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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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Jacinta Halloran

Medicine as Art: An interview with Terrence Holt

Internal Medicine turns on its head the commonly-held wisdom of power and control in the doctor-patient relationship. Holt’s doctor-narrator is conflicted and questioning, often exhausted and confused. His writing aims for something less slick than the sanitised television offerings of medical melodramas, where ‘what entertains usually falsifies.’ Read more »

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James Tierney

What Australian Literary Conversation?

I am concerned about the absence of a performative aspect of criticism in the public domain, which doesn’t necessarily assume specialised knowledge or recognised allegiances, but is prepared to discuss what criticism is. Read more »

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What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their picks

Is your to-read pile looking particularly uninspiring at the moment? Or maybe you’ve just finished a novel and aren’t quite sure what to read next. Never fear! The staff from Readings bookshop have your back. Here they share what they’ve been reading this month. Read more »

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Rebecca Shaw

Crumbling the Great Wall of Heteronormative Assumption

You are just there to see a doctor, or have a haircut, when all of a sudden you are reminded that you are different. You are forced to come out to strangers over and over again. You are required to either refute their assumptions and risk having an awkward or unpleasant discussion with a stranger about your personal life, or you are forced to lie. Read more »

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Rebecca Shaw

Out of Alignment: Religion, politics and priorities

Throughout your (hopefully long) life, you will often be forced to prioritise one thing over another thing.
Because we make these decisions based on what we personally think is important or morally right, the things other people choose to prioritise can be confusing or upsetting to us. I find this happens regularly when bearing witness to what some religious people or religious groups choose to place importance on. Read more »

Rebecca Shaw

TERF War: Transphobia in the LGBTQI community

I started to realise that I was ‘not like other girls’ about the time I hit puberty. From that point on I underwent an extensive and daunting process to emerge from my closeted cocoon into the beautiful lesbian butterfly I am today. An important part of that development was realising – mostly via the Internet (or very occasionally through people I met in real life) – that there were people like me all over the world. Read more »

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Joanna Di Mattia

All About His Mother: Xavier Dolan’s fierce women

Xavier Dolan has created an exuberant body of cinema that privileges women (and others on the margins) as complex, chaotic beings. Dolan’s fierce mothers are cleaved from the pedestal that so much of cinema places them on, so that they may dig around in the dirt that is life. Read more »

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Anwen Crawford

Being Boring: Passing time with the films of Michael Winterbottom

What does it mean to film the same performers over the course of years, to have them age in front of the camera? Everyday pays careful attention to boredom, and at moments it manages to capture a sense of time that is both elusive and profound. Read more »

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Anwen Crawford

Don’t be Sheepish: Why Ewe Should See Shaun the Sheep Movie

Shaun the Sheep Movie is the latest feature-length production from Aardman Animations (the folk who brought us Chicken Run), and it is a delight. Borrow a young relative for cover if you must, but believe me, you are not too cool for a kid’s movie when it’s this much fun. Read more »

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Genevieve Wood

The Slap: What’s lost when a cricket bat becomes a baseball bat?

‘A cricket bat wouldn’t make sense in an American context’, says Tony Ayres, executive producer of the US adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap. He’s right, of course – it wouldn’t. But when, in US playwright Jon Robin Baitz’s version, the eponymous slap occurs as the result of a swinging baseball bat, something’s not quite right. Read more »

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Anwen Crawford

Rise of an Empire

Watching Empire, I wondered why there haven’t been more television shows about record labels, the music industry being the cesspit of venality that it is. Forget TV dramas about police departments and hospital wards – a show about a record label comes with all that conflict, plus outfits, plus songs. 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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Katie Williams

The Currency of Games: The real world cost of in-game purchases

A new item introduced in World of Warcraft lets players purchase a month of playing time for the real-life price of $20, which they can then sell to other players in-game in exchange for virtual currency. It’s an exchange of real money for a virtual currency that has in-game value but none in the physical, ‘real’ world – and it makes me incredibly uneasy. Read more »

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Katie Williams

Pilgrimage to San Francisco: Power and Privilege at the Game Developers Conference

Attendees talk about the annual pilgrimage to the Game Developer’s Conference with the same reverence as a child’s first trip to Disney World. It’s the Magic Kingdom for adult nerds. The weeks leading up to the conference are full of discussion about which parties to attend, and how best to make an impression on people who could be useful in furthering your game development career. Read more »

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Katie Williams

Storytelling vs. interactivity: What makes a highbrow game?

What makes a game ‘highbrow’? We don’t have solid criteria for deciding conclusively which games are masterpieces, and which are just dumb, explosive fun. Read more »

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Jane Howard

A Working-Class Mythology: Ironing boards at the theatre

In theatre, there is perhaps no prop piece more mythologised than the ironing board, which came to signify the birth of contemporary British theatre. Read more »

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Jane Howard

Witness and Connection at Melbourne’s Dance Massive

In a city where it feels not a day goes by without an arts festival, or three, happening, Melbourne’s Dance Massive is resolutely unique. Australia’s largest dance festival is by necessity heavily reliant on Melbourne-based companies and shows that will go on to tour independently of the festival. The festival is undeniably of, and for, the dance sector in Melbourne. Read more »

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Jane Howard

Creative Space: The secret power of community theatres

Theatre is inextricably tied to space, and the best theatre spaces become more than buildings. They become communities of like-minded people: of artists and of audience members, intermingling their ideas and their lives. Read more »