Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Best of 2011 - Songs

It's the 17th. I guess that means it's time to conclude my best of 2011 with the best list. In 2009, I chose from about 400 songs. 2010 had about 600. This year I sifted through around 850 songs, which warrants a list that's a bit longer than last year's (how about 17 songs longer?). Putting this list together was extremely frustrating because of the high quality of all of the music I picked out over the year. Each and every song here means so much to me and there are hundreds more I wish I could include. I'm also quite stunned at the diversity of this list; I think I've achieved originality as a music enthusiast. I'll only talk about my top 17, but I encourage you to investigate the others if you haven't anything better to do. Oh, and you should definitely tell me you top songs/movies/anything from 2011; I don't want to be the only one sharing excellence! (P.S. Playlist.com is terrible. It only had 10 of my 51 songs. Thank goodness for Youtube!)

51. We Saw - Bobby
50. Big Blue Wave - Hey Ocean!
49. Tired Tiger - Moving Mountains
48. Liar - Hey Ocean!
47. A Commotion - Feist
46. Slippery - Green Pitch
45. Celebrate Love - Michou
44. En Garde - Puzzle Muteson
43. Voodoo - Oh Land
42. Be My Baby - Hey Ocean!
41. Galaxies - Owl City
40. O' Sister - City And Colour
39. Picasso - The Cinema
38. Obsidian - Ohbijou
37. Wild Palms - Sun Airway
36. Death Valley - Elevation
35. Telephone Games - Jack and White
34. Hurts Like Heaven - Coldplay
33. Say It Like You Mean It - The Cinema
32. Broken Bottles - Silversun Pickups
31. Resolve. - Sleeping At Last
20. Drive All Night - Needtobreathe
29. Hiccups - Jinja Safari
28. The Ash Is In Our Clothes - Sleeping At Last
27. Exit - Elevation
26. The Valley - Eisley
25. Maps - Hey Ocean!
24. Destiny of Love - Inon Zur (from Dragon Age 2)
23. Dragging Your Feet In The Mud - Lydia
22. Hanging On - Active Child
21. Poison & Wine - The Civil Wars
20. Dance With The Devil - The Sounds
19. Dead Island Trailer Theme - Giles Lamb
18. Pumped Up Kicks - Foster The People

17. Surph - Rustie
"You know I want to rock."
Rustie's "Glass Swords" is the only instrumental (minus some voice samples) album I got this year and this song, "Surph," is all that was required to convince me to get the entire set. It's so groovy, so infectious, so...AHHH!, let's just say it's dangerous for this song to play while I'm driving.

16. Summer Home - Typhoon
"There's a promised land in every man's heart."
I'm usually not one for live music if I'm not physically present, but you just have to see this 12-person band in action (13 people in this performance). "Summer Home" qualifies as what I like to call an epic song because of many elements it involves. A light-hearted start, an exciting climb to a change in mood, and an enchanting conclusion with all sorts of neat things happening along the way.

15. I Can't Wait - Runner Runner
"I can't wait...to live this life together."
Ignore the content of the video...this is just the only one I could find on YouTube that has the album recording. Believe it or not, I'd love to dance to "I Can't Wait" at my wedding. Yep, you read right: I sometimes think of what I want for my wedding (Nutso, right?). Unfortunately, I'm not quite suitable for serenading. I'll keep to the listening with jealousy for now.

14. A Place Only You Can Go - Needtobreathe
"In my heart, you'll always know, there is a place only you can go."
Sometimes, simplicity is the sweetest. "A Place Only You Can Go" doesn't have too many notes, but it has all of the right chords in all of the right places. No one does it like Needtobreathe.

13. Holiday - Swimming With Dolphins
"Does anything feel strange? Cause you're like a perfect dream and I'm afraid to awake."
This was THE summer song of my 2011. The lyrics aren't all joyous, but this song is one of the best cheerer-uppers I've ever encountered. I'm a sucker for male/female vocal duets and this song is so much more than I could have expected from the world of electronic music in that regard. Excuse me while I have a mini dance party.

12. Dreamer - Elizaveta
"If you seek, then you shall find."
Elizaveta is a CHAMP! She had me enraptured from the first listen. As far as music goes, my greatest regret of 2011 was not picking up her CD. In fact, this song is the only one out of all 51 in this list where I didn't grab the entire album/EP it belongs to. It may seem out of place here, but "Dreamer" is one of the most superb tunes in my 2011 book.

11. Midnight City - M83
"Look at the horizon glow."
I've just gotta start by saying this may well be the coolest music video I've ever seen, #1 of the year for sure. That iconic four-note sequence riddled my mind endlessly for the greater part of the holiday season, so much so that I was sure this tune would be my number #1. Considering the amount of exemplary songs I found this year, #11 is still pretty swell. If this song gets stuck in your head, I'd appreciate it if you thank me personally.

10. Sleep Well/A Quiet (E)vening - Mae
"Let's...claim the stars as ours."
Here's how Mae departed from their fans right before discontinuing their existence. It's fitting, to say the least. The album's title (e)vening is the last component of the band's name, which is an acronym for morning, afternoon, evening. Here it all ends with a good night. That's brilliant, if you ask me. The song is actually a two-parter (both are included in the video). The real kicker is the moment right in between them. I think you'll be able to pick it out.

9. Lions In Cages - Wolf Gang
"We don't stop to check the time cause time keeps moving on and on and on."
Catchiness to the max! I knew "Lions In Cages" was a winner from the get-go (seems to always be the case, doesn't it?). Give me some space when this song starts up cause I just might break out in dance. You're picturing it, I know you are. Join the fun!

8. In My Room - The Dangerous Summer
"I still believe in everything, even in my flaws."
I'm not sure what won me over in "In My Room". It's quite plain, really...I'd have to say it's the rawness of the lyrics, the pure truth and unrestrained expression that The Dangerous Summer always gets across so well. This music has a sense of maturity about it that just astounds me. It pays to spend some time with these guys.

7. The Cascade - Moving Mountains
"When everything is forced to fall in place...you'll find your own embrace."
Moving Mountains' sound is dynamic in every sense of the word. Loud and quiet, heavy and light, noisy and serene...sometimes it seems like all of them at once, in an indescribable way. Makes life seem quite mundane, actually. "The Cascade" is exemplary. I'm enraptured.

6. No One's Gonna Need You More - The Dangerous Summer
"Every lonely heart can use an honest song they can sing along to."
Just found out about this music video an hour ago. Score! I've actually met these guys! I shook AJ Perdomo's hand! I'm looking at the poster they signed right now! Hopefully you can see why I love them in this video. Some red hair, an orange bass guitar, emphasis on lyrics, a bit of affection. What a musically delicious concoction that is! Out of hundreds, my most favorite band.

5. Miscommunication - The Dangerous Summer
"I'm tired of always being second best."
Yet another Dangerous Summer tune! I hope you guys notice how often I wear my Dangerous Summer t-shirt because I have a very good reason for it: songs like "Miscommunication". Last I checked, this was the least-purchased song from this album on iTunes. Blasphemy! I love how like half of this song is supposedly a quote from a girl the frontman seems to care about. "I need a comfort in a boy who takes my hits." Special, ain't it? The song of the year from the band of the year.

4. Once Rendering - Moving Mountains
"I will never forget this. I'd trade my soul for another chance to see it through."
As you can see, my top two albums dominated my top ten. I don't know if I'll even take a stab at putting "Once Rendering" into words. Joy, rage, sorrow, longing...there's too much to wrap my thoughts around. Just listen.

3. Hymn For The Missing - Red
"Are you searching for me? ...Will I see you again?"
Deciding the placement of these last three songs was a killer. "Hymn For The Missing" is a song that belongs in heaven, to put my opinion frankly. How can such a tear-jerker like this be filled with so much hope? Outstanding.

2. If I've Been Unkind - Lanterns On The Lake
"You wanted a piggyback. Well, I lost my spine."
This song was released a couple years ago, but the new version on their latest album is extra cool. Unfortunately, it's nowhere on YouTube so you're going to have to take in a jaded effect via the older recording. Songs like "If I've Been Unkind" speak for themselves.

1. Eyes - Kaskade feat. Mindy Gledhill
"Eyes are the windows to the soul."
Kaskade was named the DJ of 2011, but I don't think his new album was nearly as good as last year's. One song, however, blew me away. Obviously, that song is "Eyes". Apparently the singer, Mindy, lives in Salt Lake City (my friends got to meet her and I am uber jealous). This song will one day be the death of my ears, I just know it. Play it again! Louder! Louder!!! Could someone produce a film documentary about my life just so this can play during the credits? It'd mean the world to me. Here it is, THE #1 song of the best year of my life. What an honor it is for me to bring it to you now.

I'll leave it at that.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Best of 2011 - Albums

I'm a proponent of albums. I hate when people say they love a band after falling for one or two of that group's songs (Curse you Twilight fans!!!). You can't be a true fan of an artist if you don't love their albums - their work in full. Albums can communicate messages more powerfully, they can build moods more efficiently, and they showcase an artist's talents more thoroughly. I'm choosing from 52 albums here, making this the largest item pool aside from songs. I'll build a bigger list (17 items sounds good) and hopefully I won't say so much about each one.

17. Metal Meets - Ohbijou
I'm oh so glad I found Ohbijou last month. The frontwoman's distinguished voice works well with the soft melodies, smooth string parts, and strong bass lines in this somewhat sultry set of songs (Ask me if I admire alliteration and I'll answer affirmatively). These songs are for swinging back and forth to.

16. Departing - The Rural Alberta Advantage
Speaking of unique voices, The Rural Alberta Advantage's leading voice is like the sore thumb of singing...I sore thumb that I adore! This is my second CD from these guys and I'm well pleased. A good road trip album, for sure.

15. Barton Hollow - The Civil Ways
The Civil Wars are folk music's strongest presence in my collection right now. I mean, I've got some fairly folky/country-ish stuff, but the twang is strong with this one and, for once, I love the twang. This album oughta be mighty fine in a nice campfire setting.

14. Hell or High Water - Elevation
Elevation's first album came out in 2007 and I absolutely loved it. I thought for sure they'd fallen off the map after that, but then this CD came out of nowhere to almost instantly take my money away. If any band knows how to put together powerhouse rock anthems, it's Elevation. These songs are super easy to belt out loud and they're tied together by a strong Death Valley-inspired mood.

13. Welcome To My DNA - Blackfield
Steven Wilson, the singer of Porcupine Tree and one of my favorite musicians, released a solo album this year, but he also released a much better one with his buddy Aviv Geffen in the band Blackfield. Unlike Steven Wilson's other work, Blackfield includes brilliant string orchestration that, like the album cover suggests, makes me feel like I'm flying high among clouds.

12. Until We Have Faces - Red
Red is a new heavy rock band (almost metal at times) in my collection, but this album is beautiful. Forceful vocals, noisy rock instruments, and gorgeous strings (I like strings, can you tell?) are combined to send forth some of the most powerful messages I've heard in music to date. And it all ends with one of the sweetest piano pieces I've ever heard. You'll see that one in my song list.

11. Dynamite Steps - The Twilight Singers
I consider The Twilight Singers one of my greatest finds of the year. None of these songs made it into my list of top songs, but when they're together they create a range of feeling I'm very passionate about, mainly because I don't know any other bands that are even kinda like this. Here's a taste.

10. My Blood Is Full of Airplanes - The Cinema
So after a farewell tour and an official statement marking the end of Lydia...the two remaining members decided to keep it going this year! Unfortunately, their new CD had a ton of profanity and was utterly disappointing. It's not all bad though; Leighton Antelman, the singer of Lydia and probably my most favorite musician right now, had a second project, The Cinema, with Lydia's producer. This electronic bunch of songs includes both of my most played songs of 2011.

9. Suego Faults - Wolf Gang
It only took a few seconds of sampling for me to want Suego Faults by Wolf Gang. I like to call this awesome up-and-coming band a better version of Foster The People. That is probably all I need to tell you.

8. The Reckoning - Needtobreathe
Christian rock? Whuh!? Needtobreathe is that one inspirational band that Nickelback, Daughtry, and all other similar groups tried and failed to become. In fact, I sorta feel bad about comparing this band to those other hooligans. They're music is inspired, soulful, and ridiculously heart-warming. I just wanna give these guys a hug.

7. Water Colours - Swimming With Dolphins
Once upon a time, Adam Young (the man behind Owl City) was working with his buddy on a project called Swimming With Dolphins. Then Fireflies got super popular and Adam Young left. Unfortunately for Adam, Swimming With Dolphins continued without him and released a CD that kicked Owl City's butt. The end. This music has a male and a female voice and I prefer that over a voice that sounds like a mix of the two, which is kinda what Adam's sounds like (sorry Adam, I love ya!).

6. (E)vening - Mae
I'm extremely sad that my first album from Mae turned out to be their last before splitting up. I wasn't there for the journey, but I was certainly touched by this conclusion. Featuring an 11-minute piano solo, composed and performed by the band's drummer (Wow!), and one of my top songs of the year, this album easily became my most played CD of the year. I haven't known Mae for long, but I'll miss them all the same.

5. Gracious Tide, Take Me Home - Lanterns On The Lake
Another awesome new band, Lanterns On The Lake provides that floaty-rock style (think Sigur Rós) that I always fall for. This band, hailing from the UK, plays the sort of stuff I wouldn't mind listening to in the last moments of my life. Yes, it's that beautiful.

4. Something To Die For - The Sounds
The Sounds! I saw them at my first concert ever, but they were kinda out-shined by Paramore and No Doubt that evening and I never gave them more than the occasional listen. This year, they demanded my attention with a new electronic/rock hybrid that became my top pick for Christmas and my favorite out of that bunch. This album's for all the party people out there.

3. The Valley - Eisley
Missing these guys in their September concert is one of my greatest regrets of the year. The album I got from them wasn't anything special in my opinion, but this round of music is catchy, beautiful, and lyrically communicative all at once! You need a band like Eisley in your collection.

2. War Paint - The Dangerous Summer
At the beginning of the year, I called The Dangerous Summer my second favorite band. After this album, and regardless of my disappointment concerning Lydia, The Dangerous Summer has overtaken Lydia and now reigns as my #1 band. This band's words are so inspiring. They don't worry about patterns or rhymes; it all comes from the heart. And to think...they're only a few years older then me! A great example in the music industry. I'm so grateful I was able to meet them.

1. Waves - Moving Mountains
This image elicits so many amazing emotions. I'm not going to lie. This album is hard to connect to; it's not the most catchy or melodic thing around, but this is a musical masterpiece if I've ever known one. Atmosphere, power, beauty...this album has it all. This album is about seizing the most definitive moments of life, about recognizing the beauty of all that has been placed before us. I can't get enough.

That right there is a fabulous bunch. It pained me to restrict this list to 17 because this year, for the first time, I loved each and every album I got. When Adele's 21, Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto, and Death Cab for Cutie's Codes & Keys don't crack the top 17, you know you had a fabulous year in music. I'll bring it all to an end tomorrow with my list of top songs, which is certainly the most impressive.

Best of 2011 - Video Games

Now I'm not going to post a list of my favorite YouTube videos of the year (that would take way too long to figure out...), but if I did, ^this video^ would win. For gamers, 2011 was a powerhouse year, the greatest in video game history. This video is the perfect summary of a gamer's 2011 life, mixing the year's top titles with scenes from the Japan earthquake, Bin Laden raid, and other huge events. There are about 100 games in the video, and I can think of at least 5 that aren't in it at all. So yeah...huge year in games. I could only get my hands on a small portion of them. Watch the video if you haven't and then check out which are my favorite.

10. Dead Island
Zombie games are usually all about mindless fun. Dead Island dares to put a little emotion in the mix. I like Dead Island for its shot at realism. Weapons break over time, guns and bullets are far from plentiful, and people stranded across the zombie-infested island are waiting for your help. Your leading goal is to escape the island, but the game makes it frustratingly difficult to do so, as it should be. It's emphasis on cooperative play makes fighting for survival extra fun.
9. Dead Space 2

I'm a chicken when it comes to Dead Space 2, I'm still not even close to beating it, but it's so darn thrilling! Dead Space 2 creates a better scary atmosphere than any other I've seen and would surely rank higher in this list if I could muster a bit more courage or get a Dead Space 2 buddy by my side.
8. Dragon Age 2
Dragon Age 2's story is no good compared to the first game's, but the game is too good-looking and socially intricate to discount. When an evil force pushes your family from your hometown, you have no choice but to make yourself known in Kirkwall, a giant fantasy city. The people you team up with and the impressive amount of side quests you can take on makes Dragon Age 2 a complex, satisfying experience.

7. L.A. Noire

L.A. Noire is one-of-a-kind. You play detective and solve cases...seems lame, but the recreation of 1940's L.A. and the impressive facial animations (the faces in this game are so detailed that the game requires three discs) make L.A. stylistically addictive. I've put 80 hours into the game, more than any other this year. This game is stellar.
6. Batman: Arkham City
Here's Metacritics' #1 game of the year. This game is everything Batman...play as Catwoman, Nightwing, Robin...fight Two Face, the Riddler, the Penguin, Joker, none of which is the primary threat. It's a blast.

5. Dungeon Siege 3
Dungeon Siege 3 got pretty bad reviews across the board, but I loved it enough to play it for 60 hours during the summer. It's not a super impressive game, but oh man is it fun. Two thumbs up from me.
4. Battlefield 3
My dad loves Battlefield, so I decided to team up with him on this installment for the first time. Nothing is quite like a 64-person match...that's right; 64 hardcore gamers in the same match. Even better is scoring first place in such a match, which I can do surprisingly often. Usually I'm a single-player guy, but the competition in this game is oh so thrilling.

3. Saints Row: The Third
Absolutely ludicrous. Saints Row: The Third doesn't shy away from anything. Skydive in your underwear? Sure. Rob a clothing store in a bunny suit? Why not? Take out zombies while doing wheelies on a motorcycle? Definitely. Bizarre, but oh so enjoyable.

2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim is arguably the biggest game ever. There are just SO many possibilities. One of the funnest experiences I've had in a game this year was playing hide and seek with children in this game...who thought a video game would ever include that as an option? Skyrim is like The Lord of the Rings of video gaming. Epic. Still, not the best for me.

1. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
I'm a story gamer. I crave awesome atmospheres, strong characters, and engaging plots. Deus Ex: Human Revolution excels at all three. It just makes you feel awesome. It also seems to fancy the number 17 and to reference Mormons a lot. Anyway, it takes place a decade or two in the future where humans can receive cybernetic implants and prosthetics. Purists rise up against this 'pollution' of the human body and start a human revolution. Your character was forced to receive many of these mechanical enhancements after a lethal injury. They are the only reason you are alive. All of these elements amount to a killer experience that I have yet to finish.

More hours of enjoyment are contained in this list than any other. I love gaming and always will. And does the gaming industry slow down after this impressive year? Heck no! Diablo 3, Borderlands 2, Mass Effect 3...the reign of sequels continues. I can't wait!

Best of 2011 - EPs

Who cares about EPs, right? Wrong. I got 31 of them this year (Wow!) and many of their songs made it into my list of top songs. I can't leave them out. EP = extended play. Not short enough to be a single, not long enough to be an album. My EPs ranged from 3 - 7 songs this year, let's see which ones are the best.

10. The Color Spectrum: Violet - The Dear Hunter
The Dear Hunter released an impressive 36-song collection known as The Color Spectrum. The music's divided between 9 EPs, one after each color: black, white, ROYGBIV. Unfortunately, I found it tough to connect with this mass of music, and Violet is the only one that made it on this list. Each color has a different theme; Violet is the jazz/string orchestration one. This is the first music of this style I've enjoyed.

9. Yearbook: July - Sleeping At Last
Sleeping At Last's Yearbook EP are at a disadvantage because they only have three songs each. The July Ep, however, is good enough to make it here. Each EP is built to fit the time of year it represents; I think this one did it best. It was extra-summery!

8. The Emergency - Dear Future
This one's so obscure that I couldn't even find a picture of it's cover on Google. I like Dear Future for their lyrics. "We were born to love and not hold back." These words are powerful when mixed with their rock style.

7. Celebrate Love - Michou
This EP is full of what I like to call feel good music. It's music that isn't particularly brilliant and doesn't have too much going on, but that you'd love singing along to with your best friends. See what I mean here. I'll turn to this EP when I'm feeling down.

6. Gemini - Jack and White
I thought Jack and White were annoying when I first heard them...then all of sudden their music was stuck in my head. Turns out some of their tunes are downright gorgeous. Listen here. I don't usually listen to this type of music, but I'll be keeping an eye on these two.

5. Asleep - Green Pitch
Number five comes from Denmark! If you're an acoustic guitar/piano fan, this is worth checking out. I'm also a huge fan of the leading singer. She's amazing.

4. Yearbook: September - Sleeping At Last
Sleeping At Last's year-long journey ended in a sad, yet suitable set of songs. For those who subscribed to the project (myself included), each EP was e-mailed to you on the 1st day of the month. September's EP, however, came out on the 10th, allowing just enough extra time to make it perfect and to say goodbye to the beautiful endeavor. 36 songs...see how it all ended here.

3. Why We Need Night - The Union Trade
There is music out there that you can only listen to, then there's music that you can sink yourself into. This, my most-played EP of 2011, builds an atmosphere that is easier to sink into than most. Magnificent piano, uplifting chords, and a fitting voice give this EP a feeling I'll never stop coming back to.

2. A New Kind Of House - Typhoon
Three guitarists, three percussionists, three trumpet players, and three string players...that's right guys, Typhoon has 12 members. Sweet! I'll show them in action in my songs post, but for now, let me just tell you that this EP puts my song-writing capabilities to shame (let's face it, all of these songs do, but this EP in particular!). Good thing they don't have a violist yet, maybe I can join up!
1. Big Blue Wave - Hey Ocean!
This EP has four songs. All four made it into my list of top songs; that's more than any other band, even my three favorite bands! Basically, this year was flawless for Hey Ocean! The first song is a rock song you'll want to tap your foot to. The next includes some of the best vocal harmonies I've ever heard. The third is a catchy jazz tune you can swing your hips to. It all ends with a touching acoustic tune. This EP is the whole package. Fall in love with Hey Ocean! here (this is an acoustic version of the rock song).

I'm glad I've included EPs here. It allows me to show off some low-name bands, some hidden gems. Remember, each of these is only $3 to $6 on iTunes. Skip lunch and pick one up!

Best of 2011 - Movies

There are so many great movies I didn't see this year, but I was able to catch a greater portion of them than ever before. There are a lot of intense moments and brilliant artistry and storytelling found in these ten films. My year in films:

10. The Tree of Life
(yes, this picture is at the Bonneville Salt Flats!) There is so much I don't understand about this movie. I'm inclined to say that it's too unorthodox for it's own good, but there is something about this film's style that puts it at the top of many film critics' lists. The film mixes the simple story of a troubled family, led by a strict father (Brad Pitt), with scenes depicting the creation of the universe. A lot of the content flew over my head, but this work of art certainly stands out in this year of films.

9. X-Men: First Class

I love movies/stories with teams. Lord of the Rings? Yes. Inception? Of course. X-Men? All the way. This movie didn't meet my expectations in many respects, but it was still impressive. The best part of all was probably the cast...no ginormous stars. That's the way I like it, especially when such a cast can deliver as well as these guys. I'm also a fan of mutant abilities...don't ask. Cool stuff right here.

8. Thor
We can all agree Thor wasn't exactly a high-quality film. Sure, some of the scenes were borderline cheesy and the story wasn't fabulous, but there were a lot of aspects of this film I loved. The leading relationship was cute. Thor's team of Norse warriors was flipping awesome! Best of all was the depiction of Asgard, the Norse realm...those scenes inspired me. In terms of creating an atmosphere, Thor's the top contender.

7. Hanna
Hanna was weird. I mean, it's a story about a young teenage girl trained to be an assassin...of course it's weird. If you can get past the gruesome and crude bits, Hanna has a lot to offer through its one-of-a-kind story and incredible collection of music. This movie surprised me in a variety of ways.

6. The Adjustment Bureau
A lot of movies tried to be especially clever this year a la Inception. Source Code, In Time, Limitless. For me, these ones didn't quite work out. The Adjustment Bureau, on the other hand, was at once intriguing, touching, and well-constructed. I had heard bad things about it, but for me, it was all good. If your life isn't going as planned, the Adjustment Bureau "adjusts" it, but can love beat this predetermined fate? Definitely one of the top thrillers of the year.

5. Soul Surfer
I understand that Soul Surfer didn't closely follow the story that it's based on, but I was still moved, and by 'moved' I mean more than I think I ever have been by a movie. If you haven't heard about it, it's about the teenager in Hawaii who lost her arm in a shark attack and then continued surfing competitively. It's one of the most inspiring things I've seen and despite the flak some critics have been giving it, I'd recommend it to anyone.

4. The Thing
When boredom crept in during this summer, my family turned to horror movies, which I haven't really cared about for a while. One of the movies I watched was the original The Thing from 1982. After that, I was obviously pumped up for the new one. I thought it was awesome. Nothing beats the psychological tricks behind The Thing's terrifying concept. The Thing takes place in an antarctic research camp where a monster picks off the team one by one. When it absorbs a victim, it takes their shape, meaning no one knows who's human and who's monster. Ultimate paranoia. Freaky.

3. Hugo
Inspired by a children's book and directed by Martin Scorsese, Hugo is a film about a homeless boy in Paris who is searching for the key to activate an automaton his deceased father left him. In the process, he finds a forgotten filmmaker (this character is a real person who is known as the father of special effects today) and brings his work to the world. This film is delightful and beautiful; it put my expectations to shame.

2. Super 8
Cloverfield and War of the Worlds are some of my favorite movies of all-time. People think it's because I like monster movies. I don't. I like survival movies. I like seeing a group of people come together against something unimaginable, something incredibly dangerous. Usually some sort of monster serves as that something. Super 8 has a monster, but that's not why I like it. I like it because of how the relationships develop between the characters as they face the monster. I like it because of the emotional intensity. I like it because of the ending, which was this year's very best.
1. Life in a Day
I watched this film just a couple days ago and I instantly knew it would skyrocket toward the top of this list. Life in a Day is a documentary about just that: a day in the life of humanity. Primarily through YouTube, Ridley Scott, working with a few other big names in the film industry, asked the world to film their lives on one day: July 24th, 2010. The result was 45,000 hours of contributed footage from 192 countries. I thought of submitting something myself, knowing that it was Utah's birthday that day, but I lazied out. Anyway, all of this amounted to a 90 minute movie about people and about their lives. In one scene, which is only a second long, a man waits at the register with a credit card. He is purchasing an engagement ring. In another scene, a father and son pay tribute to their deceased wife/mother. As you can imagine, this is all very touching, and the only characters are us, the people of the world, on a single day. It's cool to know that not even the year's greatest stories could beat this account of pure reality in my mind. I only wish it was ten times longer than it is. give it a shot.

There you go. Hopefully you haven't seen some of these and I've convinced you to give them a shot. Now it's time to drool over Hunger Games and all of those other exciting 2012 movies!

Best of 2011 Intro

That's it...the year is sealed. These past few weeks I've pushed countless hours toward all of the last-minute music listening, movie watching, and game playing I could manage. My lists of all things excellent in 2011 are complete, but before they're revealed, let's take a look back on my eventful year, which will certainly remain one of the biggest throughout the rest of my life.

Let's start with the end of 2010. I invited seven friends to my house for New Year's Eve and all seven came at some point in the night. That right there is amazing and was certainly a good sign for the year to follow. January saw my awesome orchestra trip to Disneyland...where a good portion of my top 2011 memories come from. At the end of the month I got my patriarchal blessing, something I deeply cherish. I was getting super excited as I did some research into the impressive amount of movies, music, and games that were in store for the year.

February 2nd was my first concert as the viola section leader in the Davis Youth Symphony. On the 8th, I was named a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. I counted down my last days of being 17 in the first half of February. As I said goodbye to the number, which is my ultra-ludicrous-extremely lucky number, I drew up lists of my all-time favorite things at that point in my life. It may seem like a silly thing for me to care so much about, but my mindset shifted for the better as I came to define who I truly am through the things that mean most in my life. Type "last days of 17" in the search box if you want to see some of those. For the 17th of February, my birthday, I went to the Barcelona w/ He Is We concert with a few good friends, which was something I never thought I'd do...but it was perfect. I received a stellar bunch of music albums and game for my birthday, many of which appear in my best of 2011 lists.

March wasn't too exciting aside from the excellent group of CDs I decided to pick up. I also went to another concert, which was headlined by Wye Oak. Unfortunately, this was my last concert of the year.

The single top moment of April was winning the iPad in the Keys for Success drawing for my high school. After that, I was on TV, where I had a chance to win a brand new car. No luck there, but that was mighty fun. I took a long-time friend to senior prom and took part in the Portal 2 craze. Then I buckled down for testing.

May was terrible, but also awesome. I did little other than study for my 4 AP and 4 IB tests...that's right: 28 hours of testing. On the other hand, I've never been as relieved as I was when it was all over. I devoted two years of my life to the IB program and it was finally over.

Graduation! I thought it would be sad, but I was thrilled to get out of high school when the last week came around. All I really miss now is my orchestra and my closest friends, the rest is already a distant memory. I held on to my 4.0 to graduate as Rank 1 in my class. The All-Night party was a blast, and so was the rest of the month as I collected my A-Team of summer tunes.

I had surgery the morning after Independence Day. This was the most life-changing event in my life. I had a metal bar placed in my chest and I will have this bar in me for another 2 1/2 years, but what for? It's to improve my health by freeing up space for my heart and lungs. It's to improve my physicality by reshaping my chest. Mostly, it's to improve my self-esteem by fixing a part of myself I've been hiding for years. Even now, six months later, I sleep on the couch and endure pain, but it's all worth it.

In August, I started college! I'm not going to say I love college, but I certainly love choosing my own path, shaping my own routine, and recreating my identity (to an extent) in the new setting.

Sleeping At Last released their last EP in their awe-inspiring Yearbook project. 12 months of fantastic music came to an end with the song "Resolve." I don't think I've ever been so passionate about an artist's work. I even got full-size art prints of all 12 EP covers for Christmas! The end was certainly saddening, but not as much of a downer as my struggle to gain friends in college. For that month in college, I was largely a loner. Fortunately, that didn't last.

October was the start of the absolutely ridiculous streak of video game releases. Modern Warfare 3 surpassed Avatar's sell record, making it the quickest-selling item in entertainment history. My anticipation was killing me; I knew I'd have to wait for Christmas to try it all out.

Video game-craziness continued in November with the release of Skyrim and other superb games. Thanksgiving was particularly nice and was probably the first time since my surgery where I gained a significant amount of weight back (I lost 15% of my weight in the weeks following my surgery!)

The finishing month was filled with some of the best feelings. Finals week wasn't too bad, winter break was extra nice. I had a bittersweet Christmas with my mom's mom getting really sick that day and my dad's dad's breaking his hip two days before. That didn't stop me from being ecstatic about my 6 games and 17 (yes, 17!) CDs that I received as gifts. My last minutes of the year were spent with extended family and the song Midnight City (perfect!).

So there it is. 2011. The best year in video game history. In my life, the best year for music as well; my iTunes collection increased by over 1,500 songs to a total of 6,200! I also saw more movies this year than ever before, making my 2011 movie list somewhat more respectable than in previous years. Aside from all of that, I had some of the top experiences of my life: graduation, surgery, college, 17-day countdown...it's been spectacular.

What about outside of my personal life? Osama Bin Laden, Libya, Japan earthquake...I think this year has been a big one for the world. I'm certainly not going to make a list of the disasters and triumphs that shaped this year, but let's not diminish their significance. The world at the beginning of 2011 and the world at the end of 2011 are two very different places. Let's not forget the possibility that it was also the last full year before the end of the world ;)

So what's the point of these Best of 2011 lists? Well, I can't provide a good argument. This is just how my mind works. I like to order things, to critically analyze them, to relive powerful moments of passion, to deeply ponder what this year has been to me. I choose to recognize these things for what they are: my favorite. When someone asks what my favorite song/film/game of the year was, I want to be able to answer with certainty. I want to showoff that item as my number 1. By emphasizing the importance of these items, I hope to convince you to check them out. Would you care about a good song from the year? Maybe. Would you care about my very favorite song from the year? You better! So here we go, I've spent hours narrowing down the choices, ordering them from good to best...let's get to the top lists of 2011!

2011's Top Movies
2011's Top EPs
2011's Top Video Games
2011's Top Albums
2011's Top Songs