Jake’s Favourite Horror Movie Soundtracks

Hello my troublesome troops, Jake Cordiner back again on this crazy train of horror fuelled journalism! In celebration of Thom Yorke’s (from the Radiohead’s dont’cha know) recently released soundtrack from the Suspiria remake, I thought I’d just have a wee chat about some of my favourite horror film soundtracks over the years. That cool with you? Well, I flipping hope so because YOU CAN’T STOP ME, DAD. I’ll make a dainty wee playlist for you lovely lot of my favourite tracks from the soundtracks I discuss, and maybe some extra ones! Let’s get going.

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First off, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Goblin’s utterly masterful soundtrack from the original Suspiria. Goblin are renowned for their soundtrack work, scoring such classics as Zombi, Contamination and… Patrick? What the fuck kind of title for a film is Patrick? I digress, those other soundtracks are exquisite pieces of synth-driven prog, but the Suspiria soundtrack is where the Italian weirdos shine. It covers such a wide range of soundscapes and genres: there’s a bit of jazz thrown in, some industrial rock, a wee hint of post-rock and some driving prog as well. Its scatterbrained nature lines up perfectly with the original Suspiria’s unashamed obtuseness. It’s really, very, very good.

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During the 70s, 80s, and 90s, I don’t think John Carpenter slept. His directorial work is almost untouchable (that almost being Ghosts of Mars (which is still a good bit of fun)). But when he wasn’t in the director’s chair, shouting at presumably Kurt Russell, he was in the studio, maaaaaan. Rocking out and crafting some of the best soundtrack work ever. Seriously, some of this stuff is insane, from the utterly iconic main theme from Halloween to the rockier material found in the Escape From New York and Escape From L.A scores, the man couldn’t be stopped.

However, my personal favourite work of his, both cinematically and musically, is In The Mouth of Madness. This wee slice of Lovecraft inspired gold is hideously underappreciated, and so is the soundtrack. The main theme, in particular, is an absolute banger, mixing the creeping synth work that Carpenter had made his signature style with some badass guitar from DAVE DAVIES FROM THE KINKS! How and why that came about I’ll never know, the solos on the song couldn’t be further from how the Kinks sounded in their day, but I do not care. It’s cool as fuck and deserves to be heard.

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Disasterpiece (better known as Richard Vreeland) is really cool. He’s scored some of the indie gaming scene’s biggest darlings, from Fez to Hyperlight Drifter to Cannon Brawl. But nothing he’s done has come even close to his work on the It Follows soundtrack. I’m quite sure everyone reading knows what It Follows is, but for the uninitiated, this 2015 horror is one of my modern pillars of the genre, alongside Hereditary, The VVitch, and The Babadook. It is about an STI that causes scary people who can’t be stopped to follow you. It’s magnificent, and so is the soundtrack.

Vreeland uses distortion, reverb and, perhaps most effectively, silence throughout the soundtrack and manages to add to the films lingering sense of dread and despair tenfold. Its a rare case of a film soundtrack being literally integral to the film, without Disasterpiece’s work on It Follows I’m not sure the film would be nearly as effective in its quest to scare. Get on it immediately.

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Under the Skin is tremendously fucked up. Based on Michael Faber’s 2000 book of the same name, Jonathan Glazer’s Glasgow based horror follows an alien (played brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson) going around Glasgow and harvesting men. That’s all you need to know. The soundtrack fits the films perpetually dark and dreary vibe impeccably. Scored by Mica Levi, the music smashes together a contemporary orchestral foundation with layers upon layers of distortion, haunting reverb and a deliberate opaqueness that showers everything else. In essence, a vast majority of the soundtrack makes the listener feel like they’re being sucked into an endlessly black void. It’s genuinely uncomfortable at points, but so is Glazer’s film. A perfect marriage, submerged in black.

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Lastly, I’m going to touch on Sinoia Cave’s soundtrack for Panos Cosmatos’ abstract masterpiece Beyond the Black Rainbow. To attempt to describe this film would do it a great disservice, but basically, a girl is off her tits and is trying to get out of a Bad Building. That’s the gist of it. The soundtrack was composed by Jeremy Schmidt of Canadian rockers Black Mountain, who claimed his main influences were the creeping horror of soundtracks like Halloween, The Shining and, hold on, Risky Business?! Leave my favourite wee Scientologist out of it you fiend!

Regardless, this soundtrack can only be described as epic. A sprawling and oftentimes jarring synth driven journey that complements Cosmatos’s vision effortlessly. I stand firmly in the camp that the soundtracks near 20-minute odyssey “1966 – Let The New Age of Enlightenment Begin” is in the upper echelon of music for any genre of film, fuck just horror. It is that good and weird and creepy and off-kilter.

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So, those are just a handful of my favourite pieces of horror soundtrack work to date. I’ll embed the wee Spotify playlist at the bottom with some more lovely pieces of sound to creep you the shitting fuck out. Tune in next time where I transcribe a decidedly one-sided interview I had with famed murderer Michael Myers! Ok bye, love you!

 

Jake’s 6 Underrated Horror Flicks

Hey y’all, Jake here.

For my next trick, I’ve decided to try and shine a wee light on some of the lesser known horror flicks that are floating around the filmosphere, because I feel bad for them and feel they deserve a bit of attention. Here we chuffing go, you lovely lot!

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First on the agenda is 2013’s Coherence, directed by James Ward Byrkit, this Canadian sci-fi/thriller is a hard one to describe without ruining anything. Basically, some old friends meet for a dinner party during a meteor shower and shit hits the fan in a wonderfully headfucky way. Great acting, a plot that is near impossible to pin down, and one of the best endings I can remember in recent sci-fi history, this is definitely one to add to your Halloween watch party.

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Next up, I thought I’d go contemporary with Stephen Congnetti’s 2015 found footage spooktacular Hell House LLC. It follows a team of… it’s hard to give a description of their job, they travel around the US refurbishing abandoned / spooky looking places and making them into haunted mansions or ghost train things. It’s a hard job but some poor motherfucker has to do it.

Anyway, this particular house that they decide to flip is positively crawling with ghosties and ghoulies, so much so that the majority of the crew don’t want to continue with the build, except for the project manager who for some reason cares more about the build than the safety of himself and the other crew members. If you look past that silliness it’s a remarkably effective and enjoyable found footage romp. I caught it on Shudder, and I believe it’s on Amazon Prime now as well.

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Now we’re onto Turkish gore-fest Baskin. Directed by Can Evrenol, this film is all sorts of fucked up. It follows a group of Turkish policeman as they investigate strange goings-on within an abandoned building. The true nature of these goings on, I shan’t tell you, for it would ruin the fun, but just know that this flick is not for the faint of heart. Half of the budget must have been spent on the gore effects alone, and I mean that very sincerely. This is a raw, visceral film that does not hold back one bit, and it is all the better for it.

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Penultimately, let’s talk about Creep 1 & 2, starring the incredible Mark Duplass. This tells the tale of a violently mentally ill man who may or may not have given his videographer (played brilliantly by Patrick Brice) the full low down on his “situation”. Creep 2 follows the story along almost straight after the events of the first have unfolded, so to spoil any of that would be silly of me, wouldn’t it? BAD JAKE! VERY BAD! STRAIGHT TO YOUR ROOM! WITH NO SUPPER!

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Eh, sorry. Haha. Anyway, one thing Creep 2 does masterfully is sort-of-but-not-really dissect YouTuber culture and the lengths some creators will go to just to gain more clicks. It’s really cool, superbly tense and Mark Duplass is fucking magnificent. They’re both on Netflix and they aren’t long at all so it’s really ideal for a double feature.

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Lastly, for this piece, I’d be positively overjoyed to talk about Monster House! Monster House, while not overtly “Scary” per-se, has a creepy atmosphere that lingers throughout. It’s also incredibly funny and sad and weird, AND it was written by Dan Harmon. It follows a team of three kids who are convinced that the man who lives across from them’s house is alive and is eating children, pets, toys, cars, you name it! (Sounds a bit like my mother in law! ZING! (Sorry Catherine please god don’t hurt me)). This is one you can fire on and watch with your younger siblings/ children/kids your babysitting / whatever you get up to I won’t tell the police, so it’s well worth firing up on Netflix if you’re after a wee bit of fun.

So that’s my list! Tune in next time where I put on a GoPro and jump into a piranha tank! Bye, I love you!

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!

Every Arcade Fire Album, Ranked From Worst To Best

Since their first demo back in 2001, up until their critically divisive fifth LP last year, Canadian indie rock outfit Arcade Fire have had a knack for inciting strong reactions from the general public and critics – most of the time positive. Not one to stick to the same bread and butter formula, the Montreal band have constantly changed up their sound which helps to make them one of the most exciting acts the 21st century has provided thus far.

Of course, we can’t simply sit idly by and not ask the question: what’s their best record? Well you won’t have to ponder for much longer as Transistor’s fantastic four Jake (@jjjjaketh), Josh (@jxshadams), Kieran (@kiercannon), and Sarah (@hollowcrown) have helped to 100-per-cent-definitively rank their albums – will there be hot takes? Absolutely. Will there be an obvious loser? Most definitely? Will you be pissed off at us? Probably. Anyway, let’s keep the car running and skrt off to our ranking…

Quick disclaimer: This is, like, our opinion or whatever, dude. Disagree? The comments down below will house whatever rage you’re feeling.


5. Everything Now (2017)

Jake [5th]: While I don’t hate Everything Now with the feverishness that many other people do, there’s absolutely no denying that it’s the black sheep in Arcade Fire’s discography. The promo campaign in the lead up to the album rubbed a LOT of people the wrong way, with the band adopting a satirical über-capitalist facade, and unleashing the Everything Now Corporation on the world.

We’re not here to talk about that, however (though I, amongst many others, have plenty to say on the subject). We’re here to talk about the tunes, and while it’s the weakest Arcade Fire album, there are still bangers to be found here. The title track, for instance, is a natural progression (or regression?) of the sound Arcade Fire adopted on The Suburbs, with a bit of Reflektor thrown in.

Creature Comfort is a barnstormer of a song, with Reginé rocking a FUCKING KEYTAR during live sets, and the undeniably massive sounding Electric Blue gets its funk on. An incredibly divisive album, then. But a quote-unquote “bad” Arcade Fire album is still better than most other records.

Josh [5th]: What is there to say about this record that hasn’t already been said? By and large considered a disappointment except for the few aurally challenged, Arcade Fire’s fifth LP saw them aim for the nosebleed seats of the stadium with infectious pop melodies, danceable grooves, and biting social commentary that was hinted to be a more streamlined version of the group’s last album, “Reflektor”, thanks to its phenomenal lead titular single.

However, their reach went beyond their grasp, and lazy songwriting, embarrassing marketing, and tired performances hampered down their latest, with few highlights scattered amongst the track listing (“Creature Comfort” and “Electric Blue” being amongst them). They may have attained new commercial heights with “Everything Now”, but at the cost of their reputation as critical darlings and one of our generation’s most forward-thinking bands.

Kieran [5th]: Despite generating astronomical levels of hype with a multitude of teasers and visuals of the band marching about in matching EN regalia, Arcade Fire’s latest release ultimately fell rather flat on its face.

The cryptic social media promo campaign had us all hoping for an even bigger, bolder expansion on Reflektor’s avant-garde approach and while some tracks delivered to a certain extent, such as Creature Comfort and ridiculously catchy title track Everything Now, the album’s overriding narrative of subversive consumerist critique felt all too often like a crutch to fall back on; a cover-up for a lack of songwriting ideas.

Chemistry, for example: is it steeped in countless layers of irony, or is it just a bit terrible? Overall, the reason EN languishes so far behind the rest is that, unlike any album they’ve released up to this point, it’s simply not an enjoyable listen from front to back.

Sarah [5th]: Parody-like promotion aside – 2017’s Everything Now fails to deliver the multifaceted creativity explored in Arcade Fire’s previous works. It is clear that the band attempted to push their own boundaries by following a simpler and slightly more abrasive path, however, this shift wasn’t well received for good reason.

There are some listenable tracks from this record, such as Electric Blue, that stray from AF’s sound but still deliver. With a career spanning almost 15 years and a cult following, changing your core characteristics and drawing from completely abstract influences can challenge fan loyalty, as this isn’t the sound they have grown to adore.  

4. Neon Bible (2007)

Josh [4th]: There’s nothing bad per se about “Neon Bible” – the production is a step up from the lo-fi smudge of their debut, the performances are as tight as ever, and it features some of Arcade Fire’s greatest hits. But ultimately it suffers from middle child syndrome, lacking both the shock-of-the-new of “Funeral” and the grand, overblown ambition of “The Suburbs”.

The expansion into Americana is a nice touch, expanding the group’s instrumental palette to include organs and mandolins (see: “Intervention” and “Keep The Car Running”), but it does little to keep certain tracks memorable, especially in the latter of the LP. At least it features their greatest album closer to date, a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “My Body Is A Cage” that is bursting at the seams with teenage tension and adolescent angst before erupting into a heavenly climax that could fill a cathedral.

Kieran [4th]: I feel rotten about Neon Bible ending up in this lowly position, I really do. In fact, it’s the album that got me into Arcade Fire in the first place and it’s arguably the one that propelled them into stadium-filling indie rock stardom. For some reason, though, it’s the only pre-EN album I rarely find myself revisiting.

By most other metrics, it’s a great album. The swelling organs and wonderfully dark lyrics of My Body Is a Cage and Intervention marry together perfectly to create stunning pieces of baroque pop while the intense, upbeat No Cars Go has established itself as a firm fan favourite.

Compared to the sheer single-mindedness of Funeral, for example, Neon Bible has expanded outwards thematically, covering a vast array of topics and incorporating plenty of grandiose instrumentation but it doesn’t quite deliver the same gut-punch as the others.

Sarah [3rd]: A pivotal point in the Arcade Fire discography, Neon Bible is a graduation from their heavily artistic debut but remains stylistically vague – leaving room to play in future albums. Sandwiched between the band’s first studio album and their most refined release, Neon Bible serves as a guide of sorts.

The problem with this album is that the storytelling is somewhat 2D – and with such an emotive album under their belt already, this one feels almost vapid in context. The whole album is frustrating as it fails to deliver any real depth, and we have several examples that Arcade Fire are capable of this on celestial levels.

Jake [3rd]: The darkest of any of their albums, Arcade Fire’s sophomore effort Neon Bible is a bit of a fiddly record to get adjusted to. But when you do, it bloody shines. With song topics ranging from phones and computers taking over THE PEOPLE, MAN! (Black Mirror) to failing religion (Intervention and (Antichrist Television Blues)), the topics are heavy but dealt with with a deft hand.

They didn’t abandon their knack for crafting a bonafide festival classic, however, with Keep the Car Running, No Cars Go and even the ridiculously sad album closer My Body is a Cage being live set mainstays since the album’s release. Neon Bible is another jewel in Arcade Fire’s crown.

3. Reflektor (2013)

Kieran [3rd]: Far be it from Arcade Fire to be accused of resting on their laurels – a trip to Régine Chassagne’s ancestral homeland of Haiti was enough inspiration for the Canadian indie-rock outfit to reinvent themselves, more or less.

Reflektor is a smorgasbord of musical influences spanning Haitian rara to dance-rock, an illustration of the group’s laissez-faire attitude; one which results in their most imaginative and carefree recordings to date, the aural equivalent of letting your hair down and dancing like an absolute bam.

For a band who were previously considered fairly earnest and sombre, they’ve decided to cast off indie-rock conventions and go with the flow – this rhythm-orientated approach is perfectly captured with the syncopated beats of Here Comes The Night Time. It’s loose, it’s unconventional, it’s paranoid and anxious but – crucially – Reflektor is utterly, utterly compelling. The only petty grievance preventing this being a contender for my #1 is its gargantuan 85 minute run time.

Sarah [4th]: Unlike Everything Now, Reflektor breaks the band’s mould while still holding integrity as an Arcade Fire album. Songs like Joan of Arc show a lot of experimentation and exemplifies the bands’ infamous ability to create highly interesting, enjoyable music. Into the records second half we see foreshadowing with Porno – a blunt, steady song – arguably better than anything from Everything Now, but still lays the foundation for that release.

Jake [4th]: Reflektor is very, very, very good. It’s also, to me, a bit scatterbrained (like Everything Now). Reflektor knows what it wants to talk about (namely the rise of technology) and it utilises a smorgasbord or genres to convey its messages.

Reflektor is punky, disco-y, electro…-y(?), glam-y… you name it, Arcade Fire touched on it with this album. And that isn’t really a bad thing, Win sacrificing a cohesive identity allowed Arcade Fire to be as free and as experimental as they wanted, and for the most part, it paid off.

Birthing songs like We Exist, Reflektor, Afterlife and Normal Person. It’s an album that’s simultaneously weighed down and elevated by the fact that it’s so all over the place from a genre perspective, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Josh [2nd]: A controversial pick for a number two spot? Perhaps. A lot of complaints have been levied at the band’s fourth album: it’s too long, over-indulgent, the change in tone and sound too jarring, the stage show and marketing too gimmicky. But this is Arcade Fire at the peak of their ambition, and if there is one thing Win Butler and co. do well, it’s ambition.

Every song might not be mind-blowing, but they’re memorable and unique in the context of the album, and the listener genuinely feels like they have completed a journey by the time they wrap up on the jaw-droppingly gorgeous “Supersymmetry”. The production comes courtesy of James Murphy, so you know it’s going to sound tighter than your grandmother’s attic (and that’s not a euphemism), and the instrumentation has been made even more eclectic to harbour the influence of African, Haitian and Latin music. From start to finish, this is an absolute joy to listen to – just don’t forget to take a deep breath before you begin.

2. Funeral (2004)

Sarah [2nd]: As a debut, Funeral thrust Arcade Fire into the indie mainstream – and almost immediately helped the band make their claim as important figures in the scene. This record perfectly exemplifies their creativity, be it through the actual songs, the titles or the artwork, with each aspect setting them apart from popular alternative music at the time.

What truly makes Funeral special is its inherent ability to pander to people from all walks of life, it sits happily in the middle of the spectrum between too much and too little. Having this as a debut really pulled in a loyal fanbase from the get-go as it was widely spread across societal groups – and this has been fundamental in the bands following successes. Without Funeral, Arcade Fire would perhaps fail to be the grandeur figure we know it as.

Jake [2nd]: It’s still staggering to me to this day that Funeral is Arcade Fire’s first full-length album. Already masters of their craft at this early a stage of their careers, Win and his merry band of misfits set the world of Indie alight with the release of Funeral in 2004. Imagine writing songs like Wake Up, Crown of Love, Power Out and Rebellion on your FIRST. FUCKING. ALBUM. It’s almost unfair. One of the best debut albums ever, unquestionably.

Josh [3rd]: The one that started it all. It’s hard to remember a time when Arcade Fire weren’t considered A Very Big Deal, and it almost seems like that from their inception they weren’t anything less than that – to be fair, when David Bowie buys all your CDs and distributes them to his friends, you aren’t exactly going to be just an overnight sensation.

And so “Funeral” became a landmark indie record, brimming with tunes and earnest that made the world fall in love with the Canadian band. Yet time has not been kind to their debut, with the production seeming at first charming now being utterly grating, and it lacks the slick, rehearsed nature of later records that made them a joy to listen to. But it still packs one hell of a punch, especially on cuts such as “Power Out” and “Rebellion” that will keep arenas and festivals screaming along until the world implodes in a nuclear haze.

Kieran [2nd]: When we compare Funeral, Reflektor and The Suburbs, we’re really looking at the finest of margins. All three are masterpieces in their own right, and a case could easily be made that Funeral deserves to occupy that top spot.

It’s simply staggering that any group – even one as absurdly talented as Arcade Fire – could release a debut as masterful as this. Far from what the title suggests, it’s neither melancholy nor downbeat; in fact, it’s a vibrant, empowering celebration of life and a wise-beyond-their-years contemplation of mortality, which manages to be uniquely relatable no matter your generation or demographic.

I’m going to stick my neck out and say that Wake Up is the finest track they’ve ever churned out – in fact, if you’ve ever managed to listen to it without welling up *at all*, consider our friendship terminated.

1. The Suburbs (2010)

Jake [1st]: Who’d of thunk that an album about a fake war in a fake town would be so fucking good? This is Arcade Fire’s masterpiece, a stone-cold classic in every sense of the word that’s only getting better and more relevant as the years go on.

From the understated, yet lavish (Half Light I, Sprawl I), to the utterly gargantuan love mainstays of Sprawl II and Ready to Start, each track compliments the other wonderfully and makes for not only the most cohesive album in AF’s discography but the best.

Josh [1st]: This is the one. Where else in Arcade Fire’s discography do the twin peaks of what attracts fans far and wide to them meet so perfectly? The earnestness of their earlier records combines with the ambitiousness of their later to make a concept album that just about anyone can relate to: growing up.

Win Butler’s lyrics are at the top of their game from start to finish, capturing the simultaneous wondrous and jaded nature of your young adult years, when the world is at your feet but all you can see is your hometown, and the performances feel rehearsed to fall apart at any second, from how energetic they are (“Month of May”) to just how damn emotionally tense the whole band can feel on a track (“Half Light II”).

There’s not a weak moment on the track-listing despite its fifteen song-long runtime, which is not something any of the other band’s albums can say never mind any other band in existence at the moment, and by its end, you’ll want to jump right back to the start. When the dust settles, “The Suburbs” will still be standing.

Kieran [1st]: I’ve always thought of The Suburbs as a grown up, 20-something version of Funeral. It’s been at the booze and the fags for a while too long and it’s a little more world-weary, a tad post-apocalyptic even, but it’s still achingly, endearingly human.

In my eyes, Funeral and The Suburbs are both as near as makes no difference perfect, making this an extremely difficult call to make. The latter edges it due to the sheer poeticism of its lyrics. Too numerous are they to list here, but the amount of times I’ve sat in sheer euphoria and appreciation hearing Win Butler’s signature wail on this record is scarcely believable.

Sarah [1st]: The showcase that is The Suburbs is potentially a genre-defining release, and almost definitely a career-defining one for Arcade Fire. With the ongoing support, garnered from the run of Funeral and Neon Bible, the band were absolutely pining for something more impressive, scale and concept wise.

The Suburbs follows a clear path from start to end, is filled with storytelling and is so powerfully emotive it makes the listers hairs stand on end. Ballads like the eponymous The Suburbs, We Used to Wait and Sprawl II propelled the band from venues to arenas, showing the music community that Arcade Fire we far more than just a music group – they were an experience, they are ethereal, atmospheric, creators.

The Suburbs proved them as a timeless band, whose music will provide an escape for anyone who needs, any time.

TRANSISTOR’S Record Store Day 2018 Picks

photo fae Nikki A. Rae at Record Store Day 2016

For those amongst us who enjoy the sound, smell, sight and sheer eye-watering expense of vinyl, Record Store Day is pretty much our musical Christmas, not least because vast sums of money will be spent on gifts, all of them for ourselves. However, with the sheer volume of releases, re-releases and special editions on offer, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees, so we’ve assembled some of our finest vinyl collectors to give you their hot picks for RSD ’18.

Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

Twin Peaks – Music From The Limited Event Series

Not to be confused with the indie-pop outfit that share the same name, Twin Peaks is easily one of the finest pieces of entertainment to grace us and while it may have changed over the past couple of decades, its quality is consistent. This includes its score and soundtrack which range from flourishes of cheesy soap opera romance to borderline nightmarish remixes of classic tracks, all adding to the formula that makes Twin Peaks such a stunning piece of art.

Sufjan Stevens – Mystery of Love EP

While its title song may have been “done dirty” at the Oscars according to some people, there’s no denying Sufjan Stevens crafted one of 2017’s most beautiful songs for an equally mesmerising film. Call Me By Your Name wasn’t a film that relied on its soundtrack but it was one that was vastly improved by its gorgeous music which all comes to the tracks featured on this EP. If you’re maybe in the mood for something a bit different from your usual rock affair then this will be right up your street.

Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh)

Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror)

The original version of one of 2018’s best albums (so far), the 2011 version of Will “Massive Furry” Toledo’s best album is a brilliant insight into how a songwriters’ style can change as they do as people. Some of the lyrics are different, some of the breakdowns are different, the whole mood of the album has changed in 7 years, and I just think it’ll be cool to hear the original on a beautiful, heavy piece of vinyl mate, ok?

 

Will Sexton (@WillSheSleeps)

Florence + The Machine – “Sky Full of Song”/”New York Poem (for Polly)”

Really hope someone will be able to pick up this gorgeous new single from Florence + The Machine (AS I’M WORKING THE WHOLE WEEKEND NOO!)*. Lovely new art-pop single from Florence and co. Love the ethereal, stripped back sound and it’s nice to hear something fresh from the band, being the first piece of music in 2 years since the gorgeous How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. What is more interesting is the new single is backed by Florence’s first recorded poem! Coming from her first book Useless Magic (released 5th of July), New York Poem (for Polly) will be a very interesting listen!

*Prizes for anyone who sorts oor Will out

Josh Adams (@jxshadams)

The National – Boxer (Live from Brussels)

What’s not to love about one of contemporary rock’s greatest bands releasing a Record Store Day exclusive vinyl, documenting their 2017 performance of arguably their most important album front to back?

Anyone who’s managed to catch The National performing tracks from Boxer live, either in concert or on YouTube, will know not only the added energy they bring to certain songs – such as Squalor Victoria or mistaken for strangers – but the deft touch of dynamics and tension the group tweak for some of their biggest numbers (see: Fake Empire and Slow Show). Also, it has a cool as shit reworking of the original album’s cover art. Gimme… NOW.

Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Motorhead – Death or Glory

In a move that’ll shock absolutely no one, my hot pick for RSD ’18 is a reissue of Motorhead’s 1993 album Bastards under the guise of Death or Glory. If anyone’s interested, which they’re not, ‘Head were, as ‘Head do, having some trouble with their record company, and the family-friendly titled album was only largely released in Germany, and in the rest of the world, you couldn’t even steal it. A real shame considering it was one of the best, if not the best, albums they’ve ever produced.

Sure you’ve got Motorhead by numbers tracks like Burner and Born to Raise Hell, but Bastards had a wider range and more emotional depth with songs like Lost in the Ozone and Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me, a harrowing song about the horrors of child abuse. A must listen for the most seasons of Motorhead fans, or for anyone who wants a crash course in the band’s range & depth.

Motorhead – Heroes

Heroes was something that came out of the blue, more than a year after Lemmy’s tragic passing. The final word had been growled; no new Motorhead or “lost” recordings. Then seemingly out of nowhere came this emotional, expertly done cover of Bowie’s Heroes. Not too detached from the original that it’s a hatchet job, but retains that Motorhead magic. It then formed part of a covers album, which featured the band covering some of their favourite songs, including a, dare I say it, better than original cover of Metallica’s Whiplash.

Side B features a “live” version of Heroes, featuring the most angelic of voices, the Wacken Open Air Festival choir. Lovely stuff.

Jake’s Movie Picks #3

words by jake cordiner (@jjjjaketh)

Alex Garland has done it again.

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Yer auld da and one of them piles of paper with words.

I’ve been intrigued about Annihilation since the first trailer dropped a while back, so Intrigued I bought the book (written by Jeff VanderMeer) and read it almost straight away. It was excellent. So I decided, I was going to go into the film adaption as blindly as someone who had just read the fucking book it was based on can and I’m glad I did because Annihilation is a masterpiece.

Alex Garland’s film goes at its own pace. The story beats are there, but they’re warped. Mangled, rearranged (you get the idea). This is a VERY unconventional piece of work. It’s smart, and it knows it is, but it doesn’t spoon feed the audience with shitty exposition and the like. Who knew people didn’t need to be treated like fucking morons to understand relatively highbrow concepts?! Truly a revelation in itself, and a long overdue one.

Annihilation is one of the most striking films I’ve ever seen. The imagery is utterly bonkers. From the designs of the copious amounts of fauna and wildlife to the more urban looking backdrops, everything pops out of the screen and screams “LOOK AT ME THEN LOOK AT THAT THEN LOOK OVER THERE!”. That being said, it never once gets overbearing, and Garland and the VFX team knew when the perfect times to be subdued were.

I suppose I should discuss what I can of the plot without spoiling anything. Something happens at a lighthouse that causes a phenomena coined “The Shimmer” to develop and begin expanding quick. A few teams have gone in, and barely any of them have came out. One of the people who did return from The Shimmer was Kane (played by the ever fantastic Oscar Isaac). He happens to be the husband of protagonist Lena, who volunteers to be a part of an all-female team to venture into The Shimmer and find the source of the chaos. That is basically as deep as I can go without spoiling anything, but let me tell you right now my friends you are in for a hell of a ride.

The cast of Annihilation is pitch perfect. Jennifer Jason Leigh is great as the secretive Dr. Ventress, Tessa Thompson impresses as always as the innocent and inquisitive Josie and Gina Rodriguez is fantastically unhinged as Anya. But this is indisputably Natalie Portman’s film. Her performance as Lena is fucking solid gold baby. She sells the effects that The Shimmer has on the human psyche wonderfully, playing action hero one minute and almost having a full blown panic attack the next. The range Portman shows is truly brilliant. If 2016’s “Jackie” kicked off the, ugh, Portmanassaince, then Annihilation solidifies it as “Thing That Is Definitely Occurring”. Can’t wait to see what she does next.

I truly do want to cast a critical eye over this film and point out any flaws, but for the life of me, I can’t think of any. This movie is quite simply put a triumph on every front. A scary, sharp, Lovecraftian nightmare that in one moment permafucks your brain into submission and in the next massages your eyes to near ecstasy. The acting is brilliant. The cinematography and direction is brilliant. The score is brilliant… motherfucker this is a 10/10 film.

It’s remarkable that this even got made, but goddamn it all am I glad it did. See this film as soon as you can, I simply cannot recommend it enough.

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Jake’s Drunken Review Of: Oscars 2018

Hey hey hey, regular film man Jake Cordiner here. The Oscars eh? The glitz, the glamour, the… overlong circle jerk that everyone wishes they were invited to. There were literally zero surprises last night, like none. So I’m just going to go category to category and discuss how the winners made me FEEL, MAN!

Full disclosure before we get going here, I got almost blackout drunk watching the ceremony. So I’m going from memory here, and a quick shoutout to Blinkclyro regulars Josh Adams, Andrew Barr and Ethan Woodford who kept me sane and let me tell awful, drunken jokes through the entirety of the ceremony. Let’s crack the fuck on my guys…

First things first, Kimmel. Wow, genuinely what a surprise, he crushed it. I was expecting a very cringe, safe performance from America’s Third Favourite Talk Show Host™, but he went for the jugular early. Weinstein jokes, shout-outs to the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, while a predictable move, was classy none the less. All in all, from what I remember he did an absolutely stellar job.

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Sam Rockwell won Best Supporting Actor for his stellar performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. While not a surprising win, it was a deserved one. I said to my buddies last night that Sam Rockwell is one of my favourite actors that’s never been in a “BIG” picture, and hopefully, this win will get him more work as a leading man, because the fucker oozes charisma from his every pore.

So from what I can recall from the early portion of the evening/morning, Phantom Thread, a film I haven’t seen but understand as a motion picture solely about fashion, won the Oscar for costume design. I mean, if it hadn’t won the costume designers should have all been hung, drawn and quartered, or sacked if people didn’t fancy being weird, old-timey murderers.

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Dunkirk swept the technical categories, deservedly so in all honesty but I’m kind of gutted for the folks that worked behind the scenes on Baby Driver. An editing marvel is Baby Driver, and I was pulling for it to win in sound editing and editing in general. But I’ll accept Dunkirk, or Panic Attack Inducing Simulator 2017, winning.

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Best Supporting Actress went to the fucking hilarious Allison Janney for I, Tonya, a film I haven’t seen yet but looks so far up my street it’s actually moved in next door to me. I had Laurie Metcalf in my predictions for her brilliant, brilliant, brilliant performance in Ladybird but this was such a strong category this year that anyone could have won and I’d have been thrilled. Extra special wee shout out to the always incredible Octavia Spencer for her performance in The Shape of Water, which is an acting masterclass.

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Jordan Peele took home best original screenplay for Get Out. FUCK. ME. That’s all I’ve got to say really, Get Out is a vital, wonderful piece of cinema and it’s beyond brilliant to see a film that deals with the themes it does get represented at The Oscars.

ROGER FUCKING DEAKINS FINALLY WON THE CINEMATOGRAPHY OSCAR. FOURTEEN NOMINATIONS AND THIS WAS HIS FIRST WIN. GOD IS REAL AND NOTHING HURTS. Look through the man’s IMDb page, he has shot some of the most incredible films of the modern era. Blade Runner 2049, The Assassination of Jesse James…, No Country For Old Men, A Serious Man, Prisoners… the list goes on and on and on. He is a colossal talent and I am absolutely over the moon he finally won the big one. I audibly screamed when he won, and that is not hyperbole I am a passionate young man.

Best Actor went to humongous piece of human waste Gary Oldman, who for some odd reason didn’t find the time to make any racist or anti-Semitic comments in his acceptance speech, and instead decided to thank his dying mum. A nice gesture from a decidedly not nice man. Everyone else in this category deserved it more than Oldman, but The Academy loves it when actors slap some makeup on and portray fascists so here we are. It’s a damn shame Oldman is as colossal a cunt as he is because he’s undeniably talented. Oh well.

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My main man Guillermo Del Toro did it!! Best director, best man. I have always loved this big boy and his mad films and it’s a joy to see him receive this accolade from the Academy. A humble, insane genius of a man. Hopefully, the number of awards The Shape of Water has bagged him will allow him to finally get some of those 209,0000 projects he couldn’t get funding for off the ground. Start with that At The Mountains of Madness passion project GDT, my man. We’re long overdue a good Lovecraft film. A quick aside, Greta Gerwig seems like the nicest human being on this hell planet. Look up an interview with her, literally any interview, and marvel at how such a humble person has managed to succeed in Hollywood.

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Best Actress. I mean, could it have been anyone else but Frances McDormand? True enough the category was stacked (barring Meryl Streep’s annual nomination, which is getting beyond tiresome) but McDormand carried Three Billboards… on her back and almost single handedly made it as fantastic as it is. A powerhouse performance doesn’t do her justice. Also, what a fucking SPEECH, she is a fucking treasure and I won’t hear anything to the contrary. Of course, props should be given to the spellbinding Sally Hawkins (who I love dearly) for The Shape of Water and SourShoes Ronan, who owned the screen at an alarming rate in the stupendous Lady Bird. What a good year for films, eh?

Lets get this shit out of the way first and foremost. The best picture category snubbed Blade Runner 2049 hard. Now I know, The Academy doesn’t take too Kindly to sequels, but this is FUCKING DIFFERENT, OK? BLADE RUNNER 2049 IS A CINEMATIC MARVEL. AND HOW DARE THE ACADEMY NOT PUT SOME RESPECT ON IT’S GODDAMN NAME FUCK I AM HEATED. I AM VERY HEATED. Other films that, imo, were snubbed include: A Ghost Story, The Florida Project, The Big Sick, The Meyerowtiz Stories and Paddington 2. Yes, Paddington 2.

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However, The Shape of Water won. And out of all the films nominated, it was the only clear cut winner in my eyes. Sure, I’d have LOVED for it to go to Get Out or Ladybird but let’s take a step back and really think about the subject matter tackled in The Shape Of Water. It is, quite literally, a film about a mute woman falling in love with an Amazonian Fish God. The only man that could pull off an idea as batshit insane as that is Guillermo Del Toro, and pull it off he did. The Shape of Water is almost annoyingly wonderful, from the performances to the set design, the score, the makeup and costumes, everything comes together in a cacophony of pure cinematic joy. It. Is. Remarkable. And you should see it at your earliest convenience.

Before I love you and leave you, here are some scatterbrained notes from memory about the ceremony.

BOSS BABY WAS FUCKING ROBBED. WHAT THE FUCK ARE THE ACADEMY THINKING? THE WHOLE SYSTEM IS FUCKED, GO BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD YOU DINOSAURS. YOU VAMPARIC CUNTS. YOU FUCKING SHITBRAINED OLD TWATS.

Love you all, I have been Jake Cordiner. Thanks to Liam Menzies for letting me write this stupid as fuck article and for giving me a platform for my daft opinions. Stay safe, love each other.

Every Kendrick Lamar Album, Ranked From Worst To Best

While there’s more music than ever available only a tap of an overpriced smartphone away, more than to know what to do with it, if you’ve gone the past few years without listening, or even hearing, of Kendrick Lamar then you must either be a granny or Amish. Sure, Drake is bigger but in terms of critically acclaimed artists with the notability to sell out arenas and win multiple awards, you’ll be hard found to seek out a rapper as loved by fans and music snobs quite like Kung Fu Kenny.

Despite Good Kid, m.A.A.d City being his first big bit of public attention, Kendrick has been grinding away for over a decade with some successful efforts and some not as much. We’d be here all day if we discussed his mixtapes and soundtracks he’s been behind so we’ll take the smart route and chat about studio albums ONLY (yes, a compilation album does count). So without further ado, let Ryan (@ryanmartin182), Jake (@jjjjaketh), Liam (@blnkclyr), Charlie (@yungbuchan) and Ross (@rossm98) definitively rank the Compton kingpin’s discography – sit down, be humble patient…

Quick disclaimer: This is, like, our opinion or whatever, dude. Disagree? The comments down below will house whatever rage you’re feeling.


5. Section 80 (2011)

Ryan [5th]: The first taste most of the world had from Kung Fu Kenny, Section 80 really doesn’t deserve any hate despite being constantly overlooked compared to Lamar’s more recent outputs. The reason being this is Kendrick is always evolving, changing, and coming more into his own with every release. He is always developing his sound and Section 80 simply shows him in the spotlight as an underdeveloped star. 

Section 80 is without doubt a solid hip-hop debut that sounds very in its time, being released at the turn of the decade in 2011. It wasn’t until GKMC that Kendrick began to stand out more as the artist he is rather than a simply skilled rapper.

Jake [5th]: Jake was going to do a write up for this album but when I looked through his final piece, it was near illegible rambling about Tony Hawk Pro Skater lore and something to do with chumbawumba (Ed).

Liam [5th]: Unlike some artists that get covered in this manner (*cough* Radiohead), Kendrick’s weakest effort is by no means a bad album. With the power of hindsight, it’s easy to see that Section 80 contains a lot of ideas and elements that Kendrick would eventually perfect on future efforts. There are some moments on here that have not aged well at all: Tammy’s Song (Her Evils) is an interesting concept but it ultimately becomes repetitive in addition to coming off as pretty naive and I don’t think No Make-Up (Her Vice) has ever been considered good by anyone with ears.

We talk about an artist maturing a lot in the music review community and while this differs from act to act, Tyler The Creator‘s maturation is far noticeable than someone like Modern Baseball, and with Kendrick it’s clear that while this record was immature for his standards, it still holds some highlights and acts as a bucketload of potential that was ultimately realised.

Charlie [5th]: Putting this album here might annoy some people, but this is music criticism, it’s just opinion (this writer is now preparing for a barrage of hate). Section 80. feels like a very refined and more complete version of Overly Dedicated, though (in this writer’s opinion), nothing more. Most definitely a pop rap album (like it’s predecessor), Section 80. is an album that is not bad in any way what so ever, and for many might be their personal favourite for Lamar.

For this writer, however, this is not overly attention-grabbing or affecting in Lamar’s whole discography. There must be a special shout out however for Rigamortus, a song that is an excellent example of Lamar’s rapping skill.

Ross [4th]: This project was Kendrick‘s first full-length album and was just the beginning of the hype for the artist. It seems that Kenny was a bit more confident in what he was writing now that he had a vastly growing fanbase and more importantly – an audience. Compared to Overly Dedicated his lyrics have a lot more substance and character that were true to him and what he felt.

He went against an older style of rap to release beats that most artists in that genre would find too soft or melodic. His new style pairs beautifully with the production in this album. Despite this new-found sense of confidence and personality I still feel his enthusiasm in his tone creates a bit of a barrier between his feelings and the listener.


4. Untitled Unmastered (2016)

Jake [4th]: untitled unmastered was surprise released about a year after To Pimp A Butterfly. It’s comprised of songs that, for one reason or another (these reasons range from samples not getting cleared to Kenny thinking the songs weren’t good enough) were left off of TPAB. There are 8 tracks, and they’re all good as hell. They pull you right back into the headspace that engrossed so many on To Pimp a Butterfly, that sexy, jazzy, uber-politically charged hip-hop that K Dot has perfected, and it’s well worth a listen if the stylings of TPAB tickled your fancy in any way, shape of form. Kenny’s album offcuts are better than yr fave artists actual albums.

Liam [4th]: Untitled unmastered is a tricky one to discuss. While it should be judged on its own merits, it’s nearly impossible not to consider what came before it which not only comes from the similar themes and sound but also how this album came out nearly a year after TPAB. It may seem like following up what is regarded as Kendrick’s magnum opus would reflect badly upon yourself but in fact, it does the opposite as untitled unmastered is what it is.

It is an extension of one of the greatest albums of this century, like a well-crafted piece of DLC after you’ve finished your favourite video game or an after credits scene after a surprisingly good movie. It knows this and has fun while doing so, just like the listener will when giving this a spin.

Charlie [4th]: When it came right down to the wire, untitled unmastered and DAMN. were very hotly contested. untitled unmastered, though essentially a b-sides album, has some of Lamar’s most left-field work. Being an album consisting of songs from the recording of To Pimp A Butterfly, a lot of these off-shoots are quite ethereal, and most definitely experimental in nature. What probably does hold this back from being any higher up the list is the nature of the project itself.

As some of Lamar’s best albums are cohesive pieces that flow from beginning to end, untitled unmastered’s scattered structure (on both a macro and micro scale) is somewhat of a negative on the whole experience. In addition, it has to be said that the three-minute outtake about “head being the way” on the penultimate track is not Lamar at his best.

Ross [5th]: At this point in K Dot’s career, he had little to prove of himself. The album presented us with raw music. No titles to give context to the tracks that follow. This project is the leftovers from the dug’s dinner (TPAB) – the low-end funky production and knotted rhymes surface in tracks like Untitled 05, 07 and 08. This album is simply an add-on to TPAB, a follow-up statement but an intriguing one at that.

Ryan [4th]: Untitled sounds more or less as a continuation of TPAB. It doesn’t stick as well as the LP but is an extremely solid and consistent listen throughout the 8 tracks. There aren’t much filler tracks and the momentum doesn’t necessarily reach a high but stays at an even pace until the frantic Levitate kicks in. Untitled feels like a bonus release of a legend in his prime. It consecutively built hype for his next studio album while reassuring his fan base of his undeniable talent.


3. DAMN. (2017)

Liam [3rd]: OMG IT’S A 7/10 HAHA LOL EPIC!!! Now that we’ve got that tired meme out of the way, we can finally give DAMN. the critical RANKED treatment and definitively agree that it’s…good. In fact, it’s very good. Sure, there’s some slumps throughout this, which mostly stem from Kendrick’s ambitions to find influence from others as opposed to reinventing the wheel a la his previous work, but the good undoubtedly outweighs the bad on here.

For one, Kendrick, whether inadvertently or not, managed to give hip hop the chart redemption it needed last year an onslaught of repetitive, formulaic trap nonsense: HUMBLE is a behemoth with a piano riff that just won’t quit and Kendrick spitting out line after line chock full of character and appeal. Other cuts such as DNA and ELEMENT only went to further establish Kendrick as one of the best in the bloody game. 

Charlie [3rd]: DAMN. is a great rap album, and arguably doesn’t need to be anymore. Having some of the best rap singles released in the latter period of this decade – see DNA and ELEMENT – Lamar again hit gold with his latest (of time of writing) album. This album, in many respects, sees him become a chameleon. Taking many flows and from many of his contemporaries (LOVE would not be out of place on a Drake “playlist”), Lamar uses DAMN. to place himself in the consciousness of the average music listener for years to come.

Yet, this is an album that is very much Lamar. From the bombastic bangers to the more thoughtful and politicised songs (though let’s not talk about some of the questionable views within some songs), this is Lamar’s contemporary rap album, and in that essence, it’s an excellent achievement.

Ross [3rd]: For me, this album is storytelling at its finest. It dips in and out of the perspective of Kendrick’s younger self, struggling to resist getting involved in the dark side of Compton. This project was his most intriguing to date, delivering a series of tracks that are chaotic, layered and deeply conflicted. DAMN. This is the Kendrick album I was waiting for – raw, gritty, stripped back and aggressive.

My only problems with this album are that it seems a little inconsistent to me and the themes seems a bit too spotty for me to truly understand the project fully. But hey, he made Bono and Hip-Hop work – what the fuck.

Ryan [3rd]: DAMN. arguably has the hardest hitting moments of Kendrick’s discography but it also has the poppiest as well. While GKMC was a perfect balance of pop-rap and bangers, DAMN. feels slightly more uneven. The bangers hit a little harder, but the pop tracks drag a lot more. Particularly LoveLoyalty and Humble all feel as if they’ve overstayed their welcome by the end. While tracks like DNAXXX, and Element all built momentum that isn’t carried well throughout the entire album.

Jake [3rd]: DAMN. is a flawed record. It’s a bit front-loaded, it seemed to concentrate a bit too much on its (admittedly brilliant) singles, and Kendrick’s bars seemed to lack a bit of the venom seen in his previous albums. It is, however, still a truly great record. DNA., HUMBLE., FEAR. and ELEMENT. are all top tier Kendrick Klassicks (patent pending on that one), and the production throughout is as slick as you’d expect from a Kendrick Lamar release. There is, however, one glaring flaw in the albums very marrows, something simply unforgivable… there’s a RAT BOY sample on it. And I simply cannot stand idly by and not call it out.


2. Good Kid, m.A.A.d City (2012)

Charlie [2nd]: good kid, m,A,A,d city (GKMC) is a concept album that is full of lyrical prowess and lavish instrumentals. Listening to this album is akin to putting yourself straight in the shoes of the “main character”. Lamar’s lyrics are near masterful on this album; he paints a picture of Compton that is of microscopic details.

What makes this album an even more impressive feat is that some of Lamar’s most recognisable singles that announced him to the world come on this album, yet this is not a typical pop-rap album. On GKMC, Lamar managed to stamp his authority on mainstream music with a high-concept rap album. Not many can say they’ve done that.

Ross [2nd]: This for me was the album that announced Kendrick as one of the great artists of the decade. At this point, he doesn’t feel pressure from the expectation following Section 80. It is intense, insightful, and thought-provoking. A clear distinction in Kenny’s ability and talent in writing can be made from GKMC and Overly Dedicated. The album is straight to the point in its theme but diverse and intricate technically.

Kendrick establishes himself as Compton’s flag bearer, and on giving his take on such a harsh issue – growing up in an oppressive society you’d think the demographic would be slim. However, King Kenny seems to touch the thinnest slice of mass appeal and mass respect.

Ryan [1st]: In terms of production, storytelling, and lyricism, GKMC is one of, if not the best hip-hop album of all time. GKMC gets personal, thoughtful, and emotional without losing momentum. It plays through with every track setting the tone for the next one. It’s a remarkably impressive debut and Dr. Dre’s contributions to the album helped build Kendrick from a marvelously impressive lyricist to a rapper capable of handling tracks that can fill arenas, which he then demonstrated as the opening act for Kanye’s Yeezus tour, right after the album’s release.

One of the most impressive aspects about GKMC though is it’s mainstream appeal while also satisfying hardcore hip-hop heads. It was the perfect debut that cemented Kendrick Lamar as not only a future star but as a revolutionary artist.

Jake [2nd]: A surreal, oftentimes nightmarish peek into Lamar’s experiences as a teenager dealing with Compton’s rampant gang culture, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City was Kendrick’s statement of intent in many ways. He knew he was the best in the game, and he was determined to prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt on this album. And prove it he did. A staggering amount of bops are on display here: Swimming Pools (Drank), Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe, Money Trees, Poetic Justice, Sing About Me I’m Dying of Thirst and fucking M.A.A.D City itself. I could have listed any song from the album’s almost pitch perfect runtime and no one could argue that it was a certified tune. No one could touch Kendrick after this, and rightfully so.

Liam [2nd]: This was a really difficult choice for me, especially because this was the first Kendrick album I experienced. While I don’t believe it’s his best, I do think what Good Kid, m.A.A.d city had to say, and most importantly how he says it, makes it easily the most vital record Kendrick has made. As pointed out by Jake, Kendrick makes the brave move of calling out the problems ripe in his hometown’s community, something that paved the way for his role in discussing racial politics in future endeavors. 

It’s as close to cinematic as an album this decade has ever been, which makes it not that surprising that he eventually got to make a soundtrack for a Holywood blockbuster, but the aspect that generates the most admiration from me is how natural Kendrick is on this record. Before this release, he wanted to really appeal to that pop rap crowd and while there are plenty of songs on here that do just that, there’s a clear focus and intent that makes this feel like a true, fully realised piece of fucking beauty.


1. To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

Ross [1st]: You know he had to do it to y’all. This album is nothing but pleasure. It goes past being insightful, its educates – containing a densely packed, dizzying rush of unfiltered rage and unapologetic romanticism, blunted-swing sophistication, scathing self-critique and rap-quotable riot acts. To the average listener who enjoyed the more commercial tracks of M.A.A.D City, they might have taken a listen to TPAB and turned their noses up.

To those who listen in depth they would hear the expression of anger towards oppression and the institutions in America that conduct it. To Pimp a Butterfly is truly the greatest Hip-Hop album I have ever listened to, and I feel that it is the most important album released in the last 20 years. It is a masterpiece.

Ryan [2nd]: To Pimp a Butterfly, sounds like Kendrick’s masterpiece. While I may be the only contributor that voted TPAB Kendrick’s second best, is based mostly on my personal relationship with the album. I’ve never had a serious connection to TPAB but completely understand the love behind the album. I feel that I’ve never truly digested TPAB to enjoy it to its full potential, but the tastes I’ve gotten over the years have been sweet enough to draw me back to it now and again.

Its sound is unlike any other that can be heard on a modern hip-hop record, and truly sounds like a love letter to Kendrick’s heritage as well as hip-hop and spoken word.

Jake [1st]: To Pimp a Butterfly is one of those once in a lifetime albums that each genre seems to have. It blends jazz and hip-hop so effortlessly it’s almost criminal. There is absolutely no filler on this record, back to back to back bangers. From the ferocious The Blacker the Berry, to the joyous and impossibly catchy King Kunta, not a second is wasted, each bar, each lyric is treated as an equal. The word masterpiece is thrown around with reckless abandon in recent times, but there truly isn’t another word to describe this album. Without a doubt Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus.

Liam [1st]: For a lot of people this is miles ahead of anything Kendrick has ever made and despite the fact that I think GKMC isn’t too far behind it, I can’t argue with the fact To Pimp A Butterfly is the best thing he’s done thus far (and most likely the best thing he ever will do). It’s odd to recount the time when many, including myself, assumed this album was doomed due to the first single feeling a tad underwhelming and while I still dig the more polished studio version, using a live rendition of it was a move that could have been easily scoffed at but is just one of various highlights to be found here.

Of course, TPAB has some fire singles on it, King Kunta will never fail to make an appearance at a hip-hop themed night and for good reason, but much like GKMC, Kendrick’s best record benefits from an interweaving narrative that goes down a more poetic route this time round. It was jarring at first to hear Kendrick repeat an ever-growing verse at the end of nearly every song but on repeated listens, it goes to show what this record really is: art.

Charlie [1st]: Making hip-hop albums can be compared to the making of a film, where the MC (or director) helps coordinate producers and other musicians (actors, set design, cinematographer etc.) to create a vision for their singular piece. To Pimp A Butterfly is an example of when a film wins twelve Oscars. This album sees Lamar become the perfect director, creating a hip-hop masterpiece. Taking many stylistic trademarks from genres such as funk, jazz and soul, To Pimp A Butterfly is a truly transformative experience.

At times inspiring on tracks like Alright – a song that became both the soundtrack for many civil rights marches and the soundtrack of angry, mouth-foaming racists on Fox News – and at times heart-wrenching, like on the massively underrated U, To Pimp A Butterfly will go down as one of the best hip-hop albums ever created.

Every Biffy Clyro Album, Ranked From Worst to Best

Considering they make up one half of this site’s name (you know, the one you’re reading from just now), it’ll come as no surprise that we’re big fans of Biffy Clyro and who can blame us. Having went through multiple iterations in terms of sound (from angsty grunge to awe inspiring weird prog rock), the divide amongst fans about which album of theirs deserves the crown has went on for as long as the band have been around: hell, we’ve already done this before when this site was just a small wee thing but much has changed since then both with us and the biff.

Today is the day the questioning will die though as Ethan (@human_dis4ster), Jake (@jjjjaketh), Liam (@blnkclyr) and Oli (@notoliverbutler) definitively answer which record from the Ayrshire trio reigns supreme – it’s time to build this fucker stone by stone…

Quick disclaimer: This is, like, our opinion or whatever, dude. Disagree? The comments down below will house whatever rage you’re feeling.

 

7. Ellipsis (2016)

Liam [7th]: I still remember the slagging I got from Biffy fans when Wolves of Winter came out and I called it “more Biffy 3.0 than Biffy 2.5”, something that could be said for the entirety of this album. Ellipsis is by no means a bad album, featuring tracks that are honest to god great like In The Name Of The Wee Man, but it doesn’t feel unique enough to stand out from the previous three albums the band had dropped in this style – more disappointing than weak.

Oli [5th]: No, you’re stupid. Don’t care what you think, this might be Biffy’s softest record, but who can resist the charms of Medicine, People and Re-Arrange? The soulless, faceless consumers that have never loved and lost. I attach a special & emotional meaning to this record that makes it a cut above the rest for me.

Jake [7th]: Biffy’s latest is far from bad but it’s their weakest. In interviews prior to the album’s release, Simon Neil said Ellipsis was inspired by artists like Death Grips and Deafheaven, and when this turned out to not be true, fans of the band were understandably a bit ticked off. Songs like People and Herex are cookie cutter rock but there are some shining lights on the record in the form of Small Wishes and Wolves of Winter. The main event of the album is undoubtedly In the Name Of The Wee Man, which was, for some reason that is beyond this writer, relegated to a bonus track. It’s a furious jolt of adrenaline that, hopefully, we’ll get to see more of on LP 8.

Ethan [7th]: As time goes on, I dislike this album more and more and the same can be said about most of the tracks on here. Animal Style is exactly what I wanted from this record so when it turned out to be an anomaly, it made the rest of the album a bit of a chore. Clearly finding the band at an awkward stage in their career, Ellipsis just seems to lack any real urgency or ambition – it is hardly bad enough to ruin the band’s legacy but signals a need for a reinvention on their next venture.

 

6. Opposites (2013)

Oli [7th]: Much like myself, Opposites is bloated, unnecessary and largely forgotten about. Any Biffy list feels unfair because someone has to come last. Opposites produced a hearty handful of choice singles, but on the whole, felt a bit cumbersome & stodgy as a double album.

Jake [6th]: Double albums almost never work, but I think Biffy have come the closest ever to making a coherent one. Not to say Opposites is perfect, far from it with with tracks like Trumpet or Tap being weird for the sake of it as opposed to the natural oddity that Biffy tend to radiate and Opposite is just a bit bland. That’s not to say there’s not belters either: Accident Without Emergency is a soaring bit of stadium rock, as is setlist mainstay Different People, and tracks like Spanish Radio and Little Hospitals keep the weirdness factor at a cosy level. If some filler had been left on the cutting room floor, Opposites would be held in higher regard but as it is, it’s still a great, yet bloated record.

Ethan [6th]: The band, after the popularity of Only Revolutions, faced a dilemma with their sixth album, having to choose between continuing down a more commercial path or going back to their roots, and the band opted to do…both. A double album that contains more accessible tracks such as Biblical and Black Chandelier but also tracks that are reminiscent of their earlier years such as Trumpet or Tap, the band attempted to please both camps and unfortunately came up short on both. Still an adequate Biffy album, Opposites has many highlights but its length and inconsistency in quality and tone let it down.

Liam [5th]: I’ll be echoing the same sentiment as you lot have since, aye, there’s undeniably a bit of unnecessary flubber on this behemoth but when this beast roars, I’m left in awe; Victory Over The Sun manages to feel like an honest to god predator, a suspenseful intro paving the way for the chaotic hunt that makes up most of this track. In addition, Sounds Like Balloons is Biffy at their viscous best and while it may be a bit too polished, Biffy’s “pop rock” is miles ahead of most other rock bands. I have some attachment to this record, as I do with most of Biffy, but there’s a lot to love here for any fan of music, even if there’s some that you’ll pass on.

 

5. Only Revolutions (2010)

Jake [5th]: The true beginning of the mainstream Biffy we all know and love* (*have come to terms with), Only Revolutions is still a damn fine record. It manages to tow the line between “Weird Biffy” and “Straightforward Biffy” relatively well for the most part, songs like Born On A Horse with its driving synth and Cloud of Stink with it’s falsetto vocals are welcome spells of strangeness. But the weird is tucked in alongside some of the most straightforward Biffy songs to date in Mountains, God & Satan and Many of Horror. Still, straightforward doesn’t mean bad, not by a long shot, and this is a very strong pop rock record.

Ethan [5th]: The album that lost them hundreds of fans but gained them thousands, Only Revolutions was Biffy completely embracing their mainstream audience with huge singles such as Mountains and Many Of Horror. Their talent for instrumental structure and interesting lyrics was still there though it pales in comparison with their work before. An enjoyable listen rather than a truly great album, the album did its job as it propelled the band to arena status and made them Scotland’s biggest band but left fans like myself wanting a bit more and feeling cautious about the band’s future musically.

Liam [6th]: I feel like I’ll get butchered for having this below Opposites but where that album felt like it was trying to spice up the formula a bit, Only Revolutions kind of came off as that kid that copies someone (Puzzle) else’s homework and gets a grade below them. There’s some undeniable bangers on here, why else would I own it on vinyl, but this album’s peaks are only kinda high, compared to most other Biffy record where you feel like you’re getting vertigo.

Oli [3rd]: This is a fantastic album, and really began to prick up a few ears outside of their closed inner circle, culminating in a headline show at Wembley Arena, plus a support gig on one of Muse’s Wembley Stadium gigs (first time I saw Biffy, was mesmerised by the hard rock, shirtless Father Christmas called Simon Neil). Much as we like to poke fun at Matt Cardle’s version, Many of Horror is a banger, so it Mountains, so is God & Satan.

4. Blackened Sky (2002)

Ethan [4th]: Doing exactly what a debut album should do, Blackened Sky announced Biffy Clyro’s arrival and was bursting with potential. While their influences are easily distinguishable, this is common for a debut album and while that is probably its biggest weakness, Biffy added enough flavour of their own and their raw aggression and ambition overpowers the album’s flaws.

Liam [3rd]: Yup, it’s not the most original work ever made but that doesn’t mean that the sheer rawness of this angsty bastard isn’t deserving of critical applaud. Much like the rest of the original trilogy and Puzzle, there’s not one slip up, no weak moment to point out that feels like it could have been tweaked. While their fourth record had the saddest subject matter, Blackened Sky is my go to record when I want to feel miserable and enjoy it.

Oli [5th]: Justboy is the best Biffy song ever, fight me irl. Solid debut album from Biffy, introducing their electrifying brand of alt-rock to the world, and albeit not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, was the beginning of something very special.

Jake [4th]: What a charming wee record this is. The Biff’s debut wears its influences not just on its sleeve, but on every item of clothing it’s wearing. It’s obvious that the band had been listening to a lot of Nirvana, Pixies and Fugazi, and they channelled those influences to great effect on Blackened Sky. The loud/quiet/loud song structure on songs like Kill The Old, Torture Their Young and Stress on The Sky are complimented beautifully by the quieter songs like Christopher’s River and Scary Mary. Nothing groundbreaking, but a fantastic framework for The Biff to build upon.

3. Infinity Land (2004)

Liam [2nd]: Weird, erratic, random (but not the XD kind), Infinity Land would be the last record I’d recommend to first time Biffy listeners but that’s not to imply a lack of quality. Considering the underground success the band were experiencing at the time, it’s admirable that instead of going down the path they would trod half a decade later, Biffy chose to turn the dial up to 11 and make an album that, while sporadic in nature, was 100% them.

Oli [4th]: Another one where you pick it up because of how cool the cover art looks, which probably applies to the whole Biffy discography. Lyrically and sonically this was a much darker album compared to VoB and Blackened Sky, and got even crazier in terms of curveball riffs & manic time structures.

Jake [2nd]: I’d say Vertigo of Bliss was insane, and I mean it, but that must make Infinity Land a few steps above insane. Biffy just threw everyfuckingthing at this album, regardless if it made a modicum of sense, and by some miracle it worked. Si’s lyrics had always been a bit vague but the surrealness factor was turned up to 11 on Infinity Land, and it’s better for it. One of the most important rock records of the 21st century for me.

Ethan [3rd]: By far their darkest and perhaps their most obscure album, Infinity Land is maybe overlooked but personally I feel its Biffy at their most inventive. Simon Neil’s vocals are phenomenal  as he adapts to each track with ease and his delivery is commanding no matter what is required of him. The album is unpredictable and exciting even on the 100th listen as tracks such as There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake are heavy but are laced with surprises and twists that make it, and the rest of the album, so intriguing.

2. Puzzle (2007)

Liam [4th]: Out of the first four albums, this is the one that I’ve listened to the least though a) that doesn’t mean much considering I’ve probably listened to them nearly a thousand times collectively and b) this is down to just how cathartic and emotionally charged Puzzle is. True, it’s a lot more friendly to new comers but to imply that means there’s a dip in quality would be naive and flat out wrong: Simon Neil’s lyrics are authentic as well utterly heartbreaking and with how varied the instrumentals can be on here, it allows for a truly enthralling journey of grief.

Oli [1st]: This was probably the record that began the tip from Biffy being time-signature weirdos to hard rock megaliths. For instance, Machines is a song that speaks to everyone on every emotional level, and there’s a good reason Living Is A Problem is still in the setlist today. This record is a record that I can listen to anytime, anywhere.

Jake [3rd]: The opening chapter of Biffy’s second trilogy is the saddest album in their discography. Written in the wake of the death of Simon’s mum Elanor, the album is far more straight forward from a songwriting perspective than anything they’d released prior. The lyrics obviously centre heavily around death and dealing with loss and the instrumentation ditches the strange time signatures and use of left field instruments that had been the calling card of the bands first 3 albums, and instead they elected to things simple. And it worked. A heartbreaking album.

Ethan [2nd]: Perhaps the pivotal moment in Biffy Clyro’s discography, Puzzle is a complete departure from Infinity Land, while still remaining heavy enough to keep longtime fans happy, Puzzle ventured into more accessible territory that widened their audience. For that reason Puzzle was a crossover success, and deservedly so as it contains some of Biffy Clyro’s most emotionally powerful songs and further showed their range and versatility as a band.

1. Vertigo of Bliss (2003)

Oli [2nd]: Definitely one of those records you pick up because of how cool the artwork is, VoB was fully immune to second album syndrome, becoming a furious hard rock odyssey that only further Biffy as alt-rock darlings. Simon Neil teased the intro to With Aplomb during their 2016 tour, and arenas full of people constantly blew their beans at the prospect of with aplomb.

Jake [1st]: VOB is a smashing big cacophony of insanity that is the benchmark from which all subsequent Biffy Clyro albums will be measured against. It’s just a very weird and very, very good slice of alt-rock/post-hardcore and it cemented Biffy from relatively early on in their career as a band not to be ignored

Ethan [1st]: On their follow up, Biffy perfected the approach they had taken on their debut and capitalised on it massively. Crossing over a multitude of genres, Biffy invented their own brand and produced a stellar collection of songs that still stand as many of their best. From the delicacy of All The Way Down to the ferocity of Now The Action is On Fire, the band showed every aspect of their potential on Vertigo of Bliss, including Simon Neil’s lyrics being at their most subtle and sincere.

Liam [1st]: This was the album for me that not only solidified why I want to write about music but why I adore it. Zany, unpredictable, clamorous and, most of all, entertaining, Vertigo of Bliss may not be Infinity Land’s equal in terms of how unstable it is, but it more than makes up for it with how it balances the ferocity of Blackened Sky’s performances and the beauty of Si’s lyrics.

 

 

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.