Top 10 Bon Iver Tracks

The creation story of  Justin Vernon’s Bon Iver project and its seminal 2007 debut For Emma, Forever Ago has become the stuff of modern myth.

Vernon broke up with his girlfriend, his band broke up and he contracted glandular fever. Down on his luck, Vernon sought isolation in the form of his father’s remote hunting cabin in Eau Claire. After three months, Vernon left the cabin with what he considered a set of demos. However, after some persuasion, Vernon released these under the pseudonym Bon Iver – and For Emma…has since gone platinum.

However, this might not even be the most unbelievable part of the Bon Iver story. Two years later, Vernon released the Blood Bank EP, which caught the attention of Kanye West, who flew Vernon to Hawaii to work on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy before later describing him as his ‘favourite living artist.

The full-length follow-up to For Emma…landed in 2011, titled Bon Iver, Bon Iver, featuring a noticeably far bigger sound characterised by the addition of synths and horns. Bon Iver, Bon Iver propelled the band even further and won Vernon’s project two Grammys.

The end of the touring cycle for Bon Iver, Bon Iver was marked by uncertainty over whether the band were simply on hiatus or had split more definitely. However, in 2015 Bon Iver resurfaced with the thoroughly mesmerising 22, A Million, a radical departure born of Vernon’s recent hip-hop collaborations while never forgetting his Eau Claire folk roots, which come together to make 22, A Million a bona fide modern classic.

With three near-flawless full lengths and an underappreciated EP, the short Bon Iver discography is one of the most consistent in modern music, meaning that picking out the band’s 10 best tracks is a near-impossible task. But with no further ado, let’s attempt to do exactly that!

 

10. 715 – CR∑∑KS

 In its just-over-2-minute runtime, 715 – CR∑∑KS dispels one of the greatest myths in music – the dad-rock ideology that auto-tune (used as a catch-all term for any vocal effects) is the antithesis of any true expression or emotion. The track is stunningly scarce – consisting of only a Vernon vocal filtered through a synthesiser developed by his sound engineer called the Messina, which allows Vernon to play a keyboard and harmonise his voice in real-time.

To step back technically – the effect is what sounds like a choir of Vernon robots which doubles as both the track’s vocal and the instrumental. Perhaps CR∑∑KS’ most astounding victory however, is how easily discernible the humanity is through the robotic vocal effects, particularly as Vernon howls “turn around now/ you’re my A-Team” at the track’s dramatic climax.

9. Flume

Not that it’s undeserving musically, but Flume could almost be on this list for its importance to Vernon and to the Bon Iver project alone. Despite the fact he had played in bands before, Flume was the first track which Vernon sang in his now-iconic falsetto on, and he has called this his favourite song he has ever written.

Flume personifies the isolation of the writing and recording of For Emma…, dominated by simply Vernon’s voice and an acoustic guitar; even the production feels cold and desolate. Throughout however, Vernon’s beautiful vocals feel like an old fire which illuminates and warms the icy landscape the song creates and exists in; Flume is a track where Vernon manages to say so much with so little.

8. Blindsided

Perhaps the hottest take on this list, Blindsided is a track that is criminally overlooked during discussions of Bon Iver’s discography and I honestly have no idea why. The near 6-minute track begins with a guitar motif that is somehow suspenseful and peaceful at once, complemented by a beautifully calming vocal. The track’s crescendo features at around its mid-point, where Vernon repeatedly howls “would you really rush out?” in an explosion of emotion.

At the Eaux Claires Festival in 2015, Vernon callously stated that Blindsided’s lyrics are about trying to break into a building in his hometown, and it’s easy to see that at the root of the lyrics, but as always with Bon Iver, the words are so abstract that they seem to be about everything at once. In the final verse, there is a macabre but beautiful couplet that seems to reference suicide (“there’s a pull to the flow / my feet melt the snow”), followed by a genuinely uplifting conclusion where he modifies the track’s “I am blindsided” hook to “I was blindsided”, suggesting he has moved past his trauma and abandoned these thoughts.

7. Re: Stacks

The closing track of For Emma is stunning in its simplicity. While the entirety of For Emma is a low-key affair, Re: Stacks is the record’s most subtle, featuring nothing more than Vernon’s voice and a strummed acoustic guitar. Remarkably it feels optimistic and hopeful, while not forgetting the suffering and heartbreak that has been detailed throughout the record.

The lyrics carry this worn hopefulness too, with Vernon matter-of-factly stating “everything that happens is from now on”.This is not him saying he is suddenly free of his heartbreak, as he later says “this is not the sound of a new man / or a crispy realisation,” but the optimism of Re: Stacks is Vernon leaving the cabin and moving on with his life – or, as he puts it – “it’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away.”

6. 00000 Million

With 22, A Million’s closing track following For Emma’s on this list, it establishes a trend: when Bon Iver write an album closer, it’s usually a bit special. 00000 Million arguably follows the most traditional song structure on 22, A Million– it is a warm, old-fashioned piano ballad where Vernon’s voice is only very subtly obscured in vocoder.

00000 Million beautifully answers all the questions and rests all the lingering doubts presented throughout 22, A Million beautifully. After exploring spiritualism throughout the record, Vernon proclaims “a word about Gnosis, it ain’t gonna buy the groceries!”

However, if every Bon Iver track has its stroke of genius then this track’s is its sample: Vernon samples a line from Fionn Regan’s Abacus “the days have no numbers.” There could scarcely be a better lyric to put to rest the numerology and uncertainty woven throughout the record, and it’s not even Vernon’s own.

5. Heavenly Father

The only non-album or EP track on this list, Heavenly Father was released in 2014 as part of the soundtrack to Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here, making it the first Bon Iver release since the self-titled album in 2011. Heavenly Father exists in the middle ground between the lush 2011 self-titled record and 2015’s glitchy 22, A Million.

The dominant instrumental is a rolling, repetitive synth line which feels grandiose enough to fit on Bon Iver, Bon Iver and the analogue drums on the track show that Bon Iver haven’t shifted as radically as they did on 22, A Million. Lyrically, this track features Vernon musing his complex relationship with God and religion, climaxing as he passionately howls “Well I know about it darling I’ve been standing here!”

4. Blood Bank

After releasing one of the most stunning debut records of the century, Bon Iver returned with the Blood Bank EP – and its title track is better than every track on the debut. Blood Bank debuts a more full-blooded Bon Iver sound, noticeably featuring an electric guitar instead of an acoustic, but Blood Bank is still a product of the same sonic landscape – the production evokes the depths of winter, and Vernon even sings of snow in the track’s lyrics.

In a contrast from the frosty production on the track, the lyrics are easily the most romantic of Vernon’s career, detailing the stages in a relationship, moving from “that secret that you know / but you don’t know how to tell” to “that secret that we know / that we don’t know how to tell / I’m in love with your honour” between the track’s 2 choruses, and following the latter a warm acoustic guitar accompanies Vernon’s lullaby refrain of “I know it well”

3. 29 #Strafford Apts

A track that Vernon accurately described as a “stoner country song,” 29 #Strafford Apts is a stunningly warm song carried by a finger-picked acoustic guitar. Vernon and Bon Iver’s drummer S. Carey’s voices are both subtly doctored in the tradition of the record, and electronic effects drift in and out, but the bones of the song are provided by the warm acoustic guitar.

The opening lyric of this song is “sharing smoke” and it is followed in the first verse by “sure as any living dream”so the lyrics feel loose and not overly grounded in reality, especially as Vernon literally creates his own word with “paramind,”but the song’s most subtly genius moment comes at the end of verse two, where two separate vocals are layered at the same time, both suggesting opposing narratives. There more natural vocal is reigned to “throw the meaning out the door / there ain’t no meaning anymore” while a higher-pitched one hopefully asks “now could you be that friend? / come and kiss me here again.”

2. 22 (OVER S∞∞N)

It would be impossible to overstate the importance of 22, A Million’s opener to the entire record. In fact, without 22 (OVER S∞∞N) the record might not even exist. After touring the self-titled record, Vernon found himself struggling for inspiration, and this rut was ended when he sang the lyric “it might be over soon” into a sampler, which was then bastardised to make the “two, two” that soon follows.

The uncertainty of that line permeates the entire track, with almost nothing about it feeling truly concrete. The body of the song is built from just the titular sample, there are no drums, lyrics seem to drift in and out of nowhere alongside a Mahalia Jackson sample and a saxophone line. This is the sound of deep-rooted uncertainty and insecurity, but damn does it sound good.

1. Beth / Rest

Surprisingly the only song from Bon Iver, Bon Iver to make this list (sorry, Towers), Beth / Rest stunningly exemplifies what makes Bon Iver what a special band, as well as somehow being an outlier in their discography. It’s built on a massive synth line which evokes every cheesy ‘80s pop song but the emotion in Vernon’s lyrics and delivery more than qualify it.

Beth / Rest is stunning in its abstraction, with the lyrics featuring Vernon moving through a problem in a relationship – no concrete details are given, but Vernon’s passion is palpable even through lines as airy as “our love is a star / sure some hazardry”and by the time that he declares “this is axiom” it’s almost impossible not to be totally enveloped by the impossibly cheesy synth line. Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

 

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Girl In A Band: Answering That Fateful Question

“I’m sorry if I’m alienating some of you / your whole f*cking culture alienates me”- Bikini Kill.

A few years ago, I wrote a short article on the fated interview question faced by many, many musicians.

Sooooooo…. what’s it like being a girl in a band?

Having had a little experience of being a girl in a band at the time, I felt I could say my piece. I agreed with Kim Gordon in her autobiography (aptly named Girl in a Band) when I said that it was no different from being a boy in a band, as we were, quite simply doing the same thing. I recognised the barriers between women and music careers, but ultimately, I believed that things were by far better now than they used to be. I guess they are. Well, on paper they are. Is the music world still a world that excludes women?

Since starting my band, we have had some incredible opportunities, and of course, I am grateful for every single one of them. However, surely it is not unreasonable for me to be getting tired of being one of only two girls on an entire gig line-up. From what I’ve gathered, the type of music we play, and the music scene, in general, is a boy’s club. For a long time, I just didn’t think there was that many women in bands. But now I’ve learned that this is 100% not the case. We just aren’t getting booked as much as our male counterparts. Why is this? Surely, it’s not that hard to be a bit more inclusive?

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However recently, promoters have started to cash in on this and have started putting on “female fronted bands…”. This is a commonly used term with promoters, bands and reviewers alike. I find it ridiculous. Would you describe a band of guys with a male lead singer as “male fronted?” No, no one would say this, because sadly the assumption is that musicians are male. Surely, it’s not fair then to disregard women’s songwriting and their art, and just make it about their gender? This has been happening to women ever since they started making waves in the music world. In the 1960s, all-girl Merseybeat band, The Liverbirds were booked to play in the famous Star Club in Hamburg, where The Beatles were also playing. They remember (telling Kate Mossman in her BBC documentary “Girls in Bands”) John Lennon saying to them, “Girls with guitars? I bet you that doesn’t work out.” A decade later, when The Runaways were formed, they were shamed for being sexual but leered at for the same reason.

Joan Jett and Lita Ford are incredible guitarists, but at the time they were only seen as leather-clad, jailbait femme fatales. Sadly, things don’t seem to have changed that much. When I went to see Wolf Alice last year, I witnessed a bunch of lewd comments directed at the singer Ellie. I’m sure she’s used to this, but she shouldn’t have to be. A woman should be able to get up and sing a song or play her guitar, without having to worry about what she’s wearing, or what people think of her. This is the kind of thing that Bikini Kill and the other bands of the Riot Grrrl movement were talking about in the 1990s, it really makes me really sad that these songs are still so relevant.

Pale Waves singer, Heather Baron-Gracie tweeted: “If you come to a Pale Waves show and you shout at me to “sing a song naked” I will have you removed in seconds.” Here is a woman in quite a successful pop band, getting angry about the way she is being treated by her audiences. It is good that she can stick up for herself so publicly, however, this treatment of women could possibly discourage young girls to feel that they would be welcome, safe and comfortable expressing themselves in the music world.

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Being a woman in general, you are constantly being fed contradictions. You’re weak, but you must be strong, be smart, but girls are dumb, be sexy, but not too sexy because then you’re a slut. This is, unfortunately, something that follows us into the music world too. Whenever I play gigs, I feel the need to dress up in my coolest clothes and wear lots of makeup. It’s that constant pressure to look good that affects so many women in bands, and a lot of the time it matters more than what the music sounds like sadly. Of course, boys in bands are scrutinised for how they look too, and there is, of course, an expectation for them to look cool. But for female musicians, it almost seems like they’re there to be sex symbols, and their music is secondary. According to Fender, 50% of new guitar players are female, but all of this gets me thinking, how many of that 50% will feel like they’ll be taken seriously?

Are gigs safe spaces for women and girls? Not yet.

Are women musicians respected and recognised for their art? Not yet.

What is it like being a girl in a band? Well, what do you think?
– Beth McLeish (@mixtapeheart)

Why I Love Horror

words fae jake cordiner 

Hello you beautiful bunch, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve written any solo content for the site.

This is due to a number of reasons, chief among them being my brain was, for the best part of the last 4 months, comparable to a lukewarm bowl of oat so simple. I just didn’t have the motivation or mental capacity to write anything worthwhile for the past while, so sorry? Not that I imagine anyone has missed my bollocks, but on the minuscule chance that you have, I’m back! Hopefully for good, but I’m not sure.

It’s October (for those among you who hate calendars like me), which means it’s peak time for spooks aplenty. So I thought this would be a perfect time to get back on the saddle and do Jake’s Month* (*see: fortnight) of Horror 2: Electric Boogaloo. I’m going to try and mix things up this time, I’ve got a rather ambitious idea for the end of month entry this year but we’ll see how it goes (spoiler: I might be enlisting some help). With this first part of my series of writings on horror, I decided to go all personal and try and pinpoint exactly where and when I started loving horror as a genre, so expect some anecdotes and potentially a small paragraph at the end to try and tie things together in a nice wee bow. Let’s go!

It must have been about 2003, I was at my pal Steven’s house. His big brother had Resident Evil 2 on PS1, and Steven and I went on a covert operation the likes of which the minds of the masses couldn’t come close to comprehending… We waited until his brother left then went into his room and got the game. Genius, I know, and yes Theresa May is planning on enlisting me as a military advisor, how the devil did you know? We put the game in, and before the classic PS1 splash screen even came up we were positively fucking shitting ourselves. I mean besides ourselves with fear, I think it as because we had seen the cover and it looked a bit creepy?

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Regardless, the “RESIDENT. EVIL. TWOOOO” bit occurred and the two of us ran out of the room screaming, it’s not even particularly scary in retrospect but as an 8-year-old it was a different level of frightening. So we made Steven’s mum go in and turn the game off and went back to playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, the only frightening thing about that game is how bloody good it is! I think this specific incident was the catalyst that sparked my half-lifelong obsession with all things horror, however, there was another thing that happened only a few months later that may have played a large part as well…

It was 04/05, and my dad had rented the first Saw film on DVD from a video shop in my town called Global (it’s closed now, but I owe a lot to it, namely my love of gaming. Might be an idea for another article at some point, but I digress). Father Cordiner (not a priest) was under strict instructions by my mum not to let me watch Saw, under any circumstances, and fair play to old James, he did his best. I tried to come in and was swiftly told to get out, so I obliged.

BUT LITTLE DID HE KNOW, DEAR READER, THAT I SAT ON THE STAIRS AND WATCHED A GOOD TWENTY MINUTES OF THE FILM, COMPLETELY UNDETECTED! (*Insert Skyrim “Sneak 100” meme here*). It wasn’t even a particularly gory segment of the film (it was the flashback bit where Kramer gives his alibi and then a bit onwards), but I was infatuated. The way it was shot, the grimness and grossness that pulsated through every scene, it was cool as fucking fuck, basically. And for that reason, I hold the original Saw in very high regard. For the curious among you, I closed the living room door behind me but left it slightly ajar, and our living room door is mainly glass so I saw the action PERFECTLY!

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The last example of my early love for horror would come in 2007, I had a computer in my room so that was basically how I spent all my time (WHO CAN RELATE LMAO?). I had recently gone to the cinema to see Michael Bay’s Transformers (a solid 6/10), but there was a trailer before it for a title-less film, “1-18-08”, soon to be known as Cloverfield. Now, anyone who knows me even in passing knows how much love I have in my tummy for the Cloverfield franchise, and the main reason is that of the viral marketing that surrounded it. 11 year old me was positively balls deep in that sweet, sweet ARG. I trawled numerous sites, forums and youtube videos in a near-manic attempt to devour any and all information about the film. As the release date drew near, and the pieces starting falling into place in regards to what the film actually was, my excitement reached fever pitch.

I didn’t see Cloverfield until it came out on DVD. I wasn’t old enough to see it at the cinema, so I had to wait. It was a painful 6 months, seeing the reaction to the film online, the excitement, the reviews… It was tough. On my 11th birthday, I must have watched the film maybe 6 times in a row, digesting every scene like a mother puma digesting her prey. Even though I’d kept up with the film after it’s release, I hadn’t had it spoiled for me (fucking somehow), so it still remained fresh to me, and it was, and probably still is, the single best experience I’ve ever had watching a film. It was bloody brilliant, and though I’ve seen films since that I perhaps admired or enjoyed more in some aspects, Cloverfield will always remain my favourite film.

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Now while Cloverfield may not TECHNICALLY be a horror film (I’d argue it comes under the genre’s umbrella as both found footage and a monster film), it’s just as responsible for my love of horror as the other two anecdotes. And maybe that’s the main reason I love horror so much, the primality of it all. It’s ability to make you feel so frightened so quickly. Good horror holds your every sense and sensibility hostage and makes you lose sleep for maybe one night, but great horror, horror like Saw, Cloverfield, or more recently (and less anecdotey) Hereditary, The VVitch and films of that ilk, get under your skin like a master surgeon. It consumes your thoughts for days, weeks even, it makes you want to tell EVERYONE about how it made you feel, hell, it might even make you disobey your parents and watch it from the stairs.

Cheers for reading troops, I dunno what grand point I was really trying to make with this article. I just thought it might be a nice way to ease my way back into the swing of writing more long-form stuff. I hope you liked it, I hope I haven’t wasted your time, and I hope to see you again very, very soon. See ye!

The Importance of The Streets

by callum thornhill (@cal_thornhill)

Mike Skinner. The Streets. The UK’s greatest (totally unbiased) urban export and an influence on everyday life in the grim north east of England. With five albums out (and seemingly more to follow), it is impossible not to have at least one gritty tune that is scarily relatable to your life. Here, in this feature celebrating The Streets ahead of their comeback tour this spring, I am going to delve deep into their first two records; Original Pirate Material and A Grand Don’t Come For Free, and explore how and why the Birmingham musicians have soundtracked my life for as long as I can remember.


From the first time I heard Fit But You Know It on Fifa 2005 I knew that they were going to be the band to soundtrack my life. Now, some thirteen years later, I find myself totally absorbed in looking back and constantly re-appreciating The Streets. They are, in my opinion, a headphones-in band in the sense that the lyrics and music were crafted to give a personal experience. There are some bands that MUST be blasted through massive speakers, but Skinner and co. don’t fit this criteria – there are few records since the turn of the millennial as jaw-dropping as their debut Original Pirate Material. Released in 2002 (and apparently being re-released on vinyl in time for the upcoming tour) it is still as relevant now.

Weak Become Heroes dabbles in various themes including the drug-taking past of the protagonist. Opening with “nothing but grey concrete and deadbeats,” Skinner speaks for a generation with the approach of having nothing better to do. Most striking is that even now that mindset is still popular – a lack of societal improvement has left the youth behind where they are swept under the carpet as long as they are only harming themselves or the community around them. The melodic chorus of “weak become heroes and the stars align,” give the impression that via taking these experimental substances has allowed a greater lifestyle and everything finally coming together away from the monotonous doom and gloom.

There are two sides to The Streets – the first being the confident, lairy attitude as shown in Sharp Darts“I’ve got a worldwide warranty, satisfaction guarantee”. For Skinner to come out in a sub-two-minute banger on album one with such a bold statement – especially considering the DIY approach of producing Original Pirate Material (the majority was recorded in his London flat, with vocals done in a wardrobe), definitely has something to do with The Streets being one of the most recognisable UK garage acts of the past two decades. In this genre, you have to be ballsy and unapologetic, something that this track, and many others, portrays.

The other side of The Streets is the almost-romantic self-reflective approach. Take album closer, Stay Positive, and you can see Skinner using positivity to drag the protagonist out of a downbeat, negative rut. “Your idols – who are they? They too dreamt about their day. Positive steps will see your goals,” gives the impression of hope and that the opportunity to succeed is doable if your mindset flips. Something we all need reassurance of every now and then. Sophomore record, A Grand Don’t Come For Free follows this theme with arguably their most iconic track, and one of the most recognisable ‘love songs’, (Dry Your Eyes) from the 2004 concept album.

Exploring themes of loss, despair, and grief throughout Skinner’s narrative, it is one of the most exhilarating albums of all time. Take Dry Your Eyes and you have a break-up being torn apart moment by moment. Pleading that he can change, grow or adjust, as well as offering an open relationship shows his desperation of trying to cling on to something that has sailed its course. Take also Could Well Be In: a track documenting a new found love but being wary of previous partners; both his and hers. Opening with “her last relationship fucked her up” gives the context of why there is a sense of anxiousness during the date before the male protagonist opens up about the money going missing in response to “close mates all were, always the most important thing to her.” His approach is contradictory to hers, yet he still comes across as smitten and questioning if she is just being friendly – thus emphasising the delicate side to Skinner as opposed to the grittier classics.

To finalise, Mike Skinner has spoke of A Grand Don’t Come For Free, saying: “Every song needs a drama at the centre of it” – using this logic, I am going to coin the quote, or probably reinvent the wheel, and say ‘Every life needs an album at the centre of it.’ For me, it is A Grand Don’t Come For Free.

A Flash Flood Of Changes: Stop The Rain Interview

photo and words by gregor farquharson (@grgratlntc)

Working with producer Bruce Rintoul (Twin Atlantic, Vistas, Fatherson), releasing a stunning EP and having a lineup change? That is exactly what life is like for Scottish rock outfit Stop The Rain at the moment. Catching up with Blair (Vocals, Guitar), Kyle (Drums) and new lead guitarist Leonard, we chatted about the last few months and how important they have been.

Coming from Perth, the five-piece don’t get to the city as much as they would like to. Glasgow is undoubtedly a hugely influential place for many young musicians and building a fan base here is important for the five-piece.

B: We’re still working on it. It’s taken us a while to sell the tickets for Glasgow as no ones wanted to travel over so we have kinda had to rely on trying to pack the places ourselves. A lot of that is down to having good support bands. I do feel we are finally starting to make Glasgow fans and are definitely making progress.

L: I actually moved to Fife a couple of months ago but a lot of my good friends are in and around Glasgow. I have a couple of them coming tonight so that’s always good. Thanks, guys! *laughs* 

Grinding and gigging is the best method to accumulate a fan base and while you may assume they’d rather be back home playing, that isn’t the case; as Kyle put it, the Perth scene largely consists of 18 plus venues whereas Glasgow is a lot more accessible considering they’re only 17.

While they might be a young band, Stop The Rain are already being presented with massive opportunities, such as getting to work with the aforementioned legendary local producer Bruce Rintoul on a single:

B: It was honestly one of the best studio experience we [as a band] have ever had. We have never had a producer who has been so hands-on – he was really involved throughout the process and such a cool guy to work with.

K: Yeah totally agree with Blair. It was nice how he threw himself into the track and just went that extra mile for us.

Moving forward, the band recently gained a new guitarist in the form of Leonard to add to the powerhouse unit. Gigwise, Leonard’s onstage presence, and skill didn’t go unnoticed – the enjoyment was easily seen on his face, as it was for the rest of the band. The boys are all very hopeful for what the future has in store with the rejuvenated lineup: 

B: I’m not sure it will affect us, but Leo has brought a new life into the band.

L: Yeah it will affect us man, I’m leaving tomorrow! *laughs*

B: He has brought funny vibes, good chat and he is an awesome guitar player so I think you will see our riffs become more technical. It seems we are going for a more poppy sound and I’m taking up all the vocals now so you will hear a lot more of me now.

K: Leo has brought a style to the band. We have never had a style, now we do. Basically, Leo is now the face of Stop The Rain.

L: That’s inspiring!

We wrapped up the interview talking about the bands’ EP Sinking (here’s our glowing review for reference) and how the positive comments made the band feel, and grow stronger as a unit.

B: It was great folk could hear a collection of songs rather than just singles, but all in all, we were blown away by the feedback we got. We gained a lot of true fans.

K: Yeah it was really nice to release more than one song. I mean, singles are good but having more than one song is better. It’s really great now to play more song people want to hear. Before we would play our set and people weren’t getting into it as much until we played Home Is Where My Heart Is, and then they would engage.

Being such a young band, Stop The Rain still have a lot to learn and a lot of time to do so. Yet, being a bunch of 17-year-olds and playing gigs in different cities, as well as having a full EP out, is nothing to roll your eyes out and is a dazzling achievement for the boys. The band are ready to take on whatever is thrown at them and with this new lineup, they show no signs of slowing down.

Catch the band at broadcast on the 6th of February, supporting Casey Lowery. Tickets available on the band’s website.

Top 10 Bring Me The Horizon Tracks

by gregor faruqharson (@grgratlntc)

It’s not uncommon for bands these days to have a huge change in sound from their early days, and Sheffield metal-core turned synth-rockers Bring Me The Horizon have perhaps had the biggest change over the years. Their debut EP This Is What The Edge Of Your Seat Was Made For and first album Count Your Blessings is perhaps some of the heaviest metal/death-core out there. Yet, the band progressed to the point where they’ve donned the huge, arena rock sound we adore the band for today.

BMTH’s extensive discography and change of sound throughout their career make them the perfect alternative band to critique and list the ten best tracks from the band.

10. Chelsea Smile

A live favourite and arguably the band’s breakout track, this wee metal-core banger is recognisable by not only fans of the band, but any fan of heavy music. The opening screams of “I’ve got a secret” and subsequent lines pave the way for the tremendous breakdown that awaits listeners at the end.

The screams on this song when were frontman Oli Sykes was in his prime and it’s clear throughout. The way he utilises his voice box to effortlessly reach the high and low pitches is exceptional and any fan of the genre should appreciate the skill of Sykes.

9 – Doomed

The first song on the band’s latest album, That’s The SpiritDoomed is an excellent example to show how the act’s music has matured since the early days. The beautifully produced track starts slow and builds up to that exceptional chorus that fans all over just love to shout along to.

The synth work by Jordan Fish really adds a different element to the track, with noises and lyrics fading in and out making Doomed a standout, utterly cinematic release. If you were to listen to this without knowing the band, you’d be baffled at the older material.

8 – Antivist

Antivist is just one of those songs that make you want to mosh and crowdsurf. Just listen to it; the built up anger on this track is apparent straight from the first line. The shouts of “Middle fingers up, if you don’t give a fuck”  are lyrics to make anyone stop, listen and subsequently lose their shit. The rebellious nature along with the harsh vocals and guitar truly sum up what BMTH stood for at this moment in time.

7 – Oh No

The closing song on That’s the Spirit, Oh No is one of those tracks that stands out as being truly unique amongst the abundance of other BMTH songs out there; tamer compared to others, but nonetheless astounding. The chorus alone makes you want to have a slow dance, and there’s no sign of mosh pits to be seen during this.

Overall, the song is a masterpiece and uses every member’s strengths to their advantage. The perfect close to a tremendous album.

6 – Go To Hell For Heaven’s Sake

Appearing on the album Sempiternal, the track is heavy yet has a softer side, no doubt due to the new additions on this record. The riff that opens the track is signature BMTH and the guitar and synth work go hand in hand, as does the drumming from Matt Nicholls which keeps the up the pace. It’s the final section of the song that makes it special – the repeated lyrics of the title with the performances behind driving it results in a sonic charged yet tense listen.

5 – Can You Feel My Heart

Another one from Sempiternal and perhaps the track that defines the modern BMTH sound, CYFMH is one of those songs that makes you go “wow”. The start with the huge synths, the distorted vocals, even the huge chorus and scream along moments, the song defines what this new age of BMTH was going to be like. Even live, the song is just as popular, with fans using it a cathartic method of letting loose.

4 – It Never Ends

The only song on this list to come from the bands’ third LP, It Never Ends is a glorious example of what the Sheffield rockers were going for on There Is A Hell. Blending the sounds of violins and cellos with metalcore seems unlikely to work, yet this song manages it. The massive bridge of Sykes screaming “every second every minute every hour every day” is enough to send shivers down your spine. Despite the track not being widely appreciated in terms of live performance, it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that it’s one of the best songs the band have ever produced

3 – Throne

This was the second single we heard from That’s the Spirit, and boy is it a cracker. Throughout the majority of the track, we’re graced with some glitchy yet lavish electronic noises, backed up by some monumental riffs and drumming. The song as a whole is huge and made for the biggest venue possible. While some may dismiss the band’s latest album as too poppy, Throne shows that Oli and co. are more than capable of going hard when needed be.

2- Sleepwalking

The biggest hit from their 2013 release, Sleepwalking is an outstanding example of when electronic and metal collide for the better. The huge rock chorus blended with the screams in the verses works brilliantly. This album was the first which used the ability of Fish and it’s easy to see why he was such an influence on the band. Sleepwalking is one of those songs that when you hear it, you couldn’t mistake it for anything other than a Bring Me The Horizon tune. Absolute belter.

1- True Friends

A controversial choice but this is arguably the pinnacle of BMTH’s attempt to balance their harsh origins, synthy rebirth and pop-friendly attitude. The isolated vocals, which are more in turn with the singing Sykes wanted to go with on this project, smack delightfully into a rip-roaring clash of chilling violins and guitars. 

Live, this song is beautiful as it really does exemplify the versatility and talent of the band, something that can be seen on the faces of everyone in attendance as they, once again, cavort and kick off. True Friends is the manifestation of elements that any Bring Me The Horizon fan will adore, and it’s why it’s the top pick for this list.

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check out the tracks above in this handy playlist

Jake’s Top 20 Movies of 2017

by jake cordiner (@jjjjaketh)

Hey, Jake Cordiner here. 2017 was fucking shite eh? I appreciate that this sentiment has been beaten to death but it really was. The only shining lights were found in yer music, games, TV, wrestling (shouts to Kenny Omega) and, perhaps the most important, film. So many fucking unreal films came out in 2017, I struggled like fuck to narrow down this list.

PLEASE NOTE: I haven’t seen Spider-Man: Homecoming, I’m fucking sorry, ok? There are loads of films I haven’t got around to seeing yet but I guaran-damn-tee that I’ll get the most hate for having not seen Homecoming. Right, honourable mentions:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Ramped up everything that made the first film so refreshing, but sadly felt a bit by the numbers in the process. Still worth a watch.
  • The Ghoul – A good wee British horror that I reviewed earlier on in 2017, mind-bending af, in the same vein as the likes of Coherence and Timecrimes.
  • T2 Trainspotting – To be brutally honest, this film had absolutely no right to be as good as it was. Danny Boyle used all the directing tricks he’s learned in the 20+ years that had passed since the original Trainspotting to create a film that manages to stand on its own merits.
  • Mayhem / The Belko Experiment – Both have very, very similar plots (shit goes down in an office building) so I’ve lumped these two together. Go for Mayhem if you want over the top schlock, go for The Belko Experiment if you want something a bit smarter, but more subdued.


Right, here goes. The 20 DEFINITIVE best films of 2017!!

 

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20. Brigsby Bear

An absolutely dynamite film, this. It stars Kyle Mooney and Mark Hamill and that’s literally all I want to say. I implore you, don’t watch any trailers or clips. Go in as blind as possible and let this wonderful piece of cinema sweep you away.

 

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19. I.T

I.T is a film that, I think, defied all expectations. It shouldn’t have been this good, but boy oh boy am I glad it is. It oozes humour and genuine dread from its every pore, in no small part thanks to some stonking performances from the central children, and of course Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise, the Dancing Clown. Not every joke/scare hits, but when they do, fuck me do they deliver.

 

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18. Baby Driver

I wasn’t as head over heels in love with this yin as a lot of other people seemed to be, but that doesn’t make it any less of a great film. An utter masterclass in song choice and editing, Baby Driver is nothing but straight up fun. Add another worldie to Edgar Wright’s repertoire.

 

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17. Thor Ragnarok

Without a doubt the most fun I had in the cinema in 2017, Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok managed to capture the humour and wistfulness of his previous works (Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do In The Shadows, both fantastic films), AND on top of that he made a damn fine action film. I now want Taika to direct every film that will ever come out. I’m not sure of the logistics but I think it’s probably possible.

 

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16. Mother!

I’m still not entirely sure what the fuck I watched, basically. One of the most batshit insane films I’ve ever seen, Mother! Is Darren Aronofsky making a film that is kind of about everything and kind of about nothing all at once? It is fucking mad, and it’s brilliant.

 

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15. The Love Witch

The Love Witch is an incredibly strange film. A surreal horror/romance/60s throwback with deliberately(?) wooden acting and strange transitions between scenes. I’m genuinely not even sure if I liked it that much, but I’ve watched it willingly three times so that must count for something. A bizarre, but must-watch film.

 

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14. Dunkirk

What Dunkirk lacks in the story department, it more than makes up for visually. Some of the shots in this flick are utterly staggering. A palpable sense of dread and tension hangs over each and every scene. Whilst sitting in the cinema, I genuinely felt anxious at points, so this definitely isn’t one for the faint of heart. One of Christopher Nolan’s weakest pictures, but then again, a weak Christopher Nolan joint is still better than most directors best efforts.

 

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13. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE LAST JEDI: I fucking loved this film. It has more heart and soul in it than any Star Wars film before it. Some of the scenes are stupid, some of the motivations for the characters are stupid, but it is an utter joy. The new characters introduced all had their place, and the way Rian Johnson decided to treat the force as a religious allegory like the original trilogy did was a wonderful touch. Do not listen to the hate, this is a wonderful, wonderful piece of cinema.

 

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12. Logan

One of only two good things to come out of 2017 with the name Logan attached (here’s looking at you, Logan Lucky) Logan is one of the best comic book films of all time because it didn’t feel like a comic book film (for the most part). It’s gritty, moody, violent as all hell, sad as fuck and, maybe above all else, it’s human. Who’d have thought all it would take to make a great stand-alone Wolverine film would be to make him weaker? A blinder.

 

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11. Brawl In Cell Block 99

Just missing out on my top 10 is the devilishly pulpy Brawl In Cellblock 99. S. Craig Zahler is one of the most exciting directors working today, and he only has 2 films under his belt (the other being 2015’s gory western horror Bone Tomahawk, also a great movie). The premise is simple: Big scary man (played by Vince Vaughn, in a career-best performance) goes to jail, has to do something in jail to save his pregnant wife. What follows is a journey documenting how far people will go for the people they love (hint: REALLY fucking far). If gore is your bag, look no further. Brawl… will knock your socks clean off.

 

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10. Moonlight

Here we go MY DUDES, tenth spot goes to the utterly gorgeous Moonlight. Barry Jenkins’ touching portrait of a young black man’s entire life as he grapples with topics ranging from sexuality to what it means to be black in modern America.

There’s almost nothing you can fault with this film, Jenkins’ writing and directing is masterful, as are the performances throughout, in particular, a star-making turn from Mahershala Ali as Juan. This film can go from melancholic to harrowing in the space of a scene, but it never feels jarring or poorly paced.

To put it simply, this is a masterpiece of cinema, and it’s a testament to how good a year 2017 was for film that it’s only ranking at number 10 on my list.

 

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9. Colossal 

What an absolute gem of a film this is. Starring Anne Hathaway (in probably the best performance she’s ever given), Colossal tells the tale of Gloria, an out of work alcoholic who leaves her apartment in the big city and her, to be frank, total wank of a boyfriend Tim (played with aplomb by Dan Stevens, who is fucking great) to move back to her hometown and try to “find herself” (so far so bloody cliche).

After Something decimates Seoul overnight, she slowly but surely begins to realise that she might have something to do with the destruction of one of the world’s largest cities. That’s as much as I can go into without spoiling anything, so I’m instead going to gush about how fucking incredible Jason Sudeikis is in this film. Like, he SERIOUSLY knocks it entirely out of the park. He knocks whatever “it” is into the stratosphere, in fact, “it” probably landed on the surface of Mars. Where the fuck did this performance come from? He’s always been a serviceable enough comedic actor, but my man has LAYERS. He’s warm, cuddly and intimidating all at once.

I can honestly say this is one of the most surprising films of the year, for me. I stumbled upon the trailer by accident whilst traveling downwards through a youtube rabbit hole and it instantly got my attention, but it just seemed like an artsy wee weird, low budget / high production value romcom. How wrong I was, this blew me away and I can almost guarantee it’ll blow you away too.

 

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8. The Big Sick

God this film made me cry. It made me cry more than I think any film in recent memory has. Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s story is one that needed to be heard (or in this case, saw). Kumail stars as himself, doing shitey wee stand up gigs in a toilet venue in Chicago, a toilet venue that Emily (played with an effortless charm and venom by Zoe Kazan) happens to attend one night. What follows is a journey that is heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure, as a mystery illness leaves Emily’s life hanging in the balance. Kumail casting himself as himself is nothing short of genius, and it allows him to give one of the most believable performances of 2017.

You feel every moment of elation and despair Kumail, Emily and Emily’s parents, played by Holly Hunter (Mrs. Bloody fucking Incredible!) and RAY ROMANO (who is genuinely all sorts of fantastic in this film) go through.

The Big Sick is one of the funniest films of the year, it is dripping with Kumail’s signature deadpan humour. Nanijani and Gordon have written one of the most stunningly human films of recent times, and for my money, the best romantic comedy ever.

 

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7. The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)

Jesus H Christ this film’s a journey. Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories follows three siblings who are trying and failing to escape the shadow of their father. The siblings are played beautifully by Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Jean Marvel. All 3 are nothing short of fucking incredible in this film, Sandler especially, who proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that when he tries, he can be a stunningly good actor. Dustin Hoffman plays their father, Harold, a neurotic retired artist who was, for all intents and purposes, kind of a really shitty dad/husband/person in general. He’s onto his third wife, Maureen (hammed up to perfection by the ever impressive Emma Thompson). As his children try (and fail) desperately to strike up some form of connection with Harold, he takes ill. And THATS AS MUCH OF A SYNOPSIS AS YIS ARE GETTING!

Noah Baumbach is the king of writing films like this, emotional gut-punches wrapped in wittily written monologues and dialogues, and his run of form continues here. This is an oftentimes bleak peak into dysfunctional family life, and it is a vital watch.

 

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6. Get Out

Jordan Peele, take a fucking bow, son.

This racially driven horror/thriller/comedy(according to the golden globes) is nothing less than a slice of fried gold. Daniel Kaluuya stars as Chris Washington, who is about to go to his girlfriend’s family’s house upstate for the weekend. He hasn’t met them yet. Bad shit is going to go down. Everything starts off innocently enough, niceties are shared between all family members (with a bit of seemingly unintentional casual racism thrown in the mix), but soon things take a turn for the incredibly sinister.

What follows is one of the most uncomfortable films I have ever watched. I squirmed, almost non-stop throughout this films entire run time. The performances from Rose (played by Allison Williams) and her family are staggeringly good, with a real tenseness and a sense of underlying evil intentions soaking almost every line of dialogue they have. Catherine Keener as Missy especially oozes an aura of uncomfortableness throughout. But this is very much Kaluuya’s film, with a perfectly weighted performance that has seen him gain a BAFTA nomination, and rightly so.

It’s staggering that this was Jordan Peele’s first foray into feature-length film, and as I’m sure anyone who’s seen Get Out will agree, he’s placed himself firmly among the ranks of the most exciting young directors working today.

 

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5. The Killing Of A Sacred Deer

Yorgos Lanthimos is a mad fucking genius and I adore him. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a very hard film to categorise. On the one hand, it could be construed as a pitch black comedy, on the other it’s an eerie and skin-crawling horror. But that’s the true beauty of Lanthimos’s work, it simply refuses categorisation. The film’s advertising campaign was a masterstroke, revealing almost nothing about the film’s plot apart from the bare essentials. Colin Farrell is a surgeon. Nicole Kidman is his wife. Barry Keoghan is a weird as fuck teenager and Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic are Farrell and Kidman’s children.

The rest is left purposefully vague, and it’s all the better for it. It may seem like a cop-out to say this but the less you know about The Killing of a Sacred Deer going into It the better, but it’s genuinely true. This is a film that requires your full attention, many wee details may slip through the cracks on your first view so multiple viewings would also help. A lot of people don’t care for Lanthimos’s style after his last two films (Dogtooth and The Lobster), but those who do know exactly how talented this man is. Belting stuff.

 

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4. Raw

The best way to describe this film is Mean Girls meets The Silence of the Lambs. What starts off as a simple coming of age fare turns dark very, VERY quickly. Julia Ducournau French language directorial debut is a masterclass in slow burning dread. Justine arrives at college to become a vet like the rest of her family, and upon arriving is subjected to a hazing ritual along with the rest of the new starts. This ritual includes the consumption of RAW (HE SAID IT) meat. There’s one wee problem, though: Julia’s been a vegetarian since birth. This hazing ritual is the catalyst for awakening a previously unknown love of meat. RAW ( there he goes again!) meat specifically.

There were horror tales surrounding this films showing at the Toronto film festival, with the usual (more often than not bullshit) stories about “PEOPLE VOMITING IN THE AISLES” and “AMBULANCES RUSHING TO THE THEATRE TO ATTEND TO CASES OF MASS FAINTING!” But I’ll give this film the benefit of the doubt, some of the scenes throughout are genuinely fucking vile. But at the same time, a lot of this film is gorgeous, with a lot of striking camera work throughout.

It’s that balance that makes Raw so great in my eyes. Garance Mallier (this is also her first feature-length film) plays Julia with just the right amount of nervous energy and (eventually) sassiness that it’s hard not to be sucked into this film. A bloody slobber knocker, and another film that showcases the trend of genuinely smart horror that we’ve been blessed with over the last few years.

 

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3. La La Land

The film I’ve seen more than any other on this list, La La Land is, in a word, dazzling. At its heart, La La Land is a film about sacrifice. Be it sacrificing relationships, morals or dreams, sacrifice is the running theme throughout Damien Chazelle’s sun-drenched musical masterpiece.

Ryan Gosling plays Sebastian, a struggling pianist and jazz connoisseur (we’ve all met one of them, bloody annoying dicks) who dreams of owning his own jazz club. Emma Stone’s Mia works at a coffee shop, but she dreams of being an actress. They fall in love, he teaches her about jazz, she tries to teach him about film, but a copious amount of roadblocks stand in the way of the relationship. From their own egos to job opportunities, to timing. It’s never really clear if the relationship will work out. And that is absolutely fine because not everything works out. Sometimes things aren’t meant to be, and La La Land excels in conveying this message. Maybe the person you think is your soulmate never really was.

The music throughout La La Land is genuinely on another level. From the jaunty and energetic opener Another Day of Sun to the slow and brooding City of Stars, not a note is wasted throughout. Performance wise, Gosling and Stone are electric together, their chemistry is through the roof and I can’t imagine this film being as good with anyone else in the starring roles. The choreography deserves a mention as well, each and every extra in the big dance numbers pops out of the screen. This is partly thanks to the costumes and partly thanks to the choreography itself, which is stellar throughout. This film simply drips class, beauty, and sadness, and it is absolutely fucking astonishingly good.

 

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2. A Ghost Story

I haven’t stopped thinking about this film since I seen it. It is, seriously, one of the most stunningly beautiful films I have ever seen. It explores such heady topics with such a deft hand that it is almost difficult for me to talk about without tearing up, this is not hyperbole. David Lowrey deserves a Nobel peace prize for this film.

Starring Rooney Mara and White Male Shitbird, A Ghost Story tells the tale of C (man) and M (woman). C & M live happily in a lovely little home in an equally lovely little town. C is a music producer, who is happy with the house. M is not happy, she wants to leave as soon as possible. Something about the house troubles her, she feels like something will soon go horribly wrong. Hesitant of change, C laughs off these claims but soon, something does go very wrong. C is killed in a car accident. It wasn’t his fault, it never usually is the fault of the person who loses their life. M goes to identify the body, it’s him. She’s completely and utterly lost, she can bare to see the lifeless body of the man she loved, still loves. She runs away. C rises out of his body as a ghost, wearing a sheet, with wee holes cut out for eyes.

In any other film, this depiction of a ghost would be seen as pretentious and asinine, not here. C goes back to his house. He watches M live her life without him. Struggling to find meaning, she binge eats and vomits it back out. She is a husk. She leaves, C can’t. He’s stuck in this house. The next family moves in. And the next. And the next. You see where this is going.

A Ghost Story tackles time, love, loss, grief, the meaning of fucking life and treats each question with the weight they deserve. There’s barely any dialogue for over half the film. There doesn’t need to be. The imagery conveys the messages this film takes on effortlessly, arguably far better than words ever could. I’m aware I’m gushing, and I’m genuinely sorry but this film seems to have flown under a lot of people’s radars and that’s quite simply a fucking crime.

You may think a write up like that should be number one? Well, not necessarily…

 

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1. Blade Runner 2049

This film should not exist. Not only should it not exist, it has the AUDACITY to be one of the best films ever made. Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins have gifted us with one of the most visually spectacular films of all time. EVERY. SINGLE. SHOT is desktop background worthy (high praise, I’m a man who respects his desktop and its background, anyone who knows me will tell you that).

The world building in this film is stellar, helped in no small part by the three shorts released prior to 2049’s release. The acting is second to none, Gosling is on the form of his life as K, Robin Wright shines as K’s commander in chief, a criminally under-utilized Dave Bautista steals the short scene he’s in without breaking a sweat (figuratively, not literally). But the star of the show here is Harrison Ford. I don’t know what Denis and the rest of the crew fed him, but he was a different gravy entirely in this flick. Potentially the best performance he’s ever given.

I’ve sucked enough actor dick for one lifetime, so let’s get to the story. K is a newer replicant who is hired by the police to track down and decommission older replicants (for the uninitiated, replicants are basically androids). An almost botched job leads him on a journey to discover who he is, and if he even is a replicant at all. That’s the basic premise, it goes a lot deeper than that I promise you, but you’ll have to discover the film’s intricacies for yourself.

Villeneuve has taken the concept of big bad Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (and Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and ran with it. He’s Forrest Gump’d the fucker. I think he’s still running as we speak. Though limitations due to the time it was made have to be taken into account, Villeneuve and his crew’s design of near-future Los Angeles is fucking awe-inspiring. It’s all blinding neon advertisements, towering skyscrapers and Neo-futuristic slums. And that’s just the exteriors, each and ever interior location was meticulously designed with so much love that the care that went into the sets is almost palpable.

This is a special, special film. It takes Scott’s original and punts it into orbit, answering questions that the original was either too scared or too up its own arse to answer. It’s beautiful, it’s harrowing, it’s deeply sad and it’s the best film of 2017.

Now, I should make something clear here while I’ve still got you. I might have bigged up some films more than other’s, yet placed them lower on the list. This is because I can appreciate that art is special, and still not enjoy them as much as other pieces of art. That’s a wanky way of saying please don’t hate me. As always, a massive, massive, humongous, to be honest too big thank you to Liam and the rest of the Blinkclyro team for letting me write shite. It’s truly one of the greatest privileges I’ve had in my life. And an equally as big thank you to you, for reading the shite I’ve written. It means more than you could ever know.

2017 was a shite year in a lot of aspects but it was still decent for me. I found my footing in the journalism game and I managed to write a few pieces I’m genuinely proud of.

Let me know your favourite films of 2017, let me know how you are, let me know if you’re doing ok. Follow me on twitter @jjjjaketh, have a wonderful morning/ afternoon/evening/night, and I’ll see you again soon.