An hour neither of us will get back…

It’s often easy to be too self conscious, whenever I go to start typing about a given topic the first thought that pops into my head is often “no-one gives a shit about this”. Even though this is my little space, just a place to note down my thoughts in the moment, I am constantly aware of the audience at large that may end up reading this. I’ve considered writing about clothes I’ve purchased, things I’ve seen that I really didn’t need to or updates on my new car, but each and every time I go to actually produce the content, I’m overwhelmed by the all too familiar paranoia.

So, to try and force myself into a post, I am setting aside this hour to just write about anything and everything that pops into my head. Yes, the result will most likely be my most aimless post yet, but content is content and I just need to get something out on here for my own peace of mind. Start your watches everyone, here we go…

  • I dropped my old car off to where we’re storing it today. Even though I love the little thing, by far and away the best present I have ever received, how the hell did I get around in that for 5 years?!
  • Writing a notice is a weird experience. It’s strange how something so small, less than 100 words in my case, can have such an impact on your life. You could write it at literally any time too, it’s so easy to feel trapped within a job, but you’re on piece of paper away from a whole new life really.
  • The move is starting to feel real now, with going to view the flat next week and definitive dates for both leaving work and heading down to Cornwall, it’s crept around surprisingly fast since Ben first raised the idea.
  • I never thought the weak part of Captain Marvel would be Brie Larson, well, her and that fucking cat. Avengers looks cool as hell though.
  • My Dad sets off for Tokyo tomorrow, I’m both super proud and super jealous. He’ll have an amazing time, of course, showing everyone up with his reffing like he does every time he puts on the kit. Whisper it, but he’s always right about this sort of thing. His England representative tracksuit is ridiculously tight though.
  • Football is stupidly entertaining, between last year’s World Cup and this year’s Premier League/Champions League, we’re being spoilt with probably the best competitions I’ve ever lived through.
  • We’re babysitting Stu at the mo, it’s so nice to be able to look out the window and see a little bundle of joy hopping around out there in the garden again. I wonder how he’s doing now, I hope he’s happy.
  • I haven’t properly fallen in love with an album yet this year, which is a real shame. Vampire Weekend are my great hope for 2019, their new stuff has been a real treat so far, but I’m trying to not get my hopes up too much like I did for The 1975.
  • This blog has reached 1000 views now, which is pretty crazy. Thank you to anyone who has visited the page even once.
  • Had a peppermint tea over the weekend, was absolutely 10/10 and I need to get some for myself at home, regardless of how much it makes me look like a poser.
  • Mamma enjoyed her 90th birthday, she absolutely deserves the world and it was so nice to see her smile so much over the two days

Time is up! Most of you are probably glad to hear. Turns out my thoughts aren’t as interesting as I first thought when I came up with this concept. Regardless, I am pleased to report I am experiencing that comforting glow which only comes from filling a blank page with words.

If anything, I need to convince myself that these shorter posts about nothing in particle are okay; not everything I put out needs to be 1000 words with a deep revelation at the end. I’m gonna try and get at least one more post out before the move, just to try and retain my sanity and sort how I’m feeling about it out a little more, so I guess I’ll see you all then.

‘Til the next time

Dan

 

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Awards and Omelettes

Hey, here are some dumb, stupid thoughts you won’t care about!

It’s awards season soon, with the two big nights I really give a damn about being the BRITs for music and, of course, the Oscars on the movie front. I really don’t know why I care so much about these ultimately pointless trophies, but I do a whole lot. They don’t effect my enjoyment of a particular film or album, but I care a great deal about great experiences getting the widespread recognition they deserve.

Late last year I was planning on writing a top 5 film list in the same vein of my album and game lists, but when I actually got round to doing so, couldn’t for the life of me think of enough movies to fill even that short space. For those that are really desperate, here’s the quick version (with an added number 5 that I watched after the start of 2019):

5 – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
4 – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
3 – Avengers: Infinity War
2 – Eighth Grade
1 – Isle of Dogs

Totally cliche, I know. I still need to see The Favourite (I bloody loved The Lobster so am expecting big things), but other than that, what a rubbish year for films. Regardless, the reason I bring this up is because of the movie I have in my number 2 spot, Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade. Now, I love Bo’s work anyway, his Netflix specials are top of my recommendations list whenever anyone asks, which is admittedly rarely, and his poetry book is seriously slept on. When I heard about Eighth Grade then, safe to say I was a little excited. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint, being a well written, well acted, well directed, heartfelt, modern coming of age story. Highly impressive for a debut.

Anyway, I’m getting distracted again. The movie received a good deal of critical acclaim, shining some well deserved attention both Bo’s and star Elsie Fisher’s way. The latter even picked up a Golden Globe nomination, which warmed my heart. Fast forward a couple of weeks though, to when the Oscar nominations are announced. Eighth Grade is completely snubbed. No lead actress nom, no best director nom and most shamefully of all, no original screenplay nom. Come on, Academy, the man pushed a genre forward. Gutted.

Imagine my surprise then, when I was scrolling through Twitter the other day, and saw Bo replying to a message of congratulations for his recent awards win. Upon watching the attached clip, I realised Bo had picked up the best original screenplay award he so thoroughly deserved, but at the Writers Guild Awards, which had completely slipped under my radar. In it, he opens his acceptance speech with the brilliantly defiant “to the other nominees in the category, have fun at the Oscars, losers!”, eluding to both the poor reception the ceremony has received this year, as well as the rarity of his situation; winning big amongst his peers but not even being recognised at the highest commercial level.

I like Bo so much because he’s so honest about the problems he faces, as a creator, as an  entertainer and just as a human being. Whilst that line is extremely funny, as with most of Burnham’s work, there’s a definite sense of ironic sadness to it too. The Oscar snub probably hit him pretty hard, in any other year he almost certainly would’ve been in contention, but this year’s competition was particularly tough with a number of Oscar-bait titles receiving the nod instead. Bo would probably kill to be on the other side of his speech, missing out from the Guild, but having the title of ‘Academy Award Nominee’ attached to his work forever. But, instead of letting that get to him, he spins it around and completely shows the Academy why they were wrong to ignore him; a sharp tongue and sense of awareness Hollywood is severely lacking right now. Simply put, the man is a genius.

There’s definitely a lesson to be taken from this. Extracting the positives in the face of disappointment, gaining confidence from them instead of fixating from the negatives, is certainly something I’ve been trying to practice recently. Wait, wasn’t this post about the awards season to start with?

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, there’s IDLES, who have picked up a BRITs nomination for British Breakthrough Act. The BRITs are always an interesting evening, with solid representation for a variety of genres across the board, in stark contrast to the definitive awards show ‘type’ most of these evenings see. You’ve got Arctic Monkeys in there, alongside The 1975 representing the indie scene, competing against the more anthem based artists like Little Mix and George Ezra. IDLES in particular though, are an advert for staying true to a vision through adversity. Most of the other nominees are young stars, coming off the back of debut albums. IDLES on the other hand, are handling newfound fame off a stellar second album centred around political outrage and personal tragedy.

Again, making the best out of a bad situation and reaping the rewards. You’ve gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette and all that. I only found out that I liked omelettes last year, so maybe I’ve just got to wait a little longer before I find the perfect way to make them. What a stretched metaphor that was. Can you tell I got a few job rejections this week? Can you tell it’s 1am as I’m writing this? Oh well, congrats to Bo and good luck to IDLES, they both seriously deserve every success coming their way.

Developing on this life update note a little more, it was my birthday the Sunday just gone, which marked the beginning of a busy couple of weeks for me. I’ve got The Orielles live this week, a tattoo appointment the week after, my new car arriving some point in March, my gran’s 90th that month too and the big possible move to Cornwall at the start of April. So, I was glad to have such a chilled day on the 17th; my sister brought Stu, we played games and ate pizza (me and my family that is, not me and the rabbit, although I wish).

To honour IDLES that little bit more, I’m gonna end this post with a little haiku, which they love so much, because why not? Here goes nothing:

Here, have an award
The year’s best content was… you!
This statue proves it

‘Til the next time

(The ‘infamous’, if you know you know) Dan

Hey, weird question, but…

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my last post, in which I said that certain physical attributes do not qualify as personality traits; they simply do not define a person. Am I, though, being mega hypocritical here? I mean, I’ve had a quiff and Japanese anime style hair since I was 13 years old, studied a somewhat niche subject at university to make myself seem more interesting (which I now cannot shut up about), and have such a reliance on music I’m way past being an unbearable, cliche stereotype and am venturing instead into narcissism territory. None of which constitute much of an interesting, unique soul, let alone one worth giving a damn about.

But hey, in for a penny, in for a pound right? Music is shockingly important to me. I’ve said many times before in this blog how I adore a musicians ability to voice an abstract opinion of the masses in such a way that, once you’ve heard it, feels so obvious and natural. Like the most satisfying gut punch of your life. For me, this is epitomised by the line: “though I tried so not to suffer the indignity of a reaction” within Crying Lightning. Yes, I know, I’m writing about that damn song again. It’s the word “indignity”, for describing something as natural as an instinct, too perfect. Certain situations can just make you feel as if your intuitions are immoral, like you need to resist them, either through manipulation or indecision. In the moment, this feels so personal and imprisoning; you are definitely the only person to have felt like this, ever, in the history of the world. Until, that is, Alex Turner is crooning these lyrics at you over a bass-line that speaks to your very essence. That’s music, everybody!

So, I decided to conduct a little experiment. I messaged my family and a few friends to ask them for their choices regarding their favourite lyrics of all time, to expand my perception and see if I could link their experiences to my own music collection. A little dramatic, a touch self-centred, and most certainly a strange message to receive out of the blue (how do I have any friends?), but hey ho, the results were pretty interesting. At least, I think they were, and you’ve already read this far, so why stop now?

Pretty much immediately, my sister replied with 11 different quotes, all from The Courteeners. It makes me ridiculously happy that she is so enamoured with this one man’s voice, Fray’s penmanship towards love and relationships in general must appeal to  her in the same way Turner’s does to me. It’s cases like these, where you see an artist grow and their catalogue of work change over time, where music really solidifies itself as an art form. Attending shows though (that Emma has done countless times for this particular band), develops a sense of connection with performers, who are ultimately strangers, as you see the work you love recreated from scratch before your very eyes; it’s a very special thing. I’ll admit, seeing these lads break out into “I think it’s time for me and you to take over the world” for the first time was one of the defining moments of my life, capturing my imagination arguably forever.

For others, music is a means to an end, reminding them of places they’ve been or the people they’ve met in their lives. I can definitely empathise with this, there are absolutely certain songs I physically cannot listen to anymore because of the association I have attached to them, those that transport me back in time. Of course, this works the opposite way too, being a way to experience a fraction of the joy you felt at certain times for a few minutes, a literal soundtrack to your life. There are specific flows or vibes music can cement you into, getting lost in verses like a river’s current, that will just stick with you. The Cure were rightly suggested here (appropriately enough with the line, “dancing in the deepest oceans“, which is undeniably gorgeous), but for me it’s the opening verse to Don’t Delete The Kisses by Wolf Alice; the second I hear it I’m walking to campus on a summers morning with a huge grin on my face.

This effect can be so strong, existing across so many songs, that the question I posed sent some people into serious meltdown. Some took days to respond, some sent me multiple answers which spanned eras and genre alike, and others just couldn’t bring it upon themselves to make a final decision. I can relate. Certain albums are like my children, I honestly couldn’t choose between them. Each reflect a stage in my life, a mindset or image I presented to the world which was best exemplified by my band of choice at the time. The ones who can endure, forming these memories which spring to mind at once upon being asked such a question, all hold equal standing in my rankings for a myriad of reasons, to the point where my answer may even change from day to day.

Sometimes, it is as easy as being made happy by the literal interpretation of the lyrics alone. One of my little guinea pigs explained his love for lines as simply as “what’s not to smile about?”. I often get caught up with the deeper meaning behind lyrics, their many interpretations or whatever, but there are many lines I love straightforwardly; they’re just bloody good fun to belt out when you’re pissed. Winners of the Dan Page Album of the Year 2018, Idles, are particularly good value for these sorts of moments, “Mary Berry loves reggae” being a particular highlight.

Another had a direct connection to their song of choice, being friends with the artist themselves. This is definitely something I want to be more familiar with. Seeing Ben play live in Cornwall seriously struck a chord with me (pun intended), I was blown away by just how good his band was. There’s just something about knowing the person creating content, the conversations I’ve had with people about their artistic talents, musical or otherwise, provides more insight to them as people than a million of the aforementioned ‘personality traits’ I’m seemingly obsessed with now.

I’ve bombarded you with a few of my personal choices so far,  but if I had to crown one winner, right now, it would probably be “I’m not suicidal, just idling insignificantly“. What a mood. It can just be read so many different ways. Defiant, yet insanely vulnerable. I’ve listened to it in the car when I need a quick bop to get me to work, or screamed it at nothing when I’ve been frustrated. One consistent theme I noticed across people’s answers was introspection, with one participant hitting the nail on the damn head: “I don’t think this was how it was intended but I took it like this and I’m oddly comforted by it”. Subjectivity has always been a big source of fascination for me, I wrote about it a hell of a lot at university, so to see that I was not alone in my obsession was as comforting to me as Alex Turner’s smoothest Sheffield serenade.

Most interesting to me though, were the responses from my parents. Both gave quotes from songs they have loved for years, decades even. This is the kind of thing that both excites and terrifies me simultaneously. It encompasses pretty much everything I’ve touched on above, whilst also being a whole new experience in itself. Having the time to develop a deeper relationship with an artist, letting the imagery become even more vivid in your mind, and expand your repertoire of personal attachments to a track is risky, yet insanely rewarding. What if I sour my love for a song in some way? I have Crying Lightning and David Bowie tattooed on me for life for goodness sake, what if in 20 years I can’t stand the sound of it? Or, what if I fall for them in ways I never even expected? Blimey this is intense.

At this point, “When routine bites hard, and ambitions are low” is something of a family motto, being a permanent fixture in my life ever since my Dad introduced me to his favourite band, this little group called Joy Division, back when I was a kid. Going the opposite way though, it gets me thinking what sort of tracks will endure in my mind until I’m that age, or will compel me to share them with any kids I have (calm down ladies, I’m talking a good quarter century yet). Currently, I can’t imagine sharing The 1975’s drug-heavy choruses, or The Twang’s rap about a freak neighbour. Shit, will they even know who Mary Berry was?

Was this post any good? Dan sucks the joy out of everything by over explaining subtle song lyrics, then egocentrically makes his friends views about himself, like a spoilt kid at a birthday party. Oh well, I enjoyed conducting my lil experiment, I feel as if I know everyone I asked that bit better for it. Mostly, it amazed my how each person’s response gave me something new to work with, I was really struggling for something to write about, so was only expecting to get a couple of words out of this topic, but here we are a thousand and a half later. So, thank you to all, I think you’ll agree it’s been a hell of a journey, truly inspiring stuff, well done everyone, top marks, round of applause, when are we getting published etc etc.

These closing paragraphs are getting truly awful.

‘Til the next time

Dan

Stu(pid feelings and stuff)

My days have been feeling very fragmented recently, divided into neat little sections that form their own individual islands in my head. This compartmentalisation is no good thing, as I often feel like I’m wearing different masks with each different environment and group of people I interact with. A separate hat for work, family,  time spent alone, you get the picture. As a result, I have kind of lost touch with the sense of who I am as a person. Who is Dan? With all the rapid change I’ve experienced since leaving university (blog bingo fans will be happy, it’s only the first paragraph and you can already tick off an existential breakdown and a university mention), the pillars of my personality have seriously taken some battering and shifted a little.

I despise when people give facts about themselves or simply name things that they like and act as if this constitutes as their personality. The last time I was in Cornwall (I’m sure long time blog readers will remember the accompanying post, it was a real doozy), I was in a bar and overheard someone introducing their friend as “Dave, he went to Canada”, and it really made my blood boil. I felt like interrupting just to say “that’s all well and good, but what is Dave actually like? What are his personality traits? His little subconscious quirks that give away his true feelings? His dreams? His attitude towards life? His major beliefs? I’m damn sure his entire being can be elaborated on just a smidge more than the trip he took last week!!!”, but I feel as if that may have been overstepping the line a tiny bit. Now though, as I try to think about what defines me, deep down, I’m struggling to think of anything beyond the surface; I haven’t even been to Canada.

For instance, my sister has just bought a new pet rabbit. I’m completely in love with him. Meeting him for the first time made me the happiest I’ve been in a long long time. It’s so great to have a bunny in my life again, since it has been many years since our last family pet passed away, and fuck did that make me sad. There’s been a long-eared shaped hole in my world. Now though, there’s this little brown baby, with a beard better than mine, hopping away just a two minute drive away from me and I can see him whenever I want. This is also honestly why I wanted to write this post, just so everyone reading can take a good moment to think about and appreciate Stu. You read that right, Stu the rabbit. Rabbit Stu. I still can’t decide whether that’s funny or not. However, loving rabbits is also not a personality trait. Hell, it’s not even a quirk. Neither is supporting Derby County, or adoring the Arctic Monkeys. This is a stupid post isn’t it? Why am I like this?

This detachment is probably not helped by my complete lack of a sleeping pattern, even now I’m writing this at around 1am, wondering when fatigue will set in. I don’t have a routine for something as basic as sleep, let alone making other things steady, leading to this sense of disconnection as none of the things I do lead in to each other. Work shifts change, reffing dates are inconsistent, as are my plans with other people. My crisis of identity is probably unwarranted, yet inevitable given how things are right now. I blame the philosopher within me (HOUSE!), constantly analysing what is innately distinct about Dan. With the rain hitting my window at the minute, and my overwhelming feeling of dramatic woe, I’m starting to fear I’ve fallen into a mid 00’s emo music video. This melancholia though, is ironically enough probably one of these features I’ve been obsessing over for the past 600 words; a pessimism that bleeds into my sense of humour and the worry surrounding the things I do.

Shit, that got heavy didn’t it? So the thing about Stu is that he is so fluffy, which makes him look quite big for how young he is, but then you pick him up and he can totally fit into the palm of your hand, amazing. Plus, his nose constantly wiggles. All the time. He doesn’t even make a noise, just the nose, up and down, up and down, up and down for his whole bunny life.

Fine, back to the serious stuff. I like to think that this inherent gloom keeps me balanced. I act in the face of it, instead of being controlled by it. I try to put my all into everything I do. I work hard at even little things, like just polishing cutlery when on shift, or really taking my time when writing job applications. I like to dig deep, be it getting mad at games or fiery when defending an album I adore. Spite probably isn’t the best motivator I could choose though, as I can constantly feel the internal battle between my being dispirited and this determination to be better. I just can’t tell who is winning the fight anymore. It’s called resolve for a reason though; I’m adamant to see the plan I’ve been trying to implement for the past half a year come to fruition.

Stu has a little house too, the front has a plaque with his name on.

‘Til the next time everyone,

Dan

 

 

 

Doing Words

Despite being quite busy, I’ve kind of just been on autopilot since my last post (almost a whole month, oops), which isn’t particularly good news for me, since a regular week in my life consists of more ups and downs than your average Derby County season. This isn’t the strangest sensation in the world though, it’s easy to lose track of yourself over the festive period, especially with the infamous week over Christmas and New Year’s where time and all memory take a holiday.

So, in an attempt to get my point across more effectively/as a diary exercise, here’s a quick round up what you’ve missed over the time I’ve been away; divided neatly into two lists with each bullet point starting with a unique verb. Don’t ever tell me these posts aren’t a hoot.

Things that have made me happy:

  • Moving into a new bedroom and getting to decorate with vinyls, which made me realise just how many albums I’ve fallen in love with over the years
  • Seeing faces light up with Christmas gifts and not having to rush off before 10pm for the first time in two years
  • Forgetting everything else in my life for a couple of hours as Wolf Alice rattled the Victoria Warehouse in Manchester
  • Being invited to parties in both York and Lincoln over the next month, yet still being amazed I was even thought of for either
  • Waiting on a retired military function at work and watching the faces of pensioners light up as they play with rocket balloons between courses

Things that have made me… not:

  • Waking up in the house alone for the first time after everyone else has returned to work, that has got to be me this time next year
  • Remaining susceptible to the crippling inability to say what I want, to who I want, no matter how badly I want to
  • Experiencing the toxicity of social media, there’s certainly been a negative multiplier effect as of late, please see above bullet point for why
  • Realising I’m not perceived by others the way I had thought, before consequentially realising that their view is the much more justified regardless of how I come across
  • Having a bit of a wobble when working on NYE, have a day off for once please head, we’re meant to be having fun

All of this has really just driven home how a new year is no different than a new week; they really do just roll together with indifference. Therefore, I’ve particularly tried to make the conscious effort to make this time a reason to change a few things in my life. I’m more than certain that I won’t defeat my vices within the next twelve months (I’m not holding my breath for a solution to fingers and vocal chords turning to lead), but I’m trying to increase the number of distractions in my life to the effect that I don’t notice these lows as much. It really is true that silence is the most deafening sound, so let’s make some music.

Ever worry that what you’re posting on the internet is severely downbeat? I know, end on a casually colloquial happy note, then that’s what people will remember about this entry. Erm, a cute little dog came into work the other day, and when I gave him a water bowl, he licked my hand, and every time I walked past him after that, he looked at me like “that’s the guy who gave me this sick water, what’s up guy?” and I was all, “shit’s good dog because you’re in the building, being all cute.” That’s damn right. I fucking love you. That shit kept me happy for like, a good ten minutes.

I hope you all get to experience a similar, but lengthier, joy in the time it takes me to write another one of these things.

‘Til the next time,

Dan

 

 

gamez r fun

I don’t get anywhere near as much time with games as I’d like anymore, with uni interrupting the routine I had forged myself in my younger years, I’m still trying to catch up on everything I’ve missed over the past 3 years. Starting to write for n3rdabl3.com, and the time I’ve had searching for a job, has dragged me up to date recently, but I still haven’t picked up half the titles I’d have liked to this year. Nevertheless, here’s five games released in 2018 that majorly hooked me, with a gratuitous explanation of their many assets attached for your… pleasure? I’m gonna end each selection with a one-line ‘headline review’, since I need to lean into this whole newspaper rubbish I named my blog after at least once I guess.

Before we start, a couple of honourable mentions go out to God of War and Celeste, the two games released this year that have managed to blow me away despite the minimal time I’ve had with them. Their quality is apparent, I just haven’t been able to sink enough hours into them yet to form a proper opinion or ranking on this list. When I beat them though, they very well may bump a couple of the entries you’re about to read down a couple of pegs. In addition, the Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy gave me the hardest hit of nostalgia earlier in the year on Xbox, and completing it was an absolute joy, but since it was technically released first on PlayStation last year, it is also exempt.

5. A Way Out 

I know, I know, I am ashamed this is on my list too. I’ll be the first to admit that objectively, there has been a huge selection of titles released this year that are better than this schlock-fest. To name a few, continuations in the Assassin’s Creed and FIFA series’ have been well regarded by critics, and more of the same ideas that have been tried and tested over the years isn’t inherently a bad thing. However, I can also put my hand on my heart and say that no game made me smile wider or laugh harder this year than A Way Out.

You play a shitty action B-Movie. That is the only way I can describe this game. The script is just as bad as you’d expect, with stereotypical caricatures woodenly spouting cheesy one liners throughout the methodical revenge plot. Technically, gameplay is minimal, clearly originating with the co-op gimmick and working backwards from there. You can spend hours in prison hammering nails if you want; I’d almost recommend it since the later gunplay is so unsatisfying.

But none of this matters. The game just oozes charm and reeks of a passion project. “You’re busting ma balls, man!” exclaims one of our main characters (clearly based off the way the games director perceives himself in his head, seriously google ‘Josef Fares interview’ and thank me later) in the games very first scene, instantly making both players fall in love with him. Each location you visit has hours worth of menial tasks to undertake that make no sense in the context of the story, but fully entice the achievement hunter and inquisitive spark found within all gamers. You can perfect a banjo/piano duet on four different difficulties in this game about a prison break. Genius.

Headline review: So bad its good doesn’t do this fascinating original title justice

4. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

So I hadn’t owned a CoD game in half a decade until I took the plunge and picked up the most recent instalment last month. After wrapping my head around the new mechanics, I dived straight back into the old faithful; Team Deathmatch. Suddenly, I was 13 again, hours of my life feeling like minutes as game after game passed by. CoD has got it’s hook back, is what I’m trying to say. Continuously rewarding you for playing, giving you a real sense of progression, and driving you forward to keep pulling the trigger.

The balance has been refined, since multiplayer matches primarily operate around individual skill with a rifle in your hands, with fun power-weapon mechanics (I bloody love a mesh mine kill) mixing up the warfare, instead of dominating the battlefield and making you ask “well what the fuck could I have done there?!” half the time. This creates a sense of fairness and stems any frustration the player may harbour towards the game itself. If you die, it is usually your fault, the solution being easily visible and tantalisingly easy to implement, as your next gunfight will only be seconds away.

Couple this with a refreshing new game mode in Blackout, which seems to fulfil the promise a conceptual battle royal mode originally held (I just hate the building in Fortnite, where is the fun in in turning a gunfight into a game of peekaboo?), plus the Zombies variation fully embracing its campier side, this shit is just fun. The only negative I have is the lack of single-player content, being a fan of the ridiculous CoD plots and the situations they place you in myself, it’s a real shame to have to say goodbye, but I suppose the substituted plethora of ever-changing modes found in its place will suffice.

Headline review: Fans rejoice as classic series rediscovers magical form

3. Marvel’s Spider-Man

I bought a PS4 for this game, that’s how excited for it I was. It did not disappoint. I absolutely adore the Arkham formula; I think it leads to an open world that is really fun to explore and an often-imitated combat system that speaks for itself. Apply this to bloody Spider-Man? Obviously you’re on to a winner.

Whilst the story didn’t live up to the hype for me personally, falling in to the trap that most comic book adaptations face of being too predictable, it absolutely did enough to establish a world I am keen to return to. Hopefully, the next world will be ten times bigger than this original title. Not because this iteration was too small or anything, just so we can spend even longer swinging through the city, stopping crimes, and peeking on New York residents whilst crawling on their windows. I cannot remember the last time I had this much fun just existing within a hub, more excited to complete optional missions than the actual story.

Whilst the fighting mechanics are just as exceptional as the traversal, its the little touches that really make this game. Unlocking endlessly cool costumes, seeing definitive versions of characters brought to life by exuberant performances, sound design that make you feel every *thwip* of web, and a truly poignant Stan Lee cameo all help sell the experience. It’s the game a lot of fans have been waiting for since the PS2 era, a true celebration of its source material that feels like a love letter over every inch of the map.

Headline review: Any other year, this probably would be my game of the year. Unfortunately for Insomniac though, it had two behemoths to contend with… (what a terrible headline)

2. Red Dead Redemption 2

Come on, it’s Rockstar, of course this was going to be brilliant. Nevertheless, even with this expectation, this game continued to surprise me with its sheer quality. RDR2 is by far Rockstar’s best written release to date, with Arthur Morgan’s story filled with beautiful poetic irony and interesting characters. This canvas premieres a core cast of over 20 gang members, each with their own unique personality traits and motivations, most of which you care about and could even refer to by name come the end of the 60 odd hours you spend with them. Before, most would struggle naming anyone aside from the main characters in the GTA series, that’s how far the studio have progressed.

Another surprise came in the pace of the game, with extra steps being implemented in familiar techniques such as healing or resting, slowing the player right down in their Wild West antics. Instead of being as frustrating as it sounds, this just serves to immerse the player more into the generated world. Arthur feels as if he actually inhibits the world he lives in, as opposed to being the omnipotent centre of the universe past controllable characters have reeked of (I’m looking at you, Red Dead 1 John Marston).

The second positive to this slow pace is found in the moments where the action ramps up, which become all the more memorable since they are broken up by these slices of ‘real life’. Even with the slightly outdated shooting mechanics, which have most certainly been surpassed by other titles in this age and serve as RDR2’s only downside, these set pieces hold emotional weight and are intensely fun to dictate. It’s simply one of those titles you feel honoured to play, the kind of experience only video games can give you since it feels truly crafted, not merely made.

Headline review: Action game about cowboys nearly makes Dan cry over the death of a virtual horse

1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate 

They’ve done it again. With each iteration in this series, I think “they’ve got nowhere else to go, this is the pinnacle, surely”. How naive I was, the answer was so obvious; just chuck fucking everything at the audience in one package. Smash Bros. is the pinnacle of party games, being able to walk the line between intense, rewarding fighter and goofy scrapper expertly. How could you possibly see Isabelle the dog twatting Solid Snake and not break out in a childlike grin?

Smash achieves this one-of-a-kind status since it can be your traditional brawler, operating on chipping away at your opponents health through skill or cowardice, but no other fighting game can be Smash. The high risk/reward, cat and mouse, chess matches the series creates are unlike anything else in gaming, and if you haven’t experienced one it should be at the top of your list for the new year. Any fears I had about the game being overwhelming due to the sheer quantity of content it has packed in to its tiny cartridge, have long since been squashed by the excitement I’ve felt unlocking character after character, exploring the single-player campaign, and testing my might against other players online.

I don’t even care that I have only had five days with this game. It has hit me hard and taken over my life since I first booted it up. Its lifespan is frightening. Each one of the 70 characters multiplies the amount of time I know I am going to sink into this game, yet another thing to try and perfect. Yet, as with most Smash players, I’ll be lucky if I even get close to excelling with one. There is no way I am ever going to see everything this game has to offer, but that absolutely won’t stop me from trying.

Headline review: Nintendo smash (lol) expectations to release the perfect fighting game

There we have it then, a probably too comprehensive list of my thoughts about the state of the gaming field this year. Games are by far the medium I put the most time into, with entire days spent on single titles often with an accompaniment of YouTube videos on the same topic playing in the background. Whilst I am somewhat disappointed at just how much of a spectacular nerd I am, especially with how much it damages my bank account, it is literally a part of who I am now, and I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.

‘Til the next time

Dan

My Top 10 2018 Albums

HO HO HO AND SUCH OTHER FESTIVE COMMENTS. We’re properly into December now, and as promised I am doing lots of looking backwards, combing over my favourite pieces of media from the past 12 months. So, as a mini advent calendar of sorts, I’m going to try and get out a list of my picks per week (3 in total), until Christmas arrives as a replacement to my writing for you lovely people.

This week, music! To make sure this post doesn’t last forever, I will save my lengthy comments for the albums higher up the list, gradually saying more about each entry. I’ll even give you a selection of which song to listen to from each that will really give you a feel for the album (this definitely isn’t code for me just wanting to tell you my favourite track). Let’s dive straight in:

10. Freedom’s Goblin– Ty Segall (song choice: Every 1’s a Winner)

The year began with this album, and so does my list. Spanning over decades of rock evolution whilst always retaining the hooks of more modern developments, this is a fantastic driving album since the pace of the eclectic beats continuously has your head bopping over its lengthy 19-track run time, yet you don’t notice the time passing.

9. My Mind Makes Noises – Pale Waves (song choice: There’s a Honey)

“If Paramore and The 1975 had a baby” was how this record was first described to me, immediately peaking my interest whilst being insanely accurate. I’ve been on a bit of a binge with female singers since Wolf Alice’s Visions of a Life (my album of 2017), and Pale Waves’ Heather Baron-Gracie can hold her own with the best already. Confident songwriting and the kind of introspective, pessimistic lyrics I love has given Pale Waves a strong footing to launch a stellar discography.

8. For Now – DMA’S (song choice: Tape Deck Sick)

A solid follow up to an equally solid debut album, seeing this band grow from when I first saw them supporting The Courteeners with only an EP to their name (hipster brag) has been extremely rewarding. They’re just a safe bet at this point, the kind of band that are universally approved and respected within the community. This album pushes them forward safely, growing their collection and fanbase without exploring too much new ground, which secures the record a place on this list yet limits its position to the lower placements. More of the same, which is no bad thing.

7. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships – The 1975 (song choice: Love It If We Made It)

This is the album most likely to shift in position on the list, being the most recently released and due to the habit The 1975 albums have of growing on me exponentially over time. I don’t really like how the band market their albums, by releasing the heavy hitters from the album as singles this makes the remaining new tracks feel flat in comparison on a first run through, even though they are often the more lyrically-driven songs which get more rewarding from multiple listens. Nevertheless, the many singles released prior to the full launch were fantastic anyway, with the pick above very possibly being my song of the year by itself. I can only imagine what they’re going to be like live; with only two albums’ worth of material they were up there with the best I have ever seen.

6. Kindness Is the New Rock and Roll – Peace (song choice: Magnificent)

The kings are back. I was so worried that it would be impossible for Peace to follow up Happy People, as it is borderline perfection, but this is a worthy successor indeed. The record flows from bar filling bops to emotionally fuelled anthems with the kind of swagger only a successfully established band can muster, the kind of in your face writing that comes with not giving a damn about your reputation since you’re already so well respected. This is manifested as a swell of emotion, taking the band to new heights with a frank and bold trilogy of songs forming the albums core (You Don’t Walk Away From Love, From Under Liquid Glass, and Magnificent for those interested). Like a good story the album actually presents a strong message that is worth telling, and has a similarly lasting impact on you as the recipient; I’ve no doubt this album spoke to an awful lot of people in a very positive way.

5. Silver Dollar Moment – The Orielles (song choice: 48 Percent)

Okay, now we’re into the albums I LOVED this year. When The Orielles walked onstage as  a support act in September, I was ready to dismiss them as another act I’d hear just that one time. But, as the set went on, I started paying more and more attention, to the point that I knew I was downloading their debut by the time they were exiting the stage. A more alternative record to my usual recommendations, it forms a sum greater than its parts. Deceptively simple, yet immensely impressive. The kind of album critics love as it really experiments with genres, asking “what’s over there?”, carving a path instead of following what has come before whilst simultaneously staying true to its obvious 90’s indie influences. It’s brave, the kind of bravery that comes with youth and the excitement of making a debut album, but still successful in every turn it takes as a showcase of understanding and executing your vision.

4. The Magic Gang (song choice: Your Love)

Oh look, it’s the best debut album of the year! This record will always hold a soft spot with me, since its happy-go-lucky attitude powered me through a stressful summer, providing a perfect soundtrack to the glorious weather. Walking to and from university with this filling my headphones is one of those memories I will hold forever, to the point that I honestly believe I will never be able to listen to this album without a smile creeping on to my face. The album is ready to burst with harmonic melodies, with songs that flow so well without ever stepping on each others toes or blending in to one another. The result is just downright charming, giving you a warm feeling akin to seeing a beautiful shot in a movie; all you can do is sit back and appreciate it.

3. Tell Me How You Really Feel – Courtney Barnett (song choice: Charity)

My God this album is a mood. I could pull so many one-liners from this record, or form a whole philosophy on how to live life from any one song (or specifically, Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence, oh my). What I love about Courtney is that she is so comfortable with herself, she seems to understand just where she fits in the world, which is nowhere really. Courtney is singing to those who embrace the melancholy and ridiculousness, the Hopefulessness if you will, of life and the relationships found within it; you can feel the wry smile on her face for the duration of her time interacting with you. Brimming with the kind of contemplative thoughts usually found in lonely, anxiety filled nights, this level of relatability is reserved for songwriters who are daring enough to expose this level of vulnerability to their audience, and it’s simply beautiful to see. I’m absolutely desperate to see her live.

2. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino – Arctic Monkeys (song choice: One Point Perspective)

What a shock, the Monkeys are high up on this list. This is easily the album I’ve listened to the most this year, due to the utterly mesmerising lyrical work, which features possibly the most Turner-isms of any Arctic Monkeys album. I respect the band so much for taking this new direction, it would have been so easy for them to churn out a carbon copy of AM, but instead created a piano-lead body of work that I think will age better than anything they’ve released before. Sure, such a sharp change in voice may turn some fans away, but this is just the Monkeys delivering on the promise they made us through the title of their very first album. Unlike anything else on the list, Tranquility Base permeates into your mind, clearing like a fog the more you listen to it. I can see the criticisms, with some people calling it a one-note, but to me this just immerses you more in the world Turner has created. It is forty minutes of pure escapism, a feat only the best albums are capable of achieving. For those after an additional fix of the space-age vibe, I’d highly recommend the new single ‘Anyways’, it’s equally as bloody fantastic.

1. Joy as an Act of Resistance – Idles (song choice: Danny Nedelko)

If you’d had come to me at the start of the year and told me this would be my most loved album of the year, I’d say you were crazy. I hadn’t even heard of Idles in January, or even July, but even on the first run through of this second album, I knew I was in trouble with how much I love this record.

Simply put, it is the album I will remember 2018 for. It’s personal, bouncing between heartbreaking and witty, political, yet disguised through subtle catchy hooks, and riotous in a way only guitar music can be. Live, this is magnified tenfold; I’ve never been at a show that had such a sense of camaraderie or interaction between everyone involved, peaking with at least 20 members of the audience storming the stage and sharing it with a gracious, effortlessly entertaining band. Even without this though, it’s just fucking good fun. An album for everyone, the kind of one we needed in the tumultuous times we live in, championing ideas of togetherness and love to defeat the cold, impersonal messages we are fed every day. This might well be the most hippy message of the year, but it is so well juxtaposed by the anarchic style of the band, it never becomes patronising or contrite, the kind of rebellion you just get caught up in. Genius.

There you have it, a pretentious and unnecessary list of my opinions. I’m sure Idles are absolutely elated to have grabbed the top spot, and the award will feature prominently as advertisement for their next venture. There’s a link to a playlist featuring all the song choices from the list below, plus my choices for video of the year (This is America by Childish Gambino, for obvious reasons) and live show I attended in 2018 (Arctic Monkeys, if the whole blog post it prompted me to write wasn’t enough of a giveaway).

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/playlist/2018-album-picks/pl.u-06oxpqNCWzyY46

This has been my longest post to date, and an absolute blast to write, I just hope some of that excitement came across when reading it and the people that reach this point isn’t just my Mum out of a sense of obligation. Guess I’ll never know.

‘Til the next time

Dan