I heard you like lists?
It’s the very last day of 2016, which means I have a moral obligation to dust off the old blog and create a list. It’s a good time to post something since I took a break from writing this year and plan to get back into it. Waiting for a completely arbitrary calendar flip is a poor way to create good habits but you didn’t come here to read that. You came here for lists!
Simple Rules: If it’s not on the list, it means I either haven’t seen it/listened to it/played it, or I didn’t think it was good enough. If you disagree with a personal list, as in, you want to directly change my likes to your likes (not because you want to introduce me to something new but because you think the way I think is wrong), you are not a good person and you can quit reading now.
Top 5 Videogames of 2016
5. Stardew Valley
With the Nintendo Wii U slowly dying and my computer still a couple years old with a proprietary video card, most of my gaming was pushed to the 3DS and whatever my PC could barely play. Stardew Valley wasn’t only a game my computer could handle. It also scratched my Harvest Moon fix which nothing had really done for years. Sometimes we don’t need to re-invent the wheel but just make something that worked 20 years ago and then put it in hyperdrive. If you’re wondering about how I play, I don’t talk to anyone in town and spend most of my time fishing. Yup. Just fishing…
4. Mercenaries Saga 3
I loved Fire Emblem Awakening for the 3DS and definitely wanted to play the sequel which came out this year. The problem is that they released two games at once with the expectation to play them both so you could play a final topper. Too much for my wallet. I’ll wait for the games to go half off. To scratch the tactical itch, I found Mercenaries Saga 2 and eventually Mercenaries Saga 3 in the eShop. I guess these used to be mobile games? Either way, I really like how… outdated they are. These games feel like they came out in the 90s, moreso than Stardew Valley. The storylines feel so… incomplete. And simple. Something about that I like. I don’t have to think with this series. I just turn on the 3DS and build up my party. Works for me!
3. Chase: Cold Case Investigations – Distant Memories
One of my favourite game series of the past decade was Hotel Dusk and Last Window. They were investigation games with a deep focus on storyline and not much on… game. They played almost like RPGs where the battles were replaced by dialog choices and puzzles. These have slowly become my favourite games to play. Chase: Cold Case is a new project from the same team and this was… a very short game. It was basically a taste with similar art. That said, I loved it. It still quenched my thirst for this type of game.
2. Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma
Ah… this weird fucking game series. No game out there has so much story that makes no fucking sense and goes to such ridiculous extremes to twist for you. I shouldn’t like these games but I do. So very much. The amount of times you have to repeat scenarios, the amount of times you have to watch people get murdered in brutal ways, the confusing puzzles to complete with stupid answers… but it’s still so good! Zero Time Dilemma doesn’t compare to the earlier games, but it was still a lot of fun.
1. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice
Was this the best Phoenix Wright game? I’d have to replay the old ones to compare (and I did purchase them for 3DS to re-try!) but it could be pretty close. By balancing it between Apollo and Phoenix, the game was able to juggle multiple stories with different perspectives and ways to get your clients out of certain murder. Phoenix Wright is probably my favourite game series of the past decade and it’s great to see Capcom not go weak with the titles. Now if only they can release those bizarre Phoenix games from Japan…
Top 5 Albums of 2016
5. e q u i p – I Dreamed Of a Palace in The Sky
The past few years I’ve gotten deep into New Retrowave. 2016 was no different, but I did start to step into the sonic noises of vaporwave. A lot of vaporwave feels as though the creators don’t actually care about what they were making. Maybe I’m not listening properly. But equip? Equip combined vaporwave with videogame music, and that’s right up my alley. A phenomenal album which reminded me of how great Dire, Dire Docks from Super Mario 64 was. You can listen and purchase the album here.
4. Stranger Things – OST
The Stranger Things Original Soundtrack was so good, it brought Tangerine Dream out of the darkness to cover some of the tracks that were clearly made in inspiration of Tangerine Dream’s 80s OST work. The work by Survive (retrowave!) to create a soundtrack that sounded like it was from the 80s without sounding like a complete ripoff (just enough modern production) is a big reason why I loved Stranger Things so much. If retrowave becomes a thing? You can pretty much point to this OST for doing it.
3. Trevor Something – Selfless Boy and the Eternal Render
From vaporwave to 21st century 80s soundtracks to straight up New Retrowave. Trevor Something is one of the few artists that tries to grow in the new retrowave genre and become a better artist. He’s also one of the few I’d probably see in concert doing the music. This had a serious chance of moving to #1 on my list once I heard “Girlfriend”, “Do It Again” and “The Real You” but the album slowly slips from that height to fall off. TNAF did the same thing. If Trevor had a few more bangers, it’d be more than a great album to listen to while traveling. That said, it still holds up after “The Real You” soundwise, it just doesn’t get to the same plateau. You can listen and purchase to it here.
2. The Naked and Famous – Simple Forms
This album… actually disappointed me. It’s strange for the number two album on my list to disappoint me, but my hype after In Rolling Waves was so high. I wanted an album that would push The Naked and Famous to brilliant new heights. I wanted an album I could play for anyone and make them TNAF fans. I wanted Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours of 2016. Instead I got what sounded like Alisa and Thom making compromises and coming from two different places creatively. The other problem is that Thom Powers thinks he’s an equal vocalist to Alisa, when Alisa is now one of the best singers in the music industry. Despite my disappointment’s, the album still produces “The Runners”, “Last Forever”, “Higher”, and “Laid Low”, four songs that on their own will be listened to until the vinyl in my head is worn down.
1. July Talk – Touch
July Talk came out of nowhere for me. I was at my mom’s house watching Much (music) and the video for “Push + Pull” came on. I was immediately hooked. I ended up looking into the band’s early catalog and got addicted to more songs. These folks are from Canada? Why haven’t I heard of them until now? Oh… that’s right. I don’t really listen to the radio or watch TV for my music anymore. Either way, I purchased “Touch” at HMV and bought tickets to see them in London (I didn’t end up going unfortunately) and this is one of the few records I’ve listened to this year where I can say I liked the majority of the songs. “Push + Pull”, “Picturing Love”, “Beck + Call”, “Strange Habit”, “Touch”, all excellent songs that would make a Top 25 for the year for me. It’s also one of the first albums in a while where the first and last songs are of similar strength. Hard to find that these days.
Top 5 Films of 2016
This… was not a good year for movies for me. I struggled to think of what was a great film I saw this year. I still have a lot to watch too. That said? I saw Zootopia on Netflix and I liked it. It was funny. It was cute! I don’t have much else to say. Like I said, bad year for movies for me.
4. Adam Curtis – Hypernormalisation
When Adam Curtis releases a documentary, I have to put it on a list. That’s just how it goes. There were moments in Hypernormalisation which made me question if I wanted to go on the Internet anymore. That’s… a tough thing to type on a blog with my name on it. It’s a must watch. It’s also free I believe now. Go check it.
3. Kubo and the Two Strings
This one came up out of nowhere for me. I heard great things about it and folks saying it was like a film version of Zelda, but I just didn’t have much push to see it. Finally sat down to watch it and… wow. Visually one of the most breathtaking films I’ve watched in the last while. The story was strong, the voice acting was excellent (dare I say the best from Matthew McConaughey? Yes, I dare!) Hopefully the critical response pushes it for more sequels since it barely made its money back.
Yes Denis. You can have Blade Runner. Congratulations, welcome to my list of the top five directors working today.
1. The Nice Guys
I loved this movie so much. Arrival is a better “film” but I have a feeling I’m going to watch The Nice Guys a lot more times than Arrival. Of course it didn’t make much money in the box office. I talked this movie up for months and it was like nobody had a clue what it was about. Was it the title? Was it the plot? I don’t know, but this will sit beside Kiss Kiss Bang Bang as the best of Shane Black. It also utilized Ryan Gosling in the best way since Breaker High. A miracle!
Top 5 TV Shows of 2016
5. Adam Ruins Everything
Remember how FX/FXX used to rule comedy? I mean, they basically still do with You’re The Worst and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but TruTV has come out of nowhere with so many great shows. Billy on the Street, Those Who Can’t, and Adam Ruins Everything is a hat trick of great television I sometimes feel are only playing in my household and nowhere else. Adam Ruins Everything is such a brilliant combination of education and comedy, and proof some good came from Internet snippets. Now if they could only stop creating overarching storylines so their episodes always survive as standalones, that’d be great.
4. American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson
The People vs. O.J. Simpson was so great, I have a hard time separating it from my own memories of the mid-90s debacle that was the O.J. Simpson media fest. And much like the actual event, the TV show focuses less on the factor two innocent people were violently murdered, and more on the personalities involved. Courtney B. Vance was the MVP of television as Johnny Cochrane… for men. For women? Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark. For one show to have the two best performances in all of television, shouldn’t this be the best show of 2016? Unfortunately, the show wasn’t Marcia vs. Johnny. It was about O.J. Simpson. And while Cuba Gooding Jr. wasn’t terrible as O.J., he was certainly miscast. Not to be missed, just for Johnny and Marcia.
3. Stranger Things
When it originally popped up on Netflix on the recommendation from a friend, I did not know what I was going to get. I watched one episode and was like, oh, I like this style. I like what they are doing here. What a great introduction! And then I watched another episode… and then… it was 5AM and I had watched every episode in a single sitting. Put aside the 80s nostalgia and it’s still a fantastic show that intertwines children, teenagers, and adult stories with impeccable finesse. I do wish the next season wasn’t with the same characters and town but I’m giving the Duffer Brothers a chance to prove me wrong.
2. Gravity Falls
One of the best cartoons I have ever watched ended in 2016. The only reason this isn’t number one is because only a single episode aired in 2016: Weirdmageddon 3: Take Back the Falls. To put this at #1 when only one episode aired would be strange, but leaving it off the list would be wrong. I re-watched every episode this year after it ended and it was still fantastic from the first episode to the very end. The final episode was a fantastic end to a brilliant work by all. Thanks for the memories, Gravity Falls. You will stand tall with Animaniacs and Freakazoid.
1. The Americans
So take a show that’s in its fourth season. It’s already brilliant, the best on television. You have a couple storylines to finally tie off. What do you do? If you’re The Americans, you get one of the actors to direct an episode which suddenly time hops the show unexpectedly. The show pushed the spy focus into bio weapons, which made perfect sense. The Americans is about family, about trust, and about what it means to bury yourself into someone and murder them from the inside. Season five is based in 1984. I’m a year from being born. Top spot might goto The Americans by default.
Top 5 Songs of 2016
5. Arkells – Drake’s Dad
It was great seeing the Arkells again this year. They are by far the band I have seen the most live. Their new album wasn’t as strong as I was hoping it to be, but it started great with “Private School” and followed up big with “Drake’s Dad”, an ode to boys being boys in a way that isn’t some justification for rape culture. The Peter Pan imagery reminded me of how my friends can be with a few drinks and no direction for the weekend. The video got me close to hopping a bus for a 24 hour trip to Nashville. Maybe in 2017?
4. July Talk – Push + Pull
Easily the best pump up song of 2016 for me. “I don’t wanna wait, TAKE, TAKE EVERYTHING” is the kind of hype anyone needs to feel like a conquerer. What are you conquering? Figure it out and conquer that shit. Conquer the gym. Conquer your meal. Conquer 2016. Whatever you plan to conquer, just don’t wait. Brilliant video with a weird dance that gives me cult vibes.
3. Trevor Something – Do It Again
Few songs spoke to me personally like “Do It Again” in terms of what I’d want nothing more to do with someone but know they don’t feel the same. Something I gotta focus on getting over. A song about wanting to “Do It Again” doesn’t really help in getting over someone you know you should, but hey, fuck it. Great lyrics, great beat, great chorus, just great everything. Trevor Something is the real deal you don’t know about.
2. Solid Gold by Battle Tapes featuring Party Nails
Battle Tapes is filling a void left by Innerpartysystem, a void I never thought would be filled (I still listen to that self titled LP from 2008), and while the album Polygon came out in 2015, this single came out in December. Featuring Party Nails, this song broke through me and has been on constant repeat. I walk to this song. I dance to this song. I repeat the lyrics. With the guitar lick from “Fame” mixed with an electronic crunch, Battle Tapes with Party Nails made a song I will never get bored of, and a song I want to aspire to be.
1. The Runners by The Naked and Famous
The first time I heard this, I knew The Naked and Famous made one of their best songs yet. Hearing it live, I haven’t had an experience with a song like that since seeing Nine Inch Nails in 2005. The world didn’t exist for me when hearing it. I was one in a crowd connected to the song and the emotions. “The Runners” is the kids from “Young Blood” grown up, looking for hope as their hearts mature. One of the best choruses I’ve ever heard. Just writing about it and listening back to it, I get chills through my body. If this is the last time Thom and Alisa come together for a great song, they ended on a high note.
“We just want to be adored”
There are the lists! Hope you enjoyed. See you next year!
So… see you tomorrow.