A few things I liked in 2019

This isn’t a review of the year or a top-ten list of favourites, nothing like that, just some of the things I enjoyed in four basic categories: music, TV, cinema, and video games. The only criteria for consideration – these things were first released in 2019.

If you’re wondering why there are no books in this list of things I liked in 2019, the only books I enjoyed reading in 2019 were first published earlier than last year, and the only books I read that were published last year weren’t good enough to be included in this article. Of course, the book I published last year (Old Scars) is excluded because I’d be a bit of a dick saying I enjoyed reading a book I’d written, although I did enjoy reading it.

TV
The Boys. I don’t watch much on TV, but this series was recommended for all the right reasons and it didn’t disappoint. It still didn’t topple Banshee off the top spot as my favourite TV show of all time but it was consistently entertaining and that’s always good enough for me.

Cinema
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. The number of times I went to the cinema in 2019 is probably a single figure, and I still managed to walk out feeling let down most of those times. John Wick 3 was one of the few films I saw in the cinema last year that I thoroughly enjoyed. They know what their audience wants, and that’s what they give us. The Halle Berry scenes with the dogs were possibly the best bits, although every set-piece fight scene was either outstanding or at least top quality.

Music
Hands Off Gretel – I Want The World. I found this band fairly late, and I’m guessing there are loads of bands I’d probably like that I’m either never going to find or won’t discover until late in their career. I’m not being uncharitable when I say I like Hands Off Gretel because they sound like a lot of other bands I like. There’s only so much you can do with a four-piece punky grunge band, within the very loose parameters of actually being a four-piece punky grunge band, and if you do it really well, which they do, it’s not going to sound drastically different from what anyone would expect. This is a great album; it spent ages being the only thing I listened to in the car and at the gym.

Video games
Islanders (PC/Steam). Considering how cheap this is, it’s pretty much the definition of value for money. The official description on Steam says it’s “a minimalist strategy game about building cities on colourful islands”, but it’s definitely not a city-building game, at least it’s nothing like what you’d expect if you went in thinking it was going to be like Sim City or Cities:Skylines. It’s actually a high-score chasing puzzle game where you score points for strategically placing buildings and resources on a series of procedurally generated islands. There’s no pressure, no time limit, just an addictive cycle of building, unlocking new islands, and getting a better score. It looks lovely, in a minimalist style, and it absolutely nails the one-more-go gameplay without ever becoming frustrating or tedious. Classic stuff.

Here’s a bonus video for you…