Wednesday 13 January 2010

The Best Albums of the Decade

So sure, by now you’ve read Pitchfork/Rolling Stone/Now Toronto/Good Housekeeping and their lists of the top albums of the last ten years. Well, as they say in Ghent, we’re saving the best for last. Since November I have sat in my apartment doing nothing but listening to every single album released in every single country since January 1, 2000. And my God, it was worth it. Here are my picks for album of the decade, by genre.

Rock: Fuzzchomp Soundgesture by Cataclysmic Bendystraw (2005, Enterprising Buffoon Records)

Nothing ever came close to CB’s debut from five years ago. The lyrics were so meaningful that all the words in the songs have been banned from use because they will never again have such depth of evocativeness. The guitar sounds were so angular that more than twenty people were cut by sharp noises while listening to the album on headphones. The drums were so rhythmic that some women’s biological cycles attuned to them. This was the sound of the now, the moment, the second, the instant, and Cataclysmic Bendystraw made it sound like it was the future. And it was, in a way.

Honourable mentions:
Gosh, New York is Rather Splendid by The New York Band from New York (2001, New York Records)
Dave Grohl Side Project by The Dave Grohl Side Project Band (2007, Flummoxed by All These Buttons Records)
Hey! Where’s Dave? by The Foo Fighters (minus Dave Grohl) (2007, Record Label Recordings)

Dance: Di-Di-Di-Di-Di-Di-Di-Di-Rewind! by DJ Caddyshack Two and MC Finding Nemo (2003, Wickida Wickida Wack Records)

DJ Caddyshack Two and MC Finding Nemo really were the success story of the noughties. Their humble beginnings as palate cleansers in a New Jersey restaurant led to the biggest selling dance music record ever conceived, with more breaks, beats and funny whirring noises set to steady rhythms created using electronic music machines than any other album. My stand-out track is the one featuring a female vocalist repeating the same line about going out and partying throughout the song.

Honourable Mentions:

Is it Hot in Here or ARE WE DANCING OUR FACES OFF? by DJ Sarcastic and the Yeah Rights (2008, Milton Milton Recordings)
Embarrassing X-Ray by Microphone Insertion (2008, 2008 Records)
The Alex Mack Theme Tune Remix Album by Various Artists (2002, Nickelodeon Records)

Soul/R&B: Girl, I’m Going to Smother You in Lemonade Because the Fridge is Empty and I Forgot to Buy Sexy Smothering Foods by Bo D. Lee-Fluid (2008, Ouch! Records)

No album was sexier than this. Current estimates are that 45% of all children born since 2008 were conceived to this album; indeed, add animals to the equation and the number could be even higher. From ‘Second Wind’ to ‘Have some Kleenex’, all tracks are smooth, sensual and seductive, like that guy who took all my fine art. The only bad song on the album is the unfortunate ‘Girl, Why is there a Bulge in your Pants? (feat. Lady Gaga)’

Honourable Mentions:

None. They were all terrible.

Metal: Grrrthhhrrr NNnnnnggggnnnnrrrrthhhrrr by Ian Derwent and the Lazy Susan Trio (2009, Prawn Sandwich Recordings)

Many were surprised at the quality of this metal album, given that it was recorded by a 60-year-old crooner with three even older ladies backing him up on piano, glockenspiel and coronet. But it really was an excellent record, from the opening track ‘Pissing in the President’s Wound’ to album closer ‘Do you Mind Awfully if I Turn it Down?’ Metal will probably never be the same again, not that it ever was.

Honourable Mentions:

The Bad Man Took My Pens by Feast of Carrion
Some Older Boys Said a Mean Thing by Blood Corpse Death Angel
I Hurt My Leg When I Fell Off the Trampoline by Anal Leakage

Thursday 7 January 2010

The Decade in (Imaginary) Review: Video Games

My God. It has been a busy, busy few weeks. Here’s the thing, chaps: I had been planning to write a post about my top ten video games of the last decade, but I didn’t comfortable doing so until I had played every single video game from that period. So for the last two months, I have sat down and played – to completion – every single PlayStation, PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, PC, PSP, Wii, N64, GameCube and GBA game released since 2001. It was a massive task, but someone had to do it.

When you read the following, my ultimate top ten videogames of the last decade, I’m sure you’ll agree it was worth the bedsores, lost family time and thirty pounds of gained weight. Here’s the list:

10: Parkour Sniper (PS2)

A surprise hit amongst older people and the French, Parkour Sniper was released in 2005. The game is viewed from a first person perspective, and your task is to take out the agile young people jumping around the city landscape using a special light gun. A lot of satisfaction can be derived from waiting until they have made their way to the top of a tall building and offing them, watching their lifeless body bounce off the railings and flagpoles below.

9: School Dance Revolution (Arcade, PS2)

The best of the dancing games came as a surprise to most. What nostalgic fun this was! As a (computer generated) inept DJ span terrible music, the aim of the game was to stand at the side of your room for as long as possible. Later levels included awkward shuffling, surreptitious alcohol smuggling and teacher avoidance. The two player game, in which you had to be rejected by the other gamer in as cringeworthy a fashion as possible, was an added bonus.

8: Grand Theft Auto: Headbutting Authority Figures (PS3, Xbox, PC)

Finally, a GTA worth playing! None of that rubbish carjacking or drug dealing, just finding authority figure after authority figure and giving them the old ‘Glasgow Kiss’. Fun for all the family!

7: Movie Tie-In: The Video Game (PS, PC, Atari Lynx)

This sprawling RPG saw you take control of a video game designer given the task of adapting a new movie for the console market. With different playable characters, an excellent fight system for beating up annoying middle management types and levels of difficulty depending on the film being adapted (from ‘action/adventure’ to ‘period drama’), this game stood out in a time when RPGs were shite.

6: Nomihodai no Umeboshi (PSP)

Available only in Japan, this tragically overlooked game makes the list to show how amazing and extensive my knowledge of video games is.

5: Cowbell Hero (PS2, Xbox)

Who needs guitars? Nobody, when you have cowbells! Altogether now, “We need an increase in cowbell! I have an illness and the only thing that can cure it is an increase in cowbell!”

4: Jetpony II: Stumplegs (Every muthafarkin’ system)

The sequel to the popular platform shooter begins when Jetpony wakes up after a night on the town to find that his legs have been removed. Luckily, he still has his jets, and everyone’s favourite Shetland Pony goes on a murderous rampage to try and find his missing limbs and the bastards who took them. Quite possibly the goriest game ever made, and all the better for it.

3: World of Carpark (PC)

In 2001, Lizard Games released Carpark, their first garage-based rpg. It was mildly popular. Then, in 2007, they released the follow-up, a massively multiplayer online car park simulator, and the world rejoiced. Who can forget the first time they chose their character and set foot in that fabled land of disabled spaces, angry attendants and harried mothers? Sure, it could be daunting for the newbie, having to deal with older players who had levelled up and can do a three-point-turn on a sixpence, but this was as rewarding as online gaming was ever likely to get.

2: Tiger Woods Pun Simulator (Xbox 360)

Sure, it’s a brand new game, but making ‘Wood’, ‘In the Rough’ and ‘Leg-over par’ references will never get old! This game will run and run and run!

1: Help! I’m Trapped in James Cameron’s Nose! (PS, PS2, PS3, PS4, Atari 2600)

The best game of the last ten years, bar none. What more can be said? There is more playability, replayability, satisfaction and depth of gameplay in this release than every other game made in the last century. Escaping from the famed director’s nose is challenging, yet the difficulty level and enjoyment means you’ll keep trying to find your way out of the conk. My God, I’m going to go back and start it again, I can’t get enough of this game.

So there you have it. The best games of the noughties. But what do I think will be big news in the 2010s? Here are my tips:

Mummies: Zombies and vampires are old news. Egyptian undead sarcophagi-dwellers are going to be huge in the coming years.
Baccarat: Televised baccarat is gaining popularity, so expect to see lots of tie-in games.
Robots made of meat: I don’t know why, but this is my dark horse.
Benjamin Netanyahu: I’ll be honest, I’m out of ideas.