, comprised of Solar, Moonbyul, Wheein, and Hwasa (a relatively low member count for a Korean troupe).

The girl group are known for their powerful vocals, as well as their jazz and rhythm and blues influences. They put out no less than three extended-plays in 2018, each part of their ‘Four Seasons’ project, where each member has a mini-album which represents both them and a season of the year. My favourite song, Paint Me, is from their first ‘Four Season’ mini-album, Yellow Flower, which represents the youngest member, Hwasa. I actually loved this album so immediately, that I wrote about it earlier in the year.

I know Paint Me will be a controversial choice, not only within K-pop circles, but also among MAMAMOO fans. Let it be known that I adore Starry Night, Egotistic, Sleep in the Car, and No More Drama, but I find Paint Me thoroughly enrapturing. The song, which commenced their ‘Four Seasons’ enterprise, is an intoxicating ballad that swells in magnificence, and displays the undeniable energy and robustness possessed by each of the four vocalists. It’s strong in emotion and intensity and I love it.

Favourite Verse
Yellow, when you suddenly came to me
Before I knew, my heart was full
Of warmth that resembled spring
So naturally

Favourites of 2015 – TV, Video Games and Music

Here we are, another year gone by. Getting older. Self-lacing shoes never happened. This year I learned that modern humans are in fact two-hundred-thousand years old.

Anyway…

End-of-year favourites rundown! This time around, I find myself in the odd position of actually being well informed enough to write about television and video games, so I thought why not! Let’s throw in music, too. Everybody loves a good summary!

On the whole, I believe 2015 has been a fairly impressive year for television and video games. There have been some truly wonderful releases, with many more on the horizon and while music is more constant—it’s hard to pin down a golden year—and not something I’m always clued up on, there have been an abundance of critically acclaimed albums, singles and soundtracks to have graced the charts. Here are some of my favourite television shows, video games and music of 2015!


Television

I have been really into television this year, which seems to be at an all-time high with some truly stunning productions coming out. For once, I’ve been able to keep up with many of the critically acclaimed shows, though I have missed a couple such as Jessica Jones and Fargo. However, my favourite this year is actually one of the lesser know TV shows, at least outside of the UK.

It is This is England ’90.

I was ready to give this year to Mr. Robot. House of Cards‘ third season was a bit of a let-down, as was Game of Thrones up until the last couple of episodes and although the internet was raving about Daredevil, ultimately I found it rather mediocre. I adored Mr. Robot, though. Rami Malek was enthralling as troubled hacker Elliot Alderson and the writing rarely faltered — I adored Elliot’s monologues. The cinematography was also impressive, with the title sequences always unique and something to anticipate. Mr. Robot was tense, exciting and memorable and I can’t wait until the second series. Best TV show of the year, I thought.

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The first episode of This is England ’90 (the third and last in the series) was broadcast just under two weeks after the finale of Mr. Robot. It was wonderful to be back in the company of Woody, Lol, Shaun and the gang. Set two years after the previous season, the first episode was a rekindling—here’s the gang, this is where they’re at—but the subsequent three episodes delivered on the trademark hard-hitting drama. I was loving the new series from the first five minutes, but it became my favourite of the year following the third episode.

The dinner scene in episode three is quite possibly one of the finest sequences in televison history, at least to me. I’ve followed This is England since its inception in 2006 and with every new series I am left entirely shell-shocked. Not only because the drama is utterly heart-wrenching, but because the actor’s completely embody their characters. I don’t see Joe Gilgun and Vicky McClure, I see Woody and Lol. Never in anything have I been so invested in and utterly enamored with the characters — the emotions feel so raw and unfiltered, which is why the drama is completely affecting and every wrong move the characters make feels so disheartening. The dinner scene—which was filmed all in one take—left me breathless for that very reason. The emotion and drama—the pain of these characters—everything came across as so honest and real.  The talent on display was phenomenal and it was soul-destroying to watch characters you’re so invested in fall apart.

And to think there was another hard-hitting, tear-jerking, heart-rending episode still to come. You know you’ve connected with your audience when they feel like a lie down and a sob after every episode. Hats off to you, Shane Meadows. This is England is very special.


Music

I typed ‘2015 albums’ into Google and it gave me a list of the fifty most frequently mentioned albums on the web. I’ve listened to one of them. I guess I haven’t been too clued up in regards to music this year, but I still think there have been some gems.

First and foremost, I love Lana Del Rey and—naturally—I love her third album Honeymoon, which was released back in September. It’s certainly one of my favourites of the year, with my favourite track being Art Deco — the instrumentals are dark and beautiful, Lana’s voice is celestial and the throw-back to Born to Die is just perfect. However, while Lana is probably my favourite singer right now and I haven’t been so in to an artist since Sigur Rós a couple of years ago, I don’t rate Honeymoon as highly as Ultraviolence and it isn’t my absolute favourite of the year.

That honor goes to Allie X’s CollXtion I.

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Allie X has been on the scene for a while, but she grew massively in popularity last year following the release of her song Catch. This year she released her first EP and I can’t get enough of it. CollXtion I includes the best selection of synthpop since Chvrches’ first album. The stand-out tracks to me are Catch, Prime and Bitch, but my favourite has to be Good, which is one of her newest additions.

Allie said in an interview that the song was about a small flicker of hope—a desire to be good—after the focus of the song had self-exiled themselves from their life and everyone they loved. I adore the lyrics and Allie’s vocals — the first and second verses send shivers down my spine.

Interestingly, she cites Haruki Murakami as an influence, who I am a huge fan of. I was able to catch Allie on social media and asked what her favourite Murakami novel was, to which she responded 1Q84. I can definitely see a bit of Murakami not only in her music, but also in the singer herself, who is a little bit like an enigmatic Murakami character. She’s coming to the UK next year, so I’m definitely going to see her live.

But what else did I like besides CollXtion I and Honeymoon? Well, I loved No Romeo by Indiana, Ludovico Einaudi’s Elements, Dark Sky Island by Enya (worth the wait) and I enjoyed Every Open Eye by Chvrches, but following The Bones of What You Believe, I was also a little disappointed (mainly by the lack of Tether-like tracks). I’ve also fallen back in love with Radical Face following the release of The Bastards: Volume 4. I should’ve never stopped.


Video Games

I was really into video games when I was younger, but from 2010-ish until late 2014, I just didn’t really care all that much. Then, in November 2014, when—all of a sudden—Black Friday became a thing in the United Kingdom, my girlfriend suggested buying a PS4 on a whim. From then on, I played video games again.

Grand Theft Auto Online was my main go-to game for a while, with sprinkles of LittleBigPlanet 3 and Minecraft in-between, but it finally went back into its case this year as my video game catalogue grew.

April was all about The Elder Scrolls Online, which was only my second MMORPG following Rift. The following month I dedicated myself to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and then I got madly into Rocket League. I also began playing Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare — a game I had owned since launch in 2014 but never gave the time of day. I found it surprisingly fun, but also slightly frustrating at times. After that came Fallout 4 and Star Wars Battlefront, the latter of which was fun in short bursts, but the flaws grew evermore apparent the longer I played.

Of all the games I experienced this year, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is certainly the most polished and well-crafted. Despite having played my fair share of action-adventure RPGs, the world of The Witcher is unlike anything I have experienced before. The game is so incredibly immersive and rich in detail that it’s awe-inspiring.

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The main storyline is tremendously enveloping and exceptionally well-written (it is based on a series of novels), but even the side-stories are a cut above the rest. I felt they were so good, in fact, I found it hard to move on with the main quests and head to the next area without finishing even the smallest of tasks, which ultimately left me incredibly over-leveled (d’oh). What’s more, the NPCs weren’t just husks, they felt like actual inhabitants of a functioning world; it made the game all the more captivating. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a game you can truly lose yourself in and I love that.

Is it my favourite video game of the year, though? Well, it’s one of them. The other is Fallout 4. While not as polished nor as beautiful as The Witcher 3, Fallout 4 is just bundles of fun. It’s a game I can lose myself in for hours, but also one I can pop onto for a brief moment and have a ton of fun killing some Super Mutants. The storyline isn’t up to The Witcher standards and the NPCs can be incredibly half-witted at times (there’s also a lot of repetition in the quests), but due to the superbly realised world, I find it just as immersive as The Witcher and I love the level of customisation in terms of character creation, items and settlements. I believe The Witcher 3 is ultimately the better game, but Fallout 4 has potentially more longevity thanks to the inclusion of mods. Either way, I love them both.


There we have it. Though our favourites most likely differ, I hope that was as engrossing to read as it was to write. Please stick around for my favourite movies of 2015 in a week or two and let me know what your favourites are! Is there anything I’ve missed? Should I hurry up and watch Fargo already? Regardless, thanks for stopping by!