Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Best of 2015, in March 2016

I'm not overly concerned with keeping up-to-date with the zeitgeist, which includes writing end-of-year lists around the end of the year in question.

At the end of 2014 I did a round-up of things I'd enjoyed that year that were unfailingly made in other decades, but this time around I've endeavoured to be more current. Apart from writing this in March, obviously. And a couple of entries from the last century. I'm getting better.

~ Best Album of 2015 ~

Steven Wilson, Hand. Cannot. Erase. (2015)

I've quite enjoyed Steven Wilson's proggy meddlings from his derivative Porcupine Tree days through to his rebranded "solo" albums that aren't strictly more solo than anything the totalitarian self-producer has ever done, but 20-odd years down the line, this is the one that finally nails it.

It's extremely atmospheric without requiring every song to be over 10 minutes long (only 37.5% of them), with choruses that are catchy enough to feel warm and familiar on a second listen months later when you search your music folder for '2015,' can't remember whether you liked this or not the first time when you weren't paying attention, and realise you really do. It only slackens into excessive instrumental indulgence in the second half, which is forgivable and probably even enjoyable when I become more familiar with the songs and can pick up on the repeated themes and stuff.

Since there are some recurring melodies, a family-based lyrical theme and song titles with numbers in them, this is probably one of them there concept albums. But one of those good, unintrusive ones where the concept doesn't matter if you couldn't care less.

~ Best Book of 2015~

Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans, Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are Changing Life on Earth (2015)

Apparently I read 15 books published in 2015 in 2015, and apparently this was my favourite of those. Better than Neil Gaiman and China MiƩville's short story collections and Clive Barker's Hellraiser sequel, apparently, even though I have fonder and clearer memories of those, but who am I to argue with me? It must have been an eye-opening and inspirational read, I expect. Something about eating healthy?

~Best TV of 2015~

Doctor Who, 'Heaven Sent' (2015)

The only other current series I remember watching from 2015 were Community (faded glory) and Inside No. 9 (generally superior), but after years of allowing myself to be seduced into loyally following this colourful children's sci-fi programme and holding onto it as a bastion of Britishness/Scottishness during my exile abroad, it was incredibly satisfying to be rewarded with one that was actually really good.

This atmospheric installment had me from the start with its ditching of the "relatable" (?) stroppy sidekick to focus entirely on Peter Capaldi being chased around a spooky castle surrounded by a skull-infested sea. But when it dawned on me what was going on – probably some several million years in – my emotive outburst to explain the ingenious tragi-heroic events to the confused wife would have made for an amusingly embarrassing YouTube reaction video if I was the kind of twat who made those, rather than writing end-of-year lists in March like a normal person.

~Best Film of 2015~

Beetlejuice (1988)

I think the only 2015 films I saw were Ex Machina and a lousy phone recording of Star Wars, and I didn't see those until January so they don't count. My favourite home cinema experience was revisiting this early childhood favourite after a gap of some 20+ years, which we watched across both sides of the New Year as part of our dark fairy tale film fest. (She would have been fine without the "dark" part, but, you know, meeting in the middle).

Looking over this relic of disturbed childhood with adult eyes was fascinating. Not only did I realise there was actually a story connecting the sequential ghoulishness, but I also recalled some of the child logic I'd used to justify the surreal things I was irresponsibly being allowed to watch at a formative age.

Take the scene where the ghost couple stretch their faces out to appear frightening to their unwelcome tenants: as a six-year-old, I thought the film was telling me that after you die and become a ghost, sometimes your head turns into a pterodactly head. But if you're a lady ghost and that happens, the beak will be open and your eyes will be in your mouth, because that's the way it works for lady ghosts.

I also remember watching The Addams Family at the cinema around the same time and not realising that the hacked-off limbs and spraying blood during Wednesday and Pugsley's school play were theatrical. It was quite the surprise to learn in later years that these films were considered comedies. You mean Ghostbusters wasn't an educational tale of how to deal with neighbourhood spook infestations?

~ Best Game of 2015 ~

Slam Tilt (1997)

It crashed my computer to a worrying degree before I found out how to run old games in compatibility mode, but that wasn't enough to stop me from coming back to this late-period-Amiga favourite, which kept me awake through several particularly uninspiring audiobooks.

'Night of the Demon' was always, predictably, my favourite table as a macabre, Beetlejuice-raised kid, but as much as I'm still titillated by modes such as 'Gravehunter: Dig for Treasure or for Pleasure' and 'Escape from the Mega Mutant Meatball,' these days it's been usurped by the rollocking 'The Pirate' and the gritty 'Mean Machines,' which is a slog until you unlock the hilarious snowstorm of a multiball.

Download Slam Tilt here and for God's sake adjust your compatibility settings unless you're still using Windows 95.

~ Best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle of 2015 ~


Yeah, I know, Raphael is cool, but he's just so rude! The other two bozos don't stand a chance.

~ Best Natural Slim Coffee of 2015 ~

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