As 2012 fades out, I thought it would be fun to do a list of favourites from this year. The list covers music, Playstation games, books, art, make-up and short film.
There was one contender for favourite album of the year, until a friend introduced me to Au4 in early December. So here’s both!
Au4 – And Down Goes The Sky
A new to me Canadian collaborative band and one that I’ve been entirely won over by. And Down Goes The Sky has some of the most amazingly good lyrical storytelling I’ve come across in long years, with powerful post-rock, dance and electronica sounds. The rhythm and lyrics had me hooked instantly and there are more layers revealed with repeat listens.
A band that includes the Planck Scale as a philosophical song theme is going to have my instant “Love this!” reaction. (I found a great explanation of 1.6 x 10-35 here at relativity meets quantum mechanics meets gravity. Thank you to the University of NSW, Sydney). My particular favourites are Lost Her Way Home, with a great play between male/female sung narrative, Propagation of Light (Through the Ether of Emotion) which deserves to be a novel as well as a dance track, the haunting-ness in imagery of Forever Dancing Under A Fallen Sky and, of course, Planck Length.
Additional respect to the band for economical pricing of the digital pre-release for download. And for making all the song information available on their website! As the band has a strong social media presence and deserves fan support for their projects, here’s a couple of links:
My thanks to Aaron Wylie for giving permission to include the album artwork.
Rush – Clockwork Angels
As a fan of Rush; I have to admit that this is their first entire album that I really love in, ohh, ten plus years maybe. People have debated about the choice of concept and lyrics on this one, but I’m delighted that the band did it because it is what they excel at. A wide, building, at times full-on wall of guitar and effects, sound with a compelling linear tale and well-matched energy and lyrics. Stand out tracks for me have to be Halo Effect, The Wreckers, Seven Cities of Gold and The Garden. (Geddy Lee makes my feelings soar with what he achieves on the last track)
This was a breakthrough album for a friend I recommended it to, they’d listened to Rush before but just never quite found the album that worked for them. Great to know that they’re still winning new fans after thirty eight years of making music.
Favourite Playstation3 (PSN) game
There’s no doubt about my favourite for this:
Journey by thatgamecompany
Truly this is one of the best games I’ve played, ever, on any format, in fifteen years of gaming. Imaginative in look and design, full of emotional impact and creatively inspiring only begins to touch the surface. The music soundtrack by Austin Wintory and the game environmental sounds are worth the price of admission by themselves. I have played it over and over since May 2012, by myself and with other online Journeyers.
Many games can be a fantastical escape, an exercise in hand/eye co-ordination and strategy, team work or a hyper-real experience but not many touch your soul. This does.
I also have to give a mention to:
The Unfinished Swan by Giant Sparrow
A truly charming game, perhaps a little bit on the short side for length of play, but I’m sucker for a fairytale setting and the paintball/paint throwing aspect for the player to discover and interact with the world is beautifully done.
A pleasant learning curve of puzzles, lovely design of distinct, changing environments and with a discreet but fun in-joke to thatgamecompany’s Journey; The Unfinished Swan has an affectional quirk and inventive spirit, with a surprising level of pathos at the end. Additional kudos given for having Terry Gilliam involved.
Favourite make-up brand
Illamasqua. By far the most inventive brand of the year I’ve seen. Not all their products necessarily suit me, but between the items that do and the inclusive and innovative campaign for Generation Q, I’m really glad I got to try their products and review them. It encouraged me to try bolder colour and techniques than I have done for a long time. A creative make-up person’s must to try!
I came across Tom Lewis’ art works by chance and I think what he creates is truly beautiful, with dark twists and neon brightness. The images allow for a great sense of dream-like perception across cultures and I can relate easily to that. Whatever the reality; his art makes me remember that almost filmic sense of life. I hope to save up to owning one of his limited edition prints one day. Tom Lewis sees a world I want to be immersed in.
Hilary Mantel – Bring Up The Bodies
If you’ve read the previous book ‘Wolf Hall’ it’s easier to see why this was a dead cert for the book awards. The previous book’s easily confused dialogue of who was speaking to whom was cleared up (perhaps with a little too much emphasis at times) and it continued the story of its protagonist beautifully.
Thomas Cromwell is undoubtedly a great choice as an example of an expedient politician with flexible boundaries on morality, but this has you reluctantly liking him and hating his manipulation and brutal revenge in equal fashion. Outstanding writing and a really worthy addition to all those tomes of historical fiction based in the Tudor period of English history.
Favourite animated short film
I have to give this a mention once more, even though it was released in 2011, because it’s just that great: The Maker. After downloading; I’ve watched it several times and the beauty of structure, design and the rhythm and pace of the editing is nothing short of remarkable. A moving piece and an education in how to make an animation appear to be simple and complex at the same time.