The DigitalGyoza Awards – 2019 in Review.

The end of 2019 not only ushers in a new year, but a whole new decade. 2020 still sounds like the realms of science fiction and far flung future, but yet here we are in the flesh, and the world looks set to be as bewildering, maddening and eventful as it’s ever been. But what about 2019? How to summarise it? Do I have any fond memories or exciting moments of the last year? What were my absolute favourites that I experienced? Whether it be novel, film, music, what raised the hairs on my neck or hit me right in the feels?

Here are my personal top 3’s of 2019.

Favourite Books Read in 2019:

  • Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
  • Bird Box by Josh Malerman
  • How To Be Right (In a World Gone Wrong) by James O’Brien

I’ve written about all of these delightful reads on previous posts, and for me they are the stand out books that I enjoyed last year. Whether its the wonderful innocence of Murata’s lead as she deals with frustrated family, friends and unwanted love interests whilst pursuing contentment at her job in the convenience store, to the gripping, dread inducing world that Malerman expertly crafts and weaves through the story of Bird Box, or the welcome (and often amusing) injection of common sense & reasoning that O’Brien tries to present to his radio show callers in a time where it seems we voted to leave any such thinking behind with the rest of Europe…

Favourite Films of 2019:

  • Ad Astra Dir. James Gray
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Dir. Quentin Tarantino
  • Avengers Endgame Dir. Antony & Joe Russo

Ad Astra crept up on me, I’ll be honest. I went into it without much prior knowledge but by the end I was a total fan. The trappings and similarities to Interstellar are there, but without the left-field insanity of Nolan’s ending. Its a gradual build, but the atmosphere and space cinematics are fantastic, Pitt’s performance as the stoic military lead chosen for earth’s last hope whilst battling with his own emotions is brilliantly convincing, and you soon find yourself drawn in, along for the ride.

Switch to Tarantino’s ninth feature for an equally great performance as Cliff Booth, a burly stunt double to Rick Dalton, Dicaprio’s cracking portrayal as a dwindling Western actor desperate to break out into the big leagues of Hollywood at its golden heights of the late 60s. The dynamics of the 2 characters and their brotherly bond as they struggle to make it into the glitz and glamour of LA wonderfully sets the scene, as does the contrast of their daily lives (Dalton living it up in the hills, whilst Booth sleeps in a trailer with his dog.) but the movie takes a darker turn with the Manson Family and the cult’s murderous intentions on the acting elite.

I love the Marvel franchise, and Endgame is the crossover of all crossovers. The culmination of 11 years of comic book cinema, the MCU’s crescendo pits the heroes against Josh Brolin’s menacing galactic villain Thanos, weaving all of the famous characters together in a highly enjoyable and action-packed conclusion to the 2-part epic. As always the effects are top-tier, and the over-the-top fight sequences feel like they’re plucked straight from the graphic novels.

Favourite Albums of 2019:

  • Fear Inoculum by Tool
  • Sundowning by Sleep Token
  • Sleep Therapy: An Acoustic Performance by Ghost Atlas

Thirteen years. It’s been thirteen years since Tool’s last release, and as such Fear Inoculum couldn’t have had more hype behind it. The hype is unequivocally real. It’s a masterpiece. From the titular song, through to Pneuma, Invincible and 7empest, listening to this new album is a delight. With many of the absorbing tracks in excess of 10 minutes, the incredible talents of Keenan, Carey, Jones and Chancellor shine throughout. Whether you are a fan of the rock genre or not, this deserves a listen. One to lose yourself in.

Sleep Token create the kind of music that bewitches. Djent, Postrock, Metal, Pop? It’s hard to pigeonhole. Sundowning is a wicked blend of dark ethereal electronica, harmonic vocals, heavy, crushing guitars and masterful percussion. It’s mystical nature almost embodied by their frontman, known only as “Vessel”, the album oozes style and emotion. From the soft, delicate opening of Levitate to the sheer anger of Gods, his vocal range is expertly displayed, often swaying between haunting melody and passionate screams. An incredible debut album, I can’t wait to hear more from them.

Sleep Therapy.. has become my album to write to. It’s the kind of album you can close off any outside interference to, unwind and find your head-space. The acoustic guitar works wonders across the board, and Jessie Cash’s voice feels like he bears his soul on every song. Standout tracks for me would be Hideaway, Lost Year and Sacred Organs, but the whole release is eagerly worth a listen. Even if you don’t have a book to finish.

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