Category Archives: Music ‘n’ Stuff

My Life in Music II: Where Boys Fear to Tread

Music_2

Continuing from yesterday’s post (link), here’s the second part of my quest to examine and document my favourite full-length records from each year that I have been alive. This post covers my second seven years: 1992-1998, which describe a fondness for grunge and alt-rock. Tomorrow, I’ll examine 1999 through to 2005 before culminating in the most recent seven years.

So without further ado, let’s boogie:

1998: Less Than Jake – Hello Rockview

Hello Rockview

To the untrained eye, this probably seems a more obscure choice than others on this list; however, Hello Rockview was one that was a shoe-in from the get-go. Less Than Jake are one of my very, very, very favourite bands but as good as they may sound on record, it’s nothing to their consistently skank-tastic live show. But we’re not here to judge to judge live performances but recorded output, and Hello Rockview remains the pick of the bunch. Where LTJ hit their 20th anniversary in 2012, Hello Rockview remains the high-water mark for their album output: after a few scruffy (but solid) entries to the third-wave ska movement in Pezcore and Losing Streak, they really hit the sweet spot with their third album release. Sure, a ska-punk album is never going revolutionise the world, but finely hones the tropes of its genre; delivering  there’s a deft balance between horns and guitar, catchy tracks and insatiable lyrics superbly delivered by Chris DeMakes and Roger Manganelli. The whole is a near-flawless package, epic-ly catchy and perfectly skankable; polished off with some smooth production values that sand the rough edges into a clean-cut bundle of fun.

Song Choice: [All My Best Friends are Metalheads]

1997: Foo Fighters – The Colour and the Shape

1997

In my humble little opinion, Dave Grohl is probably the most talented and influential rock musician of this generation. Out of the ashes of Nirvana came Pocketwatch!; a self-penned side-project which later developed into Foo Fighters, undoubted kings of stadium rock in the 21st century. Stepping out from behind the drums to create debut album Foo Fighters, on which Grohl played every instrument on the record before assembling a band for the live setting. It was only on the follow-up, The Colour and the Shape, that the Foo FIghters display a true group effort, and it shows. Count the classics: ‘Monkey Wrench’, ‘My Hero’ and ‘Everlong’; never mind a whole raft of other favourites like ‘Hey, Johnny Park!’, ‘Enough Space’ and ‘February Stars’. More so than their eponymous debut, there’s a barrel of emotion contained on this shiny disk, demonstrated by the powerful ‘My Hero’ and legendary ‘Everlong’, but it’s also still (arguably) the heaviest and most chaotic that Foo Fighters have been in their 18-year career. A masterclass in modern rock, it’s also a gateway between alternative rock and the heavier stuff, and undoubtedly has ushered many an indie kid into a full-blown rock and roll. Perfect in every way, a remarkable icon for an enduring band.

Song Choice: [Everlong]

1996: Tool – Ænima

1996

Tool aren’t the most immediate of bands: the undoubted rulers of the prog-metal kingdom, their material can sometimes be overlooked since it’s sometimes deeply unsettling, progressive and leftfield. This is no more true than on Ænima, their sophomore effort which builds on the momentum gathered from debut Undertow, yet refuses to yield to accessibility. There’s a greater range of confidence on display than on its predecessor and while there’s the immense sense of craft that typifies any Tool release, it’s got the feeling of a slightly ‘rougher’ (perhaps “abrasive” is more appropriate) object of still considerable weight: I’ve no doubt that it’s all in Tool’s design; the endless struggle to trouble the listener with abstract ideas, sounds and images and disrupt the status quo. The formula would later be perfected on 2001’s Lateralus but regardless, Ænima represents an epic of  immense bulk, and an absolute classic in the progressive metal canon.

Song Choice: [Stinkfist]

1995: Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Inifinite Sadness

1995

It took me almost five years to ‘get’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness; more accurately, five minutes to ‘get’ the first disc (‘Dawn to Dusk’), but five years to fully appreciate the second (‘Twilight to Starlight’). I first picked it up after hearing a few of the Pumpkins’ hits, like ‘1979’ and ‘Today’, and immediately fell in love with the first disc: the songs felt dream-like and wonderous (none more so than ‘Tonight, Tonight’), whilst others (such as ‘Bullet with Butterfly Wings’ and ‘Muzzle’) felt like pure-bred rockers. The second disc, on the other hand, is a lot more rough, inconsistent and meandering: the alt-rock anthem ‘1979’ is followed directly by ‘Tales of a Scorched Earth’, a song that could well have come from the back catalogue of any noisy alt-rock upstart. Like the band itself, Mellon Collie typifies the excesses and indulgences of the post-grunge period, but documents a stellar-esque jaunt through some of the Pumpkins’ most dreamlike lilts and lullabies which, to this day, remains a sheer delight.

Song Choice: [1979]

1994: Green Day – Dookie

1994

Since Green Day’s ‘second coming’ circa American Idiot, it’s sometimes easy for the music mainstream to forget their first career. It’s also easy to forget that this album is nearly twenty years old, which is astonishing, given that this remains pretty much the pinnacle of punk rock and top of the ‘suggested playlist’ for teenage converts to the rock/metal scene: alongside the endeavours of The Offspring, Weezer and Blink-182, Dookie still ranks among the most influential albums to emerge from the Nineties pop-punk resurgence and feels no less relevant now. In between the classics (‘Basket Case’, ‘Welcome to Paradise’, ‘Longview’, ‘When I Come Around’) are ten other, equally superb punk rock anthems which reinvigorated the punk rock scene  and drove thousands to pick up a guitar and replicate Green Day’s signature three-chord sound; myself included. Cut me in half, and you’ll see Dookie scoring my bones and tissue, like rings on a tree trunk, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Song Choice: [Welcome to Paradise]

1993: Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream

1993

For me, Siamese Dream is the ultimate Pumpkins record. It instills their skilled grunge leanings with a vision of the overblown, rock behemoth that they’d become on Mellon Collie… and beyond; yet keeping everything in check to deliver a lean, mean rock record that stands the test of time. Opening with the killer ‘Cherub Rock’ and soon following with the equally-brilliant ‘Today’, the album then opens up into an abrasive mix of short rock tunes and 7-plus minute epics in a way only the Pumpkins could pull off.  Sure, things get a tad bloated in the middle, but it’s rounded off magically with the maniacal ‘Silverfuck’, and then the two shortest songs of the record but which are also the most touching.  The Pumpkins may forever struggle to capture their heyday of the early 1990s, but thankfully with Siamese Dream, we have a snapshot of their brilliance that we can return to, again and again.

Song Choice: [Cherub Rock]

1992: Faith No More – Angel Dust

1992

For the 1992 crown, there was a long-fought tussle between this and Dream Theater’s sublime Images and Words. For both bands, they represent a high-water mark in not only their back catalogues, but their respective genres as well. Indeed, according to a 2003 Kerrang pollAngel Dust is the most influential album of all time; Images and Words doesn’t appear on the list, which I can only assume is due to some typographical error. The Real Thing may have the more famous tracks, but Angel Dust is the connoisseur’s delight: ‘Midlife Crisis’ is the killer app, but the quality of the rest is still consistently superb and with a far more diverse musical genre-set than before. Representing FNM’s second album with Mike Patton, it’s here that his experimental, offbeat musical bandwidth really begins to reveal itself, nestling perfectly inside the band’s evolving, genre-straddling style. The result, then, is a musical tapestry of almost criminal brilliance; one which deserves infinite high regard.

Song Choice: [Midlife Crisis]

[Zinar7]

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My Life in Music I: From Out of Nowhere

Music_1

Over the next four days, I’ll be posting a series of entries about one of the things closest to my heart: music. Most of my post-puberty life has been spent adoring the plethora of (primarily) rock-based sounds that the world has to offer, and so I thought an interesting study would be to examine and document my favourite full-length records from each year that I have been alive.

These are, of course, my opinions now, not at the time (because I didn’t take note of these things), and obviously I wasn’t listening to G’NR and Metallica, etc. when I was three years old. However, I think it’s an interesting study since it follows not only the trends in my listening habits in the 10-12 years that I’ve been intimately following the rock/metal scene, but also the trends in how genres have developed or evolved over time. The primary measure which I’ve used to measure this is the ability of certain albums to never grow old to me: those records that I could listen to over and over again, without tiring, and which consistently stir emotions and passions inside me in a way that sometimes only music can.

This post covers the first seven years: 1985-1991, which describe a fondness for the rise of thrash metal and kicking ass. I kick off with 1991 because over the next three days I’ll be posting the remaining three parts of this chronology, followed by a quick round-up of those records that didn’t make the cut. And on that bombshell, let’s get going. Enjoy!

1991: Metallica – [self-titled]
(aka The Black Album)

Critics and fans unite may unite in the opinion that 1986’s Master of Puppets is the definitive Metallica album (and I don’t deny that it’s the more technically accomplished and defining), The Black Album remains my personal pick. Beneath it’s black-weathered cover, there’s evidence of the evolution of Metallica’s sound from their thrash era in the ’80s; in particular with the presence of slow-paced songs like ‘The Unforgiven’, and the haunting, ethereal ‘Nothing Else Matters’. Metallica still feels like the uncontrolled, charging beast it once was (nowhere is this more plain than on monsters like ‘Sad but True’), but now a band that has learned to pace itself every so often. It’s also reassuring that Metallica still know how to write a killer opener in ‘Enter Sandman’ (still the most accessible song for the masses, and kicking the record off spectacularly like ‘Blackened’ and ‘Battery’ did on …And Justice for All and Master of Puppets before it) and a snorting, raging closer in ‘The Struggle Within’. 1991 may be best remembered for the explosion of grunge, but for me, Metallica still take the crown.

Song Choice: [Enter Sandman]

1990: Pantera – Cowboys from Hell

Cowboys from Hell

Judging from my record collection, 1990 was a bleak year. Out of it all, Cowboys from Hell was pretty much the only release that fits the bill, but that shouldn’t really detract from the quality of the record. Bridging the gap between Pantera’s lesser-known glam-rock phase and the full-on thrash/groove-metal destruction which commenced with Vulgar Display of Power, from the get-go (the iconic ‘Cowboys from Hell’) there’s a sense of the brutality that would come to define Pantera’s later career in ‘Primal Concrete Sledge’ and much of the middle-ground of the record. It also remained a stark reminder of how spectacular Pantera could be in their prime, and how the combination of Phil Anselmo’s harsh vocals, Dimebag Darrell’s superlative guitars, Vinnie Paul’s solid percussion and Rex Brown’s grooving basslines can combine in perfect harmony. Defiantly my favourite Pantera record, it’s a sonic barrage of skilled musicianship summed up by Cowboys‘ closing song: ‘The Art of Shredding’; and what an art it is. Long may it reign.

Song Choice: [Cowboys from Hell]

1989: Faith No More – The Real Thing

1989

On every audible level, The Real Thing is an absolute triumph. Faith No More showed superb promise on their previous album Introduce Yourself, but it’s the addition of Mike Patton (replacing previous vocalist, Chuck Mosley) that is the real turning point in the band’s trajectory: Patton brings both vocal skill and unbridled energy to the combo; rousing genuine excitement from the listener with his unique, avant-garde style and diverse range. Sure, Patton’s arrival brings the band into their own, but it’s nothing without the consistent spine of FNM and solid backing delivered by Mike Bordin et al., streamrolling through the likes  ‘From Out of Nowhere’, ‘Epic’ and onwards. Never a band to be pigeonholed, FNM’s grungey-metal is supplemented by a diverse range of funk, jazz, prog rock, hip hop and soul;  and finishing with the sublime cover of Black Sabbath’s seminal ‘War Pigs’.  with such a range of influences and new things to hear with each subsequent listen, The Real Thing is the gift that keeps on giving.

Song Choice: [Epic]

1988: Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son

Iron Maiden - Seventh Son of a Seventh Son

This was a tough year to call; one of the first in this chronology that had no clear victor. In the end, Maiden’s conceptual opus just sneaked past the post over Metallica’s (undoubtedly great) …And Justice for All. Introducing more of the prog-rock and keyboard elements which had developed on Somewhere in Time two years prior, Seventh Son… represents a full-blown Maiden concept album, full of nods to mystical powers, the paranormal and subject matter which matches the musical ambiance. There’s certainly no lack of Maiden’s usual galloping flavour of NWOBHM but this time comes bundled with a more introspective and story-driven tack, most prevalent on the album’s singles ‘The Evil that Men Do’, ‘The Clairvoyant’ and the seminal ‘Can I Play with Madness’. Sadly, the album also represents an end to Maiden’s killer run of records, since the formula couldn’t be recreated on the subsequent No Prayer for the Dying, but if ever there was need to remind oneself of how persuasive and poetic Maiden can be when they’re in the zone, this is it.

Song Choice: [Can I Play with Madness?]

1987: Guns ‘N Roses – Appetite for Destruction

1987

‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ may be the seminal song from the album, but Appetite for Destruction is major accurately summed up by opener ‘Welcome to the Jungle’: unhinged, bombastic and rock ‘n’ roll as hell, G ‘n R leap out of the box with a pocket full of arrogance and a sneer at the establishment, but possess skills enough to back up their anarchy. There’s a staggering number of classics on here: in addition to the two previously mentioned, it’s difficult to name a song that isn’t a surefire hit: ‘Paradise City’, ‘Mr. Brownstone’, ‘My Michelle’ are but a few. It’s a cohesive effort: an example of how, when working together, Axl, Slash, Duff, Izzy and Adler could produce something truly special and where ego doesn’t dominate. G ‘n R may have lost the plot going into the Nineties, but they’re far better when ignoring the nine-minute epics and the haunting strings and remain focussed on playing straight-up rock and roll. An undoubted classic, it’s also a benchmark for every rock band that has come since, and with good reason. A triumph.

Song Choice: [Welcome to the Jungle]

1986: Metallica – Master of Puppets

1986

What can be said about Master of Puppets that hasn’t been said already? The ultimate metal album, almost flawless in every regard, this is the sort of occasion when the stars align and eight songs are crafted with such beauty and brutality that the like of which will likely never happen again. There’s not a dud song on here; in fact, quite the opposite. ‘Battery’ still has (probably) the most killer intro of any metal song ever; ‘Master of Puppets’ still the rampaging, furious steamroller it ever was. The album’s crowning glory, however, is ‘Orion’: an eight-and-a-half minute instrumental epic that ebbs and flows and rages and quietens in an almost dream-like fashion. It’s a huge shame that this would be Metallica’s final album with bassist Cliff Burton, as one can only imagine where the Bay Area titans would have gone had his untimely death not occurred, but instead we got Jason Newsted and …And Justice For All a mere two years later; a clear reaction to Cliff’s passing. Puppets remains Metallica’s masterwork, though, and inspiration for every metal band existing today. An absolute powerhouse.

Song Choice: [Battery]

1985: Iron Maiden – Live After Death

Live After Death

I debated for a long time about whether I wanted to include a live album on this list. A long time. But heck, I figure that if you’re going to bend the rules, you may as well bend them for (arguably) the greatest live album of all time. Live After Death is a double-album of Maiden hits culled from the ‘World Slavery’ tour in support of Powerslave and featuring live versions of Maiden classics across ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’ through ‘The Number of the Beast’ across to the classic show-closer, ‘Running Free’ – as such, it effectively summarises the band’s first five years of recorded history; a live ‘best of’ compilation of some of Maiden’s best work; delivered at the height of their mid-80’s power. A finer live metal band you will never find, and Bruce Dickinson’s glorious crowd-pleasing and teasing still inspire goosbumps nearly thirty years on.

Song Choice: [2 Minutes to Midnight]

[Zinar7]

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PhD Fraud #08: Songs in the Key of Strife

PhD8

It’s sometimes unnerving how much ‘music’ has me in its clutches, and purely at its bidding: often, I won’t know how much of a ‘low’ mood I’ve been feeling until I listen to something that delivers a ‘hit’ of pure energy (Exhibit A) or nostalgia (Exhibit B), that I’m mentally put into ‘overdrive’ and gain access to some unknown, hidden source of vitality with which to, at least for the duration of that song or record, overcome (almost) any obstacle. In this vein, I’ve at least learned a few tips about what tunes to put on when I’m struggling with work; of which I’ve provided a brief run-down of here:

1. Fixing Matlab and Shit

Coding is one of the key parts of many PhDs, primarily those in the sciences. However, sometimes you’re forced to use Matlab or something equally painful, and therefore writing, fixing or debugging code can often be a drag. Sticking on some sort of electronic/dance music usually helps; delivering a shot of both energy and mindlessness that kind of lets you see ‘through’ the code to see the inner workings of Matlab rather than the numbers, letters and symbols presented onscreen. Kind of like the Matrix, except it’s still Matlab we’re dealing with so you still have to put up with the constant desire to headdesk when your code fails for NO APPARENT REASON. But hey, at least you’ll have a better soundtrack to do it to, yeah?

2. Getting Shit Done

Sometimes, you just need a kick up the backside to get you going, or it’s getting towards the end of the day and you’re starting to slack off a bit. Well, thankfully, a man was placed on this Earth to help solve just that problem. His name is Andrew W.K. For a 35-minute burst of pure motivation, insert I Get Wet into your CD drive, push ‘play’ and let the productivity commence. WHEN IT’S TIME TO RESEARCH WE WILL RESEARCH HARD

3. Getting Inspired and Shit

Sometimes we all need some sort of muse with which to dig into our inner psyche and bring forth creativity, inspiration and ideas. Anyway, it turns out that my musical muse is Ke$ha. A slight disappointment, since it could so easily have been someone with an actual modicum of musical talent, but we all play the hands we’re dealt and instead of fighting it, I’ve come to embrace it. Animal/Cannibal is supremely glorious piece of work (essentially the I Get Wet of this decade), elevating me to a higher level of knowledge and reasoning, and while it continues to do so, I will feel no shame at bopping along to her white-trash, catchy slut-o-rama. Long may it reign.

4. Kicking Writer’s Block in the Face and Shit

Writing up research work is an essential part of being an academic. Getting gob-smacking results is all very well unless you’re able to communicate that to the general public or the rest of your field, and thus putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard is essential. It can be a miserable business sometimes though, when you can’t figure out what to say, how to say or why.  I find that progressive metal is a delicious solution to this conundrum; offering a sense of elevated intellect and distinguished literary ability that is largely absent from, say, the works of Sir Snoop of Dogg-shire. Let it wash over you , and you’ll absorb complex time-signatures, lyrics and musical interludes almost by osmosis and as a result, see your written work flourish into a burgeoning manuscript of academic prowess. See, it works.

5. Calculating Shit with Maths and Stuff

The basis of most science is, somewhere, based on some sort of theory or set of equations which hope to explain the physical world in terms of a variety of numbers and letters. Often, calculating those numbers or deriving that set of formulae is boring as hell, and some sort of external energy drip is required to keep you on mission. Step in Anamanaguchi with the 16-bit chiptune punk, and the superlative Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game original soundtrack. Suddenly, maths is made of brightly-coloured pixels, chirpy sound effects and SPEED RUNS. So, plug in your controller, give the cartridge a blow and press UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, A, B to Falcon Punch those equations into touch.

6. Getting Shit in Just Before the Deadline

Despite best efforts, a lot of things which are produced to a deadline (abstract/paper for a conference, research proposal, getting stuff ready for a supervisor meeting) are often only finished and sent off seconds before their actually due, and there is an important lesson to be learnt about how to get it all done on time and not end up in a mad panic. Something calming, soothing but upbeat is the order of the day, and you can do a lot worse that drinking in the swirling, dream-like qualities of lo-fi, acoustic/electronic indie-pop. I recently discovered Gregory and the Hawk, whose floating melodies helped dispatch a journal paper right near the deadline whilst keeping me safe from full-blown insanity; may she rescue your mind from oblivion, too.

7. Crying and Shit When Things Inevitably Go Wrong

Okay, so you’re doing a PhD. Things will inevitably go wrong; that’s, like, programmed into the DNA of the PhD process. Quite possibly, like in my case, things will go horribly, horribly wrong and you’ll have to re-do months of work or start again from scratch. This can be seriously harrowing, and lead to severe doubts of depression and anxiety that are probably not great for the mental well-being of any sane person, let alone someone who was unstable enough (at least at some point) to think that doing a PhD would be an enjoyable thing to do. What’s the musical remedy for this, then?

Power metal. And lots of it.

Think about it, it’s like the perfect cure: catchy melodies, uplifting lyrics, powerful vocals; it’s pretty much just Katy Perry with bearded men, leather codpieces and songs about dragons. And if that’s not something to instantly warm the soul and make you forget about your plethora of research problems, then I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

[Zinar7]

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Sinister Reviews: Best of 2012

2012

As the new year approaches and 2012 draws to a close, it’s just about time for my annual review of the good, bad and ugly things from the past year (for reference, here’s my one from last year).

So, without further ado, let’s boogie:

MOVIES & TV

Best Movie ~ The Dark Knight Rises
Runners-Up ~ The Raid, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
‘Didn’t Think Would be Good but was Actually Brilliant’ of the Year ~ Sightseers. A masterpiece in British black comedy.
Movie Performance of the Year ~ Tom Hardy as Bane, The Dark Knight Rises. He can’t beat Ledger’s Joker, but still a chilling portrayal of the muscled maniac.
Most Disappointing Movie of 2012Skyfall. Just remarkably… average. Bond deserves better.
Unnecessary Movie Sequel of the Year ~ Taken 2. 
Crowdfunding Achievement of the Year ~ Iron SkyWhat a film. Glorious.
Best TV Show ~ Sherlock
Runners-Up ~ The Thick of It (series four), Game of Thrones (season two), Peep Show (series eight)
TV Moment of the Year ~ Sherlock‘s stunning misdirection and sleight-of-hand at the climax of ‘The Reichenbach Fall’.

VIDEO GAMES

I totally haven’t played many ‘new’ video games in 2012, so this section is looking rather bleak. Oh well, here’s to 2013!

‘Didn’t Get To Play But Really Want To’ of 2012 ~ Assassin’s Creed 3, The Walking Dead, ZombiU, LEGO Lord of the Rings, Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, Black Mesa, Dishonoured, Fez, Journey

Best Mainstream Game ~ The Last Story (Wii)
Runners-Up ~ Pandora’s Tower (Wii), Dear Esther (PC)

Best Indie Game ~ Retro City Rampage (PC)
Runners-Up ~ Dustforce, Ticket to Ride, Botanicula (all PC)

Video Game Character of 2012 ~ The Slenderman (video link)
Crowdfunding Achievement of 2012 ~Double Fine Adventure (web link)
Best Non-Game Game of 2012 ~ Dear Esther (PC)

MUSIC

Best Gig ~ Andrew WK (HMV Forum, London). Best gig ever.
Runners-Up ~ Justice (Bestival, Isle of Wight), Alestorm (The Cellar, Southampton), 2:54 (The Jericho, Oxford)
Best (non-power metal) Album ~ Rush – Clockwork Angels
Runners-Up ~ Blaqk Audio – Bright Black Heaven, 2:54 – s/t, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – This May Be The Reason Why The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing Cannot Be Killed By Conventional Weapons
Best (power metal) AlbumSabaton – Carolus Rex
Runners-Up ~ Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – Ascending to Infinity, Ascension – Far Beyond the Stars, Ensiferum – Unsung Heroes
Disappointment of 2012 ~ Yet another year passing by without a Daft Punk album (although I hear we might get one in 2013, fingers crossed)
Music Video of the Year ~ PSY – ‘Gangnam Style’ (video link)
Song of the Year~ Chairlift – ‘I Belong in Your Arms’ (video link)
Runners-Up ~ Blaqk Audio – ‘Fade to White’ (video link), Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – ‘Dark Fate of Atlantis’ (video link), Rush – ‘Headlong Flight’ (video link)
Most Stealthy Penis-Laden Cover Art ~ Tenacious D – Rize of the Fenix (web link)
Breakthrough Band of 2012 ~ 2:54
Steampunk Anthem of the Year ~ The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – ‘Brunel’ (video link)
‘Why Won’t it Go Away?’ of 2012 ~ Gotye – ‘Somebody that I Used to Know’ (video link)
‘Not Guilty At All’ Pleasure of 2012 ~ Ke$ha – Warrior
Mash-Up of the Year ~ Ke$ha vs. Lamb of God – ‘Tik Tok Redneck’ (by Isosine, video link)

MOTORSPORT

F1 Driver of the Year ~ Fernando Alonso. Drove the balls off that Ferrari, but just didn’t quite make the championship
Runners-Up ~ Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg, Sebastian Vettel
F1 Best Race ~ The final race in Brazil. What a spectacular close to the season.

F1 Overtake of the Year ~
Hulkenberg on Grosjean/Hamilton in Korea. The Hulk: You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
First-Lap Madness of the Year – Spa-Francorchamps and Grosjean’s Falcon Punch into most of the field. Earned him a one-race ban, but what a way to do it.
Crash of the Year ~ Antony Davidson at LM24 (video link)
Video ~ Gymkhana 5 (video link)
Nine-Times World Champion of the Year ~ Sebastian Loeb. What a driver, the likes of which may never be seen again in the World Rally Championship.

PROJECT 500

(see Empire’s 500 Greatest Movies of All TimeProgress: 350/500

Best Movies (I hadn’t seen) ~ The Bourne Identity, AI: Artificial Intelligence, Dog Day Afternoon, Zodiac, Schindler’s List, Paris Texas

New Discoveries ~ Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Network),

Disappointments ~ Killer of Sheep, Russian Ark, Andrei Rublev

Best Car Chase ~ The Bourne Identity

Most Out-of-Place Car Chase ~ Blow Out

Most in Need of a Car Chase ~ The Leopard

EVERYTHING ELSE

Best Purchase ~ Andrew W.K. bobblehead (web link). Just amazing.

Best Book ~ Yahtzee Croshaw – Jam

Best Internet Video ~ Counting Song (video link)
Runners-Up ~ Batman Maybe (video link), Vincent Van Dominogh – Starry Night (video link), C-Bomb – Bowl Date (video link)

Best Reaction Video of 2012 ~ Kermode’s and Transformers 4 (video link)

Tweet of the Year ~ Jim Howick: ‘I’ve lost my eggs and I can’t ring them because they’re on silent.’ (link)

Most Apt Phrase to Sum Up 2012 ~ “It’s a Gangnam Style world, we’re just living in it” – Josh Groban

Best Discovered Drink – Guinness Punch

Word of 2012 ~ ‘Pleb’. A welcome return for one of my favourite put-downs.

Man of 2012 ~ Andrew W.K. The man is a complete god.

Looking Forward to in 2013 ~ Potentially becoming a doctor (again, copy paste last year); Django Unchained; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; another thrilling F1 season; Daft Punk’s 4th album and potentially playing live shows (!!!); a new Karnivool album (hopefully); and a whole bunch more.

Best Moments (no order) ~
Autosport International at Birmingham NEC; Stewart Lee’s Carpet Remnant World; Alestorm at The Cellar; Andrew WK at London HMV Forum; Kayaking on the Wye; OckFest 2012; World Endurance Championship at Silverstone; Tim Key’s Masterslut at the Nuffield Theatre; the Bestival experience with the University of Southampton Roadshow (and being officially in the Bestival programme, no jokes); more awesome movies than you can shake a stick at; the November ‘Apocalypse’ weekend of 2:54 in Oxford followed by Hereford shenanigans; Charlie & Jade’s wedding and awesomeness; Farnborough Air Show; Goodwood Festival of Speed; Nuremberg, Freiberg, Devon; the list goes on…
Everyone, you’ve been awesome.

2012 is dead. Long live 2013. 

[Zinar7]

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Super Wants #01

Just a bunch of music stuff that’s coming out soon and will be sure to float my boat.

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Sinister Future

Currently, it’s looking like my review of Destroy All Humans! might be my last, at least for a while. Time is quite precious to me at the moment and, as it turns out, playing games is a lot more fun than writing about them. It’s always been my intention to ‘up’ my use of this blog, and that I should update more regularly – but less formally – than what I’m doing currently. My first few reviews for No More Heroes and LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 pretty much wrote themselves: Indeed, I knocked those out during short breaks at work. Of late, however (starting with Epic Mickey, which took about six months before I actually posted it) I’ve found significantly higher barriers from me getting them done; partially because I’ve been so darned busy at work that I’ve no motivation to pseudo-‘work’ in my free time by writing reviews, and also partially because the backlog of EVERYTHING I currently have. I’d much rather this be a freeform blog in which I’m free to talk about whatever I want in a relaxed way and when I have something I want to say, rather than expending all my creative juices on formal reviews and having little time for more jolly fare. I’m hoping I can keep up reviews of new stuff (i.e. new music/videogame releases), such that my opinions will be useful to others who’re considering picking up the same release, but my experiences with other stuff may be documented in a more relaxed manner.

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Sinister Reviews: Ascension – Far Beyond the Stars

Ascension – Far Beyond the Stars
Genre: Power Metal
Release Date: 21st March (Japan), TBC (Europe, NA)
Label: Spiritual Beast (Japan), Universal Music (rest of world)
Band Website: http://www.ascensionband.co.uk
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Ascensionbanduk

It’s been an interesting rise to fame by Scottish power-metallers, Ascension. Still but youngsters in the spectrum of rock’n’roll, their first release was the Moongate EP deployed in 2009, before that was followed up by second EP Alchemy the following year. Honed, then, by continual touring and recording (most notably a UK tour with Axenstar at the end of 2011), the band retreated to Sonic Train Studios in Sweden with Grammy-nominated producer and King Diamond player, Andy La Rocque (Falconer, Dragonland, Evergrey) to record their debut full-length album, Far Beyond the Stars. Was it worth the wait? Oh, you bet.

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Sinister Reviews: Best of 2011

2011

A few days late I know, but here’s my round-up of my favourite stuff from 2011. Enjoy!

MOVIES & TV

Best Movie ~ Senna
Runners-Up ~ Black Swan, The King’s Speech, Hugo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, True Grit, Hanna
‘Didn’t Think Would be Good but was Actually Brilliant’ of the Year ~ Attack the Block
Movie Performance of the Year ~ Sacha Baron Cohen as the Station Inspector (Hugo)
Runner-Up ~ Saoirse Ronan as Hanna (Hanna)
Most Disappointing Movie of 2011 ~ Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Unnecessary Movie Sequel of the Year ~ The Hangover Part II
Best TV Show ~ Horrible Histories
Runners-Up ~ Life’s Too Short, Angry Boys, QI series I, Come Fly With Me
TV Moment of the Year ~ Eddie Jordan thrown into the pool at the Monaco F1 Forum (video link)
Runner-Up ~ Brian Butterfield on Shooting Stars (video link)

VIDEO GAMES

Best Mainstream Game ~ The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
Runners-Up ~ Portal 2 (PC) , Solatorobo: Red the Hunter (DS)
Best Indie Game ~ Bastion
Runners-Up ~ Limbo (on PC), Terraria, The Binding of Isaac, Sequence
Best Social Network Game ~ Triple Town (Facebook, Google Chrome)
Video Game Character of 2011 ~ Wheatley (Portal 2)
‘Didn’t Finish’ of 2011 ~ The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Bastion, Portal 2Golden Sun: Dark Dawn
‘Better Never than Late’ of 2011 ~ Duke Nukem Forever
Best Soundtrack ~ Portal 2, mainly for Turret Opera (video link) and ‘Want You Gone’ (video link)

MUSIC

 

Best Gig ~ Turisas (Southampton University Garden Court)
Runners-Up ~ Sonata Arctica (Reading Sub 89), Tom Morelllo (supporting Rise Against, Soton Guildhall), Devin Townsend (Southampton University Garden Court)
Best Album ~ Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
Runners-Up ~ Turisas – Stand Up and Fight; Funeral for a Friend- Welcome Home Armageddon; Rhapsody of Fire – From Chaos to Eternity; Rival Schools – Pedals
Duke Nukem Forever/Chinese Democracy Award for ‘Will it Ever Get Released’? of the Year ~ Blaqk Audio – Bright Black Heaven
Unnecessary Collaboration of the Year ~ Lou Reed/Metallica – Lulu
Best Song ~ Swede Mason – Masterchef Synesthesia (video link)
Runners-Up ~ Rush – ‘Caravan’; Foo Fighters – ‘Rope’; Turisas – ‘Stand Up and Fight’; Alestorm – ‘You Are a Pirate’
‘Why Won’t it Go Away?’ of the 2011 ~ Rebecca Black – ‘Friday’ (video link)
Music-Based Game of 2011 ~ ‘Ke$ha or Katy Perry?’

MOTORSPORT

F1 Driver of the Year ~ Sebastian Vettel
Runners-Up ~ Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen
F1 Best Race ~ Montreal, and JB’s storm to victory from the back of the pack

F1 Overtake of the Year ~
Webber on Alonso through Eau Rouge at Spa-Francorchamps
Crash of the Year ~ Allan McNish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (video link)
Video ~ Ken Block’s Gymkhana 4 (video link)
Sorely Missed of the Year ~ Dan Wheldon cut down in his prime Indycar at Vegas

PROJECT 500

(see Empire’s 500 Greatest Movies of All TimeProgress: 314/500

Best Movies (I hadn’t seen) ~ The Apartment, Some Like it Hot, Bad TasteRatatouille,  Duck Soup

New Discoveries ~ Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Billy Wilder

Disappointments ~ Mulholland Drive, Danger: Diabolik, Spirit of the Beehive, The 400 Blows

EVERYTHING ELSE

Best Purchase ~ My delightful Kisai Seven [aka. 7RON] watch (link)

Best Book ~ Mark Kermode – The Good, The Bad & The Multiplex

Best Internet Video ~ Masterchef Synesthesia (video link)
Runners-Up ~ Psychosocial Baby (video link), Nyan Cat (video link), Benton/Fenton (video link)

Tweet of the Year (me) ~ “Bryony just got so annoyed about boxing, she headbutted CIDER” (link)
Tweet of the Year (someone else) ~ Peter Serafinowicz: “Trying to achieve the perfect erection. How hard could it be?” (link)

Most Apt Phrase to Sum Up 2011 ~ “I used to [insert appropriate phrase here], but then I took an arrow to the knee.” – Skyrimlolz.

Word of 2011 ~ ‘Superinjunction’.

Quote of 2011 ~”Just goes to show, people with brain damage are the real heroes.” – Wheatley

Looking Forward to in 2012 ~ The Dark Knight Rises;  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ; Wii U ; Alestorm at the Cellar (Southampton) ; drinking in a whole load more motorsport; actually finishing Portal 2 ; Gyakuten Saiban (the movie) ; potentially becoming a Doctor of Philosophy ; Stewart Lee on Jan 15th (London).

Best Moments (no order) ~
Celebrating four years with Bryface; moving house (again); sprinting onto the track at the end of the 79th 24 Hours of Le Mans to get beneath the winners’ podium; successfully upgrading to the PhD programme by passing the MPhil/PhD Transfer; winning a place at the Autosport Awards 2011 and meeting Martin Whitmarsh, Tiff Needell, James Thompson and others; getting sprayed with mud by Sebby Loeb, Ken Block at al. at Hafren on the WRC Wales Rally GB; Shock Treatment, Richard O’Brien and Mark Kermode (and The Dodge Brothers) at the New Forest Film Festival; Pumpkin-carving at Diamond Cottage; Ockfest 2011; Wilton House Supercar Day; Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein LIVE; RockSoc shenanigans and pubcrawls aplenty; and aboslutely anything and everything that I’ve forgotten to include here.
Everyone, you’ve been awesome.
2011 is dead. Long live 2012. 

[Zinar7]

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