So it's the end of another year and that means it's time for the Vanishing Blog Best of 2008 Awards! Well, I guess they're not really awards, 'cause we're not really awarding anything. Whatever. These are the best things of 2008 as judged by Josh and I. Some of them are predictable, but who cares?
Josh keeps complaining about how he'll lose all his indie-cred because of our music picks, and I keep telling myself that I probably should have seen Slumdog Millionaire because critics won't shut up about it and it may very well deserve a spot on our movies list, but whatever. We're not professional critics. We can't listen to every album and watch every movie that comes along, nor would we want to.
As bloggers, it is our responsibility to be unprofessional so that the "real" journalists can keep their jobs.
Last year we went on and on about how we at the Vanishing Blog don’t really care for most mainstream music. Consequently, most of the albums on last year’s top 5 were from independent artists no one’s ever heard of. In an almost complete reversal of that trend, this year we have mostly well-known artists, although some of them are indie. However, we stand by these choices. Good music is good music. It doesn’t matter who produces it. Shunning something simply because it is popular is irresponsible and just plain silly.
"Pitchfork gave this a 9.0. I’m going to lead off by saying that I was going to sarcastically quote Pitchfork’s reviews before I wrote my own review, because frankly, Pitchfork is sometimes comically awful in its reviews. However, they seem to have miraculously got this one right. Way to sink my plan, guys.
“Let me begin by saying that I really haven’t heard very many other artists like Fleet Foxes before. The instrumentation is sometimes minimal, while at other times the songs have piano, acoustic guitar, and assorted other instruments. The songs rely heavily on vocal harmonies. If I had to describe the CD, it’d be a soundtrack you’d listen to while driving through a rustic landscape. It’s a very pretty record, and the critics love it for it. I like it a lot for the same reason, but frankly, I think it’s just good music: original, fresh, and endearing. The album is often cryptic lyrically, stringing together sentences randomly, but it sounds so good that I’m willing to forgive the infrequent non-sequiturs.
“What makes the album even more impressive is the fact that they also released an EP of 5 songs, likewise awesome, early in the year. Called the Sun Giant EP, it is also definitely worth a listen.
“In short: beautiful instrumentation and beautiful vocals. I probably enjoyed this record probably the most out of any of these five, it’s just bloody fun to listen to."
"If I had three words to write this review, I would say, 'It’s rather brilliant.' That sums up quite well what I am going to say in the following paragraph. I appreciate albums that have meaning in the songs, especially when I have to work a little to get the meaning out. Time is Fiction is a little hard to access, and you may not appreciated the album if you don’t already appreciate music that doesn’t come right out and say “the point of this song is X.”
“The album opens and throttles you over the head with 'Let Go.' This is pretty much what you’ll get each time a track ends. Edison Glass cuts to the chase musically, while incorporating quite thought provoking and meaningful lyrics. The meaningful, uplifting nature of the music makes it a breath of fresh air. A lot of music today is dark, without point or purpose. Time is Fiction, not so.
“'Jean Valjean' is one of my favorite songs of the year. Its lyrics really struck a chord with me:
It's a battle between just and good“I enjoy it and recommend you give it a shot as well."
What you know is right
What you know you should
Will good overcome religion?
It's a battle between grace and pride
Will you let it go or draw the knife?
Will grace overcome what was done?
It sounds as if Trent Reznor just went into the studio and recorded whatever the heck came to his mind. Although according to him the process when like this: "When we started working with the music, we would generally start with a sort of visual reference that we had imagined: a place, or a setting, or a situation. And then attempt to describe that with sound and texture and melody. And treat it, in a sense, as if it were a soundtrack."
The result is a musically diverse, highly original album. The way Reznor plays around with musical ideas like a kid with ADD has roughly the same effect as classical music in that it stimulates the imagination. Fortunately, Ghosts is much more accessible to the modern listener than classical music. These songs will stimulate your imagination if you let them. It's wonderful music to write to.
If you are at all shocked or surprise by this selection then you haven't been paying attention. I mean, we warned you up front that we had some pretty mainstream picks this year. This might be the most mainstream album release this year. But like I said: good music is good music.
As I predicted in my "First Impressions" post, this album grew on me. A lot. I can now say, without question, that this is Coldplay’s best album and that’s saying a lot. There are no bad songs on this album (although Josh disagrees: he doesn’t like “Strawberry Swing” for some reason). Over the many times I’ve listened to it, I’ve never felt the need to skip a track.
Lyrically, musically, and artistically this album’s a winner. Allegations of plagiarism aside, you have to give Coldplay credit for writing album after album of good, popular music that stands out amongst the throw-away tunes that play adjacent to theirs on the radio. One day Coldplay might find themselves sweeping the streets they used to own, but right now they rule the world. Sorry, I just had to throw that on there. Sounded like something a proper journalist would write.
For me, it captures the revolutionary feel of the album's cover and actually gave me the complete wrong idea of what the album was going to sound like. Lines like:
When the future's architectured by a carnival of idiots on show you'd better lie low...perfectly describe my feeling about politics and the world in general right now. I feel like I'm being taken for a ride. In bailout package after bailout package my future is begin legislated away. *sigh* So, that's kind of a downer, but this has been a downer year with entertainment and real world news.
If you love me, won't you let me know?
Movies of 2008
2007 was an anomaly. There was an unusually high concentration of good, fun movies to go and see. Most of them were pretty good. We had little trouble with a top 5 list last year. 2008 on the other hand...
Yeah, well. Most of the movies I went to see were disappointments. Early in the year, Cloverfield was choked by its own hype machine. It wasn't terrible, in fact, it was fairly inventive and breathed new life into a tired old genre. But the monster was lame, so that pretty much killed it.
Narnia... ugh. I don't think I was harsh enough on it in my review. I wish I hadn't seen it.
I wasn't going to see Iron Man but people raved about it, so I rented it. Maybe it was somehow way more awesome in theatres; doubt it. I'm not sure why everyone thought it was so good. Downy Jr. is in his element playing a formerly drug-addled, playboy hedonist, that's true. Maybe I just don't "get" this one. I can't exactly tell you why I don't care for it, but Iron Man was one of the less interesting superhero movies I've seen. Overwhelming effects; underwhelming story seems to be a common criticism of “blockbuster” movies these days, but I feel like it does truly apply to Iron Man.
Then there was... Indiana Jones 4. I'm sure a lot of people wish this movie hadn't been made. Josh hated it. Particularly the line "The space between spaces..." I could care less. In all honesty, it was ok. I managed to sit though it once in the theatre and once again at home. I don't care if I never see it again, but it wasn't the abomination described by some. People who said that are taking the series too seriously. And look at! It's Indiana Jones. Do you think it's meant to be taken seriously?
Wall•E was pretty good - second best movie of the year - but that's to be expected from Pixar.
And that brings to the last movie I saw in theatres this year; the best movie I saw this year. In fact, it was the best movie in many years and if it doesn't sweep the Academy Awards it will once and for all prove that the Academy are a bunch of head-in-the-clouds, stuck-up, artsy critics. And that movie is... (say it with me, now): The Dark Knight.
In recent memory, I do not recall another film that has lived up to the massive hype surrounding it like this film has. Sure, there were critics. Critics who said that the film took itself too seriously; that it was poorly paced; that the essential idea of a man dressing-up as a bat to fight crime is moronic; that the Joker was too powerful and omnipotent. There will always be those critics. Killjoys.
However, this is not their list. This is our list. And Josh and I agree that The Dark Knight is, by far, the best film of the year. In fact, it is the best film in recent memory. Since its release, I have seen it five times and I’m still excited about watching it again. I do not recall another movie I have liked as much.
To sum-up: The Dark Knight was awesome. Everything else kinda stunk. Except Wall-E. That was good. But, yeah, everything else. Iron Man wasn't as good as advertised. Indiana Jones 4 proved the critics right.
Don't even get me started on Narnia...
Let us hope for better movies this year. Yeah, right.
Games of 2008
A new category for this year. Yes, Josh and I are gamers. And despite what certain politicians, professors, and doctors would have you believe, video games are not blood-soaked murder simulators. Games are art just as much as music and film. In fact, being an interactive medium, they can be even more personal than other forms of art. These are the top 3 games of 2008: the most engaging; the most artistic; the most fun.
Fallout 3 is not for everyone. It certainly warrants the “M” rating for the unfortunate frequency of gore and language. Plus, the atmosphere of the game can feel overwhelmingly brooding. You are, after all, wandering around the ruins of Washington D.C. Still, if you can get past these elements, you’ll discover an incredibly fun game that really makes you think about your actions. That is all too rare in games these days.
That's all folks! Let's do this again next year, ok?