The Zero Hour

Reviews, rants and oddities on video game and film culture.

Monthly Archives: December 2009

2009, review of the year

2009 began on a wave of optimism and hope. Barack Obama was sworn in as the president of the United States and Slumdog Millionaire won Best film at the Golden Globe awards, it was almost enough to let us forget that we were still in recession…until Iceland’s banking system broke down…shit.

In film, we were treated to re-releases of The Dark Knight (yay) and terrible “comedy” movies, such as Bride Wars, which really should have made the Academy look at Anne Hathaways nomination for another movie and go…no.

Meanhwile in the ever lovely world of popular music, Beyonce released Single Ladies, a catchy, quite brilliant tune that suddenly became massive, the video of which spawned hundreds of imitators. Most noticably this clown.

Whilst Bruce Springsteen did what everyone else in America was doing and sucked up to the President with his new album “Working On A Dream”

On the telly, Celebrity Big Brother returned, bringing a couple of glamour models who no-one knows, a former member of the Sugababes and Verne Troyer, who unfortunately seemed to only be there as a zoo attraction. Johnathon Ross returned to work after that phone call and managed within the space of 10 minutes makes Tom Cruise like an even bigger douche than he was.

Feburary is a chilly, dull month and the world knew this, by making sure nothing good happened. Australia pretty much caught fire, The Jonas Bros 3D Concert Experience was released and was immediately recalled for being mad eof pure shit and Pop singer Rihanna is domestiaclly abused by her boyfriend, the R&B singer, Chris Brown. What a lovely month, eh?

Fast forward to March and Musics second favourite singing mental patient Britney Spears releases a single called If You Seek Amy and gets into trouble because everyone realises the song is titled F.U.C.K ME. Of course, she probably didn’t know this either…and on the subject of intelligence, University Challenge got in trouble this month after one of my hometown teams “Corpus Christ College, Oxford” was disqualified after one of the contestants was found to have already graduated. Manchester were given the title as winners as a result. Paxman didn’t change his emotions one bit.

In April, for some reason we all became fixated on Britain’s most premier freakshow Britain’s Got Talent. We had Piers Morgan, a slimy git. Amanda Holden, whose apparently an actress…I didn’t know either…who is incapable of anything but laughing and crying and everyone’s favourite asshole, Simon Cowell. Of course, we all know where this is going, blah-blah-blah, Susan Boyle comes along and surprises everyone, because she’s ugly and she’s talented, what are the odds blah-blah-blah MOVING ON!

North Korea announced it has initiated a second succesful nuclear test in May and just like that we all thought were going to die…again…on the plus side, at least we wouldn’t had to suffer through another series of X Factor.

The world was put on hold in June after Frrah Fawcett lost her battle to cancer, everyone was sad for about 5 minutes when suddenly, this man decided to die…

In a similar way to Jade Goody earlier in the year, it was as if everyone forgot about the weirdness and the child molesting charges and focused on the music for the first time in 10 years. Also coincedentally, he died just before going back on tour again…any excuse, eh, Michael?

July now and once again, all anyone cared about was Michael Jackson, more news coverage than on the Government, a live seance with Derek Acorah and a takeover on the music channels. Man In The Mirror became the most played song ever (a more fitting song would have been Earth Song, but then everyone knew it was rubbish)  Finally, after former contestant Alesha Dixon is announced as a judge on Stricly Come Dancing, the public claims a witch hunt against “Ageist BBC” Just afterwards, Jeremy Paxman was replaced by a 2 year old on Newsnight. It was a lot better after that…

Because no-one was watching it Channel 4 announced next years series of Big Brother would be the last in August, meanwhile Oasis split up after 10 years about 8 not so great albums, Liam Gallagher makes a dumb move and goes into fashion, despite having the style of a piece of cheese.

In September, everyone’s new favourite douchebag Kanye West decided to suck up to his new best friend Jay Z and interrup 19 year old Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech by telling her she didn’t deserve it and that Beyonce should have won. Wow Kanye, you really know how to impress  a woman don’t you?

In October was the infamous Question Time featuring BNP leader Nick Griffin, who decided to make everyone hate him even more. Let’s face it, it was as close as a witch hunt as TV allows these days. I half expected him to get taken a big Wicker man at the end.

November came along and all everyone gave a crap about was the X Factor, or more specifically John And Edward, the modern day equivalent of PJ and Duncan. These two identical twins managed to make a panto out of an already stupid theatrical show (the judges reaction is pretty forced…)

December, however, brightened up with news that Britain maybe out of the recession, followed by everyone denying it and JoeMcwhatsisface makes an abortion of a Miley Cyrus track and is beaten to the Christmas no 1 slot by 4 angry Americans. I want that on an Xmas compilation between Wham and Slade….


A Decade in gaming

So yesterday, we counted down the greatest video games of the decade and it just made me realise how quickly we’ve moved on in the past decade with video games. I think the past decade has been the most important since the ’80’s in terms of innovation. Why?

Well, first of all, it’s become bigger. Back in the ’90’s, video games were a cult. Enjoyed only by children (most of whom would grow out of them) and few adults. But it was a steady cult, nontheless, which allowed Sony, Nintendo and Sega to continue their business. At the turn of the millenium, we were still reveling in our 64-bit (Nintendo 64) and 32 bit (Playstation) consoles, Donkey Kong 64 was the most popular game at the time. However, that was about to change.

in 2000, pretty much off the bad, change was on it’s way. The next generation had begun with the launch of Sega’s Dreamcast, a console tha baoated 128-bit graphics and online support and Playstation had sold over 100 millions copies. Nintendo were still hanging on there and selling well, but the playstation was attracteing everyone to video gaming (in a similar way to the Wii’s popularity now) The Sims was released, aiming at a wider audience in order to create, live and potentially destroy a bunch of virtual people. Suddenly, all that hate for your neighbour went away as they burned in a fire…

Sony, impressed by their success, released the PS2, officially the most succesful console of all time and aimed it at teenagers/twentysomethings. This proved to be a good plan for the business, bad news for other gamers, who now had to put up with beer guzzling, loud mouth morons popularizing FiFa games. But I’m not bitter…Anyway, Nintendo decided to get their act together and release a next generation console, called the GameCube, it would be more powerful than the PS2 and use smaller discs and promised less loading time. The downside, it can’t play DVD’s…(good move, guys…)

However, in 2001 they were beaten to the post by Microsoft, who realised the potential of the Video game industry and launched the Xbox, which after a shakey start, released, so-so shoot ’em ‘up (as they were once called, before Counter strike) Halo, which then skyrocketed sales and the console gained the same audience as the PS2. Nintendo released the Gamecube to good reception. The console launched with a odd selection of games, from a Star Wars license, a game starring Luigi and Monkey’s in rubber balls (FTR, best game at launch) The latter was released by Sega, who by this point had retired from console making due to the commercial failure of the Dreamcast.

2002 came along and didn’t offer any new surprises (apart from the Xbox and Gamecube launch in Europe) Grand Theft Auto was condemned by people dumb enough to think that video gaming was “for children” and Nintendo suffered a huge blow in popularity, upon selling their 49% share in 2nd party developer Rareware, makers of Goldeneye, Perfect Dark and Banjo Kazooie. Microsoft had alreay bought the other 51% meaning the company was now a division of MGS (Microsoft Gaming Studios, not as some thought, Metal Gear Solid)

The rest of the generation proved uneventful. The Playstation 2 sold over 140 million units, the Gameboy Advance even more, and Video game sales began on the decline. Valve also created the Steam network on PC, online gaming was about to change…

In 2005, after announcement of the PS3 and Wii, Microsoft, due to eagerness, rushed out the Xbox 360, with it’s excellent Online system and HD-DVD support, it was released to acclaim. However, for all their enthusiasm, it would be a while before the Xbox 360 properly took off. The Nintendo DS, a 2 screened touch based console, released with 64 bit grpahics (and bastily less powerful than the PSP) was selling like hot cakes with games aimed the non-gaming market such as Brain Training and Nintendogs.

In 2006. The Ps3 and Nintendo Wii were released. The PS3 with HD graphics, a built in Blu-ray player and online support and the Wii with widescreen support, motion controllers and small memory. Guess which one sold more?

That’s right,  The Wii. In a similar move to the Nintendo DS, as well as releasing games for their core fans, the company released games such as Wii Sports and Wii Play, this made the console popular. Everyone owned a Wii or wanted to play one. Video games were no longer a cult success, GMTV played one, adverts involving Ant & Dec, kids got obsessed,

and to be honest, as a Nintendo fan, it kind of became embarrasing as a gamer to exclusively own one. It sparked the Hardcore/Casual debate about games, a blurred line in the sand about gamers themselves and the games they play, really it’s a big contradiction. looking at the trends of the latter half, we saw the First Person Shooter genre explode in popularity, thanks to Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare, music rythm games, such as Activision’s whoring of the Guitar Hero franchise and Wii_____

As the decade closes, we stand at a time of change again. Microsoft’s Project Natal is almost ready for launch (a device that effectively gets rid of controllers) and we’re eargly anticipating Nintendo and Sony’s next move towards the next generation. I’ll leave you with all important stats and sayings of the decade in gaming.

Most successful console
Playstation 2 (140 million sales worldwide)

Most successful handheld
Nintendo DS (113 million sales worldwide and still counting)

Most succesful game
Wii Sports (45.71 million sales and still counting)

Slang and words of gaming in the ’00’s, a beginners guide

Leetspeak – Gaming slang that uses unique spelling and grammer with a combination of words letters and numbers.

N00b – A person who isn’t very good at a game, often used as an insult

Headshot – Shooting a players character in the head, causing an instant kill

Gib – Short for Giblets, when a player has been killed in a foul way and reduced to parts.

Frag – To kill a player

One shot – killing a player in one shot (most often possible with Headshot)

Leet – a highly skilled player, the opposite to noob and often spelt 1337

Uber – German word for over. But in gaming means Super, for example uber pwnage. Means awesome kill.

Pwn/Own – Said to show that you killed a player to humiliate him “You got pwn’d!”

Camping – Waiting in a single place throughout the match, mainly for items to respawn.

Lag – A momentary slow down in connection

Troll – A person who goes on the game but either insults, does nothing but talk, or remain AFK purposely, to annoy other players.

AFK – Away From Keyboard, when someone stays online, but has something unintended to do (long periods of this can get you booted from the game.

Top 5 video games of the decade

5. Super Smash Bros Melee

What? Melee? Not Brawl? The game that was put on your top 10 all time games? Yes. Melee. Why? Simple reasons. Brawl is a better game because of it’s improved roster and it’s content. But Melee remains a fan favourite. It’s played more competitively, most characters are there for a reason (only one or two are there due to sell recently released games) and are also better balanced. Melee to 64 was basically re-inventing the wheel. Brawl to Melee was simply pimping it up. It’s the same wheel, but with more stuff on it. Let’s go into more detail.

Orchestrated Music: Melee was the first real Nintendo game to feature an orchestrated score thanks to the Gamecubes audio capabilities. And did it blow minds. Brinstar Depths, Fountain Of Dreams. Taking our 8-bit fantasies into new dimensions. It was heavenly.

What it did for Nintendo: Fire Emblem wasn’t known to America until Melee came along. The popularity of Marth (no 1 on tier list, fact fans) and Roy (fanboys are still bitter over his exclusion in Brawl) meant that at last, Nintendo had an international market for their turn based strategy fantasy series. Meanwhile Mother fans are still waiting for the same thing…It also boosted sales of pretty much every 1st party Nintendo game.

4. Half-Life 2

I’m not going to talk as much about Half-Life 2 as I haven’t played it in a long time (Computers not strong enough anymore) but what I do remember is this. Half-Life 2 came out of seemingly nowhere and stole my heart. I remember playing it and being blown away by it’s massive expansive world and storyline. Metroid Prime may have been coined with creating the First Person Adventure, but Half-Life 2 definitely perfects it.

3. Eternal Darkness (2002)

Eternal Darkness is actually quite a surprise on the list, if I’m honest. I had originally placed Resident Evil as my third favourite all-time game, but when I thought about, I realised that I prefered Eternal Darkness as my horror game of choice, then the more I thought about it, the higher in the list it deserved to be and the lower Resident Evil deserved to be, so Resident Evil (The GC Re-make btw) ended up sitting nicely at number 11, I wish I was doing a top 20, but I’m going on holiday soon and won’t have time to do it (I’ll do a quick round-up though)

Eternal Darkness is one of the most interesting games I’ve ever played. The game started life on the Nintendo 64, but was ported over to the Gamecube with better graphics (which is a good thing, the cinematics look incredible) and is an incredibly ambitious game. The game starts off with a murder at the Roivas estate in Rhode Island. The victim is Edward Roivas, a scholar and a collector of interesting objec’ du art, who is found without a head. His grand-daughter, Alex (the games heroine) decides to look for clues within the Roivas mansion that she’s inherited from him. She stumbles upon the Tome Of Eternal Darkness, a horrible book that as the game unfolds, it becomes clear to her that her grand-fathers death is just a small blip in a millenia old plot to destroy humanity.

Eterbal Darkness is incredible tour-de-force. The game is split into chapters, all at different time periods and different characters, all of which are “chosen ones” all of which contribute in someway getting to the final level. The game is set entirely within 4 locations. A chamber in the desert in Persia, A forgotten temple in cambodia, a cathedral in Aimens, France and the Roivas mansion. The idea is that as you revisit these places in later stages, you see times evolution on the place and how familiar the locations are, yet how different.

The story moves brilliantly, the idea is throughout the ages, the 4 artifacts of the ancients (the evil race plotting to overthrow humanity) are handed down to the chosen ones to end up in the Roivas estate. The characters you play as a joy to behold. From Pious, the roman centurion (who becomes an undead ambassador and the games primary antagonist) to Peter Jacob, a journalist during the first world war, each character has a vital part to play and it’s a tragedy what happens to most of them (most are killed in quite horrible ways after you’ve finished their chapter).

I haven’t even begun on the games main selling point. Sanity. the game contains a bar called the Sanity Meter, this decrases a little whenever enemies attack. When it gets to the bottom, you’d better be worried. Your character will begin to have delusions and hallucinations that range from the humourous to the downright terrifying. You could enter a room and have your head blown up. You could have your volume turned right down, your save file deleted or sink into the ground. Suddenly everything will flash and you’ll hear a haunting “This Can’t Be Happening” It’s enough to turn you as insane as your character.

Eternal Darkness is a game that’s scary, funny, mind-boggling and brilliant. It’s intelligent and is full to the brim with references to HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe and many other literary figures (which is utter incrdible, Edwards narration into every chapter is a gaming highlight) The game forces you to stay on your toes and to be amazed. It drags you kicking and screaming into it’s world and once you’re in, you can’t escape. You’ll think about it all the time and you’ll love it. It’s a masterpiece in every sense of the word.

2. Mother 3 (2006)

Mother 3. What can I say about Mother 3 that I haven’t already said elsewhere? Well, first of all, don’t read and this and go “I’m going to pop down to my local shop and pick up a copy”. Unless you’re reading this in Japan, you won’t be able to. Coupled with Earthbound’s commercial failure and the fact that the game was released 2 years after the GBA’s succesor, the DS, the game was released in Japan, it sold very well, mainly because of the series popularity and it’s tied with it’s creator, Shigesato Itoi (who’s a big celebrity over there). I played an English fan translation ROM of the game, which may not be the translation it could have been, it’s still in English.

Mother 3 is an utter delight. The game starts off absolutely beautifully, with the 2 twins, Lucas and Claus visiting their grandfather, Alec. Meanwhile back at Tazmily Village, their father, Flint is looking after the sheep. However the night Lucas, Claus and Hinawa (the mother) begin their return home to Tazmily is when the Pigmasks show up…They set the Sunshine Forest on fire and start tinkering with the wildlife. Flint naturally tries to rescue his wife and kids, but things go wrong, very wrong…the kids are found washed up by the river and Hinawa….is killed by a chimera. Claus swears revenge on the monster and goes to kill it and goes missing, leaving a broken home of just Flint and Lucas. Before I continue, should I point out that this is a game that, according to Japan’s rating system CERO, is suitable for all ages? Barmy.

The game is easily a game of 2 halves. One half (the first 4 chapters, prologue included) shows Tazmily as this carefree utopian village, the kind of place that you dream of living, no matter where you live. Everyone knows each others name, there’s no bickering and it’s got beautiful landscapes and climates, surely it’s bliss. Then, as the Pigmasks gain more influence by selling Happy boxes (seen in Chapter 3) the village changes. Chapter 4 onwards is set 3 years later. Lucas has grown slightly into a stronger individual and Tazmily is now a much bigger town, stretching far. It’s moments like this that really mean something to the player. In a similar way to when Adult Link walks out the temple of time in OoT, you feel horrified and the need to put things back to the way they were. Of course it doesn’t help that as you go through Chpater 7, the town becomes more deserted as the Pigmasks take everyone off to “The City” By the end of Chapter 7, you feel like the town is a character and has passed away.

The game is also incredibly well-designed. Graphically, it really pushes the GBA to it’s limits. It’s full of dark caves, bright villages and grimy sewers, all of which look fantastic and have a beautiful charm to them. The character designs are also brilliant, from Lucas to Kumatora, each character feels uniquely desigend, you rarely bump into a look-a-like at all in the game (save for the pigmasks, of course)

The music, composed by long time Kirbymaestro, Shogo Sakai, is utterly incredible as well. It adds horror to areas like the Chimera Lab, joy to the prolouge and is also a contender for “Saddest piece ever” With the love theme. If you can find a copy of the two soundtracks. Mother3+ and Mother3i, they’re really worth listening to.

There are some exceptional pieces of music in the game. I think Mother 3 may go down as one of the most unappreciated games of all time or at least the best Japan Only game. It’s got everything a game should have, great story, great characters, great ideas. And on top of that, it compells you, it entices you, it’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry (believe me, the final battle will) and you’ll never want it to end. Which is what a perfect game should do. It was very, very difficult to choose between this and the decades greatest game, I honestly don’t know if I’ve made the right choice. Mother 3 is a celebration of life, death, sorrow and happiness. It is a nearly perfect game and I can’t imagine a more fitting beginning to the proceedings than “Welcome to the world of Mother3″ It’s a world alright and one that I never want to leave.

1. The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2003)

The Legend Of Zelda series is possibly one of the greatest video game franchises ever, spawning sequels that regularly surpass the previous games. However, after Ocarina Of Time (which, by this point was already legendary) and the stunning Majora’s Mask, Nintendo would have to pull something really, really special in order to bring fans over from the N64 to their new Gamecube. They showed off a demo of a realistic Link and Ganondorf fighting in 2001. It looked amazing graphically, we might have the realistic gritty Zelda, we’d imagined since OoT. Next year though, Nintendo shocked the world. Link was wandering around in a cel-shaded cartoon like game. Hang on…the fans realised. They were not happy.

The Wind Waker’s graphical style still has it’s haters, 6 years after release, but  that’s what makes it nigh on perfect. The presentation is flawless, Link, now back to being a 12 year old, is more human than ever before, he laughs, he cries, he winces in pain. And not to mention, the story is possibly the most beautiful epic story in the series.

Link lives on Outset Island with his sister and Grandma. When they reach a certain age, kids have to dress in a green tunic to respect the ancient hero of time (Link from OoT) for a day, during this day, Link’s sister is kidnapped by a giant bird and taken to Forsaken Fortress, far far away in the Great Sea. Link, with the help of a pirate called Tetra go off to rescue her (it fails) and Link ends up with a talking boat on another island completely.

What follows is an epic adventure. It’s a ripping sea faring tale of legends, strange tribes, pirates and princess’s and when you find out it’s all related to Ocarina Of Time (Ganondorf shows up about half-way through the game as the main antagonist) and you travel to Hyrule, deep beneath the waves, you feel a part of your childhood playing OoT reborn, you’re hit with nostalgia.

Let’s talk about the sea. The sea is split into squares on your map. On each of these squares is an island, each one unique and containing either a town, a cave or interesting stuff. Each one is essential if you want to complete the game 100% which is an impossibility compared to Ocarina Of Time. Now, being on the sea, you can go treasure hunting if you have the correct sea map, which is a fun little past-time. Be aware of giant Octo’s though…

Obviously, you can only go in the direction the wind faces, but you can’t control the wind, right? Wrong. Link is given The Wind Waker, a baton that controls the winds direction when you play the right tune, in a similar way to the titular Ocarina from it’s spiritual prequel. This obviously make sea-faring a lot faster.

Let’s discuss the islands, as you spend a lot of time there. Each Island has their own feel and personality, from the dark and broody Forsaken Fortress, to the homely Outset Island to the spiritual Forest Haven. Each one bursting full of life, and thanks to the graphics, feel like an utter delight. I’ve probably raved about the graphics already, but they’re just so good, so beautiful and so fun, I feel I could discuss them for hours. They are an absolute joy. They really immerse you in the characters and as the game gets darker, they suit it right down to a tee.

Ah yes, darkness. Zelda games are used to this running theme. From the end of Ocarina Of Time, when you climb up Ganon’s castle stairs, whilst his organ music gets louder, to Majora’s Mask’s moon. The end of this game is dark. And set’s up the most epic fight I’ve ever seen. It’s you and Zelda on the roof of Ganon’s castle, fighting Ganondorf sword to sword, whilst Hyrule below fills up with water, finally dying. It’s truly an incredible sight.

The music is also utterly incredible. It’s all celtic themed (until the end of the game) and suits the sea faring well. You never get bored of the Ocean theme and the bouncy Windfall Island theme. Also, when you fight an enemy, the music is timed perfectly when you strike them, it add’s an aura of interactivity. Not to mention the opening theme and the credits theme are perfect pieces of music. In every way.

So, there you go, The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker is my favourite game of the decade, no, of all time. why? Because it’s immersive. You fall in love with the world and the graphics, it’s like a living Studio Ghibli cartoon. Each character has a personality and is unique, there’s no duplicates. From the sassy Tetra, (Tetra/Zelda in this game is the best incarnation of the character, bar none) to the rebellious bumblebee gang, you’ll never hate a single character, even Ganondorf, who despite his evilness, is quite possibly insane here. And when the final battle ends, Link is sent back to the surface and Hyrule dies along with it’s king, you feel that it’s the end of the series (I sometimes wish that Phantom Hourglass never happened) and what a fitting end, the best game ever.

10 songs of the decade

10. Suspicous Wit – The Rascals (2008)

Everyone knows Miles Kane as “The other one” From The Last Shadow Puppets, it was inevitable that he was going to be second fiddle to the more popular Alex Turner. But before The Age Of The Understatement came this. A powerful indie/psychedelic  romp that out dates the Arctic Monkey’s Humbug. Unfortunately for all it’s brilliant guitar lines and big sounding vocals, it was doomed from the off. It wasn’t on their debut album and the band have since split.

9. Bathroom Gurgle – Late Of The Pier (2007)

One of the first singles from the Nottingham synth kings was this. Coming in with watery bass and mysterious lyrics, it soons bursts into Bohemian Rhapsody for the 21 Century. When Sam Eastgate shouts in his Johnny Borrell style vocal “So get your hands on your waistline/and move your body to the bassline. I guarentee you will.

8. The Strokes – Reptillia (2003)

Ok, This Is It maybe one of the best albums of the decade, but nothing on that album excites me as much as this track from their second album Room On Fire. It opens with a simple one note bassline, you just know that anything could happen from there onwards. Then in crashes the main riff angsting with feedback and full of energy. Julian murmurs and screams and you just know something special is happening.

7. Y Control – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003)

Just listen to that infectious guitar line. Drop C never sounded so beautiful and then Karen O fires up her unstoppable vocal lines, which coupled with Brian Chase’s frantic drumming just makes it a juggernaught. It doesn’t stop and by 4.00, it’s an out of control runaway train, desperately sreeching on the brakes. Beautiful, heavy and Momentous.

6. Jesus Of Surburbia – Green Day (2004)

American Idiot was a cult success for a short time in 2004 upon first release, pretty much embraced by only their fans and 14 year olds. I was in the latter. The album then gained momentum making Bolevard Of Broken Dreams the anthem of anyone who had no friends and making Green Day super rich, but Jesus Of Surburbia will always have a place in my heart, It’s 9.53 long and it kicks ass.  But Jesus Of Surburbia, really 5 tracks melted together in a big never ending stew is just a fantastic achievement, lyrics of isolation and mis-understanding, it became the soundtrack to evey teenager “Running away from pain when you’ve been victimized/Tales of another broken home” It sways, it rocks, it does pretty much anything. It’s still Green Day’s greatest achievement.

5. Girls Aloud – Call The Shots (2007)

Xenomania have a lot to answer for. Heard a really, really good pop song on the radio? Is it by a british artist? Then the odds are it was produced by Xenomania, the biggest producers in the country (not bad considering they’re still unknown). They were responsible for Cher’s Believe (still influencing Hip-hop, bizarrely with it’s auto-tuned vocals) Sugababes Round, Round and most of Girls Aloud’s back catalouge. Hence why this is here. After releasing a premature Greatest hits in in 2006, the girls were going to need a big single to show that they weren’t going away with a bang. And so they (with Xenomania’s help obviosuly) wrote this expensively produced, Catchy and above all, brilliant track. beautiful vocals, some calming, distorted sound effects, but still contains that bite that made us love them and it made us love them even more.

4. Klaxons – Magick (2006)

The first time I heard this song, it was like whipped up in a ever growing tornado. it builds and builds and builds until you’re at breaking point. I swear if it went on longer my head would explode. Brilliant Synth intro (that’s replicated by the bass to fantastic effect later) and just skull smashingly good. All together now ha-way-oh-we-oo!

3. Muse – Knights Of Cydonia (2006)

You’ve heard United States Of Eurasia from The Resistance? How bonkers is that track? Want to hear is spiritual prequel? This is it. it’s got some absolutely mind bending guitar playing, mexican trumpet and lyrics that would make Rage Against The Machine proud. And by the time the big break at the end happens, if you’re not flying across the room or going mental, there’s something wrong with you.

2. Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies) (2004)

I this is the most beautiful song ever made. Hidden deep within their debut album Funeral, it contains some of the most upbeat things put to music. Chanting, string sections and the sense of constantly being on the move, Arcade Fire put together a literally unstoppable track. I always forget how the track ends, simply because I just want it to go on forever.

1. 505 – Arctic Monkeys (2007)

This was the moment where everything changed for them. The final track of their second album contained a more prog/art sound, it wouldn’t have looked out of place in a 70’s art decor film (in fact, it’s taken directly from The Good, The bad And The Ugly). chiming guitars, doomy 70’s movie organ and lyrics speaking of memory and heartbreak “It seems like once again you greet me with goodbye” Until of course, the distortion kicks in. From that second on, it’s bitter heartbroken lyrics, angsty QOTSA style guitars and the greatest riff the Monkeys have ever made. Haunting, uplifting, powerful and conclusive all at once.

(Look out for Miles Kane on guitar in that video, brings us full circle)

5 best albums of the year

5. Humbug – Arctic Monkeys

This list will probably end up being similar to yesterdays at this rate. After The Last Shadow Puppets finished up and Alex Turner went back to his day job, everyone assumed they were going to take a more art rock approach as evidenced by Do Me A Favour and 505. Even when it was announced that the album was to be produced by James Ford and Josh Homme, it was still purely speculation until Crying Lightning found it’s way. They’d gone to America and become…well, American. Out went most of the britishisms and and wit, in came big, Stadium sized stonkers of songs. Musically, it does ahve it’s moments of hollowness, but when The Jewellers Hands finishes up with it’s trippy riff, you do feel an enormus sense of moving forward, of evolution. Once again, the band could go anywhere from this point.

4. Radio Wars – Howling Bells

One of my favourite bands of 2006/2007 were this Austrailian band, who wowed us with the country/indie/gothic wonder that was their debut. They returned this year with their follow-up and it did not dissapoint. Recorded in LA, Radio Wars is a standalone release, but finds the band entering into potential Concept album territory, with songs filled with beauty (Mrs Bells Song) sorrow (Cities Burning Down) and leaping into the unknown (Into The Chaos). Juanita’s velvety vocals and Joel Stein’s spacious guitar leave room for imgination and for wonder and leave this album feeling like a piece of art.

3. Two Suns – Bat For Lashes

Natasha Khan’s second album is a beast of two halves. One is her album and the other belongs to Pearl, her alter-ego created in the fall of a doomed life desicion. The two personalities wave in and out of each other over melodies with big bold and unique instruments and at times and become one. Of course, Khan’s voice is the obvious first step towards brilliance, perfectly showing off every emotion known to man and the duet between her and Scott Walker closes the album so prematurely, the only thing you can do is to listen again.

2. Primary Colours – The Horrors

Strange House, the debut album from The Horrors wasn’t liked by most people, however I loved it. Same can’t be said for Primary Colours though. Everyone loved it, which really surprised me. This is a band, who only 2 years ago were considered a novelty by most, a gotic The Darkness, if you will. However, this shows off them as both a serious band and a force to be reckoned with. It takes you to another place, whereas Strange House filled you with ideas of a rotting victorian city underbelly, Primary Colours bursts you into the future. I Only Think Of You is the musical equivalent of a burning out fire and of course there’s the masterpiece that is Sea Within A Sea. It’s almost perfect, there was always just one album standing in it’s way…

1. It’s Blitz – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

“Yeah Yeah Yeahs go disco” They all said. Many feared that one of the best bands of the decade were going to go out with a whimper, especially after their difficult (but magnificent) second album Show Your Bones. How wrong were they? Yes, Nick Zinner uses more synths in the album, but it works. Guitars are hidden well and everytime one is played, it feels like a revelation. and Zinner proves he can play a keyboard as well as a guitar (Which is very well, btw). Zero is the perfect opening track, mixing Watery synths and staccato guitars to brilliant effect. Karen O is on top form vocally. Giving the performance of her career in tracks like Soft Shock (album highlight), Hysteric and Runaway. It may not reach the heights of Fever To Tell, but it reaches heights nontheless and it gets that little bit better the more you listen and according to iTunes, I’ve listened to it about 67 times. Brilliant? Yes. In every way.