Thursday, January 05, 2012

My Top 10 TV Programmes of 2011

Somewhat belatedly, here's a list of the ten programmes which most tickled my televisual fancy last year. To be included, programmes must have been broadcast in the UK within the calendar year (hence no Sherlock). Do let me know in the comments what I should have been watching...

#1 The Killing - the most gripping 30 hours of 2011

#2 Rev. - matches, if not surpasses, the genius of the first series

#3 Frozen Planet - can I pay my license fee again, please?

#4 Holy Flying Circus - brilliantly Pythonesque and laugh out loud funny

#5 Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die - the toughest of watches but a documentary of real import

#6 All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace - characteristically brain melting fare from the inimitable Mr Curtis

#7 Wonders of the Universe - Professor Cox does it again, this time on an intergalactic scale

#8 Our War - bold, moving, terrifying

#9 Pan Am - partially alleviating my Mad Men withdrawal symptoms

#10 Masterchef: The Professionals - format TV at it's very best

Related posts:
My Top 10 TV Programmes of 2010

Friday, December 16, 2011

Next-gen London underground display

Below is a mockup of my fantasy next-generation London underground on-platform display, which would not only show you exactly where incoming trains were on the line (and update their progress in real time), but also which carriages were more or less crowded (achieved by sensing passenger body heat or possibly carriage weight, to account for all those suitcases). That way, you could increase your chances of boarding and the platform announcers wouldn't have to keep telling new arrivals to move along the platform.

Go on TfL/CBS Outdoor - you've already got the screens...

Monday, December 12, 2011

How to get AirPlay working on BBC iPlayer iPhone & iPad apps

Struggling to get Apple AirPlay working on the BBC iPlayer iPhone and iPad apps? Here's how:

1. Ensure your iPhone / iPad is running iOS 5.0 or above

2. Ensure your Apple TV is 2nd generation and running v.4.2 or above

3. Open the BBC iPlayer application on your iPhone / iPad

4. Find the programme you want to watch and press play

5. Double press the iPhone / iPad Home button

6. A menu will appear along the bottom of the screen

7. Swipe the menu left to right (once on iPad, twice on iPhone)

8. Click on the AirPlay icon

9. Select Apple TV from the menu

10. Sit back and enjoy!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Best Tracks of 2010

Rounding off my best of the year lists for another 12 months, it's the ten most perfectly crafted pop confections of 2010. To be eligible, tracks must have been released as a single (whatever than means these days) in the last calendar year, so no hidden album gems. You can listen to all ten via this Spotify playlist.

Excuses - The Morning Benders

A serendipitous discovery via the Aweditorium iPad app, Excuses couples shimmering Californian harmonies with the unforgettable line "I taped my tongue to the southern tip of your body". The soundtrack to a perfect summer day.

Young Forever - Jay-Z feat. Mr Hudson

Ok, so Alphaville did most of the heavy lifting by penning the anthemic 1984 original, but Jay-Z's rapping adds some shade to the light of Mr Hudson's vocal and the whole thing just works.

Fuck You - Cee Lo Green

Admittedly not the most nuanced lyrical sentiment, but with a tune more catchy than swine flu, it doesn't much matter. Solving the Ferrari rhyming conundrum with the line "I guess he's an Xbox and I'm more Atari" also earns Mr Green bonus points.

Roll Away Your Stone - Mumford & Sons

I first heard this as part of their barnstorming 2010 Glastonbury set and its irrepressible energy hooked me on first listen. If you've not heard it, I challenge you to listen to all 4 minutes and not tap your foot.

Heaven Can Wait - Charlotte Gainsbourg

The production genius and trademark lyrical ellipticism of Beck, coupled with the captivating voice of Charlotte Gainsbourg and a gloriously surreal music video. What's not to like?

Pack Up - Eliza Doolittle

I'm not sure if I only love this because it reminds me of Jonathan Whitehead's brilliant theme to BBC Two Comedy Rev, but love it I do.

Runaway - Kanye West feat. Pusha T

Pared down piano and a disarmingly self-deprecating lyric, this is Kanye without the swagger and it really works (although the nine minute album version maybe slightly over-eggs the pudding).

I Like - The Divine Comedy

Neil Hannon cutting loose with a veritable meringue of a song which offers nothing more than three and a half minutes of well crafted pop frippery. I like.

Dancing On My Own - Robyn

Poignant disco. Not a phrase you hear everyday, but Robyn hits the mark with a classic not-getting-the-guy lyric and a cracking tune. Guaranteed to make you even more depressed if you are dancing tout seul.

Satellite - Lena

Showing us Brits how it should be done, this German Eurovision winner is a perfect example of disposable pop, with an irresistible hook performed by an untrained 19 year old with curiously endearing mockney pronunciation.

Related posts:
My Top Albums of 2010
Top 20 Best Tracks of 2008

Monday, January 03, 2011

My Top Albums of 2010

The end of year list-making continues. Next up: the new albums which most tickled my musical fancy over the past 12 months.

Let me know what I should have been listening to using the comments link below.

Come Around Sundown
Kings of Leon

Standout track: Mary
The Suburbs
Arcade Fire

Standout track: Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
High Violet
The National

Standout track: Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks
Tomorrow Morning

Standout track: This Is Where It Gets Good
Charlotte Gainsbourg

Standout track: Heaven Can Wait
Broken Bells
Broken Bells

Standout track: Vaporize
Bang Goes The Knighthood
The Divine Comedy

Standout track: I Like
Big Echo
The Morning Benders

Standout track: Excuses
End Times

Standout track: Paradise Blues
Vampire Weekend

Standout track: White Sky
Teen Dream
Beach House

Standout track: Zebra
Lonely Avenue
Ben Folds & Nick Hornby

Standout track: From Above
Eliza Doolittle
Eliza Doolittle

Standout track: Pack Up
Body Talk

Standout track: Dancing On My Own
The Black Keys

Standout track: Everlasting Light

Related posts:
My Top Albums of 2009
Best Albums of 2008
My Top 20 Albums of 2007
My Top 25 Albums of 2006
My Top 25 Albums of 2005

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Best iPad Games of 2010

It's amazing to think the iPad is only 9 months old, during which time it's really started to mature as a credible gaming platform. Admittedly many of its strongest games are ports from other platforms, although compelling iPad originals are starting to emerge.

Below are the top ten iPad games which most rocked my accelerometer in 2010. I've tried to only include games which really take advantage of the iPad's form factor (hence no Drop7, Plants vs. Zombies or Cut the Rope which play just as well on the iPhone imho).

Let me know which gems I'm currently missing out on.

#1 Angry Birds HD (£2.99)

Yes, it's available on the iPhone, but the additional space afforded by the iPad's larger screen makes it that much more enjoyable to play. If you haven't played it yet, be prepared to be addicted; Angry Birds is the iPad equivalent of crack. Its surreal battle between bird and pig has even inspired a live action YouTube tribute.

Like This? Try Plants vs. Zombies HD

#2 Monkey Island Tales 1 HD (£3.99)

Telltale Games' update to the classic LucasArts adventure game franchise really comes to life on the iPad, with sumptuous visuals, great voice acting, intuitive controls and the witty dialogue and fiendish puzzling you come to expect from the series.

Like This? Try Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge

#3 World of Goo (£5.99)

World of Goo was born to be played on the iPad. A beautifully crafted game, which enchanted on the PC and Mac and on the Wii, its even more intuitive and enjoyable to play when you can manipulate the balls of goo with your fingertips. Pure class.

Like This? Try Moonlights

#4 Dominion HD (£2.99)

Superior to EA's official iPad version of Risk (which itself is excellent), this world domination board game captures all the magic of the original, but ratchets up the pace and tension and throws in some small but welcome additional features, including an online multiplayer mode.

Like This? Try RISK: The Official Game for iPad

#5 Let’s Golf! 2 (£0.59)

A playful and addictive golf sim which employs the trusty three-click swing action rather than attempting to more closely mimic a real golf swing (which almost always ends badly). Works best as a social experience, whether pass and play or via one of the multiplayer options (Online, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are all supported).

Like This? Try Real Golf 2011 HD

#6 Ragdoll Blaster 2 HD (£2.99)

A similar game mechanic to Angry Birds, with a canon rather than a catapult and a ragdoll rather than assorted birds. What sets RB2 apart, however, is its endlessly inventive level design introducing an Incredible Machine style physics dimension to the gameplay with predictably addictive consequences.

Like This? Try Angry Birds HD

#7 Puzzle Agent HD (£0.59)

Another Telltale Games production, Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent (to give it it's full title) is a puzzle / adventure game hybrid with a distinctive visual style provided by cartoonist Graham Annable. Whilst the fidelity of the illustrations is quite variable, the overall effect is charming and the puzzles and narrative progression dovetail much more seamlessly than I expected.

Like This? Try Babylonion Twins HD Premium

#8 Broken Sword: Director's Cut HD (Free)

Another elegant port of a classic adventure game. Fourteen years on since it's original release and Charles Cecil's narrative stands up well, aided by gorgeous visuals, cinematic sound and an intuitive interface. Makes me wonder whether the iPad might stimulate a wider renaissance in the point and click (tap?) adventure game genre.

Like This? Try Sam & Max Episode 1: The Penal Zone for iPad

#9 Osmos for iPad (£2.99)

A simple but surprisingly difficult game in which you must propel a single-celled organism towards other, smaller motes in order to absorb them. Hit a bigger one and you get absorbed. It has a nice aesthetic / calming ambient soundtrack and would be very relaxing were it not so damn stressful...

Like This? Try Cut the Rope HD

#10 Mirror's Edge for iPad (£2.99)

A successful re-imagining of the first-person console title of the same name as a side-scroller, making smart use of the limited inputs of swiping and tapping to produce one of the most nerve-wracking games currently available for the iPad.

Like This? Try Canabalt

Prices correct at time of writing.