Well, it’s that time of the year, folks. That time where I blab on endlessly about my favourite stuff that I discovered in 2014. As ever, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s stuff that was actually released in 2014, just that that is when I discovered it. Though obviously some if it actually is new.
First, though, the year itself. It was very much a year of two halves, with the first half being, well, shite on account of a whole lot of misery and death. Things picked up later on, though, and for the most part ended well. As usual, I’m going to separate into movies, books, games and music. I’m doing music last cos ye gods it was a busy musical year.
So, without further ado, here are my things of the year.
2014 was an odd year. I rediscovered a lot of my old favourites this year, as well as seeing some new ones. I also watched a whole pile of bloody awful crap. My favourite, though, was an easy (if not popular) choice. My movie of 2014 is the almost universally hated Child of God. Based on one of my favourite novels by Cormac McCarthy, the movie tells the story of Lester Ballard, a dispossessed, violent man whose life is a disastrous attempt to exist outside the social order. Successively deprived of parents and homes and with few other ties, Ballard descends to the level of a cave dweller as he falls deeper into crime and degradation. It’s not a nice movie and it’s not an easy movie to watch, but it is a good movie.
2014 was the year I finally told George R. R. Martin to get lost after realising I’d just read a 4 page description of the inside of a cell. Life is too short. Really. I haven’t read much this year, mainly due to spending so much time wading through Mr Martin’s overly-wordy nonsense. But there is a winner though. The title is an oldie, but not to me. Dolores Claibourne, by Stephen King.
Surprisingly, I’ve played quite a few this year. If I was looking only at hours spent playing, then Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on the Nintendo Wii-U and 3DS would have to win the prize, clocking up some 300 hours of gameplay and a level of OCD not experienced in this household for a long time. But it’s not about hours spent. The winner, by a country mile, is the sublime The Last Of Us: Remastered on the PS4. The gameplay, the story, the voice acting, the cinematics, everything about this game is perfect. I can’t even say “if anything it was too short/too long” because it took exactly the time needed to tell the story. And spoilers notwithstanding, it’s one I can see myself playing again (once the pain goes away :)).
The biggy. Every album on this list is absolutely magnificent (in my opinion) although there’s obviously a bit of range in terms of genre, musicality and general shoutiness. I’ll outline each briefly.
Alestorm – Sunset on the Golden Age. Pirate metal – fast, melodic and fixated on alcohol.
Amon Amarth – Twilight of the Thunder Gods. Folk metal – driving, shouty, and powerful.
Avantasia – The Mystery of Times. Progressive metal – varied, beautiful.
Blackbeard’s Tea Party – Whip Jamboree. British folk. Quirky and with virtuosity.
Brymir – Fire to the Sun – Folk metal – staggeringly epic.
Ensiferum – From Afar – Folk metal – arguably more folk than metal. Shouty at times.
Evil Scarecrow – Galactic Hunt – just sublime. Parody metal but done with real skill and humour.
Harp and a monkey – All Life Is Here – British folk. Haunting, beautiful and very regional
Noah Gundersen – Ledges – American folk. Modern, melancholy and very catchy.
Orphaned Land – All Is One – An Israeli power metal band. Very powerful, very melodic and a beautiful blend of East and West.
OSOG – Cowboys from Ukuhelle – Folk? Rock? Something? Mental.
Rainbowdragoneyes – The Secret Mirror – 8 bit metal madness. Just plain silly.
Sabaton – Heroes – No idea what genre, except metal. Good metal.
Sonata Arctica – Pariah’s Child – More power metal – a great comeback after a disappointing previous album.
Tuomas Holopainen – The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck – something really special. The guy who does the orchestration for Nightwish doing a story close to his heart. Mainly orchestral, beautiful and powerful.
*Wayne Cantwell – Gathering on Persimmon Hill / Of Mice and Frogs. American old-time folk on banjo, mountain dulcimer and fiddle, with a bit of singing too.
*Wintersun – Time I – Folk metal – astonishingly beautiful despite extreme shoutiness.
So how do you pick a winner out of that lot? With extreme difficulty is the answer. As I said above, these are all fantastic albums in their own way and every one of them is worth seeking out even if you don’t like the genre – if only to broaden your horizons. I originally thought I was going to end up saying “They all win cos it’s too close to call!” and then I thought I’d get it down to five, but it turns out, out of all that varied stuff going on up there, there is a winner.
My album(s) of 2014 are Wayne Cantwell’s old-time American folk albums – for a simple reason. It’s not only the great songs or the great playing, it’s the heart and the honesty he puts into them. We’ve all heard most of these songs before, either by folk singers or in movies, but never with as genuine a voice as this.
You can buy the albums here. Go – stop reading this. Buy.