At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is yet another sadly mediocre list that practically begs to be flushed down the Niagara Falls. And to add salt to the wound, I cannot even remember the last time I set foot into a cinema. (No, this is not an open invitation for a movie date.) (See also lists for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.)
Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Steve Carrell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone // Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Cal: I have loved her, even when I hated her.
I make no apologies for being a fan of romantic comedies, and the appeal of Crazy, Stupid, Love. simply reinforces that fact. Sure, the movie explores the painful realities faced by relationships in our world today, but it also comes with a good deal of heart: we readily drown our sorrows with the very average Cal, whose wife requested a divorce right out of the blue; and emphatise with the charming Jacob who, despite being very much a ladies’ man, encounters trouble and resistance trying to settle down with the girl of his dreams. The movie’s star-studded cast, made up of the who’s who in the industry today, has impeccable comedic timing, amazing chemistry and delivers their lines with such glee (“Seriously, it’s like you’re photoshopped!”), it makes the movie shine even brighter, especially when they all come together like jigsaw puzzle pieces in the end. Maybe this is how love really feels like?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt // Rian Johnson
Sara: You’re going to kill this guy, your own self?
The good guys in Looper have such admirable bullet-dodging skills, they often get off with nary a scratch despite being constantly shot at with a guzzling machine gun. But this hardly troubled me as much as the ending, which I thought was so predictable, I saw it coming from a mile away. The story follows a hired gun and his attempts to alter the future by pursuing his future self, who has been conveniently marked for assassination. Despite those minor flaws, I cannot shake off some of the time travel intrigue and mind-bending what-if questions this movie has left in me already.
The Dark Knight Rises
The Life of Pi
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Silver Linings Playbook
Most of my favourite TV series seemed to have already ended their runs in the previous years, which led me far too removed to actually consider investing any of my time on the idiot box for 2013. On the other hand, I can never seem to explain this fascination that I get at watching amateur chefs frantically dicing vegetables of all colours imaginable, and shedding bucketsful of blood, sweat and tears in a bid to produce the most perfect sunny-side-up egg in the universe.
But above all, this year I have been hit with an acute pang of nostalgia more times than I can remember. I do not think I could ever fully fathom how a particular noodle-baking trilogy of movies can now be more than ten years old.
A quick glance at the list is enough to send me fleeing to the mountains in absolute despair. The number of reads barely added up to an average of one book a month, which is a reflection of a very, very sorry state of affairs.
I was so consumed by work that I even missed out on a book sale held annually by one particularly friendly lupine. In fact, I have quite a number of books purchased last year (and the years before) still unread and sitting forlornly in their boxes, stashed away in a far corner of the room, quietly waiting to be picked up and flipped through. Why, believe me: I wish I could, too.
Also, it hardly helped that the books I read this year actually had rather depressing and unhappy plotlines. From one particular dark elf’s endless suffering of the loss of one and all he once held dear, to the disturbing suicides and emotional confusion experienced by bright teenagers – all this made me want to pack up and run away with curious Japanese-talking cats, never to return.
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, Philip K. Dick
Ubik, Philip K. Dick
Beatrice and Virgil, Yann Martel
Ghostwritten, David Mitchell
Blind Woman, Sleeping Willow, Haruki Murakami
Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami
Midnight Children, Salman Rushdie
Transitions Trilogy, RA Salvatore
The Orc King
The Pirate King
The Ghost King
Warehouse sales attended:
MPH Warehouse Sale, 24 May 2013
(See previous years’ lists: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.)
You should know me better than that.
Revelations come to us in the strangest of ways. I was furiously sucking on mints, battling flight fatigue somewhere near the southern hemisphere, when that song came on; and I finally understood exactly why one particular album would remain at the top of my list for 2013. (See lists for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.)
Tunnel vision lights my way.
Trouble Will Find Me #1 #2 #3
A proverbial slip, skeletons in the closet, another knife in the gut. Soaking still in past rejection, rejoicing again in newfound nostalgia. Heartbreaking details of our everyday lives have always been laid bare for all to see, and no one understands this better than The National. Frontman Matt Berninger may employ the same modus operandi as in previous albums – his earnest insights are always ruminative, never unimpressive – but in the brilliant Trouble Will Find Me specifically, it is his signature warm baritone hitting newer ends of both registers that mirror the fragility of some of our greatest hopes and deepest fears. This, when complemented with shimmery strings from the Dessner twins, and the intense drumming and unrelenting guitar licks courtesy of the Devendorf brothers, make the Brooklyn-based band’s latest outing more than an affair to remember, forever etching a place even in the hardest of hearts. If trouble sounded half as good as this, then the world would indeed be a happier place.
The National plays at the Hostess Club Weekender, Fort Canning Park, Singapore, on 22 February 2014.
Favourite tracks: “Humiliation”, “Pink Rabbits”, “This is the Last Time”, “Graceless”, “Sea of Love”
All my silver dreams lead me to you.
Hummingbird #1 #2
Local Natives has successfully steered clear of the possibility of a sophomore slump, making a strong comeback early in the year. The Los Angeles quartet’s toned down approach in the introspective Hummingbird may have been a startling contrast to the louder sounds of their debut album, but the meticulously-crafted melodies and delicately-arranged falsettos still speak volumes, as the band stretched their creative capabilities and built on emotional climaxes never attempted before. It shows just how far they have come, their new brand of music leaving your spirits soaring long after the last note has played out.
Favourite tracks: “Ceilings”, “Breakers”, “You and I”, “Heavy Feet”, “Mt. Washington”
Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze #
If ever there was something made for a slow day by the beach, Kurt Vile’s Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze would be it. The wonderful concoction of dreamy tunes, paired with Vile’s trademark slacker drawl, easily entices your mind to wander to a place that knows only sun, sand and summer whole year round. Despite its length, the almost 70-minute-long album still feels immensely satisfying and reassuring, the gorgeous closing track drowning you in a series of urgently tinkling staccatos but hardly leaving you in a daze by the end of it all.
Catch Kurt Vile at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, on 25 January 2014.
Favourite tracks: “Goldtone”, “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day”
We’ve come so close.
Ambience is everything. Washed Out is, for me, this year’s Wild Nothing. After having acquired an inexplicable penchant for chillwave and dream pop thanks to the latter’s Nocturne (which had topped last year’s list), Paracosm feels like a natural progression, sailing in breezily with its eclectic choice of beach-friendly tunes and feel-good summer melodies. The tracks are effortlessly catchy and tend to blend and weave together as one, making it play like a soundtrack fit for a fun-filled day spent on the road catching rainbows and unicorns of your own imagination.
Favourite tracks: “Don’t Give Up”, “Great Escape”, “It All Feels Right”
No more doubt about it.
Man Alive (2010), Arc (2013)
Everything Everything has the privilege of being the only musical education attempted for the year. The Mancunian band’s latest effort, Arc, is a mixed bag of goodies, made up of plenty of fist-pumping tunes, infectious kicks and sudden sputters, with the occasional slow ballad thrown in (as in the 90s vibe of “Armourland”, which may have been channelling too much Rick Astley for me to take it seriously the first time). Nevertheless, subsequent listens peeled away those layers to reveal the mark of a band that revels in orchestral complexity, triumphs in melodic grandiosity, and makes no apologies for it.
Favourite tracks: “Armourland”, “Kemosabe”, “Choice Mountain” (Arc)
Reflektor, Arcade Fire
AM, Arctic Monkeys
Holy Fire, Foals
Pedestrian Verse, Frightened Rabbit
6 Feet Beneath the Moon, King Krule
The Messenger, Johnny Marr
Empty Estate EP, Wild Nothing
Fade, Yo La Tengo
Also listened to:
The Third Eye Centre, Belle & Sebastian
Mala, Devendra Banhart
Desire Lines, Camera Obscura
You Gots 2 Chill, Brendan Canning
The Flower Lane, Ducktails
The Terror, The Flaming Lips
Ski Mask, Islands
Damage, Jimmy Eat World
Mechanical Bull, Kings of Leon
Lines, Julian Lynch
Paradise Valley, John Mayer
mbv, My Bloody Valentine
180, Palma Violets
Where You Stand, Travis
Modern Vampires in the City, Vampire Weekend
The only thing constant in life is change. It may have been one turbulent year, but no surprises can be found here.
Behind yellow lines.
A month on, and it has not been all that exciting after all.
The delayed thrill of the wind that follows a few seconds after a scheduled express train bullets by; the now familiar faces that enter the same carriage every morning; the sudden jerks and unsteady bumps that occur as the station approaches a mere ten minutes later.
We may have long breezed past the snaking line of traffic jams, forever filled with either angry red or bright yellow lights. But these are everyday images that hardly register anymore, for in its place now is a mental to-do list for the day, filled with the most menial of tasks to please even the most difficult manager in the universe.
We may have been looking at nothing, staring out the same fogged up windows on a cold and rainy Monday. But these are office drones dressed in white collared shirts and black polished heels, for no one else seems to have traded away their job security and long-time happiness for a chance at becoming something better than they once were.
This could be a mere little mis-step, designed to put your mind to the test; or an honest and blatant mistake, one that is unforgiving at best. Perhaps only time could tell, but unfortunately that is a luxury ill-afford at the moment.
A blurb and a half.
Things could always be worse: the ditzy drizzle could have intensified into a torrential typhoon; that 10-minute traffic jam could have turned into a roller-coaster ride across town; the boss’s lengthy lecture could have been a quick kick out the door.
But this was like a 180-degree turn: a long-term relationship with dawn slowly replaced by a newfound fondness for dusk; a knowing switch from the always glorious west to the perpetually gloomy east; a freefall off the plank and deep into the darkest trenches of the ocean.
And no one even had to hold a gun to my head.
Maybe this is what a career suicide feels like.
Then again, putting things into perspective hardly matters when you are only still at day one, peering through the window with the naivety of a wide-eyed three-year-old, and wondering how much longer would it take for you to mindlessly fumble through the fog and miraculously emerge through the other side.
And if there is no other side, so to speak, well…
You said it would be painless, it wasn’t that at all.