2018 Game/Film/Anime/Series/Book/Album/Song of the Year

2018 was an amazing year for the arts and for entertainment in all mediums and genres. It felt like every time I settled on a favorite movie or game, another one would come out and beat it. Even stories in the same medium, exploring familiar tropes (A Quiet Place and Netflix’s Bird Box), stood apart and delivered quality experiences. I’m not too picky about genre or subject matter so I’m not sure what the general consensus was, but I thought there was something for everyone.  Let’s start off with my favorite game of the year.

Game of the Year: GRIS and Marvel’s Spider-Man

Marvel's Spider-Man_20180921110902.png

This is a tough pick and I just can’t choose at the moment. I need more time for them to sink in. With that being said, these games are nothing alike. Spider-Man for PlayStation 4 is one of the best action games I’ve ever held a controller for, while GRIS is one of the most beautiful, emotional experience I’ve gone through. They both nail what they set out to do and I can’t wait to see what both studios will produce in the coming years. 2018 was a nonstop ride for gaming fans and keeps proving that it’s the best and most versatile medium for storytelling.

Honorable Mentions: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Film of the Year: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Verse

I don’t watch too many movies. It’s not really my favorite medium, although I don’t deny its effectiveness. I just think the period of time to tell a story is so short that the development of characters is significantly held back.

That being said, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse did something few movies could. It took an established character, with several movies of material to pull from, and did something unique and memorable. Because we know the characters, they were able to put a new spin on them and introduce new characters while also poking fun at the old. The comedy is golden, along with the script, art style, and soundtrack. Everything about this film is nearly perfect.

Spider-Verse is such a labor of love that every second spews evidence of that. The people who made this film absolutely LOVE Spider-Man. You couldn’t have hired a better crew of artists for this project. The amount of joy I feel every time I watch Spider-Verse is unparalleled and I quite honestly think it’s my favorite film of all time. Time will tell, but I just can’t get enough of this film. In my opinion, nothing I saw last year came close.

Honorable Mentions: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and Avengers: Infinity War

Anime of the Year: Devilman Crybaby

Devilman Crybaby

Devilman Crybaby is shocking; it’s brutal and deep; Devilman Crybaby is like nothing I’ve watched. It isn’t really my style of anime, but it still managed to keep my attention the whole way through. The plot takes a backseat to the relationships between the characters and symbolic themes but that doesn’t hold this anime back. There’s something about the horror of the world that is presented that kept me engaged, despite wanting to look away.

Honorable Mentions: Attack on Titan Season 3

TV Series of the Year: The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House

2018 told some of my favorite stories, and most of them were TV series. Television has evolved and no longer sticks to that medium. We watch it on our phones, computers, and gaming consoles. I’d say that television series have overtaken films in quality of storytelling. They’re approaching films in their production values, which is crazy to me. The Haunting of Hill House is a drama disguised as a horror show. It’s a story about family and about how much they can hurt us. But it’s also about how important family is, no matter what terrors are thrown at it.

What hit me the hardest was how real and well-developed the characters on this series were. I felt for them, both because I related with some of them and because of how broken they were. The season seems to be self-contained so don’t worry having to wait for the story to continue. I heavily recommend a watch-through or two, if you can stomach some of the dark themes.

Honorable Mentions: Barry, and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Book of the Year: ???

I have a confession to make and it hurts to admit it, but I didn’t finish a single book in 2018. It was one of my few goals for 2018 and I definitely started some books but I just didn’t take it seriously. Here’s to reading at least one full book in 2019.

Honorable Mentions: None.

Album of the Year: Kids by The Midnight

Kids by The Midnight

Alternate album cover by The Midnight

I’ve only been following The Midnight for a couple years but they’ve quickly become one of my favorite artists. Their yearning-for-the-past-infused-tracks just don’t get old, no matter how many times I listen to them. There’s something deeply saddening about almost every one of their tracks and yet, totally comforting. With Kids, The Midnight went for softer instrumentation but heavier tone. Sure, the past is nostalgic, but there’s pain there too, pain we didn’t even realize.

One of the deciding factors for this category was the unity of the album. Kids tells a complete story, with every track 100% necessary to the plot. Miss one song and it’s like you tore out a chapter in a book.

Honorable Mentions: Ultraviolet by 3LAU and Wide-Eyed Said the Sky

Song of the Year: “Don’t Think Twice” by Hikaru Utada

Don't Think Twice

This song is important for many reasons. It’s the ending song to the soon-to-be-released Kingdom Hearts III but it’s more than that. It’s Hikaru Utada returning to form. She’s back with a piano-led ballad and it’s full of heart. “Don’t Think Twice” isn’t what I expected but I just can’t help but get emotional every time I really listen to it.

“How did I live / in a kingdom of thieves.” As Utada continue the song, it’s clear she’s matured these past 10 years or so. “I want you for a lifetime / so if you’re gonna think twice, baby / I don’t wanna know, baby.” This is a romantic song, sure, but it’s fed up with wasting time on fleeting relationships. The back-and-forth has gone long enough and there’s a resolution that needs to be reached.

It’s a perfect song for ending Kingdom Hearts III and stands alone as a phenomenal song. It’s not a song that falls into my genre of choice, but that’s just another reason it’s so special. I’ll be playing this one for years.

Honorable Mentions: “Dragon” by Built By Titan and “Take You Down” by Illenium

An Album Review: Taylor Swift – Reputation

You know that feeling when you fall in love with an album and can’t stop listening to it on repeat for months? That was Taylor Swift’s Red for me. I’m not a fan of country, but her foray into pop was gold for me. I enjoyed 1989 when it released, but it didn’t live up to Red for me.

Preparation

Now we have Reputation. I wasn’t the biggest fan, or really a fan at all, of either of Taylor’s leading singles for this album. They actually made me nervous for what the entire album would sound like.

If I had to summarize Taylor’s Reputation in one word, it would be “um-what-did-I-just-listen-to-and-who-thought-this-was-a-good-idea-oh-it’s-because-she’s-dead.” I’m all for artists trying to reinvent themselves and experimenting with new sounds and ideas. I think it’s bad for an artist to stay in the same place just to please people. But sometimes artists make missteps; sometimes artists fall off a cliff and never hit the bottom.

Amputation

Reputation is like someone thinking that getting on a train to collide with a jet head-on will cure her cancer.  It’s just a bad album and I don’t think I’m saying that from a subjective perspective. Almost every song is dripping with an abnormal amount of pretentiousness that takes over even the instrumental backing tracks. Some of the melodies are pleasant, but they’re never consistently that way. Some songs are trying really hard to be good, but they quickly nosedive into the nothingness of mediocrity.

The lyrics themselves may resonate with with some people, but the level of depth they have is in the negative. I’m not asking for a philosophical manifesto on the meaning of life. Despite being a writer, I don’t need lyrics to be incredibly meaningful to enjoy them. The fact is that almost all the lyrics on this album are trying too hard to be edgy and it comes across like a whiny teenager from a rich family who didn’t get her yearly $10,000 birthday present.

Turn Your Face From the Music

It’s a shame. There are some solid ideas and sounds on this album, but they’re drowned out by all the useless white noise. I can’t and won’t recommend this album to anyone. It borrows too much from what I like to call “trash-pop” and ends up like a rotten animal on the road: putrid and stinking.

P.S. New Year’s Day is the exception on this album. It’s a beautiful, heartfelt song that doesn’t belong on this album.

Reputation Score: 3/10

A Biased Album Review Because Everyone Has a Bias: Kings Kaleidoscope – The Beauty Between

I’m pretty new to Kings Kaleidoscope (as in I knew their name and may have heard part of one of their songs in the background somewhere); a friend of mine recommended their latest album, The Beauty Between, so I sat my face down and strapped on my wow-these-are-really-falling-apart-how-are-they-still-intact-headphones. I’m on my second listen of the album as I write and edit this piece of work. What do I think? A lot of things, but the more important question that I need to ask myself is “what do I feel I think?”

“I’ve been having these weird thoughts lately. Like, is any of this for real, or not?”

I don’t typically wander out beyond my musical safe zone unless I can somehow subconsciously justify the ties between whatever it is I’m deciding to inject into my earholes. I initially listened to this album because friendship is apparently a thing that ties people together and makes them do things that are out of the ordinary. That aside, my type of song titles contain “ft.” or “feat.” at the end, 80% of the time. This album had that, so I thought that it must be something electronic, and I could dig that.

This album was actually not at all what I was hoping for, the sheltered ED-pop fan that I am. I was initially considering shutting down the operation after listening to about half a minute. What kept me going? Friendship? Nah, that’s not a real thing. I was enjoying all sounds kicking at my eardrums. It was a fresh, relaxing glass of lemonade to my ears.

 Something, Something, Lyrics

I’ve not actually had much time to digest what the vocalists are saying, so I can’t say much about that. I heard the words “Twitter,” “God,” “holding back,” and others, and I know this is a Christian music type of album, but I struggle with writing and listening to writing at the same time. There’s a decent amount of rapping, which I’m not at all a fan of (rapping, that is), but it was bearable, maybe even a tiny bit enjoyable.

Reviewing What My Ears are Viewing

“Rain.” This is several miles out, my favorite song on the album. It’s the closing track, so it’s kind of like the evening snack of the album. It’s nice and melts perfectly into my ears as if my ears were mouths drinking a chilly glass of iceless water. Is it because I’m most comfortable here? That’s a big part of it, but I’m also just soothed by the melody and lyrics, which I did listen to but won’t go over because you probably didn’t even read this far.

Other favorites are “Alive,” and believe it or not, one of the transition songs, “Does It Feel Like Real Love yet?” I wish the latter was a full song, because it’s the perfect intro to what could have been a masterpiece. It does a great job of branching into “Sticks & Stones” but I would have preferred if it were a full production.

Closing Brain Murmurings

It’s a great album and a fresh breath of non-stale air. Give it a listen or don’t. I don’t run your life (not yet).

8.5 Sticks out of 10 Stones.

Album Review: Hourglass by Mako

I’ve realized lately that the best electronic music isn’t defined by the genre. I know it’s a broad genre, but people typically think of hard synths and generic vocals when they hear “electronic,” “dance,” or “EDM.” It really depends on how you define the genre and subgenres. I don’t think Hourglass by Mako is necessarily electronic, but I do think it is a great album with amazing songs.

“This is our story…”

Mako Hourglass

I’ll start out by mentioning my two favorite songs on the album. Oddly enough, they’re the opening and closing songs. “Let Go of the Wheel” is a giant song, and what I mean by that is that it fills up the room with its stunning sound. The chorus, with its booming synths, comes in beautifully after the delicate intro vocals. It’s mournful, and triumphant at the same time.

“Our Story (Hourglass Finale)” is a reworked version of “Our Story,” a single which Mako released a while back. I absolutely loved the original, but this version of the song is arguably better. Not only does it fit the album in a way the other song couldn’t, it’s almost like a brand new song while still maintaining the essence of the original. Its creamy vocals and dreamlike synths crescendo at the end with a percussion heavy finale. So good.

“Smoke Filled Room” and “Craziest Day I Ever Had” are two other standouts on Hourglass. “Craziest Day I Ever Had” is the funnest song on the album, cushioned between two soft, emotional tracks. “Run for Your Life feat. Natalola” is the only song on the album with a different lead vocalist. It’s a nice change of sound for the album and I actually would have liked one or two other songs featuring other vocalists.

My favorite part of this album is how easy it is to listen to the whole thing through. There are albums out there where I prefer to pick out songs and listen to them on their own. Hourglass is an album where the whole is even better than the parts. There are a few songs on this album that aren’t my favorites, but they’re great in the context of the whole album.

I think Mako absolutely nailed their debut with Hourglass. I’m going to be listening to this one for a while.

4.5/5

“Your Musical Taste Is Bad and You Should Feel Bad”

Music is the lifeblood of my soul, the essence of my joy. Don’t worry, I’m not writing a poem for you in this post. I was writing a poem, but I decided it was really bad and that I should write about taste in music instead.

“Some Kind of Magic”

When two geniuses collide.

When two geniuses collide.

Music is amazing and every culture has created some form of it, no matter how alien it might be to us. We all listen to it, even if only once in a while due to our busyness or varying degree of passionate involvement (Wow. That was awkwardly phrased). I grew up with orchestral soundtracks, chiptunes, and midi songs, as well as Japanese rock. I am currently into electro-pop, with a little rock thrown in occasionally. That’s great and everything, but what if I told you that I think country music is eardrum-destroyingly-horrible to me? Not “what if,” I’m actually telling you that I hate it.

“Setting Fires”

Illenium Ashes

Electronic albums are a thing of the present.

Why do we feel the need to trash other people’s interests? Can’t we just let everyone enjoy their music in peace? Maybe that’s the thing; there are times when we’re forced to listen to other people’s music, music we dislike with an equal but opposite passion that is associated with the songs we love (Another awkwardly phrased sentence for you). There is definitely room for musical critique, but saying that someone else’s musical opinion is “trash” is another matter. Now, the music they listen to may actually be trash, but you don’t have to tell them that. Just say, “That song is not relevant to my interests.” or something along those lines.

In all seriousness, maybe one reason we hate on other music is due to some fear that we hold. Sharing music you like with others can be a deeply personal experience. It doesn’t always go the way you want it to. Sometimes your friends talk over the song you show them or they just don’t end up liking it. Maybe trashing other songs is our way of asserting our opinion on music as authoritative.

“I Feel the Love” – “How to Love” – “Crazy Love”

Loooooooooooove.

What’s the deal with including “love” in the title of every freaking song? I get that it’s a strong feeling as well as an important one, but come on. Pet peeve.

So what’s the conclusion? Love the music that you love and let others love what they love so that everyone can love each other. What’s that? Another country has bombed another country? Didn’t you guys read this post?!

Just keep making and listening to music! Here’s some of mine.