GregHorrorShow: Game Awards 2016

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So another stellar year done and a lot of games played, there have been some great releases and so many that I simply didn’t have time to get to them all. So apologies to Doom, Watch Dogs 2, Mafia III and Dishonored 2 (among others)… I will get around to playing you soon I promise!

Anyway, for 2016 – here we go:

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MISSED GEM OF 2015

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WINNER: Telltale’s ‘Tales From The Borderlands’

I’m seriously considering changing the name of this award to ‘Telltale’s Missed Gem’ because once again they take this with ‘Tales From The Borderlands’, an episodic adventure set in the Borderlands universe with a (mainly) new cast of characters. Telling the story of Rhys and Fiona from both viewpoints and with what can only be described as unreliable narration of both sides, it’s good fun. Great writing and some awesome set up in terms of vibe and atmosphere made this a whole lot better than I expected – heartily recommended.

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BEST DLC (CONTENT)

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WINNER: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate didn’t get the props it deserved in last year’s awards as I hadn’t finished it. So let the record state I thought it was the best AC game since Brotherhood. In addition to that we also got a great chunk of DLC based around the mythology of Jack The Ripper in which, playing as an older version of Evie, you have to track down London’s most notorious serial killer. Good fun and a rare chance to play as an older incarnation of a character, its well worth checking out. In terms of online DLC support both Uncharted 4 and Overwatch provided their players with free maps and new modes along with, in the case of the latter, new characters. Great stuff.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Destiny
  • Overwatch

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THE JOE DANGER AWARD

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WINNER: Skullgirls – 2nd Encore

I put a whole host of, unexpected, time into Skullgirls upon it’s release for Vita in April. I had been looking for a fighter to get into and while I did consider the latest Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, in the end Skullgirls cartoon style won me over. What I wasn’t prepared for was how enjoyable the game would be to a newcomer. Playing through the character stories was great fun, though I did get repeatedly beaten online!

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MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2017

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WINNER: Mass Effect Andromeda

This was a pretty close run thing, truth be told and Mass Effect ends up taking it by virtue of the fact I’m confident it’ll actually come out this year, unlike Red Dead Redemption 2! Both are highly desired though and I can’t wait to get my hands on them. I loved the original Gravity Rush so it makes sense the sequel is up there and Horizon: Zero Dawn looks set to be the most exciting new IP of 2017. I did want to put Persona 5 on here but I’m a bit nervous about it, just in terms of having had a connection with the characters of the previous game. New characters, new location… same magic? Fingers crossed.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Gravity Rush 2
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn

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BEST GAME TRAILER

WINNER: Red Dead Redemption 2

What can you say about Red Dead Redemption 2? Rockstar dropped a logo on Twitter and the world went crazy. When they dropped the trailer the gaming world pretty much unanimously stopped for 1 minute and 8 seconds. The piano, the graphics, the feel of the Wild West. It’s all there and showed us a brief glimpse of what might be on the horizon. Battlefield 1 dazzled us with amazing graphics and Gravity Rush 2 maintained the awesome style of the first game. Meanwhile Blizzard delivered a near Pixar-quality short as a trailer for Overwatch.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Battlefield 1
  • Overwatch
  • Gravity Rush 2

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BEST VITA GAME

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WINNER: Skullgirls – 2nd Encore

As noted above I hadn’t thought Skullgirls would grab me the way it did, especially as someone that doesn’t really play many fighting games. But it definitely did and the game does a great job of teaching you as much as you want to learn with a really in depth tutorial system. The characters and art style are cool and the music is fantastic. The Vita port is solid as well and the game controlled really well. I’d definitely say to pick this up if you’re interested in getting into a fighting game.

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BEST GRAPHICS

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WINNER: Battlefield 1

DICE have a history of nabbing this award with previous wins for Battlefield 3 (2013) and Star Wars: Battlefront (2015) and this year the competition was even fiercer with both Uncharted 4 and The Division delivering awe inspiring worlds and Overwatch bringing a stylised vibe to the party as well. Having said that, Battlefield 1 is a stunning looking game – one of those games you’ll show to people on the edge about buying a new console… ‘But look at this!’

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • The Division
  • Overwatch

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BEST STORYLINE

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WINNER: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

I expect this one will come as no surprise to anyone as my love for Uncharted is well documented on these pages but after the departure of Amy Hennig I wasn’t entirely convinced that the heart of the game would still be there but thankfully Naughty Dog delivered everything we wanted story-wise. Sure, Nathan Drake now has a brother we’ve never heard about previously but the story here is well paced, enjoyable and uses the characters to great effect. Titanfall 2 has a claim on best level of 2016 with one mid level (pleasant) surprise and I thought the Infinite Warfare campaign was one of the best in Call Of Duty history. While Battlefield 1 tailed off in the last couple of story missions it started really strongly and Black Bess in particular was fantastic.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  • Titanfall 2
  • Battlefield 1

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BEST MUSIC (SCORE)

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WINNER: Overwatch

Skullgirls has a wonderful score that compliments it’s crazy outlandish aesthetic perfectly. Uncharted 4 and Battlefield 1 have amazing, soaring scores that do a great job to match the on-screen action throughout. But Overwatch… That theme when you load the game up, the swell as it reaches a crescendo. The ‘Play Of The Game’ theme is such a cool, heroic riff that does a super job of conveying that sense of heroism. Even the smaller parts like the music that accompanies the end of a round hit the mark. Really impressive stuff.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Battlefield 1
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Skullgirls – 2nd Encore

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BEST MUSIC (LICENSED)

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WINNER: Gone Home

Despite some misgivings over the game itself there is no doubt that Gone Home had a killer soundtrack, with songs from Heavens to Betsy, Bratmobile and The Youngins (as GirlScout). With the game set in 1995 the developer did a great job of nailing that feel with the music. FIFA 17, as usual, delivered an eclectic mix of new artists for players to discover like Bishop Briggs and Barns Courtney alongside heavy hitters like Beck and Two Door Cinema Club. Special shout out to Tales From The Borderlands as well, I know it came out last year but as it wasn’t featured I felt a mention was in order for first class use of stuff like James Blake, The Rapture and First Aid Kit. Also apologies again to Watch Dogs 2 and Mafia III, who I suspect may have featured here if I’d played them.

RUNNERS UP:

  • FIFA 17
  • Tales From The Borderlands

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BEST VOICE ACTING

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WINNER: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Uncharted once againtakes home the best voice acting award – adding the irrepressible Troy Baker (Sam) and amazing Laura Bailey (Nadine) to the already stellar cast of Nolan North, Emily Rose and Richard McGonagle. The game itself is so full of graphical prowess and little touches that give the characters personality that it’s easy to forget the stunning job the cast of Uncharted consistently delivered. Unparalleled in gaming. I enjoyed the cast’s performance in Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare as well, with Ethan the robot shining alongside David Harewood as Sgt. Usef Omar. Camilla Luddington was spot on as Lara Croft in Rise Of The Tomb Raider and while I loved the voices in Overwatch I didn’t feel there was enough voiced content in the game for it to take the award.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Overwatch
  • Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  • Rise Of The Tomb Raider

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SINGLE PLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

What a way to round out the series! Uncharted 4 excels in so many areas it’s difficult to know where to start. Graphically it’s a powerhouse, with a great story and excellent voice acting. It controls really well and Naughty Dog also managed to keep a more gritty tone while retaining the original trilogy’s sense of swagger and humour. A fantastic achievement and a bench mark for single player campaigns. Rise Of The Tomb Raider continued the series high quality revival, expanding on several elements to give the player a host of customisation to their playthrough. Considering the original Titanfall didn’t have a campaign, it’s surprising that the sequel’s turned out so well. But it did and had lots of memorable moments that set you up nicely for the multiplayer. Hitman was a delight this year, split into episodic chunks that you could consume at leisure, basking in each level’s quirks and areas. Similarly to the excellent Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, I really felt like if I made a mistake in Hitman I had a chance to recover or at least try something different. A real triumph and I look forward to Season 2.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Rise Of The Tomb Raider
  • Titanfall 2
  • Hitman

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MULTIPLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: Overwatch

I put quite a bit of time into both The Division and Uncharted 4’s online components this year and really enjoyed both of them. The Division’s cooperative online set up meant it was fun to play with friends and I’ve always enjoyed Nathan Drake’s multiplayer adventures so Uncharted 4 was no different. Probably the best ever offering in my opinion and while I didn’t play as much Titanfall 2 I thought what I did play was great fun. Despite all that only one game captivated me since it’s release back in Spring, of course, it’s Overwatch! With so many characters and classes (and sub classes) on offer (23 at last count with more coming) there is something here for everyone. Not great at shooters? Go with a healer instead, or maybe a defender like Mei, who can pop up ice walls to block off the opposition. Coming across like the best Saturday morning kids show ever, Overwatch might be the best multiplayer game I’ve ever played, and that’s saying something!

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Division
  • Titanfall 2
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

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GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: Overwatch

I was really looking forward to Overwatch, I thought the Beta was neat and wanted to get my hands on it. It wasn’t even mentioned in my most anticipated games last year but it was the first game in a long time that I actually hit the level cap for. As discussed above there simply isn’t another shooter, or game, like it. The team based nature of it and the positive feedback loop of having good things during the match being the focus of end game round ups is awesome. Add into that the gender, and race, diversity that flows through the cast of colourful characters and you have a winning formula. Yes it can be frustrating, especially in competitive mode, but to win a closely fought match is one of the best feelings in gaming.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • The Division
  • Hitman

So there we go, another year down and lots of amazing games on the horizon for 2017!

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GregHorrorShow: The TV Of 2016

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As Netflix’s dominance over TV continues, it was interesting to see traditional TV’s reaction and what type of shows they would bring to the table in response. 2016 saw some great new shows across the formats and I found myself torn between lots of different programmes.

In fact I have to admit I started a lot more shows than I managed to finish! So in this first section I’ll be looking solely at shows that I haven’t seen the whole season of…

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SHOWS TO BE CONTINUED…

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Luke Cage looks set to follow in the steps of the superb Jessica Jones and deliver a gritty, cool superhero story. I’m loving what I’ve seen so far. Glitch is an interesting series about a group of people that come back from the dead in a small Australian town. It seems to be hitting the right notes, even if the acting is a little ‘hammy’ at times. A recording issue halted my run through of Mr Robot halfway through but that has been great and is definitely something I’ll return to, likewise the second season of Wayward Pines – which took an interesting turn after the conclusion of the first season. The second season of Daredevil didn’t really grab me and the introduction of Elektra did not feel like it raised the stakes unfortunately. We are still partway through season 2 of The Librarians and I still find it to be a great ‘popcorn’ show with some cool episode ideas.

 


 

In terms of new shows the main highlights were the 80’s inspired Stranger Things and the AI driven Westworld. Stranger Things delivered a brilliant mix of strong acting and a huge dose of nostalgia. Westworld told a great story that asks some interesting questions, especially as a gamer, but ultimately felt like it just took too long to get there. Again the acting was great and the CGI was among the best I’ve seen. The Shannara Chronicles was an interesting idea, mythical creatures roaming the Earth long after current civilizations have been eradicated. It wasn’t the best show I’ve seen but it certainly wasn’t the worst. Similarly, The Magicians (based on the best selling novel series) followed a similar path and while it had a few great moments it just didn’t grab me.

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I adored iZombie, with seasons 1 and 2 arriving on UK Netflix this year. It also takes my award for Episode Of The Year with ‘Astroburger’, an episode that contains, for me, one of the most brutal TV gut punches in recent history. I won’t spoil it but man, that was some jaw dropping stuff. Both Blindspot and The Blacklist returned and they delivered as expected, though the former got off to a rough start with an underwhelming opening episode.

Quantico was a fun show that focused on the FBI training academy and the betrayal of it’s students during a terror attack. 12 Monkeys returned and continued to impress as one of the few shows out there that actually grasps the fundamentals of time travel. I really enjoyed how things developed in the second season and thought it was great to see Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire) used to better effect.

Orphan Black‘s fourth season delved deeper into the rabbit hole and what a season it was. It was also great to (finally) see Tatiana Maslany rewarded with an Emmy for her ridiculously amazing work on the show. The second, and as it turns out final, season of Agent Carter dropped off a bit and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I felt it didn’t quite live up to expectations after the great first season. Still sad to see it cancelled though.

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Best New Show

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This year it has to be Stranger Things. Arriving pretty much out of nowhere to be one of the most talked about TV events of 2016. A wonderful performance from all the cast was spearheaded by Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown. Dustin was also great and the story was well told and enjoyable. The only downside was the poor treatment of Barb  😦

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Best Show

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No doubt here either as iZombie fast became one of my favourite shows of recent years. The mix of pop culture references and fast wit should be expected from the creator of Veronica Mars but the show hits so many high notes that I enjoyed every episode. Great performances and a strong main concept mean I’m really looking forward to season 3 in 2017. Also props for the Millwall mention, never thought my team’s name would be uttered on a big US TV show!

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GregHorrorShow: The Films Of 2016

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For me 2016 was the year that film found it’s groove again. After several years of bemoaning the state of the industry and lauding TV, it’s time to celebrate some great films! For full disclosure I did work on some of these films in the capacity of my day job but that hasn’t affected whether or not I’d recommend them to you fine folks   😉

I’ll start with a short, Pear Cider and Cigarettes, which I was lucky enough to do some work on. This animated film was a real treat, I loved the style and look forward to seeing more from Robert Valley. Keeping things animated was Ethel and Ernest, the true story of Raymond Briggs’ parents, animated by the great man himself. It was a touching, wonderful film. Another touching film was Sing Street, one that I wasn’t sure if I was going to like. It was a brilliant romp through 80’s clichés and the first video their band makes had me in stitches!

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On a darker tip I enjoyed Urban Hymn, the story of a social worker that tries her best to help an under privileged child break out of the negative lifestyle she’s chosen. If I thought that was sad I was under-prepared for I, Daniel Blake – which is all the more tragic for the light it shines on some people’s real life experience with the NHS/Government. A Monster Calls was truly heart-wrenching, the story of a boy dealing with his mother’s terminal illness, but a fantastic watch.

The Hateful Eight was an early year highlight, especially getting to see the 70mm version when they brought it to London! I also really liked The Infiltrator and was surprised it didn’t get more buzz upon release. Bryan Cranston was great and it was a cool, tense flick. American Honey was another revelation, Andrea Arnold delivering an amazing slice of Americana and uncovering a side of US life I had no idea existed.

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Having kids means that a lot of cinema time is spent watching films aimed at a younger audience and there were some greats in 2016; Secret Life Of Pets was probably my favourite, closely followed by Finding Dory, which did a great job of following up on the original. Trolls was good fun but super fluffy and felt quite light compared to some of the other kids films I’ve seen over the last few years.

Midnight Special was truly awesome, a sci-fi film that left you with more questions than answers – which is always nice. Another, slightly lower budget, sci-fi flick was Netflix’s Arq – the story of a handful of characters reliving the same few hours over and over again. Clever stuff and I thought it was good fun. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was quite enjoyable but by the end was pushing the boundaries of how much ‘Tim Burton’ I can take in one film!

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FILM OF THE YEAR

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It’s been a tough year to pick just one film but I have to go with The Hateful Eight. Fantastic performances all round, though Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue and Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray pretty much stole the show for me. Shot beautifully and with a masterful soundtrack from Enrico Morricone, if you can stand the violence and bad language you won’t find a better film in 2016.

 


 

 

GregHorrorShow: The Books Of 2016

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I started 2016 with a goal of reading more books than 2015’s thirteen titles but unfortunately an early year back injury meant I wasn’t able to carry a book with me on my commute to work each day and seriously impacted my reading time. I did still read some great titles though and here’s a recap of books I’d recommend.

I can always rely on Lee Child‘s ‘Jack Reacher’ series for a great page-turning read and with his latest novel ‘Make Me‘ I genuinely felt he changed up the formula for the better. As a writer you have to be careful not to alienate your existing fan base but Child straddles the line superbly here. As a bonus, the accompanying ‘behind the scenes’ look at Child’s writing method for the book – ‘Reacher Said Nothing‘ was fascinating to a Reacher nerd like me.

In the non-fiction stakes I found Naomi Klein‘s climate change missive;’This Changes Everything‘ to be an interesting yet thoroughly depressing book, especially now that it seems both the UK and US have people shaping the environmental discussion that don’t seem to have a clue about what is actually going on in, and around, our fragile planet. I’m a big believer in the methodology of Shawn Acher (if you haven’t seen it check out his amazing TED talk here) and his book ‘The Happiness Advantage‘ gives a great insight into the world of positivity and how creating a more positive environment for yourself can really make a difference to your day to day life.

 

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I’ve never really been one for poetry but after hearing this On Being interview with Mary Oliver I took the plunge and ordered one of her books. ‘Selected Poems‘, as the title suggests, is a collection of her work spanning many years. I loved her work on life and nature, it was a pleasure to grab this from the shelf, make a coffee and lose myself for half an hour here and there throughout the year.

Kenneth Calhoun’s ‘Black Moon’ was an interesting take on the post apocalyptic/zombie style genre, with the inability to sleep causing most of the human race to turn into slobbering masses of meat. I really liked the first character we met and was a little disappointed when it turned out we wouldn’t be staying with him throughout. Nevertheless, I liked this one and it’s well worth a read.

Isaac Asimov is world-renowned for a good reason. This year I finally got around to reading ‘Foundation‘ and really enjoyed it. It’s tale of political unrest set far into the future was great fun to get to grips with. Another book I started that I’m approaching the end of is Brent Weeks ‘The Black Prism’. I was a big fan of Weeks’ previous series (The Night Angel Trilogy) and although the characters here don’t quite hit the same heights, it’s an interesting world and the use of colour as magic is certainly something different. This isn’t one for a light read though, clocking in at over 700 pages!

 

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So there you go, hopefully you might pick some of those up at some stage if you think they are of interest. I think my favourite book this year was Lee Child’s ‘Make Me’, mainly because it was such a thrill, as a long time fan, to see Child switch things up and make Reacher unpredictable again. On a more peaceful note the Mary Oliver collection was also a highlight.

 


 

GregHorrorShow: The Music Of 2016

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As someone who is fortunate enough to work in the music industry, it’s easy to forget that for a lot of people mainstream radio is the main way to consume music. That is changing with the arrival of streaming services that offer new and exciting ways to discover new music, and old music of course. I always like to try and highlight some of the lesser known bands I’ve discovered through the year while showcasing great tunes from different genres in general. And so my playlist for 2017 is bigger than some previous years. Strap yourselves in and enjoy some great new tunes!

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During my working day I’m exposed to a ton of great, fresh music but there were also some returning established artists that had good stuff out too. I wasn’t a huge fan of the new Britney Spears album but ‘Clumsy’ was a good cut, I really liked ‘Hurts’ by Emeli Sande and the return of A Tribe Called Quest was most welcome. Ryan Adam’s new single ‘Do You Still Love Me’ is fantastic and I also thought the latest Primal Scream track is the best thing they’ve done in a while. I really liked Lady Gaga’s ‘Perfect Illusion’ as well, a great single to return with.

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The best band I saw live this year was Vaults and their album (finally) dropped late this year – it’s definitely well worth a listen. I feel like, for me at least, 2017 has been much more about tracks as opposed to albums but there were some great ones to check out. Savages, Polica and Michael Kiwanuka all delivered amazing albums but I found myself listening to more and more playlists rather than fully fledged albums.

In among all the other regular tracks I’ve included a handful of tracks to highlight my favourite game music from the year. It has been an amazing year for game scores – I’d definitely recommend checking out Spotify’s game section to find some more releases from this year.

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BEST ALBUM

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It had to be ‘Love And Hate’ by Michael Kiwanuka. This album is ridiculously good, possibly the best I’ve heard in years. ‘Cold Little Heart’ is a 10 minute epic that kicks things off but this album is a great experience. Sit down, relax and enjoy!

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BEST SONG

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I almost gave this to Toothless for ‘Sisyphus’ which is my current jam but I can’t look beyond Sigma for this, which is a surprise to me as I haven’t been a huge work of their previous tracks. Teaming with Birdy for ‘Find Me’ they have a track that ticks a lot of ‘pop’ boxes. And I played this on a loop more than I’d care to admit.

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So there you have it, another year down and with the music industry remaining in growth it should be exciting times ahead!

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