Top 10 Video Games of 2012!

Alright, I really really want you to listen to this years Bullshot! end of the year special. It can be found here. So in hopes to encourage you to listen I’m only going to post 2 or 3 sentences on why I liked these games. For more discussion listen to Bullshot! Thanks!

 

10. ZombiU – Wii U (Ubisoft)

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ZombiU feels more like a ride or an experience. Something you would pay many tokens to play at the arcade. It also shows that third parties might know what to do with Nintendo’s latest console.

9. Uncharted: Golden Abyss – PS Vita (SCEA/Sony Bend)

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By far and away the best game for the Vita. Uncharted is brilliantly written and acted and was one of the most satisfying adventures of the year.

8. Mass Effect 3 – Xbox 360/PS3/PC/Wii U (EA/BioWare)

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Mass Effect 3 is nowhere near as good as Mass Effect 2, but you have to respect BioWare for seeing this trilogy to its conclusion.

7. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – Xbox 360/PS3/PC (EA/38 Studios/Big Huge Games)

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A brilliant mash up of Fable and Skyrim. Its too bad the game was caught up in the 38 Studios controversy because people missed one of the best RPGs of 2012.

6. Borderlands 2 – Xbox 360/PS3/PC (2K Games/Gearbox Software)

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Borderlands 2 is Borderlands, but bigger. Play with friends or even strangers and the world will melt away. All you will care about is bullets and loot.

5. Assassin’s Creed III – Xbox 360/PS3/PC/Wii U (Ubisoft)

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Assassin’s Creed III makes up for some of Revelations shortcomings, but isn’t as good as Brotherhood. Still the game is beautiful and the conclusion to Desmond’s storyline is fantastic.

4. Spec Ops: The Line – Xbox 360/PS3/PC (2K Games/Yager)

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Spec Ops: The Line is a sub-par military shooter, but underneath its surface lies its dark heart and the best narrative in video games in 2012.

3. Kid Icarus: Uprising – 3DS (Nintendo/Project Sora)

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Incredible writing and voice acting makes up for bizarre controls. Easily the most underrated game of the year. It literally makes me angry that more people didn’t play it.

2. Halo 4 – Xbox 360 (Microsoft Studios/343 Industries)

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Halo grows up. Halo 4 is the first time I can whole heartedly recommend a Halo game since Halo 2. Manned by a new team who seem genuinely excited to be working on new Halo games Halo 4 is an absolute triumph of video game making. The music, the graphics, the gameplay, everything comes together to make one of the most fun to play games of 2012.

1. Journey – PS3 (SCEA/thatgamecompany)  

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Journey is the best game of the year. To say anything else would ruin this incredible experience. If you play video games this is a must play. Even if you don’t play video games, watch someone else play it. It’s something everyone should see.

The First Annual Jim Plachy Beer Awards!

In the year 2012 my love of a fine craft beer became a full fledged hobby. I spent much of my free time this year enjoying many beers, going to my first beer festival, and even venturing to more than a few breweries. I drank nearly 120 unique beers this year and I feel like naming some of my favorites. I’m just getting to know certain styles so you wont see everything represented here but in the styles I feel confident in I have created an award. There are 13 awards including Best Beer of the Year and 2 runners up for Beer of the Year. Let me know some of your favorites so I can give them a try.

 

Best Beer Thing That isn’t a Beer: Untappd 

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Straight up. This post wouldn’t exist without Untappd. What is Untappd? The simple answer is that its Foursquare for beer. You check in to a beer, earn badges, comment on your friends beers, etc. It documented all the beers I’ve had this year, the places I drank them, and even on a scale of 1-5 what I thought of them. Untappd help me discover new beers and even where to get them. The site recently launched a paid account program and I highly recommend it. If you’re drinking beer and you have a computer or smartphone near you, you should be on Untappd. We should also be friends. Look up Jimplachy.

 

Best Place to Drink Beer: Half Acre Beer Company Tap Room

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Half Acre’s amazing tap room only opened in November and I’ve only been there once, but I can say without a doubt that it is the best place I drank beer in, in 2012. Just look at it. The amazing attention to detail, especially in the wood certainly makes it one of the classier tap rooms around. Besides just being a nice place to be in the other fantastic part is that each beer comes in multiple sizes. This includes a 5oz pour for $2 essentially allowing you to make a flight out of any of the 10 beers on tap. Half Acre has been cranking out fantastic beers for over 5 years and now they have an amazing tap room to showcase those beers in.

Best Spring Beer: New Belgium Dig 

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As I wrote when I reviewed Dig its hard to remember sometimes that New Belgium makes anything other than Fat Tire. But they do and the results are usually pretty damn good. Dig is no exception. A perfectly balanced refreshing pale ale, Dig makes me long for the Spring. And finally not just because the weather is getting nicer.

Best Summer Beer: Half Acre Akari Shogun

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Half Acre’s Akari Shogun is listed as a wheat ale, but this is Half Acre we’re talking about so of course they hopped the hell out of it. Beers are routinely called “refreshingly bitter” but never like Akari Shogun. Its a great easy drinking beer, that went down quite nicely on the hot Summer day I drank it. It was on tap at the tap room when I went to go check it out and have regretted not having it again while I was there.

 

Best Fall Beer: Founders Harvest Ale

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I don’t have to tell you that wet-hopped ales are delicious. As a smart beer drinker you should know this. However, I was absolutely unprepared for how amazingly delicious Founders Harvest Ale was. Fruit forward and ridiculously pleasant on the tongue this beer had me seeking out more wet-hopped ales for weeks. None of them held a candle to this one.

 

Best Winter Beer(Holiday Beers Included): Revolution Fistmas Ale

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Revolution’s Fistmas Ale hits me right in my weak point. Ginger. I love things that taste like ginger. Fistmas combines one of the most delicious red ales I’ve tasted with tasty orange and a nice spicy shot of ginger. If there is any downside to this beer its that the ginger flavor fades in older bottles. Maybe Rev should think about bottling this stuff a little closer to Christmas next year. Fresh this stuff cannot be beat.

 

Best Fruit Beer: New Glarus Apple Ale

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Apple Ale by New Glarus tastes like a carbonated caramel apple. I don’t really know what else you need to know. Fresh apple juice with a hint of sweet caramel. It is absolutely fantastic and makes me long to try New Glarus’ other fruit beers.

 

Best New Hard Cider: Angry Orchard Crisp Apple

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Angry Orchard came out of nowhere and is taking the hard cider game by storm. Angry Orchard’s crisp apple is everything you want a hard cider to be. Sweet, crisp like fresh apples, and with just enough booze to let you know you’re drinking alcohol. There hasn’t been a hard cider this well balanced since Woodchuck Amber. And that is saying a lot.

 

Best Hard Cider: Woodchuck Pear

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How good is Woodchuck Pear Cider? I don’t even like pears and I could drink this stuff all day. This stuff was hard to find in the Chicago area for quite a while, but then Binny’s upped their cider selection and brought Woodchuck Pear into its stores. There is nothing more satisfying, tangy, and refreshing than Woodchuck Pear.

 

Best New Brewery: Solemn Oath 

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Solemn Oath are awesome guys and gals who took a chance on opening a brewery in the suburbs and they are absolutely nailing it. Tons of experimentation, an amazing tap room, really neat artwork, and integrating with the beer community are just a few of the reasons why Solemn Oath is the best new brewery of 2012. How much do I like Solemn Oath? I’m not even a huge fan of their beer. That’s right, I’ve had about 5 of their beers and none of them have really knocked my socks off. But I like them, the people. And I think they will continue to do amazing things for the local beer scene and that’s why they are the best new brewery of 2012.

 

Best Brewery: Revolution Brewing 

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I could have easily named Revolution the best new brewery in 2012 seeing as how they opened in March. But they aren’t the best new brewery, they are the best brewery of the year. In 9 months they opened a taproom and a restaurant, brewed up countless amazing beers, released 2 barrel aged beers to much excitement, and racked up a few medals and “best-of-shows”. Revolution absolutely killed in 2012 and I can’t even imagine what they have in store for 2013. Here’s to Rev pumping out some more of my favorite beers.

 

Best New Beer: Revolution Anti-Hero IPA

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My favorite beer style is the pale ale. So when I went to the Wheaton Ale Fest this past August I stuck to trying a bunch of IPAs I’ve never had before. They all tasted pretty much the same. And then I had this. Anti-Hero IPA. It was an oasis in a desert of boring same-old IPAs. Its sweet, fruity, bitter, with just enough malt to let you know its there but not overpowering. This is the beer that I want constantly in my fridge at all times. If its on tap somewhere I can’t help but order one. By far and away this was the best new beer of the year.

 

Best Beer of 2012(2nd Runner Up): Goose Island Juliet 

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Juliet was the first and quite frankly the best sour beer I’ve ever had. Bursting with a sour blackberry flavor Juliet left my mouth watering with every sip. It made me crave it. I tried to savor my bottle but I just couldn’t. It was too good. Juliet opened my mind to sour beers but so far they have all paled in comparison. Until we meet again Juliet.

 

Best Beer of 2012(1st Runner Up): Boulder Beer Co. Oak-Aged Apri-Cran Mojo IPA

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This beer is as rare as its name is long. How rare is it? The pic above is a picture I took of it with Untappd. Its also the first result when you google image search this beer. On tap at the Bavarian Lodge back in August I had never heard of its base beer(Mojo IPA)let alone this oak aged fruitified version. I didn’t even know there was an advantage to aging an IPA. In fact I thought it was frowned upon, since the hops would fade. This beer however was incredible. Absolutely no bitterness and the added fruit really brought out the flavors in the hops that remained. Somewhere between a fruit beer and……a cider? I couldn’t wrap my head around it but I enjoyed every sip. Hopefully one day we will be reunited.

 

Best Beer of 2012: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout

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Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about the almighty Bourbon County Stout so I’m not sure what I can add to the conversation. However I’ll do my best. Stouts are not beers I’m a big fan of, but what Goose Island does with Bourbon County can only be described as magical. The flavors of chocolate, coffee, and butterscotch compete with every taste bud on your tongue. Your brain gets confused, the burn of the alcohol starts to affect you and by the time you’re done you are a different person. Its hard to believe this is even a beer. It feels elevated, it feels so much bigger than the word beer. Bourbon County Stout is an experience I wish everyone could take. It is remarkable.

 

 

 

Top 10 Albums of 2012

10. MellowHype – Numbers (Odd Future Records)

A lot of albums rotated into and out of the number 10 spot on this list. Numbers kept popping up, and I wasn’t sure why as I hadn’t really listened to the full album more then once. So I started skipping around to the songs I liked and I realized that its Left Brain’s production that kept me coming back. See, I’m pretty sure Odd Future as a group has a shelf life like they wont be all together forever. Some will go on to greater success than others and they wont all be famous for rapping. After giving the highlight tracks a few more spins I realized that Left Brain could go on to be a legit in demand producer for mainstream hip-hop tracks. Numbers will be the touchstone, the album we go back to and say…”this….this is when we know Left Brain was going to be huge”.

Spotify Link: MellowHype – Numbers

 

9. Further Seems Forever – Penny Black (Rise Records)

There was a lot of reunions this year and a lot of Emo revival. Of course I’m talking about late 90s early 00s Emo music and not the hairstyle. A lot of great bands got back together but one of the most welcome reunions in 2012 was Further Seems Forever. In 2001 the band released their absolutely incredible debut album “The Moon is Down”. Unfortunately not long after its release singer Chris Carrabba would find fame with his solo project Dashboard Confessional. The band stuck together and recorded two more albums each with a different singer and each with varying levels of success. The band called it quits after the release of the 3rd album “Hide Nothing”. Over the last couple of years the band would pop up at festivals playing with Chris back in the role of lead singer. But they wouldn’t commit to being back together. Thankfully that changed in 2012. The band has released the proper follow-up to “The Moon is Down” and it is as dynamic and emotional as its predecessor. But it definitely doesn’t sound like it belongs in 2001, this is an emotional alternative rock album that honestly should be playing on modern rock radio. This thing is chock full of catchy singles and would please fans of Dashboard Confessional if only they knew it existed. Hopefully the lack of success on this record doesn’t dissuade the band into sticking it out and making more incredible music together.

Spotify Link: Further Seems Forever – Penny Black

 

8. Odd Future — The OF Tape Vol. 2 (Odd Future Records) 

The perfect introduction to Odd Future is this album. It features every member including Earl has some of their best songs and even features a multiple cover gimmick so fans would try to collect them all. The album spans all of the groups sounds from dark and sinister, to ridiculous hip-hop satire. There’s even the first half of Frank Ocean’s “White” the second half of which would appear on “Channel Orange”. I’m not sure this album would change any minds about Odd Future but it would definitely give you a glimpse into their world. For a fan like me it was everything I was hoping for and more. Proof that these guys still have plenty of tricks up their sleeves.

Spotify Link: Odd Future – The OF Tape Vol. 2

7. The Chariot — One Wing (Entertainment One Music)

The Chariot is a band that fades into and out of my musical consciousness every other album. But when I do remember to check them out they absolutely floor me. Their latest “One Wing” is an absolute showstopper. Taking twists and turns you wouldn’t expect. The albums 10 tracks dart and dive between full on hardcore barn burners to a song featuring a mariachi break down. I can’t make this up. If any part of you has any respect for heavy music then definitely give this album a shot. Its a short journey but you’ll be glad you took it.

Spotify Link: The Chariot – One Wing

6. The Casket Lottery — Real Fear (No Sleep Records)

The Casket Lottery toiled away for years as one of the most underrated bands in Emo. 10 years after the release of their last album “Survival is for Cowards” the band returns pretty much out of nowhere with “Real Fear”. The band hasn’t played any shows, or made many waves. I don’t think they even have a Twitter account. Yet they are so well respected that No Sleep agreed to release this album. The band still hasn’t played any shows outside of their hometown and show no signs of touring. In their heyday I was a HUGE Casket Lottery fan and was terrified that this wouldn’t be any good. I mean how could it be? I vaguely knew the band was even back together. Luckily, this album is incredible. Track after track I continued to be blown away by the musicianship, the lyrics, and how well it all fit together. Its like they didn’t even miss a step. You know what? Its better than that its like they are a whole new band. This might as well be their debut album. The only thing that betrays that notion is how incredible it is front to back. You know these guys are veterans after one listen. Here’s hoping they hit the road and continue to make incredible music.

Spotify Link: The Casket Lottery – Real Fear

5. Circa Survive — Violent Waves (Self-Released)

Circa Survive’s fourth album is arguably their best. There are no singles here but instead we get probably the most cohesive album of the year. Skipping around probably wouldn’t be wise. I compare this album to The Felix Culpa’s “Sever Your Roots” which is about as high of a compliment I can give an album. Violent Waves is meant to be listened to all the way through. An experience like this is rare these days, most bands struggle to write a few good songs. Circa Survive has crafted a brilliant album. I can’t wait to hear what they do next.

Spotify Link: Circa Survive – Violent Waves

4. Mixtapes — Even on the Worst Nights (No Sleep Records)

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While Pop-Punk isn’t dead it does evolve pretty quickly these days. “Even on the Worst Nights” the debut album from Mixtapes is solid proof of that. At their heart the band is pop-punk and they have some definite pop-punk gems on here, but it’s the deviations from the formula that make this album special. First there are the dual male/female vocals. They never feel forced and are always in the right place. The acoustic tracks are inserted into the album perfectly. Giving the album a chance to breathe. Then there are heavier “alt-rock” tracks. Still catchy, still heartfelt and will make you wonder why Mixtapes isn’t a huge band. I could see these guys sharing an arena stage with Green Day or Foo Fighters. There were so many incredible debut albums this year and Mixtapes is way way up there.

Spotify Link: Mixtapes – Even on the Worst Nights

#3 Cloud Nothings “Attack on Memory” (Carpark Records)

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Cloud Nothings latest album leads the Emo revival charge. Released in January “Attack on Memory” kicked the year off with a vengeance. I was convinced for a good chunk of the year that this would be my Album of the Year. The album opens with the droning and frantic “No Future/No Past” and continues to throw curve balls for the entire 30 minutes. The album is only 8 songs but there is enough variety and emotion here to eclipse almost every other album I heard this year. Cloud Nothings have made what is easily the most underrated album of the year and by a wide wide margin.

Spotify Link: Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory

#2 Code Orange Kids — Love is Love//Return to Dust (Deathwish, Inc) 

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You have exactly one second to prepare yourself for the onslaught that is “Love is Love//Return to Dust”. That’s all you get before the insanity begins. If you can make it to the end of the first track you are rewarded with a chance to breathe. 30 or so seconds of a single guitar lulls you into a false sense of security before the next track begins and promptly begins kicking your ass again. While at their core Code Orange Kids are a hardcore band that’s not all they do here on their debut album. The song “Colors (Into Nothing)” is like all the best parts of Underoath’s atmospheric tracks distilled down to 3 minutes. Code Orange Kids are blazing their own trail. Not by going in their own direction, but by burning to the ground everything that came before them.

Spotify Link: Code Orange Kids – Love Is Love // Return To Dust

#1 Frank Ocean — channel ORANGE (Def Jam) 

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This album is truly the album of the year. In a year where we re-elected a black president, several states legalized gay marriage and marijuana, no album was more 2012 than “channel ORANGE”. A complete destruction and rebuilding of R&B Frank Ocean manages to defy simple genres. There is nothing here that can be categorized. For over an hour Frank Ocean lays his life open for all to hear. Its like stumbling on a journal you know you shouldn’t be reading but you can’t put it down. The music almost doesn’t matter, but luckily the music is incredible. The dubstep tinged “Pyramids”, the heart-wrenching ballad “Bad Religon”, and the funky “Pink Matter” are just a few examples of how all over the place this album can seem when separated. But when combined the 17 tracks of “channel ORANGE” make for the greatest listening experience of the year. Frank Ocean is the breakout star of 2012 and he’s made a masterpiece of an album that will live on as a historic moment in music history for years to come.

Spotify Link: Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE