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Editors' Picks

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.




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Lou Heinrich

To see each other’s innards: Intimacy in Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress

In Stone Mattress, Atwood’s stories make a remarkable study of intimacy, of seeing each other’s innards, in different partnerships. Through the domestic details she describes, her masterful characterisation and her sharp tone, Atwood crafts the mundane into the profound. Read more »

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James Tierney

Dissonance and Tradition: Andrew Ford’s Earth Dances

Earth Dances: Music in Search of the Primitive is a vivid and rarely less than astute history of the debt modern music simultaneously owes to the inheritances of tradition, and the texture of dissonance. Read more »

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James Tierney

Survival and Contradiction: Jacqueline Rose’s Women in Dark Times

This book’s most impressive trick is in the way it pulls together seemingly disparate figures. In this fierce, insightful and wide-ranging collection, Jacqueline Rose calls for nothing less than a reformulation of feminism. Read more »

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Rebecca Shaw

An Inconvenient Truth: Social stigma and menstruation

If you have heard of menstruation, you would know that it is an essential process in a little tiny thing called the EXISTENCE AND CONTINUATION OF HUMAN LIFE, and it is something that most (not all) women experience for about five days every month for a large part of their lives. It is a topic (besides shopping, lol) that women think about frequently. Read more »

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Rebecca Shaw

Billy, Don’t Be a Homophobe

As a non-heterosexual person who has lived my entire life in a heteronormative world, I have a finely tuned antenna for homophobia. Loaded terms, like those used recently by Billy Crystal, are becoming more common, as it becomes less acceptable to state openly that you get an icky feeling when you see two people of the same sex kiss. Read more »

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Rebecca Shaw

A Tale of Two Penises: Double Dick Dude and the invisibility of male bisexuality

For the past year I have found myself fascinated by penises. If I’d been to the races, I would have created a monstrous dick fascinator to wear as a beautiful physical representation of my mental state. But let me be clear, I have not been captivated with all or even many penises. My fascination has solely been aimed at the two penises owned by the man known only as ‘Diphallic Dude’, or more casually ‘DoubleDickDude’. Read more »

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Anwen Crawford

Bad Cities

A Most Violent Year has an atmosphere of all-pervading dread, like a film noir, as if the polluted air of New York itself was causing people to act against their better intentions. Even more haunting and more noir is A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, a memorably audacious debut feature from American-Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour. Read more »

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Kate Middleton

On the Trail: Wild and the voyage of the modern woman

Strayed articulates the question that drives so many pilgrimage narratives: ‘What if I forgive myself?’ That same question perhaps suggests why female-driven journeys are resonating with audiences now: self-reliance and the abandonment of a conventional life have long been male-dominated themes. Read more »

Film Review Selma

Anwen Crawford

An Urgent and Motivating Anger: The politics of Selma

How to approach a figure with the reputation of a secular saint? One achievement of Selma – and it is a film of many achievements – is to reanimate King as a living, breathing man; a man of politics, strategy, and absolute, underlying resolve. Read more »

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Matilda Dixon-Smith

Insufferable assholes and grown up Girls

Yes, our girls are growing, learning, discovering. But all they’re really discovering is how toxic and unheroic they are, and how to use that to their advantage. They’re not going to grow out of their asshole tendencies, because they are actually assholes. Read more »

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Danielle Binks

Agent Carter and the future of the female superhero

Agent Carter has been described ‘a Triumph for Women, Marvel and TV,’ and heralded as an important new chapter in comics culture. If this supposedly groundbreaking new show fails, does it spell doom for the future of female-led superhero franchises? Read more »

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Anwen Crawford

Satire and Scandal: Revisiting Frontline

Frontline’s makers could not have anticipated the long, web-based afterlife of their creation, though they might not be surprised that their targets – the rampant egotism and moral hypocrisies of tabloid journalism – remain just as current. Read more »

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Katie Williams

Brain Candy: Are game jams diluting the potential of video games?

In a world where YouTube gameplay videos narrated by hollering amateurs hold as much clout – if not more – than professional game critics, I worry that developers may be swayed to choose an easier, unimaginative, and more vacuous path to success. Read more »

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Katie Williams

Fashion Forward: How hidden algorithms are dressing up technology

Though we increasingly rely on technology to simplify our lives, we still want to believe that behind the scenes is a happy, human face, rather than an impassive machine that does the dirty work for us. Read more »

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Katie Williams

Killing Monsters and Making Memories: How virtual worlds facilitate communication

When I hang out with my brother, we joke, make fun of each other, and swap stories about mutual friends. Sometimes, we’ll each pack a bag of stat-enhancing potions and go out to kill large monsters. It’s been well over a year since I saw my brother in the flesh – but thanks to World of Warcraft, I interact with him on a daily basis. Read more »

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Jane Howard

Stuart Bowden’s Unfamiliar, Universal Worlds

It’s hard to classify the work of Stuart Bowden. His one-person storytelling theatre works are at once hilarious and melancholy. They exist in a particular space of fringe theatre: intricately crafted stories built for small rooms & small audiences, they lift and rise that audience, gathering us all up in the magic of stories & the closeness they can breed. Read more »

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Jane Howard

Thinking Outside the Box Seats: The future of Australian opera and musical theatre

If we want to see new work and innovation grow in opera and musical theatre, we need to consider how they might develop within our culture. Read more »

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Jane Howard

The (Sometimes) Beauty of Being Alone at the Theatre

I often go to the theatre on my own. One of the great joys of writing reviews is that even when I attend productions solo, I still get to talk (write) about them at length after the fact. Seeing theatre is a wonderful activity to do unaccompanied, because as soon as the performance starts, everyone is alone in some way. Read more »