Sunday, January 5, 2014

Greg's Favorites of 2013

It's been a year.  We've pretty much abandoned our blog, but I still like to keep a record of my favorite media items of the previous year.  2013 has passed, and overall not an amazing year, but there were a few good things that I saw/heard/read/played this year.


2013 was overall a disappointment musically.  Few of my musical sources provided much new or novel and few of the artists I regularly listen to put out anything noteworthy.  Podcasts have replaced most of the music listening that I usually do but I still love the thrill of finding a new great album.  If there's a musical trend that I followed this year, then 2013 was the year of the retro electronica:  bands like Chateau Marmont and Daft Punk among others using analog synths and robot vocals from the late 70s early 80s.

Here's a list of bands and albums that I listened to this year:

Greg Whitehead - Please excuse my vanity for a moment, but I recorded three songs this year that I'm quite proud of.  One new song I wrote earlier in the year, one new version of an older piece that I wrote years ago, and one classic French Christmas Carol done in a Mannheim Steamroller-esque style.

"Again Tomorrow"

"Eric The Song"

"Noel Nouvelet"

Chateau Marmont - The Maze
This electronic French band put out a couple amazing EPs a few years ago and I've been anxiously awaiting their debut album. It did not disappoint. Their first single, "War Games" is easily my favorite track of the year. The band and album remind me a lot of Air and this is the best sequel to "Moon Safari" that Air never recorded. Sadly, I can't see that this album was ever released in the US though some of the album's singles are available.

Justice - Audio, Video, Disco
Another French electronic band.  This album actually came out in 2011, but I just discovered it this year.  Their first album (Called "Cross" or just the cross symbol) was a bit harsher, but this one is excellent and makes a great companion to the other electronic albums on this list.

Starcadian - Sunset Blood
Starcadian makes "Ear Movies" according to his bio.  This is a soundtrack to a fake 80s John Carpenter/Steven Spielberg movie with some great 80s era sounding synths and songs that hearken back to Neverending Story, E.T., Thriller, and Big Trouble In Little China.

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Electronic band #4.  I've never liked Daft Punk but always felt I should.  Most of their songs have a great hook, but are too repetitive.  This particular album is a bit better because everything is supposedly played live.  Though there are a few too many track skippers, the overall album was pretty enjoyable.

Chrome Canyon - Elemental Themes
Electronic band #5.  This album came out late 2012, but I found it this year after Chateau Marmont did a remix.

Space March - Mountain King
Space March is an australian synthpop band that I found and enjoyed a bit this year.  The title track to this album is an amazing synth version of the classic "Hall of the Mountain King" mixed with the quirky sensibilities of Sparks.

Duckworth Lewis Method - Sticky Wickets
The one non-electronic album on this list.  This is Britpop at its most simple and classic.  This is the second album by the cricket-themed group and, with the exception of the both overly catchy and yet unlistenable final track, an improvement on the first.

I was sad to not find any other great Britpop this year.  My current favorite group, The Feeling, put out a surprisingly lackluster album without a single good song.  I listened to the album many times and can't remember any track.

The Piano Guys - 1, 2, A Family Christmas
As a family we've listened to and watched The Piano Guys quite a bit this year.  I particularly enjoyed their Christmas album.  Spencer is currently learning a couple complicated John Schmidt pieces on the piano from seeing them played on YouTube.


The biggest trend I found in 2013 movies was that I watched a lot of films that the critics whose opinions I normally agree with hated and I enjoyed.  And a few they loved that I didn't care for.

Here are the films that I liked the most in 2013:

Gravity - Based on the hype, we made sure to see this on the biggest screen and in 3D.  It lived up to the spectacle, although I'm not sure it will live up to future rewatches. 

Captain Philips - A week after Gravity, I saw this and felt like an amazing double feature of edge-of-your-seat thrillers.

Iron Man 3 - A great follow up to the Avengers and much improved over Iron Man 2.  I saw this on a plane trip later in the year and they cut out the whole Air Force One rescue scene.

The World's End - The one movie I watched twice in the theaters.  The first time I was disappointed in this follow up to Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (which has become one of my all time favorite films.)  After reading several reviews that said that the film improved upon re-watch, I went again, and it was true.  This film definitely rewards multiple viewings.  There are so many foreshadows, callbacks and Easter eggs, it is impossible to take it all in on one viewing.
Ender's Game - This was my most anticipated film for 2013.  In the end it made for a good film, and an excellent companion to the book.  Sadly, there wasn't quite enough to make it an excellent stand-alone film.  Like many others, I believe that an extra 10-15 minutes of the games in Battle School are needed to make Ender's journey make sense.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire - I really enjoyed the first book and the first movie.  I liked the second book a little less, but the movie actually improved the book.  I hated the third book and am interested to see if the next two movies can find a way to improve it or make me appreciate it better.

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug - I'm not completely onboard with Jackson that we need to have every single character and encounter in the book realized on screen, but there was a lot to enjoy in this middle chapter, particularly the river barrel sequence and Smaug himself.

Movies that I enjoyed watching in the theater that many critics seemed to hate:
-Warm Bodies
-Jack the Giant Slayer
-Oz: The Great and Powerful
-Incredible Burt Wonderstone
-Star Trek Into Darkness

Other films I saw and enjoyed:
-Now You See Me
-Man of Steel
-World War Z
-Monsters U
-Pacific Rim
-Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2
-Thor Dark World
-The Secret Life of Walter Mitty


On TV we found a few new shows to enjoy this year, though very few of them were regular network shows.  Here's what I watched in 2013:

Uncle Grandpa - A cartoon we all enjoyed in our house.  I liked it so much, it became my Halloween Costume for the year.  No adults got it, but plenty of kids did.

Adventure Time - After discovering this great cartoon last year, the kids and I have been anxious every Monday for the release of the next new episode.

Studio C - I'm still having trouble reconciling this quite hilarious sketch comedy show and the fact that it's made by BYUTV.  We went and sought out the actual Studio C on our trip to Utah this year.

Arrested Development - I was anxiously awaiting the new season that debuted on Netflix.  It was almost too complex a plot to follow all the way through, but it was still really funny.

Brooklyn 99 - The one new network show that we all enjoy.  Andy Samberg is one of my favorites (see: Hot Rod) and the rest of the cast are great.

Comedy Bang Bang - Returned for a second season this year.  A great surreal fake comedy talk show.

Doctor Who - I finally caught up and am current on modern Doctor Who.  I even saw an episode in the theater.  Next year brings a new Doctor, and I'm interested to see where it goes.

Broadchurch/The Escape Artist - Speaking of Doctor Who, former Doctor David Tennant appeared in two British drama mini-series.  The first about a murder mystery in a small town that affects everyone, and the second about a lawyer who successfully defends a murderer which ends up coming back to haunt him.

QI, Would I Lie To You, Was It Something I Said - While we're on British shows, these were the British comedy panel shows that I watched an enjoyed this year.

IT Crowd Special - I was sad that there wasn't a final season or movie, just an extended episode.  One of my favorite sitcoms, I'm glad it at least said goodbye.

Nathan For You - A comedy series about a "marketing expert" who comes up with some strange new ways to attempt to market businesses.

NTSF:SD:SVU::Children's Hospital - Wonderfully bizarre and short send-ups of action TV and medical dramas.  NTSF is definitely my favorite of the two.

Since a lot of our viewing options have moved on-line, some of my favorite on-line shows this past year include:
-Nerdist YouTube Channel
-Newest Latest Best (successor to Totally Rad Show)
-Half in the Bag/Best of the Worst (Red Letter Media)
-ASDF cartoons and Tomska's YouTube channel
-StaticVideos (my neices and nephew's YouTube channel)


I listened to a lot of podcasts this year.  Here is a quick list of my favorites:

-Movie B.S.
-Comedy Bang Bang
-James Bonding
-How Did This Get Made


 I didn't read much this year, but I did read:

-S. (Only started reading this since getting it for Christmas, but am very intrigued.)
-Crap Kingdom
-Can You See What I See: Out of This World


I played a lot on my iPhone this year, but not much on the regular consoles.  We've just now enterred the next new console generation and so far there has been little reason to join up yet.  We'll see if that's still the case at the end of 2014. 

2013 favorite iPhone games:
-Stack React (my first published iPhone Game)
-Tilt to Live 2
-Super Stickman Golf 2
-The Room: Pocket
-Angry Birds Star Wars II , Angry Birds Friends
-Giant Boulder of Death
-Plants vs Zombies 2
-McPixel (2012)
-Pocket Mine
-Tiny Thief
-Sudoku Quest+
-Say the Same Thing
-Heads Up
-Draw Something 2
-Nimble Quest
-Indiana Stone: The Brave and the Boulder
-Ridiculous Fishing
-84 Logic Games
-My Muppets
-Knightmare Tower

Consoles/Computer games:
-Runner 2 (XBox arcade)
-Luigi's Mansion 2 (3DS)
-Battleblock Theater (XBox arcade)
-Star Wars Pinball (Xbox & iOS)
-Return To Dark Castle (Mac)


Looking forward to 2014, here's what I'm anticipating:

Music: The Hoosiers.  More music than 2013.  Not much else that I'm anticipating at the moment.  Hopefully I'll make some more music as well.

Movies: "Edge of Tomorrow" - Tom Cruise does Sci-Fi Groundhog Day.  "How to Train Your Dragon 2," "Lego Movie," the Hobbit finale, and "Guardians of the Galaxy."

TV: New Sherlock!  New Doctor.  New Community with Dan Harmon.  Also interested to see more online competition to traditional TV.

Well, that's it for now.  See you all in a year if not sooner.

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