Monday, 20 December 2010

SAM LEWIS: 2010 - A Glass Half Full

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Sam Lewis takes a looks back over the year he opened his heart to cinema, bought a lot of albums, and throw his lot in with my sorry self. In traditionally unusual Alex-Spencer.co.uk fashion, he's done it in two halves. Check back tomorrow for the second installment.

2010 has been a strange year. As a LibCon government clashes with social groups, 80's fashion becomes the norm and a nostalgia for over-produced electro-synth music thrives, 2010 has been dubbed either “our 1968” or quipped as “the 80's called: they want their decade back”.

I disagree. All these constant references to the past irritate me. 2010 has had its own character, both culturally and politically. However, I'm still left feeling bewildered. On the one hand, 2010 has seen one of the most consistent streams of good music and film releases in years. Meanwhile, I'm troubled by my dawning realisation that this world is a far more complex mess than I could ever have comprehended. So, when reflecting on 2010, I'm torn. These are confusing times; only with the power of hindsight will 2010 have any kind of solid definition.

To illustrate my dilemma, I have chosen two tracks released this year that offer polar opposite perspectives. One is a knees-up celebration, the other a desperate cry for help. Between them they represent what I've loved and had to endure in 2010.

A Glass Half Full: Empire State of Mind – Jay Z feat. Alicia Keys

A highly-charged tune singing the praises of New York that has everyone on the dancefloor with their arms around each other belting out the chorus at the top of their lungs. If you haven't heard it, it's a bit like For He's a Jolly Good Fellow, with the 'fellow' being New York.

I can see why it's so popular. Alicia's soulful sucker-punch chorus is used like a secret weapon, delivering euphoria every time. Instrumentally it's a constant tease, hooking you in ready for that big chorus before taking it away again at the last moment. Jay Z's style gels nicely with this. He's the guy who knows that he has something you desperately want, yet smugly enjoys holding it back just to see you squirm. Not a bad thing; it's flirtatious, with those on the receiving end loving it. Overall, a real feel-good pop tune.

2010 has been a great year for music for me. I can't remember the last time that I looked back over the music I've accumulated over the year and found that most of it was released this year. In his celebration of the post-punk era, Simon Reynolds writes:

“As I recall it, I never bought any old records. Why would you? There were so many new records that you had to have that there was simply no earthly reason to investigate the past... There was too much happening right now.”

When I first read this, I didn't get it. The idea of only buying new releases was alien to my 16-year-old self. Now I understand Reynold's sentiment. 2010 has seen a huge range of new and exciting music released across a range of genres. I can't even scratch the surface here, but my personal favourites include Gil Scott-Heron's I'm New Here, Pantha Du Prince's Black Noise and Bonobo's Black Sands. I still have a huge list of stuff I haven't got round to getting. New releases from Liars, Kanye West, Dels, Big Boi, Konono, Aloe Blacc, The Jim Jones Revue... The list goes on and on and on.

(To illustrate this point further, all the other contributors to this here blog will have their own excellent recommendations for you to check out.)

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Not only has 2010 been exceptional for music, it has also seen a fantastic stream of film releases. I've been to the cinema more times this year than I can remember. There has hardly been a film that I wasn't prepared to ditch all other plans to go and see. The biggest blockbusters have been worthy of their praises; Inception proved that audiences aren't as dumb as Hollywood thinks they are, Toy Story 3 concluded a great trilogy and The Social Network managed to make a story of hateful characters bitching and moaning about rights to some computer programming compelling and entertaining.

My personal favourite film of the year is The Secret in Their Eyes. The best films for me are the ones where you leave the cinema exhausted from having had your attention, thoughts and emotions drained out of you. The previous films did this, but The Secret in Their Eyes did this and then some. I still drift into day dreams thinking about it; the themes of unrequited love, justice (both socially and politically), loneliness, betrayal. It's dark and the build up of suspense is great. It also contains one of my all time favourite chase scenes in which the protagonist and his companion frantically track down the suspected murderer through a rammed Argentinian football stadium. The scene is uncut for nearly ten minutes, but the tempo is so well balanced that you barely notice. As with all things, pace is the trick. Even if you can't be bothered for all the film-lover hyperbole, it's simply a great thriller. A definite personal highlight of 2010.

AboutAuthorTim
About the author:

Sam Lewis is a bundle of polite enthusiasm and
optimism, as articulate with words as he is
inarticulate with his hand gestures. He is a cog
in the July Days machine, but doesn't yet have a
blog to call his own. Sources suggest that might
just change, come the Year of Our Lord 2011.

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Videogames, film, music, comics: feed them into the Alex-Spencer machine and out come neat little articles. Like the ones you're looking at here.