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

Radical Embitterment

I used to listen to a band named Radical Face. I say a band, but it’s actually the project of singer-songwriter Ben Cooper. I discovered his music in 2010, when his song Welcome Home was used in a particularly frequent television advert for Nikon. Radical Face remained one of my absolute favourite musical acts for years, up until 2013 when an extremely petty situation sadly blemished the music for me.

You can see the dramatic drop in my listening figures. I did the math and worked out that if I stuck to my listening average as observed in the first four years, Radical Face would very comfortably be my most played music artist of all time right now.

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I feel like a bit of an imbecile writing about this, but Radical Face popped on while I was listening to music on shuffle the other day, and I found I’ve finally matured enough to get over this silly situation. You see, Radical Face was tainted for me by a loathsome venue doorman.

I went to see Radical Face in 2013 with my then-girlfriend. We lived in London at the time and Radical Face were playing at the Union Chapel, which is a very wonderful and intimate venue. The show was fantastic. The music of Radical Face is very layered, with Ben making use of numerous instruments and sounds. Obviously he alone can’t play them all live, so the live songs with his band members had a different character, but they were superb and wholly interesting renditions all the same. They even did a cover of Lana Del Rey’s Video Games, which was a pleasant surprise in all its impromptu greatness. I have nothing but good things to say about Radical Face and I would absolutely recommend going to see Ben perform live if you ever get the chance.

I even got to meet Ben afterwards. When the show ended a crowd formed around him, but when it transitioned into a line, I found myself near the front. I’m not typically good at meeting people, let alone people I admire. I quickly shot out my praises, asked for a picture, and thanked Ben with a big smile. Infused with happiness, as I approached the exit I decided I wanted to buy a T-shirt. I didn’t actually own any band merchandise, but I had listened to Ben for years, both as part of Radical Face and Electric President. I loved the design and wanted to support one of my all-time favourites.

I didn’t have any money with me, so I left to go to a cash point. When I returned no more than five minutes later, I was blocked from going back into the venue by a doorman who had materialised in front of the entrance. Sadly, he was one of those pathetically authoritative types. No matter our plea, he was having none of it. I showed him my ticket and explained I only wanted to go back inside to buy a T-shirt, but this elicited little more than a shrug from him.

The venue was still open and would be for some time; though the performance had ended, the bar in the adjacent room had just opened. This man should not have denied a paying customer, but apparently his ego was running at maximum capacity. He proclaimed that if we had told him we were coming back when we left, he would have let us in. This made little sense considering he wasn’t blocking the entrance when we left. How were we to know to seek out this mystery man, let alone that being gone for mere minutes would cause any issue at all. This statement alone revealed there was no reason for him to block our way other than to exercise his authority.

Most were still mingling inside, but some were exiting the venue and the doorman would constantly maneuver around the doorway to ensure I wasn’t able to enter as they left. It was really rather wretched. Credit to my then-girlfriend who gave him a piece of her mind after I had fallen quiet in utter disbelief over how needlessly hideous this person was being. It still makes me angry thinking about it now. It’s one of the very few moments in my life where I wish I had never backed down, but I had become so deflated after a ten minute dispute with this man that there was little drive to keep going. I wonder what he would have said if I told him I had left my belongings inside, or if I had sought to talk to somebody else working at the venue.

I posted a short comment on the Radical Face Facebook page when I got home, about how much I had loved the performance, but that I was blocked from re-entering and whether any merchandise was available to purchase online. The band manager reached out to me and said I could purchase a T-shirt, which they would post to me (they didn’t have an online shop). This alleviated my disappointment, but ended up being a second blow. There was radio silence thereafter and I never heard from the manager again. It’s extremely petty and immature on my part, but I found I couldn’t listen to Radical Face for a while after that. To this day I lay the sole blame on the repellent doorman; the music just reminded me of how disappointed I had been. You know how the smallest of misfortunes can sour your day — that’s what this man had done for me.

I suppose I hadn’t realised it until I started writing about this, but now I try to avoid those sorts of situations. I won’t leave room for disappointment. If there’s something I want, or something I need to do, I tend to take care of it before any annoying little variables have a chance to crop up. I feel silly for letting such a trivial situation spoil my enjoyment, but disappointment is such a potent emotion that can ruin even the most sacred of things, no matter how it comes about. I was much less disappointed about not being able to get back in than I was with how needlessly horrid this man was. He carried himself with a smug attitude and seemed to revel in his authority. Evidently, his position meant that he was God and his word was Gospel. Any pleas from me or my then-girlfriend — any semblance of sense or reason — were rebuffed with short, apathetic remarks. The experience, at least, reminded me of the utmost importance of being respectful, humble and considerate.

I’m sure my absence wasn’t noted, but I regret being gone for so long. I never stopped listening to Radical Face entirely, but my disappointment and bitterness woefully attached itself to the music I loved. I suppose you could say my enjoyment was tarnished by a radical embitterment. Eventually I put it all behind me, but by that point I had given myself to different sounds and never reattained the level of enthusiasm I had previously. Finally, after all these year, I find I am feeling the music again. I hate that I let somebody ruin what I loved, but at least now I can rediscover the beauty and genius of Radical Face as though I am rekindling a once passionate romance.

Favourite Music of 2017

I write only very sparingly about music, mostly because I believe it’s an even more subjective medium than film to some extent. However, there was a lot of music I loved in 2017 and my listening time is the highest it’s been in five years, so I wanted to take this opportunity to share eleven songs from the last year which I have adored.

I’ve arranged them in a vague order, with my most loved at the top. I am very open when it comes to music. I tend to listen to alternative and indie musicians the most, along with an assortment of electronic music (mostly electropop and synthpop) and post-rock. It would be easier to list the genres I don’t listen to, of which there are very little. This list is by no means as diverse as my library, but I hope it’s still a reasonably eclectic selection.


Goodbye by 2NE1 (YouTube)134

Kicking off this list is the final song from South Korean band 2NE1, released as a farewell before they disbanded early last year. I don’t have much history with 2NE1, and listen to them only occasionally, but when Goodbye appeared on the YouTube trending page last January, it grabbed a hold of me and still hasn’t quite let go.

Although the song is more an adieu from the band members to each other, it captured me at a very vulnerable moment, and I found a deep affinity with the lyrics, which are delivered soul-stirringly by CL, Park Bom, and Dara. You don’t need to understand Korean to feel the anguish and heartache, and the instrumentals — stripped down in comparison to their pop songs — are just as evocative and bittersweet.

It’s also this song I must credit to introducing me more formally to the Korean music scene. I had listened to a couple of Korean musicians here and there, but a wealth of sounds were awaiting me after 2NE1. Today, I am slightly obsessed with Mamamoo, and really love how prominent rap and hip hop are in South Korea.

Favourite Verse
When today is over
It feels like tomorrow will be different
Will my life be okay without you?
Until the day we meet again
Goodbye, goodbye


Carry Me to Safety by Mew (YouTube)135

I feel as though many of us have that one band or singer we like to keep secret. They’re too precious and important to share, and the feelings they illicit must be my feelings alone. For me, that band is Mew — a three piece from Denmark. I have yet to formally meet another person who listens to them, and greedily keep them all to myself.

Once, on my way home from a Sigur Rós concert, I found myself walking behind somebody carrying a tote bag with words from Mew’s No More Stories… album. I remember freaking out internally. I should have reached out and bonded with them over this alluring band, talked about how we were on the same wavelength, and then become good friends for the rest of our days, but life isn’t a movie and sadly I didn’t say anything.

Mew’s recent album Visuals is certainly very distinct, as all of their work is. In ways, they have an unmistakable sound (largely due to the vocals from Jonas Bjerre, who has a voice as haunting and beautiful as Jónsi), but at the same time they experiment and adjust. Carry Me to Safety is unlike anything I have heard from them previously, but is completely enrapturing. At first glance their lyrics appear rather cryptic and difficult to decipher, but are somehow tremendously moving and alluring — almost transcending.

Favourite Verse
A life to live as me
A moment that feels free
Like two big colliders
Singing out their days
You smile as if to say
Now our story’s over


Love by Lana Del Rey (YouTube)136

These days, when people ask me what music I’m into, I answer: “Lana Del Rey.” Before everything, there is Lana. My history with Lana Del Rey dates back to the release of Born to Die in 2012, and the subsequent mass-playing of Video Games. I adored Born to Die, and find that every Lana album since has been a grower.

I wasn’t too sure about Ultraviolence when it released, but would probably list it as my favourite Lana album today. I wasn’t too sure about Honeymoon, either. Sure enough, it grew on me. Same story with Lust for Life. When it comes to Lana, the initial singles never seem to grab me as much as the full album. I can’t just listen to a couple of tracks — I need the spellbinding experience of a Lana soundscape to finally envelope me.

It’s always tough to pick a stand-out track from Lana, and this year I have adored Lust for Life (ft. The Weeknd), Coachella — Woodstock in My Mind, White Mustang, Heroin, and Beautiful People Beautiful Problems (ft. Stevie Nicks), but must spotlight Love in the end, for the enchanting vocals and beautiful lyricism. It’s pure, unadulterated Lana.

Favourite Verse
Look at you kids with your vintage music
Comin’ through satellites while cruisin’
You’re part of the past, but now you’re the future
Signals crossing can get confusing


Burn it Down by Daughter (YouTube)137

I have been a fan of Daughter ever since their early EPs, and saw them live in January 2013 before their first album had released. The venue was a church and I sat up in the gallery. It was a lovely, intimate performance, and was in fact the first live music I had seen in a couple of years. I felt as though I had been missing out on so much.

I got to meet the lead singer Elena afterwards, and still have my signed ticket. She was super nice, and I got a picture with her, too. I won’t post it here because I look like a doofus. I’m so glad to be listening to them five years later, and they’re as wonderful as ever, with a more mature sound and an ever enthralling discography.

For me, the stand-out track from their new album Music from Before the Storm is Burn it Down. The album is, in fact, a collection of Daughter’s work from the soundtrack for the video game ‘Life is Strange,’ which I have heard of but am not familiar with. It’s probably one of my favourite albums of the year, and Burn it Down is such an atmospheric and plaintive piece, with incredibly wistful and stirring lyrics. Elena’s voice is to die for. I also absolutely relish the instrumental tracks Flaws and Witches.

Favourite Verse
Always said I was a good kid
Always said I had a way with words
Never knew I could be speechless
Don’t know how I’ll ever break this curse


Privilege by Stars (YouTube)143

I adore Stars. Similar to Mew, they’re a band that I tend to keep to myself. I feel as though I’ve stumbled upon something magnificent, and must keep it sheltered. They’re a band whose music does have a sense of solitary listening to it. Some music plays really well in groups and with others, but for me, I like to listen to Stars when I’m alone.

I was introduced to them over a decade ago, through their song Personal. It’s a subdued and quietly stirring piece, and they’re one of only very few bands I listen to which have more than one primary vocalist. The voices of Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan work so tremendously well together — they’re invariably enchanting.

Privilege features vocals primarily from Amy, and is the opening track on their new album There is No Love in Fluorescent Light. The album itself is stunning, and Privilege is such a ravishing piece. Stars always seem to know how to steal the listener away in an instance. My favourite new track featuring Torquil on vocals is probably Losing to You or The Maze. This release absolutely solidifies Stars as one of my all-time favourite bands.

Favourite Verse
Pulling down the blinds on sun’s tomorrow
A fist through the wall for what you can’t swallow
Babies in the crib take care and breathing
You count up all your luck, can’t stop the feeling


This Ole King by Why? (YouTube)138

I wonder how many people discovered Why? by typing ‘Why?’ into Google in a moment of exasperation. I know I did. For a long time I only listened to their songs Fall Saddles and These Few Presidents, but I finally dived into the rest of their discography last year, and now I adore their first two albums; Elephant Eyelash and Alopecia.

I have a couple of favouites from Moh Lhean, the bands newest collection. The album released in March last year, with This Ole King acting as the lead single. The song debuted a couple of months prior to the album in December 2016, but I am going to cheat and include it anyway.

Why? are an American alternative hip-hop band, and possess a very distinct sound in terms of both their music and vocals. Yoni Wolf’s vocals are entrancing in their delivery and content, and This Ole King is at once familiar and fresh. I had it on repeat for weeks.

Favourite Verse
All my desire
To what I aspire
When I expire
Down dirtward all my hunger
In fire burn my anger
And collapse my stature


Amnesia by Doc Brown (YouTube)139

I was introduced to Doc Drown around Spring last year. I had a job interview at a school, and managed hitch a ride back into town on a minibus with about fifteen Chinese students. The driver had one of the BBC radio stations on, which was broadcasting an interview with Ben Bailey Smith, who uses Doc Brown as a stage name.

He’s an actor, writer, stand-up comedian, and a rapper, who had recently returned to music. I remember his interview more than the song they played — Ben came across as a very genuine and deeply interesting person, so I looked him up when I returned home.

Amnesia is from Doc Brown’s new album Stemma, and is one of a couple of songs from last year that instantly grabbed me. It’s a very memorable piece and an instance where the vocals and backing track compliment each other so well. I also really love Corruptible from the same album, and his earlier release Decisions, Decisions.

Favourite Verse
Ground control to Major Tom
You got some nice ideas
You’re just saying them wrong


In Cold Blood by alt-J (YouTube)140

One of my all-time favourite songs is Taro by alt-J — a stunning and extraordinarily beautiful piece which I would recommend to almost anybody. Their debut album An Awesome Wave, on which Taro resides, is an almost impeccable collection of alluring indie sounds, with many stand-out tracks.

I didn’t get into their follow-up album This is All Yours too much, but really enjoyed a lot of the new music from their latest album Relaxer, which released in June 2017. Nothing comes quite close to Taro, but Relaxer proved to be an eclectic and alluring collection.

My favourite track was In Cold Blood, which was unveiled as the second single. It’s a multifarious song with an almost erratic sound, that opens (rather bizarrely) with binary. I really love the delivery, though. Especially the moment the first verse kicks in, along with vocalist Joe Newman’s striking and addictive “lala-lala-laalaa.”

Favourite Verse
Hair the way the sun really wants it to be
Whiskey soda, please, your G&T is empty
Chairs, inflatables have sunk to the bottom
Pool, summer, summer, pool, pool summer
Kiss me


Heaven by PVRIS (YouTube)141

PVRIS have been on my radar for a long time, but I never quite gave them the time of day, and constantly passed them over in favour of similar acts. It would seem that 2017 was certainly their year, however. Their sophomore release All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell reached as high as number four on the UK Albums Chart.

They’re a rock band with elements of synthpop, with very wistful vocals from singer Lynn Gunn. I tend to listen to female vocalists the most, and Lynn certainly has a very commanding and haunting voice, with a sort of soothing and melodic intensity.

From their new album, I really loved Half and Heaven, but it’s Heaven that gripped me the most. It’s a compelling piece with beautiful composition, opening with paced piano notes, before introducing beats, building a rhythm, and then blasting into the chorus.

Favourite Verse
Do you ever wonder
Who took the light from our life?
The life from our eyes?
All we did was suffer
Why couldn’t we just say
You took my heaven away


Wonderland by Jasmine Thompson (YouTube)142

Jasmine Thompson’s career began at a very young age when she uploaded videos of herself singing onto YouTube. She shares some similarities to Birdy in that she’s a solo female vocalist who gained prominence primarily through covering songs, but has such a mesmerising voice that many of her covers are arguably better than the original tracks.

Her initial two albums are collections of her covers, but she has since moved towards releasing original music. I loved her Adore EP in 2015, and still listen to both the original Adore track and the acoustic version very frequently. She returned with another EP last year, which was titled Wonderland EP.

The title track Wonderland seems to me a homage to youth. It’s only a short track, coming in at three minutes, but portrays such a wondrous degree of emotion and wistful beauty — it sounds forlorn yet euphoric and ecstatic. It’s a rhapsody of sorts, and I love it. Jasmine released this at the age of sixteen, but it contains all the maturity and profundity of a seasoned vocalist. I’m always extremely excited for her new music.

Favourite Verse
Wasted youth in wonderland
Can’t help it
We fall in love with all our messed up friends
We’re so sad with our happy lives
We need each other
‘Cause we’re kids on the inside


Sober II (Melodrama) by Lorde (YouTube)144

I remember listening to Lorde in early 2013, when she was still a little known artist with two EPs. Crazy to think only a few years later, she’s being referred to as the “future of music” by David Bowie, and has two massively acclaimed albums. It’s all very deserved, though. Similar to Jasmine Thompson, Lorde is still young but has immense talent and an expert discography.

I loved Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine — it contained all the best elements of her earlier music, and featured many stand-out pieces. Her second album Melodrama was released in June last year, and featured on many year end lists. For me, I still prefer Pure Heroine, but Melodrama was nonetheless an impressive follow-up.

The most prominent track for me was the namesake, Sober II (Melodrama). It features everything I expected and more, opening with a dramatic string section befitting of the title, before introducing some menacing trap elements. The song itself acts as an interlude, but is the absolute stand-out for me.

Favourite Verse
And the terror and the horror
God, I wonder why we bother
All the glamour and the trauma
And the fuckin’ melodrama


With that, this is the end. There is so much more music which I loved and listened to last year, but the songs above are my most favourite pieces. If you want to check out more of what I listen to and enjoy, then please feel free to swing by my last.fm page. In terms of albums, there were two stand-out releases for me in 2017. The first is Lana Del Rey’s Lust for Life, and the second is Daughter’s Music from Before the Storm. I’m sure 2018 has many enthralling pieces in store — maybe I’ll see you again in a year. Adieu, thank you.

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!