It’s the inevitable end-of-year list (with a BuzzFeed-style clickbait headline that became so omnipresent in 2014). Rather than trying to pick out my absolute favourite pieces of work from the last year, here’s a list of eleven fantastic things from the world of media, culture and tech.
Elbow – The Take Off and Landing of Everything (Rdio)
A hark back to the Elbow of old – before stadium tours and ‘One Day Like This’ first dances – it’s a wonderfully understated but intensively emotive piece of work.
Jamie T – Carry on the Grudge (Rdio)
We waited years for Jamie T to re-emerge, but it really was worth the wait. There’s still echoes of the young reckless troublemaker that defined his earlier work, but this record brought a more mature, honed sound and all the better for it.
Clean Bandit – Rather Be ft. Jess Glynne (Rdio)
Very few songs manage to transcend genres and audiences as well as ‘Rather Be’ did at the start of the year, and indeed continued to be a hit right through to the summer festivals. Equally at home on wedding dancefloors to those of dirty nightclubs, it’s one of those tracks that just hits all the right notes with musical influences ranging from electronica to cheesy pop.
The Bridge (BBC)
Easily the best of the Scandi-drama / Nordic Noir series, building on where The Killing left off. Beautifully shot, well paced and with two fiercely strong actors (Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia) in the main roles.
True Detective (Sky Atlantic)
Incredibly innovative, but yet historically-based drama that had you on the edge of your seat throughout, purely from the tension, imagery and characterisations in the narrative. At times dark, but impressively driven by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey to a satisfying resolution.
Scrotal Recall (4OD)
Despite having the worst title for a TV show in living memory, this was a surprisingly touching and humourous love story, told in a very distinctive way. Fantastic performances from the three young leads Johnny Flynn, Antonia Thomas and Daniel Ings and some really great writing too. Well worth seeing.
The Lego Movie (IMDB)
Of all the year’s movies this has to be the stand-out. Truly uplifting and entertaining, it’s reminiscent of the early Pixar films in its unbounded spirit and detail throughout. Much like the depicted building blocks, this is made very much for children and adults alike and will stand the test of time. An instant classic.
Boom Beach (iOS App Store)
Supercell’s follow-up to Clash of Clans is totally accessible and addictive from the off. Although fairly linear to begin with, it soon turns into a reasonably deep strategy game with decent battles and always keeps you wanting more – as is the way with current games – by putting upgrades just out of your grasp without some serious patience (or, if you’d rather, in-app purchases). And that’s the key, you don’t have to give it your undivided attention, but when you do it’s beauty and difficulty make it well worth the effort.
Focus Timer (Mac App Store)
A very simple app, but one that can change the way you work. Based on the Pomodoro Technique, it’s both aesthetically pleasing and unobtrusive, fitting perfectly into Yosemite’s UI – something that similar apps lack. It will help your productivity no end, particularly during writing or other creative tasks where it’s easy to forget to take breaks.
Tweetbot 3 (iOS App Store)
Simply the best Twitter client out there for iPhone. How long Twitter will continue to allow third-party apps to prevail is anyone’s guess, but while they do Tweetbot remains the most powerful and aesthetically pleasing of the bunch. A joy to use, with a UI that gives you all the tools you need but never gets in your way.
Fairly straight-forward choice here, as it’s still fresh in the memory. A strangely voyeuristic, but extremely gripping re-examining of a real life murder case told over 12 weeks. Became one of the defining talking points of the year.