It's a new year! And, as every year, that warrants a written recap of the past year's entertainment, so pull up a chair, brew some coffee and ... let's begin.
My sister Laura has developed a knack for getting me interested in things. And it all began with the BBC's remaking of Sherlock, the second season of which began airing January 1st. Was it the unbelievable writing? The brilliant acting? The incredible photography? No, my dear bromantic pre-Hobbit sidekicks, it was all of it, and it served to remind me of my undying love and affection for storytelling. (I also love handsome actors with brains, but that's another story). Season 3 is such a very long way off.
I had no idea that I could get this obsessed with a TV show steeped in sci-fi: I am not prone to spontaneously watching remakes of campy space travel, ever. Though my reaction to the first episodes, concordantly, was lukewarm, the series turned out to be thrilling, moving and funny enough to pay back a 60€ investment in the box set several times over. And then John Simm appeared in the Season 3 finale, and I basically lost it. (At the time of writing, I still have all of the Eleven seasons to go.) I wrote a comic about this personal odyssey here.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Apart from the fact that discussing the need for three movies is probably one of the biggest First World Problems in history, I found that Peter Jackson's first prequel was worth every 3D penny of that 13€ movie ticket. I've done a comic review for it here.
Additional mentions: The Avengers for additional geekery; The Dark Knight Rises for putting the "kick-ass" back in "villain".
Finch - Say Hello To Sunshine (2005)
Finch made one of my favorite albums as a high schooler, the slickly produced post-hardcore (or something) What It Is To Burn. I didn't care much for their second (and final) album until I came across it on Simfy in early 2012; I then proceeded to use "A Piece of Mind" as a cleansing agent during a particularly stressful time. Still works a charm, probably alienates my housemates.
Linkin Park - Living Things (and A Thousand Suns)
Though they were another mainstay of my teenage years - and I am convinced that deep down inside I am still 17 - I became frustrated with Linkin Park after Minutes to Midnight, where they seemed to have crawled down the melodic pop hole for ever. (Nothing wrong with melodic pop, except that other people can do it too.) I didn't pay attention to 2010's A Thousand Suns as a result, and when they put out Living Things in May I only cottoned on after the "Burn It Down" single appeared on German television during the European soccer championship (what?). It took tweets from a couple people and some repeated listens on Simfy to rekindle my interest.
When I explained to friend blogger James that my favorite parts on Living Things were the themes in "Castle of Glass" and "Roads Untraveled", he suggested I give A Thousand Suns a listen, which was one of the best things I've done all year. On the whole it's just a very good concept album with a healthy dose of aggro and some shining moments of songwriting; but it also convinced me of the importance of fighting for your own creative ideas, no matter what the external circumstances might be.
Muse - The 2d Law
The same summer my sister introduced me to Doctor Who, we watched Muse perform their new song "Survival" onstage during the Olympics Closing Ceremony. It was put forth that Matthew Bellamy is actually a rock-and-roll version of the Tenth Doctor, which as a theory comes even more to life when you listen to the shenanigans present on The 2d Law. I am of the unshifting opinion that Muse sort of just sit down and put out awesome albums and make it look completely effortless. Not only does The 2d Law prove this with its bursts of melodic and arrangement awesomeness, it makes it okay that the closing "instrumentals" and bassist Chris Wolstenholme's songs are pretty much tacked onto the end of the album. I cannot fathom how many times I've played this record or danced to the Panic Station riff in my bedroom - perfect "get out of bed, face the world and kick heinie" music.
Tegan and Sara - "Closer" & "I'm Not Your Hero"
Friends and family are no strangers to the fact that Tegan and Sara are one of my favorite artists. I've been a fan since I came across a blurb in the August 2007 issue of SPIN Magazine; ever since their album The Con, they have consistently been reference points for me in the areas of creativity and artistic partnership (despite my mixed feelings about their 2009 album Sainthood).
When they came out with their new synth-driven single "Closer" this fall, my initial reaction was: "Ohhh, they've gone and applied those dancefloor extracurriculars, good for them!" My second reaction was, "Um... Are they ever going to make The Con again?" But the reason I had been hooked on The Con (and So Jealous) in the first place was the inspiration Tegan and Sara provided: raw lyrics, well-developed arrangements and catchy tunes that seemed to reach into my own tiny 20-year-old heart and put words to the exact things I was feeling at the time (mostly emo-ing on a complicated relationship). And though "Closer" was a grower, it was the YouTube release of "I'm Not Your Hero" that sealed the deal. Four years on, they had done it again: put words and melodies on the growth that I associate with the past several years of my life. Still no idea how they manage it.
Natalie Nourigat, Between Gears
Natalie is one of the cartoonists I found myself following during my final years of university; while I was off in Nantes and Berlin finishing my Master's degree, she took it upon herself to chronicle her senior year of college in a diary comic form, an exercise which she was very good at. When the paperback collection came out in February I was amongst the first in line to order. It's been an incessant source of inspiration to me throughout the year and I can only recommend it most highly.
Additional mentions: Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games (I downed the latter two books in three days and cried during the movie); Stieg Larsson's Millennium (see above, and also here.)
Lauren and Max Andrew Dubinsky
I'm usually loath to use Christian jargon on the internet, but I see Lauren and Max Dubinsky as a testimony of God's grace. Perhaps the most obvious proof of this is that they met on Twitter, but the ways they each apply their gifts as creatives and writers are equally powerful reflections of the God I intend to serve, myself. Lauren is a self-described "tech and arts girl" who founded the Good Women Project, aiming to encourage young girls and women; Max is a writer with a collection of short stories, a unique narrative experience and an associated novella under his belt. They deserve your attention (and Max' stories deserve a read).
And that's all for 2012. In 2013 I plan to see more Benedict Cumberbatch, play Tegan and Sara's new record until the CD falls apart, get my hands on a brand-new stack of comic books and watch every single TV show this guy has ever played in. Catch you on the flipside!