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 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
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
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.