Music, movies, games, events, and other assorted nerdery. These are the things that made my year in 2012, in no particular order.
Picking my favorite albums of the year is tough. It’s partially based on all the reviews I did, but also on how much I listened to and enjoyed each of these records. Coincidentally, there are four self-titled discs on this list.
Albums I’m looking forward to in 2013: The Night Marchers – Allez Allez, Bad Religion – True North, Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob, The Bronx – The Bronx (IV)
Classics of Love – Classics of Love
Jesse Michaels’ return is 13 tracks of Dischord-style hardcore in just over 22 minutes, with a few flashes of the ska-punk he helped invent. Welcome back, Jesse.
The Menzingers – On the Impossible Past
Melancholy, melodic punk with booze-soaked lyrics about pulling yourself together even though trying to do so is so damn difficult. Exactly my cup of tea.
Brendan Kelly & the Wandering Birds – I’d Rather Die Than Live Forever
Musically experimental and lyrically creepy, it’s all the more disturbing because it’s so damn catchy. I’m singing along to a song about a perverted serial killer; now that’s fucked up.
Redd Kross – Researching the Blues
A perfect blend of power-pop songwriting and punk attitude, with tons of hooks and fuzzy guitars. How is it I’d never listened to this band before?
Off – Off!
16 tracks in 16 minutes, each one packing in more ferocity and musical chops than any other band half these guys’ ages. Hard to the goddamn core.
The Bouncing Souls – Comet
It’s everything the Souls are great at, and it’s getting better each time I listen to it. Great job, boys.
The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten
Earnest yet mature, filled with instantly memorable choruses and spot-on delivery. There are a lot of bands doing the erstwhile Americana thing these days, but if you only listen to one, make it this one.
Propagandhi – Failed States
It didn’t win me over instantly, but like their last album it keeps clawing at me, begging for repeat listens. And I keep obliging, over and over. You’ve done it again, Propagandhi.
Gallows – Gallows
With Wade MacNeil at the mic, the band seems even darker, their attack more pummeling. They’re hungry, vicious, and ready to destroy anyone in their way.
Forgetters – Forgetters
Blake Schwarzenbach returns with a complex, multifaceted album that’s endlessly intriguing and has barely left my CD player in weeks. That it feels like a well-kept secret just makes it all the more special.
Many of these are from my top albums, others are ones that just found their way into my ears over and over throughout the year.
I go to a lot of shows. A lot. This year I went to around 30 shows and saw over 55 different acts. Here are some that were particularly memorable:
Hot Snakes (6 times)
- March 27th at the Casbah, San Diego
- March 29th at the Troubadour, LA
- April 5th at Alex’s Bar, Long Beach
- April 6th at the Casbah, San Diego
- December 2nd at Alex’s Bar, Long Beach
- December 3rd at the Casbah, San Diego
That’s right, six times. And I don’t regret a single one. Not even when I flew out of SF in the rain and got home just to hop in the car and drive to Long Beach for their matinee show, even though I was seeing them again at home the following night. I didn’t miss a single SoCal Hot Snakes show, and I’d do it all again. That I was introduced to Spider Fever and Mrs. Magician in the process was icing on the cake.
Off! – May 14th at the Casbah
Keith Morris and co. fucking bring it onstage. You’ve never seen a 57 year-old diabetic go this wild.
Further Seems Forever – Oct. 28th at the House of Blues Anaheim
I decided to go to this at the last minute and didn’t regret it. Man, Chris Carrabba can sing.
The Night Marchers – Halloween at Bar Pink
I saw The Night Marchers 3 times this year, and each one was great, but doing a toga party conga line with the Swami took the cake. Can’t wait for the new record.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – Dec. 9th at the Honda Center, Anaheim
My first time seeing the boss, and even though I only knew a couple songs and we were in the nosebleeds, it was really cool. Especially when Tom Morello joined him, and when Mike Ness came out for “Bad Luck”.
The Cabin in the Woods
From the “wtf” opener to death by unicorn, this complete deconstruction of the slasher film was hilarious and totally unexpected. When I saw Joss Whedon’s name in the end credits, I suddenly realized why I’d liked it so much.
Best superhero movie so far. Really. In Whedon we trust.
The Dark Knight Rises
It draws on some of the best Batman storylines of the last 30 years and ends Christopher Nolan’s trilogy on a very satisfying note. The Dark Knight was a hell of a second act, and following it seemed impossible. Rises, er, rises to the challenge. It’s tough to decide which I like more.
James Bond Rises. And kicks all sorts of ass.
If you haven’t seen it, go. Powerful performances by Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, and Sally Field.
Life of Pi
I didn’t know much beyond the premise (Indian teen gets stuck on lifeboat with tiger) going in, and I ended up really liking it. Visually stunning, especially in 3D, and a great tale to boot.
- Prometheus – Wonderful visuals, great performance by Fassbender, but can’t decide whether it want to be an Alien prequel or not and thus fails to establish an identity of its own.
- Looper – Don’t get me started on the paradoxes of time travel, just enjoy the story. That the movie is set in a future full of time travel and telekinesis yet half of it takes place on a farm and is relatively action-less emphasizes that this is more about character and narrative than special effects and sci-fi adventure.
- Argo – Who expected such a good thing from Ben Affleck?
- Cloud Atlas – Amazing visuals, great performances, deep emotions, but so convoluted I’d never have understood it without reading a synopsis beforehand.
- Wreck-It Ralph – 2 months later and I’m still humming the “Sugar Rush” song.
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – I was torn on this. Liked the adventure and the performances, could tell where the story’d been padded out, hated the 48 frames-per-second projection. It made the whole thing seem hyper-real and all the characters look like they were in fast-forward, giving the entire movie the look of a video game cutscene and constantly taking me out of the experience. I’m going to have to see it again in a 24 fps theater, and probably not in IMAX, to see if I can get past the look of it and just enjoy the story.
I didn’t play a lot of new games this year, but the ones I did play were very time-consuming. Halo 4 isn’t on this list because I haven’t played it yet. I talked my brother into playing the entire series on co-op with me; we’re up to Reach and he doesn’t want me to do 4 without him.
Mass Effect 3
The epic conclusion to the trilogy that’s consumed many hours of my life over the last 2 years. Yes, there were legitimate complaints to be made about the original ending, but I feel they were adequately resolved by the supplemental DLC. I was consistently impressed with how the decisions I’d made in the previous games, both large and small, had repercussions (again, both large and small) in the final chapter. I’m satisfied with the story of my Commander Shepard, and I’d like to go back to some of the other Shepards I created in the first game and play their whole adventures through to the end. The multiplayer provided many hours of online fun with my ME-playing friends as well.
Assassin’s Creed III
Sure there’s a lot of faffing about, and Connor doesn’t come across as having a ton of personality, but damned if I couldn’t stop playing this until I’d reached 100% completion. I could’ve done without the crafting menus (as I called it, “the Farmville minigame”), but once I started raking in the cash by selling animal pelts things got way easier. I’m probably singlehandedly responsible for the endangerment of the North American beaver and black bear.
One More Disney Day
For Leap Day, Disneyland stayed open for 24 hours, 6am to 6am. Xtine and I and a bunch of our friends attended, though only my brother and I managed to spend the entire 24 hours in the park. The others went for naps at the hotel, and by late afternoon there was no getting back in due to the throngs of people showing up. They ended up having to close off entry into the park, and I believe they set some sort of attendance record. It’s not something I’d do again, though the first few hours were awesome as we went on every attraction in New Orleans Square and Fanstasyland without any sort of lines. By the end it was an endurance test just to see if we could make it to 6am, and we were seen off by still-smiling cast members all along main street, some of whom had been working 18+ hour shifts. They had my sympathies.
For all the hassle registering, the massive crowds, the difficulty getting around, and the endless queues, there are always things that make going to Comic-Con worth it. This year it was getting into the Adult Swim party aboard the USS Midway where we got to see Dethklok and Girl Talk play and met Doc Hammer of The Venture Bros. We also got to see all the Batmobiles from every Batman movie and lots of awesome cosplayers. I went to a Zelda orchestra concert and bought a comic book about a shark. I probably won’t be going next year, since I missed the online preregistration window, but I’ve had a great time there the last couple years.