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Best of 2013 (Part One): Music, Videogames and Podcasts

by Kill Your Darlings , December 18, 2013Leave a comment

In the first of a two-part series, some of our favourite Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2013 – in music, videogames and podcasting. Have they missed any?

Best Music – Chad Parkhill

The Knife

The album that towered over my 2013 was The Knife’s monumental Shaking the Habitual, which saw the Swedish duo eschew the finely-crafted electro that made their name in favour of an experimental, process-oriented method that could generate near-impenetrable polyglot pop (‘Without You My Life Would Be Boring’), anxiety-inducing industrial techno (‘Full of Fire’) and patience-testing ambient interludes (‘Old Dreams Waiting to be Realised’).

Bill Callahan’s Dream River continues where 2011’s Apocalypse left off, and furthers his reputation as one of the very best songwriters in the North American indie scene, while another songwriter operating at the same level, Destroyer’s Dan Bejar, took a break from his own melodies and words by recording a beautiful EP of hispanophone Sr. Chinarro covers, Five Spanish Songs. Both Fuck Buttons’ Slow Focus and The Drones’ I See Seaweed were welcome returns to form after long absences. Kanye West’s ‘Bound 2’ may have one of the most controversial videos of any pop song from this year, but its deliberately disjointed production, overt sentimentality, and unblinking self-criticism have made it linger in my mind longer than any other song from Yeezus.

Finally, 2013 delivered two perfectly-crafted nuggets of pure pop bliss: Haim’s retro-oriented ‘The Wire’ (complete with the year’s best West Coast guitar lick) and Miley Cyrus’ surprisingly deep ‘We Can’t Stop’, which captures the melancholia inherent in the heart of compulsive hedonism better than any song since Sade’s heyday.

Read more from Chad Parkhill here

Best Videogames  — Dan Golding

Assassin’s Creed IV

With the looming inflection point of next generation consoles, 2013’s mainstream videogames felt like punches pulled. Big releases like BioShock Infinite, Grand Theft Auto V, and The Last Of Us were only the greatest achievements of an outmoded system, unable to transcend insular gaming culture. By now, the big studios have been left behind — critically, at least — by independent or semi-independent videogames. 2013’s included Gone Home (a game of atmosphere and family crisis), Papers, Please (border policing and responsibility), and The Stanley Parable (surrealism and Britishness). Some highlights came from Australia, too — Antichamber (an impossible maze), Stickets (really hard Tetris), and Duet (really really hard Tetris) all did well. Even more exciting was the ongoing explosion of low profile, punkish games, like those at Forest Ambassador, which curates games that are free, that require low time investment, and no specialised equipment or familiarity with games to play.

Yet for my 2013, this familiar story — the decline of the mainstream and the rise of the independent — found a wrinkle in Assassin’s Creed IV. For a series defined by the financial year (a new iteration is pumped out annually, and 2012’s was particularly cynically received), the latest was a creative triumph like something from the golden age of Hollywood — an Errol Flynn simulator on the high seas of the Caribbean, all rope swings, man-‘o-wars, and sea shanties. I have spent more time in Assassin’s Creed IV’s world than I care to mention, and it overcame my own scepticism to prove that there might just be life in mainstream videogames yet.

Read more from Dan Golding here.

Best Podcasts – Jessie Borrelle

99percentinvisible

I’m a podcast monogamist. I like my radio shows one at a time thanks, single file, or I get a kind of mental rash. I’m also greedy, so most don’t last long in my speakers. I gobble them up really quickly, because when they’re good and perishable, it gets quite compulsive doesn’t it. Like it is with those television shows, it’s hard to stagger them and take it slowly.

So, in my headphones at least, this year really belonged to Roman Mars and his modestly described ‘tiny radio show’, 99% Invisible. Critics call it smug but I don’t really care, I think calling something smug is smugly, and I don’t go in for that, because what a real luxury to call something so artfully crafted and executed smug. But then again, our ears are all tuned separately so I do respect that Roman’s tone won’t suit every listener, but to get stuck on that would mean losing out on a very considered and captivating earworm.

If I have managed to clamber though this post without actually, pragmatically reviewing the radio show then good, and if I made you a little frustrated for not getting a sense of what 99% Invisible is about at all, then I’m glad. Because really, reviews should be done by listeners as they’re listening. Not by writers as they’re writing. Though I did review it this year so you could read that. Or you could just listen.

Read more from Jessie Borrelle here.




West Bank

David Donaldson

Whitewashing occupation? Bill Shorten and the Israel Lobby

Racism and military occupation have no place in the modern world, and are certainly not something looked upon favourably by a majority of Australians. Yet while apartheid, for example, has become a byword for shame and racism, the Labor Opposition leader feels comfortable asserting that some Israeli West Bank settlements are legal. Read more »

Tony Abbott

David Donaldson

Abbott and Brandis’ culture war backfires

What is supposed to happen in a culture war is that conservatives use a controversial issue to drive a ‘wedge’ through the left, forcing a split between factions. In Australia, this usually means pitting Catholic unionists against their socially liberal colleagues in the Labor party. Read more »

climate change

David Donaldson

Australia is going backwards on climate policy

During the Howard years, it was usual for Australia to be awarded ‘Fossil of the Day’ by climate advocacy groups whenever it attended a climate negotiation conference. The award signifies the country that had done the most to hinder climate change negotiations, and Australia has won a pile of them. Read more »

Zoe Pilger

Carody Culver

Girls, eat your hearts out

Middle class hipsters, conceptual artists and third-wave feminists have long been easy targets for mockery, so I admit that I wasn’t expecting anything too groundbreaking when I picked up Zoe Pilger’s Eat My Heart Out, a satirical romp through contemporary London that reads like a surreal mash-up of Broad City, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Less Than Zero. Read more »

Laika, Astronaut Dog

Carody Culver

Houston, we have a fabrication

As someone who doesn’t have children, I’m no less resistant than any of my book-loving friends-with-kids to the charm of a beautiful picture book. So when I spotted Laika: Astronaut Dog by writer and illustrator Owen Davey, with its charming retro-style artwork Read more »

& Sons

Carody Culver

WASPiration: David Gilbert’s & Sons

As someone who’s always secretly aspired to being a WASP (before you mercilessly judge me for this, I should clarify that my desire has less to do with attaining elevated social and financial status than with being able to dress like a character in The Great Gatsby Read more »

American Pickers

Julia Tulloh

Eccentric junk collectors held high on American Pickers

The History Channel’s American Pickers, currently in its sixth season, is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable reality series on TV. It’s not a competition show, it doesn’t exist to objectify people and it isn’t particularly dramatic. So what’s the appeal? Read more »

Justin Timberlake

Julia Tulloh

Pleasantly forgettable: Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience

On 7 March this year, tickets went on sale for the Australian leg of Justin Timberlake’s latest tour, ‘The 20/20 Experience’. All five shows sold out in a few hours. The same day, five new shows were released, with most tickets for these rapidly selling out too. Read more »

BuzzFeed

Julia Tulloh

BuzzFeed quizzes understand me

If you use social media regularly – Facebook, in particular – you’ll have completed a BuzzFeed quiz during the past month. Don’t deny it. Even if you didn’t share your results online, deep down you’re still feeling smug because the ‘What Should You Actually Eat For Lunch?’ quiz confirmed that eating ice cream was, in fact, an appropriate meal for your personality type. Read more »

The Lego Movie

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Nostalgia and today’s family-friendly films

Hollywood has always known the adults are watching alongside the kids, and that to push a film into record profits (as Lego looks set to do with a global box office of $428 million and counting), you need to appeal to ‘kids of all ages’. Read more »

nympho-poster

Rochelle Siemiennowicz

Weirdos on screen: Noah and Nymphomaniac

There are some filmmakers you’ll follow into the dark, no matter how bad the buzz is about their latest work. For me, naughty boy Lars von Trier (The Idiots, Breaking the Waves, Dogville, Antichrist, Melancholia) and strange kid Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) are two filmmakers who can be loved or detested, but never ignored. Read more »

planes

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Notes from a plane

There’s an art to choosing the right film for every particular occasion, and as I nervously sit in a Qantas jet about to take off on a four-hour flight from Melbourne to Perth, the choice seems very important indeed. Read more »

Samsung fingers

Connor Tomas O'Brien

‘Fooled’ by technology

As I browsed the web last Tuesday, something struck me: tech companies can no longer pull off compelling April Fools’ Day hoaxes because there’s no longer even the thinnest line delineating sincerity from spoof. Read more »

wifi

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Flight 370 and gaps in the internet

On Twitter the other day, sandwiched between a slew of links to articles about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, somebody tweeted a link to the website for Tile, a Bluetooth-enabled device that can be attached to physical objects, enabling them to be located within a 150-foot range. Read more »

IMG_3267

Clipped: What would Susan Sontag say about always-on cameras?

As I write this, a tiny camera clipped to my shirt collar is silently taking a picture every thirty seconds. At the end of the day, I will plug my Narrative Clip into my MacBook, and it will upload half a gigabyte of images to the Cloud. … Read more »

Young Adulthood Books

Danielle Binks

The young adult books of my young adulthood

In March, Penguin Books Australia rereleased Melina Marchetta’s first novel as part of its Australian Children’s Classics series. Looking for Alibrandi was first published in 1992; the first print run sold out in two months, and Marchetta’s debut went on to win the Children’s Book Council of Australia Children’s Book of the Year Award. Read more »

When You Reach Me

Danielle Binks

A children’s lit prize of one’s own

Earlier this year, Readings Bookstore announced the creation of The Readings Children’s Book Prize. The eligibility criteria for the 2014 Prize was specified as ‘a work of published fiction, written for children aged 5–12’. Read more »

The Fault with a Sick-Lit Debate (1)

Danielle Binks

The fault with a sick-lit debate

American author John Green’s young adult (YA) novel The Fault in Our Stars has been a bestselling juggernaut since its release in 2012. Green’s book was somewhat inspired by his friendship with Esther Earl, whose posthumous memoir This Star Won’t Go Out was released in January this … Read more »

music theory

Chad Parkhill

Do music critics need music theory?

Canadian musician Owen Pallett – the man who arranged the strings on Arcade Fire’s albums, co-wrote the soundtrack for Spike Jonze’s Her, and has a bunch of wonderful solo albums – can now add another feather to his cap: that of an engaging music writer. Read more »

Tune Yards

Chad Parkhill

Drips, leaks, and spurts

I’ve spent the last two weeks in a state of perpetual excitement – musically speaking, that is. First came tUnE-yArDs’ new song, ‘Water Fountain’, a joyous, riotous explosion of colour and movement. Then Swans released ‘A Little God in My Hands’, a seven-minute epic of a track … Read more »

Grandma photoshop

Chad Parkhill

Singing out

My maternal grandmother, Merilai Lilburn, recently died in a nursing home in Katikati, New Zealand, of complications arising from pneumonia. She was 82 years old. At the time of her death, I and the other members of our extended family based in Australia Read more »

Community

Stephanie Van Schilt

Diary of a lurker: TV and Twitter

At the end of last month, global information provider Nielsen announced that Australia was to become the third country in the world with the ‘Nielsen TV Twitter Ratings’ service. According to a Nielsen Company press release, the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings are ‘the first-ever measure of the total activity and reach of TV-related conversation on Twitter’. Read more »

Broad City

Stephanie Van Schilt

Funny Broads

‘All comparisons between Girls and Broad City should be hereto forth banned from the internet.’ I agree with Katherine Brooks. Yet the comparisons continue, ad nauseam, mostly following one of two lines of thought. Read more »

The Carrie Diaries

Stephanie Van Schilt

‘Alive Girl’ TV: The Carrie Diaries

Get ready to feel old: it’s been ten years since the final episode of Sex and the City aired. I’m not talking about the first episode back in 1998, but the final episode – the one before the two questionable movies were released. Read more »