Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Albums of 2013

Right then! The last of the ten-a-penny countdowns is here, and this one rounds up the best albums. So here’s what to spend your HMV gift voucher on, assuming HMV is still open by the time you read this…

10. Empire of the Sun – Ice on the Dune
Huge, lilting synth melodies and glam-pop overtones all added up to a mesmerising finished product for the Sydney duo’s second album.

9. The Feeling – Boy Cried Wolf
That’s right, you pretentious Vice-reading spunkbubbles. The Feeling. And what of it? After two albums best left unmentioned, Boy Cried Wolf overtook even debut Twelve Stops & Home as their greatest work: a raw, atmospheric and surprisingly dark masterpiece.

8. Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady
Perhaps a tad on the lengthy side thanks to some additional lukewarm soul padding, but the good bits more than make up for it. Equal parts slick and explosive, it’s a mystery that Janelle Monae hasn’t yet taken over the world. But hey, it’ll happen.

7. Bastille – Bad Blood
They provided a lone oasis of pseudo-indie in a singles chart filled with fucking Pitbull, but their album made good on Pompeii’s promise. More, please.

6. The Boy Least Likely To – The Great Perhaps
Come on. Were you really expecting it not to be here?

5. Dawn Richard – Goldenheart
While some hailed her as the female Frank Ocean, this album proved Dawn Richard’s talent far eclipsed that. Brooding, discerning R&B years ahead of its time.

4. Biffy Clyro – Opposites
The double album facet might have seemed a bit gimmicky – the two halves were nowhere near as disparate as you might expect. Which meant, essentially, you were left with one big long Biffy album. And that’s a very good thing indeed.
3. Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe
Synthy splendour which proved impossible not to love. Big tings a' coming.

2. Everything Everything – Arc
Much-deserved success came in the form of a Top 5 album back in January 2013, and even one listen to this bold, electro-indie stroke of genius explains why.

1. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist
And the greatest album of the year goes to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Beneath the overt humour and face-value novelty, The Heist displayed a formidable level of musicianship, intelligence and some incredibly valiant messages. (That said, the lengthy dig at Jimmy Iovine remains a highlight.)

TV of 2013

Oh look. It’s the ten greatest shows of 2013. Obviously, I’ve had to discount any shows I’ve personally worked on for reasons of impartiality (because yes, they were all THAT awesome). And just missing the cut are Suits, Top of the Lake, and Toast of London. So behold, my all-important opinion, in handy list form:

10. Homeland
A very shaky start to Series 3 was eventually forgiven with one hell of a payoff mid-season. Where the show will go from that event of the final episode will prove interesting, but book me a front row seat regardless.

9. The Big Reunion
A surprisingly entertaining series (helped in no small part by bumbling sitcom rudeboy Abs Off Of Five, and a dash of genuine drama in the form of a few surprise revelations). Shame the line-up for Series 2 is so utterly shambolic.

8. Trollied
It’s a pity the dire Atlantis lured Mark Addy away from Valco, but that didn’t stop Trollied being the best British sitcom of 2013. Serious kudos to Sky 1 for getting it so right.

7. The Americans
This could easily have been a thrown-together paranoia-fest on the coattails of Homeland, but The Americans stood up on its own as a gripping, wily and inventive drama.

6. Breaking Bad
Sterling work, bitch.

5. Parks & Recreation
“I ate a brownie once. I felt like I was floating. It turns out, there wasn’t any marijuana in it. It was just an insanely good brownie.”

4. The Great British Bake-Off
Skills-wise, this was nowhere close to the standards of previous series, but nevertheless a fantastic bit of entertainment. Sorry, factual entertainment. Let’s hope it survives its enforced migration to BBC One.

3. The Returned
A chilling, occasionally-frustrating, but overall genuinely mesmerising drama which needs the mooted English-language remake about as much as Pierre needs a stockpile of tinned food.

2. Game of Thrones
The only show that, every Monday, turned the nation into a bunch of spoiler-fearing web-wusses. And as for the Red Wedding? *boke*

1. The Walking Dead
The quality has dipped here and there throughout the lifespan of The Walking Dead, but its recent return to form deserves serious applause. As gut-wrenchingly emotional as it is gut-munchingly gruesome.
While I’d ordinarily dedicate a post to the worst TV shows of the year, I figure maybe it’s best to turn over a new leaf and think more positively. Even the crappiest programmes had so much effort put into them, it’d be wrong to tear them apart.


Singles of 2013

Whaddaya mean, you’re sick of end-of-year Best Of lists?! Surely there’s time for a quick glimpse at the ten greatest songs of 2013? Especially as all the other lists are WRONG?

(For the record, the honour of worst song of 2013 is a toss-up between Gentleman by The Saturdays – for Christ’s sake, you dead-eyed mannequins, SPLIT UP ALREADY – and Eliza Doolittle’s Big When I Was Little, which rewrote the Official Rulebook of Clumsy Infantile Horse-Shit.)

10. Phoenix – Entertainment
While every gobshite with an MP3 player got all knotted up about Daft Punk returning in the form of a Harvester ad, French pop was far better represented by Phoenix, and this mighty serving of guitar goodness.

9. Little Green Cars – Big Red Dragon
One of the greatest riffs of the year – nay, the decade – came in Big Red Dragon, a highlight from the debut album of Dublin five-piece Little Green Cars. Sit back, relax and watch ‘em get all, like, mahoosive.

8. Jimmy Eat World – I Will Steal You Back
Look, it’s not The Middle, but nothing’s ever going to be. We’ve made peace with that.

7. Placebo – Too Many Friends
A pleasingly mental music video helped matters, but that’s not to detract from the song itself, which saw Placebo back at their darkly-melodic, astringent best.

6. Two Door Cinema Club – Changing of the Seasons
The very idea of Northern Irish indie-pop darlings Two Door Cinema Club hooking up with house tween Madeon was pearl-clutchingly horrifying. But oh, how wrong we were. Exquisite stuff.

5. Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stop
Ignore the contrived smuttiness and clich├ęd lyrics briefly, and you’re left with a highly intriguing serving of space-age pop, thanks to the magic fingers of Mike Will Made It and a rather impressive vocal from Cyrus herself (something easily disregarded amidst all the femur-flashing).
4. We Are Scientists – Something About You
A FULL ALBUM coming in a little over two months, people. A FULL ALBUM.

3. Bastille – Pompeii
Like many a great song, Pompeii has been sacrificed to the Gods of Overkill (a huge thank you to unimaginative radio stations and promo producers the world over), but hey, they overplayed it for a reason.

2. Mutya Keisha Siobhan – Flatline
Its mere existence underlined the instability of the online fanbase and the stupidity of UK radio execs, but beneath the frothing frustration lay a magnificent, and sorely overlooked, track.

1. Vampire Weekend – Diane Young
Third album Modern Vampires of The City may not have been up to the overall standards of its predecessors, but this addictive little gem was by far and away the star of the show. 2013’s greatest advocate of repeat-button abuse.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Laterz an' ting

Guys. What are you even doing here? This place has been cordoned off for like a year!

Alas, a year on from the last post I wrote, I figured I should shut up shop for good. Much as I love writing a blog, a change in my employment means I'm writing pretty much all day, every day. And that's a very good thing. But it means the last thing I want to do when I get home is write some more.

However, fear not! I'll be blogging on a more ad-hoc basis over at mralfox.co.uk, so keep an eye out for my musings round those parts. And as far as I'm aware, The Sloppy Dog - which, if I'm wrapping things up, I should point out was a TERRIBLE name - will be left here for posterity. It'll be like visiting a museum, except with X Factor rants instead of priceless artefacts.

Thanks for reading. Genuinely.

Al xx
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