To be improved: July 2017 playlist

This blog has not been very regularly updated at all. I simply haven’t been able to write all that much; my only things being rare Twitter contributions and live-tweets of events I particularly like to do that with (namely: Eurovision).

But I bring to you a midyear Spotify playlist in tribute, and hope that it leads to more:

This is not perfect by any means, but does contain a number of the best songs of the year so far (as well as some that just sort of fit). Hope you enjoy.

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Completing 2016

This has been one truly terrible year. One of the very few even vaguely redeeming bits has been the music, so therefore there is a final playlist of the year above.

We’ll see how 2017 goes.

2016, in progress (July)

And what an absolutely rubbish year this has been so far…

For everything apart from music, of course. And I’ve playlisted some.

Because he didn’t let any of his music go on Spotify, please imagine Prince’s 6-minute album version of 1999 playing directly at the start. (And if you have the album around, play it. Play it loud.)

Media Break: 28/02/2016

I was meaning to do one of these every two weeks. That hasn’t really worked out, has it…

  • Out the serious Oscar contenders, I will be more than happy if Room wins. Really subtle and well done. Mad Max: Fury Road is of course the best film there, but it’s never going to get Best Picture or Best Director in a million years (even though it had as arduous a shoot as The Revenant did, only less talked about).
  • Idris Elba was robbed. So were Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan: Creed is just a Rocky movie really, but it somehow manages to breathe life back into the old carthorse through the traditional means of quality direction, a mastery of screenplay structure, and beautifully realistic, low-key performance.
  • Deadpool is far more fun than it had any right to be and absolutely is the best X-Men spinoff by far (it does help that it’s the only one that’s been written with any form of a sense of humour involved). Suicide Squad will have a lot to live up to.
  • I liked The Hateful Eight a lot, probably more than a lot of critics did: only Tarantino and Robert Richardson can get away with filming a cramped single-location film in Ultra Panavision 70 and not have it feel entirely like a gimmick. Like always, it improved a lot in his redrafting and, looking at the final draft screenplay the Weinstein Company have published for Oscars season, in the edit too. Wish Entertainment hadn’t fallen out with Cineworld though; but I don’t regret having to pay extra for once. (Note: I saw it on digital, with an intermission, at a Vue.)
  • What on earth is going on with Batman v. Superman? The only way they seem to be promoting it in Britain at the moment is with some appalling Turkish Airlines commercials that are on every ad break on Food Network and most ad breaks on every other Freeview channel. I will probably see it, but still…
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider can be recommended to anyone who enjoyed 2013 Tomb Raider: it plays the same, but adds better tombs, better side missions, optional NPC quests and fewer quick-time events of doom. A better rounded game.
  • Musically, I am enjoying Not to Disappear by Daughter, SVIIB by School of Seven Bells, Adore Life by Savages, and absolutely loving Synthia by the Jezabels. Check all of these out on your streaming service of choice. New Underworld, Pet Shop Boys and PJ Harvey coming imminently too.
  • Blackstar is also brilliant, but what did we expect really? David Bowie is the biggest, most devastating loss of the year.

It’s the list-makingest time of the year

It’s that time of the year where everyone comes together on the Internet to argue about what everyone liked over the year and why they’re wrong. So it’s time for my contribution…

Music

Here is a Spotify playlist I’ve made of some of my favourite stuff this year:

This playlist is actually incomplete: for the sake of track-to-track flow it’s missing anything from Floating Points’ Elaenia, Laura Marling’s Short Movie, Errors’ Lease of Life, Hot Chip’s Why Make Sense? and Purity Ring’s Another Eternity, all of which are very much worth your time. Purity Ring provided the best live show I’ve seen this year (at Metropolis in Montréal).

Best comeback of the year is of course New Order (but then I’m biased), and best collaboration of the year is F.F.S. (managing to be better than both the last Franz Ferdinand and Sparks records – there has to be a future for it.)

Addendum 22.12.2015: Forgot to mention or include in the playlist The Race for Space by Public Service Broadcasting, which is a pretty big omission; or No Cities to Love by Sleater-Kinney.

Movies

Best biopic so far this year is the exceptional Love & Mercy. Only just behind that is Straight Outta Compton, which did well to try to get a consistent narrative line into the complicated and multifaceted N.W.A. story with nicely kinetic direction from F. Gary Gray and the year’s best producer credit (Ice Cube p.g.a., because of course he’s in the union.)

It’s actually been quite a good year for spy and spy related stuff. Kingsman is by turns nasty, compelling, outrageous and very, very funny (even if Vaughan and Goldman didn’t quite manage to downplay the bad bits of Millar’s writing as much as they did with Kick-Ass.) The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is massively uneven but its 60s atmosphere is spot on and when it sparks, it really works (the scene where Napoleon Solo finds safety while a massive action scene goes on in the background is utterly unique).

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is the most consistent narratively since the first one and is brilliantly directed and constructed, even if there’s not a single overall sequence as good as the Dubai sequence in Ghost Protocol. Spectre is the third best Daniel Craig Bond film, but  I’d still be happy if Mendes came back on the condition that he brings back Roger Deakins and Stuart Baird and finds some better writers.

Out of the two Marvel films this year, Ant-Man is better (completely in inverse to my expectations): off the wall and willing to try new things, it is also the rare Marvel film that gets better and better as it goes on, although it’s a shame we didn’t get to see Edgar Wright’s version. It’s effectively a low-stakes version of Iron Man and all the better for it. Age of Ultron drags a bit and feels overly breezy and fluffy, although it’s still pretty and Elizabeth Olsen is great in it.

Since I haven’t seen Star Wars yet I can’t quite classify that. The Revenant should be interesting too: the trailers give an utterly unique feel.

Addendum 22.12.2015: The Force Awakens is very much worth watching. I missed The Martian, which was a lot of fun and Ridley Scott’s best film in years. And of course, how could I forget Fury Road, by far the best sequel of the year? (That piece is unblocked and I’m working on it again, by the way.)

Games

I haven’t played that much this year – I have time constraints, I don’t play MMOs and I hate military FPS with the force of a thousand suns, so the only big budget games I’ve played through this year are the hilarious Saints Row IV (finally giving up any pretence of being a serious game and going for all out comedy) and the PC version of Arkham Knight. Because I have a 4790K, 16GB of RAM and a GTX970 I was just about able to run it acceptably, which continues to show that if the PC is not dead as a gaming platform, it’s at least in the resus room.

For the record, it played OK after the first patch and some of what it does is brilliant (and unfortunately its best element is a spoiler), but it is the least of Rocksteady’s Batman games. Still better than Arkham Origins and most other games though, and it still handles its No Man’s Land inspiration better than Dark Knight Rises. So I would recommend giving it a go if you have a machine that it it will work on, or one of the current-gen consoles.

I do not own any of the current consoles, so Rise of the Tomb Raider will be 2016 for me. Let’s hope Crystal don’t screw that port up.

Here’s what I’m watching, listening to, reading etc. at the moment, in an article which I plan on posting at least once every few weeks:

  • Health’s “Death Magic” is still brilliant after however many listens: a massive improvement over much of the rest of their career (as they have discovered tunes). Recommended.
  • Tangentially related: Alice Glass has released a solo single called “Stillbirth”, produced with the aid of Health’s Jupiter Keyes. It’s industrial, angry, wrenching, emotionally draining and yet compulsively listenable – a real shout along. It bodes well for more, especially when compared with the unmemorable post-Glass Crystal Castles material.
  • The John Grant single, “Disappointing”, isn’t. Has a lovely duet with Tracey Thorn too.
  • Looking forward to the New Order album, and the ability to still frame Fury Road. (Article about Fury Road is coming up, along with one contrasting the Nolan Batman films with the Arkham games.)
  • I have Netflix at the moment, and by far the best original show I’ve seen so far is Bojack Horseman. A brilliant study of celebrity ennui, as handled by anthropomorphic animals. Fans of Venture Bros and Archer should look in. (Also, the Comic Sans-O-Matic tie in web site is nothing short of genius.)
  • The Great British Bake Off. Because. Plus University Challenge and Only Connect.

Fitter, happier, more productive

Things I’ve enjoyed, or found interesting, recently:

  • The Wrestler is really, really good. Possibly more truth in it than in almost all documentaries about the actual wrestling scene, although Jon Ronson had a good go in his Guardian piece about the aftermath of Chris Benoit’s killing spree. Really a must see.
  • The Springsteen album (featuring the excellent and appropriate credits song from the above as a bonus track) is also pretty enjoyable. Excellent graphics for the DVD version, too; shame about getting the discs out.
  • I like the Franz Ferdinand album, and the end of Lucid Dreams is a gloriously unexpected moment that should not be spoiled by anyone. The dub album is also an interesting bonus.
  • Spotify is awesome, even after they took down a lot of the indie-label material; nothing much in my field of interest, thankfully. Nice that they gave us an OS X version too.
  • I have a Mac laptop running Leopard and a desktop dual-booting Windows 7 beta and various Linux distros-of-the-month. Soon I will also have a media centre box running 7 MCE and XBMC/Windows, when the parts come in. My email is shared over IMAP, so all I need is for my documents directory to be the same between the two. Unison is somewhat broken for synchronising between the two and pretty much isn’t developed any more… so what I find is Windows Live Sync, which has both Windows and OS X versions and quietly syncs my machines’ documents directories on the fly. Transparently. For a Microsoft product, it really does do the job it’s intended to really quite well…
  • My software development day job is developing back-end software (Linux, C++) to get data from format A to format B in the cleanest and least visible way possible, but occasionally I do get the opportunity to develop front-end utilities. Which I write in Python for command-line stuff whenever I can, tcsh when it’s extremely simple, C++ when I can’t and C++/Qt for GUI stuff. I’ve seen enough bad GTK code (not just in our codebase) to know what I like, and Qt is it. Python is even more it, but a lot of our code needs every bit of CPU it can get so heavily threaded C++ it is…
  • And since I’ve just put forward my position on GTK/Qt: vi over emacs, Python over perl, tcsh over bash, Firefox over any other web browser, fluxbox over KDE/GNOME, and painful death over PHP.

More soon.

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