Why hello there, I’m Sean Reidy and these are my things of the year 2015.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
This is a game I spent several year obsessing over every slightest detail of in the lead up to its big release on September 1st. I had seen every trailer dozens of times. I watched any appearance of Hideo Kojima for some hope of news. I watched a Japanese livestream on Christmas Day to have a chicken hat confirmed for me. I bought the big 140 euro collector’s edition with a half scale replica of Big Boss’ bionic arm. I played the game non-stop for a month and I feel it is half a perfect game. Playing the game you see the occasional glimpse of an all time great, and the game still debatably is. But it could’ve been so, so much better. The game’s core gameplay is fantastic, every movement is fluid and responsive. The shooting is great, every one of the game’s wide variety of guns feel different to each other. The story is acceptable by general gaming standards but is pretty woeful by Metal Gear standards. Some segments of the story are fantastic. Quiet manages to have somewhat of an arc without any dialogue, the “woman in the room” who I won’t mention for spoilers has a heartbreaking side story, the mission “Voices” is spectacular and builds a fantastic atmosphere in one of the game’s very few indoor areas. MGSV is a huge disappointment, but also my Game of the Year.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
My Film of the Year was less of a disappointment. I was a big Star Wars fan a good few years ago but it had sort of subsisted into me deciding Empire was the only good one. The Force Awakens changed that, in the lead up to it I rediscovered the series I had abandoned and the film itself was the final clincher. I loved it. Almost every part of it. I understand it’s just A New Hope with new characters but I really like those new characters. Kylo Ren’s pathetic immaturity has given me one of my favourite film villains in years. Finn was well-acted, humourous. And of course, John Williams, fantastic as ever. The soundtrack is great, with the highlights being Rey’s Theme, March of the Resistance and The Jedi Steps & Finale. Rey’s Theme in particular gives a sense of discovery, hearing that song in the film I felt as if this was really it. After 32 years they got it right again. Good job, Disney.
Toast of London
Please watch Toast of London. Seriously. I don’t know a single person who watches it and it is the best surreal sitcom on TV since The IT Crowd. Toast stars Matt Berry (Douglas Reynholm from the previously mentioned IT Crowd) as Steven Toast, a failing, middle aged actor from London who is forced to do whatever job comes his way. The best of this year’s episodes involved popular US actor Jon Hamm, as Toast develops an unwanted homosexual crush on him. The show evokes memories of Father Ted, and I’d put some episodes on a level with that show’s absurdist highs like Speed 3 and The Mainland. It’s a fantastic show and, despite winning BAFTAs, I worry it has gone underappreciated.
The latest album from the legendary New Order is something that popped up out of the blue for me, I only knew of its existence a day before release, I’m glad I did find out about it though. The album has a perfect mix of electronica, the occasional classical instrument and some pretty good vocals. The highlights on the album include Restless, a song that sounds straight off a Joy Division album with its vaguely mopey lyricism with top class instrumentation, Stray Dog, a contemplative slower song with a spoken word angle that sounds semi-similar to Ron Perlman and Tutti Frutti, a much more house type of song with occasional disco flashes throughout. Overall the album was a tremendous surprise, and one I thoroughly recommend you give a listen to.
Bonus Thing of 2016
Blackstar, the 26th and final studio album of David Bowie was released on January 9th, Bowie’s 69th birthday. I listened to it then and I thought it was fantastic. I thought I had already found my album of the year. 3 days later, Bowie died after a secret 18 month battle with cancer. This cemented the album as my favourite, which allows me to write this in absolute confidence. Listening to the album that weekend was a strange experience. It was a fantastic album, but a weird one. A lot of things in it were unexplained. Then the news broke. It is a parting gift from Bowie, with the jazz infused tones of the album playing him out from the world. He did not take his death idly, and instead used it to fuel one last masterpiece. To my mind the best songs on the album are Lazarus, Dollar Days and I Can’t Give Everything Away. These songs are rooted in death. Lazarus is the most blunt of these, opening with “Look up here, I’m in heaven” before descending into a final verse about how “This way or no way, you know I’ll be free” and the song uses the same notes repeatedly to create an overwhelming sense of dread. It is a fantastic album, only made better by the unfortunate context.