By dankempster 5 Comments
Hi guys, and welcome to Part Four of My Best of 2010 Awards. If you missed parts One through Three (you know, the ones that are actually about video games), you can find them here (Part One - The Mechanics), here (Part Two - The Moments), and here (Part Three - The Characters). In a bid to break up the flow and mix things up a bit, today's blog is focused on things that aren't games. If that doesn't interest you, then fair enough, but please be sure to come back tomorrow when I'll be revealing my ten most memorable gaming experiences of 2010 in the fifth and final part. For now though, let the (talking about things that aren't) games begin!
Part Four - The Things That Aren't Video GamesI didn't believe them the first time they told me, but apparently there's more to life than video games. For that reason, I've decided to use this part of My Best of 2010 Awards to look back on the things that mattered to me in 2010 that aren't game-related. You know - music, books, and other such things. The following blog is a compendium of all the miscellany that defined the last twelve months for me.
Best AlbumI think this is actually the only award I'm giving out this year that is limited to the last twelve months. As a fan of rock and blues music, I've long been bemoaning the lack of good music being made under those banners in recent years. If this year taught me anything, it's that good rock and blues music is still being made. I just need to be prepared to dig a little deeper to find it. Below are my top picks from the 2010 albums that I fell in love with.
Bronze - Sky At Night (I Am Kloot)I discovered Sky At Night after downloading a free promotional track taken from the album on Amazon. Liking the sound of it, I paid for the whole album. My reward for doing so was an incredible journey across a beautiful soundscape - somber, melancholy rock music and sharp-witted lyrics define I Am Kloot's brilliant sound. It's an album that thoroughly deserves its Mercury Prize nomination. Stand-out tracks worth anyone's time are Proof, Radiation and Same Shoes.
Silver - Black Rock (Joe Bonamassa)Anybody in search of a modern guitar hero in the vein of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck need look no further than Joe. His most recent studio album, a combination of influential covers and self-penned tunes, sumptuously blends hard rock and electric blues influences into something that's both musically accomplished and incredibly listenable. Anybody who digs the blues should be sure to check out Steal Your Heart Away, Bird On A Wire and Blue And Evil.
Gold - Wake Up The Nation (Paul Weller)
The Modfather's latest solo record is arguably his best work yet. Capturing elements of punk rock, psychedelia, funk and soul, Wake Up The Nation showcases the former Jam frontman at his most experimental and diverse. It's an album that defies genre, pushes boundaries and exceeds all expectations. Wake Up The Nation is an album that every fan of music needs, period. Stand-out tracks for me are Andromeda, Aim High and the sublime 7 & 3 Is The Striker's Name, but trust me - you need all sixteen.
Best Musical Discovery2010 brought its fair share of previously unheard music in my direction (a great deal of it courtesy of fellow Giant Bomber Red12b - thanks, buddy). Here are the three most notable additions to my music library.
Bronze - ElbowA Manchester band better than Oasis? Who'd have thunk it, eh? I discovered Elbow through their awesome single Grounds For Divorce, which you may be familiar with as gamers from the Left 4 Dead trailer. From there I dipped my toe into their most recent album, The Seldom Seen Kid, and fell instantly in love with their haunting sound. I've since picked up all four of their studio albums and can't wait for the release of their fifth, Build A Rocket Boys!, due in March this year. Elbow don't just write songs - they paint pictures with music and words.
Silver - Porcupine TreeIt kind of feels like cheating putting these in, mainly because I've only really got into Porcupine Tree's music over the last six weeks or so. Even so, I feel justified in picking them over some of the other artists that I stumbled upon in 2010, because throughout December I've listened to pretty much nothing but their four most recent studio albums on repeat. There's something about the bleak conceptual themes of their albums, their progressive song structures, and their inspired use of dynamics. They take everything I like about bands such as Pink Floyd, Muse and Radiohead and mesh them into something I can't help but love.
Gold - Joe Bonamassa
It's incredible to think that this time last year, I'd never heard of this incredible blues-rock guitarist. It was purely by chance, one evening in March, my girlfriend was perusing the iTunes database and happened upon his most recent album, Black Rock. Between now and then I've amassed a collection of his entire solo studio output, most of which is absolutely phenomenal. Not only that, discovering Joe has led me towards another of this year's most notable discoveries for me - Black Country Communion, a hard rock supergroup comprised of Bonamassa, Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian. His smooth, soulful vocals and virtuoso guitar work will ensure that he remains a prominent part of my music collection for a long time to come.
Best Reading MaterialI don't like the title of this category. "Reading material" sounds like it's referring to the newspaper your dad reads on the crapper, permanently opened at the crossword puzzle page. I'm actually referring to the various novels, plays, poetry and non-fiction I've read over the course of the year. These are some of my favourites.
Bronze - If On A Winter's Night A Traveler (Italo Calvino)I knew I was going to love If On A Winter's Night A Traveler even before I started it. One of the set texts for the Literature side of my English degree, I read this over my Easter vacation and loved it. Calvino's unique approach to writing was a refreshing change from the stuffy prose I'm used to reading for my course, thanks in large part to the unorthodox structure of the book and the story being told in the second person. Without getting too academic, the book also has a lot to say about writer/reader relationships that, as an aspiring novelist myself, I found very interesting.
Silver - Cymbeline (William Shakespeare)Another year of study means another assortment of Shakespeare plays to read, and this year's selection included this fairy-tale account of one of England's early kings. While I've never been a big fan of Shakespeare's tragedies, I've developed a bit of an affinity towards his comedies and romance plays, and this one in particular left its mark on me. The various plot strands intersect as you'd expect them to in a Shakespeare play, with joyful resolutions at the end. The play also contains a nice balance of drama, comedy, and surreal fairy tale elements, putting it right up there with A Midsummer Night's Dream for me.
Gold - The Left Hand Of God (Paul Hoffman)
Betraying my literary pretences with this easy-read novel, I couldn't help but pick it as my top read of 2010. Hoffman's creation is alive with wonder, drama and violence. The characters are well fleshed out, the relationships compelling, and the adventure moves at breakneck speed. It also reminded me greatly of William Nicholson's Wind on Fire Trilogy, three of my favourite books from my adolescence. The plot, one of trained assassins and religious war, would probably appeal to anyone out there who liked the setting and plot points of the original Assassin's Creed. Hoffman's next instalment in the story, The Last Four Things, is due out in April this year. I can't wait.
Comedian Of The YearIt may come as quite a surprise to learn that I love stand-up comedy. It's not something I talk about very often, but I do spend a lot of my time listening to comedy podcasts and going to stand-up nights when I can. The three comedians mentioned below are the ones that have left the greatest mark on me in 2010.
Bronze - Mitch BennEqual parts accomplished musician and stand-up comedian, Mitch Benn is a seriously under-appreciated talent in his field. Capable of knocking out topical lyrics and hilarious parodies with worrying ease, Mitch's satirical brand of comedy rock is a level above any other comic musician I've encountered. My love for his work started back in March of this year, when I saw him perform at one of my University's stand-up nights. After the show I was able to chat briefly with him and pick up a copy of his latest album, Where Next. Since then I've listened to the album multiple times and started tuning in to Radio 4's Now Show, for which he writes and performs at least two topical songs every week. Talented doesn't even cover it.
Silver - Billy ConnollyWhen it comes to the cream of British stand-up, nobody even comes close to touching Billy Connolly. The Big Yin's outrageously funny stand-up routines have had me in fits of giggles throughout the year thanks to my girlfriend's collection of his DVDs. Not only is he a great comic, but he's also a really interesting man. I was fortunate enough to catch a few old episodes of his World Tour TV series earlier this year, which give an insight into how well-traveled Connolly is and his appreciation for both art and the world around him. I have every faith he'll continue to keep the public entertained for many years to come.
Gold - Richard Herring
Richard Herring is probably the most under-appreciated man in comedy. I've spent much of the last year getting acquainted with Richard's brand of comedy, and it's been immensely rewarding. It began through a friend of mine, who introduced me to Herring's topical podcast-come-sketch-show, As It Occurs To Me. Every week, for several weeks in a row, he commits himself to producing forty-five minutes of brand new comic material and invariably delivers. He then puts that material out for free on the internet. As It Occurs To Me led me in turn to his autobiographical book, How Not To Grow Up, which despite not being mentioned above was one of my favourite reads of last year. Just before Christmas I purchased his most recent stand-up DVD. Titled Hitler Moustache, it sees Herring growing a toothbrush moustache in an attempt to reclaim it for comedy and reinstate its association with Charlie Chaplin. Equal parts hilarious comedy and thought-provoking commentary on racism in modern Britain, Hitler Moustache is without a doubt the best stand-up routine I have ever seen. You know what? Forget what I said earlier - Richard Herring is definitely the most under-appreciated man in comedy. In twenty years, he's never been presented with any great award or substantial recognition outside of his 90s partnership with Stewart Lee. Today, that changes, because I'm giving Richard Herring my Comedian of the Year Award.
Here ends the fourth part of My Best of 2010 Awards. Come back tomorrow for the epic finale, in which I plan to see in the New Year by looking back on the ten most memorable games I played over the course of the year. As always, thanks for reading, and see you around.
Currently playing - Fallout: New Vegas (X360)