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ClassicsBest of 2009Staff Picks

Music

  1. Taking Back Sunday – Tell All Your Friends album cover

    Taking Back Sunday – Tell All Your Friends

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    Taking Back Sunday's debut album burst on the scene back in 2002. Blending punk, hardcore, pop, and emo into their own upbeat sound, each song on this album stands up to scrutiny. Sadly the band never produced anything this good again, but at least they made this one. It's packed with drums, guitars, and loud vocals delivered as if Adam Lazzara can't keep the words inside. Built around a falling-out with a friend, it's a yardstick for every 'scene' album that came after it. With its innovative dual-vocal/dual-guitar production it still sounds fresh today. If you like Brand New, The Used, or Senses Fail you should like this album too.

    (AMG: ★★★★☆BBC Music)

  2. Fall Out Boy – Infinity On High

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    Fall Out Boy have been recording since 2001, but 2007's Infinity On High is probably the best album of their career. It kicks off with chunky metal riffs and snappy drums, and sails through 14 tracks of awesome pop-punk. Anthemic choruses meld with sweetly-sung backup vocals and songs dance through the dynamic range. There's even a surprise neo-soul ballad nestling in the middle of the album. Nobody's ever going to accuse this album of being minimal; it's packed with overdubs, string sections, choral passages (!) and distorted guitars. It has pomp and thump to spare, and is well worth a listen if you like your music loud & expansive.

    (Stylus: A- ★ Absolutepunk: 87% ★ IGN: 83%)

  3. My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade

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    My Chemical Romance are famed for being loud, and this album is no exception. What is exceptional, though, is the quality of the music. MCR's third album is a concept album about death and dying, but it's not stuck in the doldrums. Guitars chunk satisfyingly before kicking in to overdriven riffs, sweet vocals are paired with backing growls, and drums are fast and hard without overpowering everything. A mix of alternative rock and rock opera, it's got elements of Queen and Alice Cooper and Green Day in it – but it's an album that does its own thing, not recycling other bands' music.

    The Black Parade has gone platinum in New Zealand, the US, and UK. Telling the story of a character called 'The Patient', it explores the memories of his life and his passing into death. The album's title comes from the idea that Death comes for The Patient in the form of a parade. It truly is a remarkable achievement.

    (NME: 90% ★ Entertainment Weekly: A- ★ Rolling Stone: ★★★★☆)

  4. Brand New – Deja Entendu

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    Written over two years of touring, Brand New's second album charts a path through breakups, life fatigue, death in the family, and more. It manages to do all this with a driving, pop-punk sound. There's also a Counting Crows-esque ballad and a new-wave sound – Brand New are definitely not one-trick ponies. This album exceeds the mark set by their first album, showing the band's lofty musical ambitions. It's also packed full of references to the band's favourite movies and bands (but we're not going to spoil the fun of finding them for yourself). Definitely check it out if you like Taking Back Sunday, Manchester Orchestra, or Straylight Run.

    (IGN: 97% ★ Drowned in Sound: 80%)

  5. Dashboard Confessional – A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar

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    Dashboard Confessional evolved into a full band from a side-project from Chris Carrabba. This, their third album, really shows Carrabba hitting his musical stride. Any patchiness in the songwriting is gone, replaced with 10 tracks of heartfelt acoustic guitar-driven rock. Some Emo albums are walls of noise, but here the melody, lyrics, and emotion sit equally together, raising it up above the rest. The album whips along through stories of breakups, romantic enthusiasm, and self-destructive urges you can see coming but can't avoid.

    (AMG: ★★★★☆ ★ Rolling Stone: ★★★★☆)

  1. Alexisonfire – Old Crows / Young Cardinals

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    One thing I've said about some of the other 4 albums is how smooth they sound; very melodic, very in control. Alexisonfire's latest album is not like that at all. It is loud, screamed, and rocked. There are drums, guitars, and bellowed lyrics. I can only imagine the amount of Strepsils the band went through making this album.

    It's very loud, but it's also very good. Alexisonfire's fourth album, it was released in June 2009 to tremendous critical acclaim – it's got the best scores and most consistently good reviews of any of the albums here. The songs are short, punchy, and surprisingly switched-up – Burial, for instance, is a slower, mellower slice of balladry that really shows off the band's range. If you like your music loud, sweaty, and brash – this is the album of 2009 for you.

    (Bombshell: 10/10 ★ Ultimate Guitar: 9.3/10 ★ Audio Addict: ★★★★★)

  2. Brand New – Daisy

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    Brand New are a band that like to keep to themselves, shying away from media attention and embarking on minimal tours. The work that's gone into this album is apparent – each track is unique. The opening track starts with a hymn before unexpectedly jumping into noise rock; Be Gone is a Blues stomp with a processed vocal line reminiscent of Led Zeppellin's Hats Off To (Roy) Harper; Bought a Bride stomps along like Modest Mouse's noisier moments. It's a noisy record – singer Jesse Lacey isn't afraid to shout and Vincent Accardi isn't afraid to turn his guitars up, but the album's not just a wall of fuzz. There's depth in its darkness and hard-to-hear lyrics. Some will find it a challenging record, but perservering pays off. Brand New like exploring the weird and arcane, but never forget that experimentation shouldn't be inaccessible. All of the tracks on this 40 minute album rock out.

    (NME: 9/10 ★ Rocksound: 9/10)

  3. All Time Low – Nothing Personal

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    All Time Low kicked their third album out the door in July 2009 to favourable reviews and mixed reactions from their fans. Its slightly electronic pop-punk sound was a departure from their previous album, but it's the sound of a band finding their groove. All the songs drive along with energy and joy and throbbing guitars; the lyrics are well-written and deeper than their previous albums, telling stories of betrayal, romance, and parties. Much like When The World Comes Down (see below) it's not as sharp or overwrought as some albums; it never feels angry or sulky. It's 40 minutes of upbeat, danceable fun.

    (Kerrang!: ★★★★☆ ★ Rocksound: ★★★★☆)

  4. All American Rejects – When The World Comes Down

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    Released just in time for Christmas 2008, All-American Rejects' third studio album took over a year to make due to touring demands and the band's perfectionism. The band really hit their stride with this one – recording with a 15 piece orchestra has given them an expansive sound. The album's packed with well-turned alternative rock that never feels overpowering or forced; it's not an album that sounds huge just for the sake of it. The songs are nicely-paced, too – they never feel excessively shouty or sharp. Indeed, it's more melodic than much of what gets released these days.

    (Alternative Press: ★★★★☆ ★ Melodic.net: ★★★★☆)

  5. Fall Out Boy – Folie à Deux

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    Fall Out Boy's fifth album has been out for a year now, and has gathered critical acclaim and sales awards. It sounds like a Fall Out Boy album should – enthusiastically sung, driven by drums & guitars with orchestral overdubs, and written with the tongue a little in cheek. It's an enjoyable, uplifting record, full of bright and breezy tracks about comparing yourself to others, self-absorption, and the joy & heartache of relationships. Even when it's dealing with painful topics it's upbeat and full of life – the kind of record that carries you along with its enthusiasm for, well, everything. It reminded me in places of Maroon 5 and Elvis Costello (a good thing), and is eminently listenable. Recommended.

    (Rock Sound: ★★★★☆ ★ NME: ★★★★☆ ★ The Observer: ★★★★☆)

  1. Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs

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    Death Cab For Cutie should be a staple band in your listening habits. My favourite album is Narrow Stairs, the band's most recent. It's upbeat and powerful and honest. There's tales of doomed relationships, personal inadequacy, and unrequited love. The unrequited love is a bit creepy, actually; what sounds like a driving, upbeat song is actually about stalking someone who's not interested. A lot of the songs have this dual nature to them; the slightly poppy, alt-rock surface belies the deeper meaning. Your New Twin Sized Bed, for instance, swings along with a laid-back amble, while underneath is a letter to a friend who has resigned themselves to being alone forever and may be suicidal.

    Musically, the band's range is on show here. Tracks like I Will Possess Your Heart & Pity and Fear drive along, with thumping drums and overdriven guitars. No Sunlight and Long Division are less intense, sounding more confident and happy. You Can Do Better Than Me and The Ice Was Getting Thinner are quieter, full of soul, and real pleas to the heart. Some tracks merge it all together, such as the album's opening Bixby Canyon Bridge, which starts delicately before kicking off into a rocking, impassioned plea.

    If you enjoy this album you should also check out Plans and Transatlanticism, but Narrow Stairs is definitely the place to start.

    (The Guardian: ★★★★☆ ★ Rolling Stone: ★★★★☆)

  2. Amanda Palmer – Who Killed Amanda Palmer?

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    Amanda Palmer is one half of The Dresden Dolls, a band approximately described as 'punk cabaret'. Think theatricality, songs about weirdos & sex, and a dark strand of humour. Who Killed Amanda Palmer? is Amanda's first solo album, but its Dolls heritage is clear. It's toned down the theatricality a notch, and fleshed out the melodies instead. The songs talk about mental illness, war, and domestic abuse. There's also a jaunty little number about abortion.

    Amanda Palmer's fans love her for her unique, slightly broken way of looking at the world. That's one of the many charms of this album; not just in the lyrics and the stories told, but also in the way the songs are put together. Not many people would have written a kind of doo-wop song with a positive attitude on teenage abortions, or been bold enough to vary between whispers and shouts. It sounds like it should be a hodgepodge mess, but it all fits together beautifully.

    (Absolutepunk: 89% ★ musicOMH: 4.5/5 ★ The Guardian: ★★★★☆)

  3. Maxïmo Park – A Certain Trigger

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    Maxïmo Park have made the alternative pop-punk genre their own. A Certain Trigger is the best introduction to the group – Quicken The Heart takes a while to grow on you and Our Earthly Pleasures is more polished. This one has a pleasing roughness to it; a slight flaw that makes it easier to relate to.

    Maxïmo Park's stock-in trade is songs about heartbreak and crumbling relationships, and there's plenty here. Songs about late nights, guilty sex, infidelity, and bad choices whip along, full of energy and electric guitars. There's this wonderful temporary feeling to all the songs – they're not wallowing in misery. Instead, it's like a slice of life or a self-aware portrait. Fundamentally, though, this is 40 minutes of awesome music with drums, guitars, and singalong choruses.

    (BBC Collective: 4.5/5 ★ Pitchfork: 8.4/10)

  4. Jeff Buckley – Grace

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    An iconic figure in the rock canon, Jeff Buckley's got it all: an early tragic death, musical wisdom beyond his years, and a single album of staggering beauty. It may take a while to get under your skin, but it will. Buckley dances between soft, fingerpicked electric guitars and hard strums with drums. His voice soars above it all, absolutely dripping with feeling and emotion. There is a gorgeous mix of songs here; from the delicate & angelic Corpus Christi Carol to the shout-at-the-Gods rock of Eternal Life. Buckley's cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujiah is also a highlight, and better than the original.

    If you buy this on CD, be sure to grab the MP3 of Mama, You Been On My Mind from the special edition; it's extraordinary.

Movies

  1. The Virgin Suicides

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    Based on Jeffrey Eugenides' novel of the same name, The Virgin Suicides tells the tale of five beautiful teenage sisters and a group of teenage boys fascinated by them. The girls' religious parents are overprotective of their daughters, which chafes against their blooming womanhood. But when the 13-year-old Cecilia kills herself everyone's world changes.

    With a stirring soundtrack by French band Air and Sophia Coppola's langorous visual style, this film captures the awkwardness of being a teenager perfectly. The boys are awkward yet bold, the girls are elegant yet insecure. Mysterious, poignant, and occasionally humourous. The Virgin Suicides is the first full-length film directed by Sofia Coppola, who went on to make the ethereal Lost In Translation.

    (Watch trailer)

  2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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    Eternal Sunshine's central premise is a simple question: If you could erase a painful relationship from your memory, would you? The film starts with Joel and Clementine meeting on a train to Montauk and falling into a relationship, but it soon emerges that they were lovers for two years. Neither can remember their time together thanks to Lacuna Industries memory-wiping technology. Both Joel and Clementine chose to erase their memories of the other after their breakup, but did they make the right choice? Can they change their minds? And is Lacuna Industries as reputable as they seem?

    This film is a surreal, entertaining exploration of relationships along with the pain – and joy – that goes with them. Jim Carrey plays his role with sensitivity and insight, without any of the screwball gurning you might associate with him. Kate Winslet plays an endearing Manic Pixie Dream Girl, both exasperated and fascinated with her boyfriend's flaws and foibles. At its centre this is a tragic romance story told in the most unusual style, but the wider plot about Lacuna Industries' memory-wiping technology is tense and gripping.

    (Watch trailer ★ Rotten Tomatoes: 93%)

  3. American Beauty

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    Lester Burnham is a middle-class, suburban office worker who hates his life. He lives with his wife (an overwrought real estate agent) and his 16-year-old daughter, who hates her parents and her appearance. Lester decides to change his life and stop living for other people. He starts smoking pot, working out in an attempt to impress his daughter's sexually precocious friend, and buys his dream car. Everyone else in his life is puzzled and resistant, and his life seems to both improve and crumble.

    This is one of my favourite movies. It's touching, funny, life-affirming, and melancholy all at the same time. It's got love, desire, conflict, and social commentary. On the surface it seems like it's all about suburban mundanity, yet every character has their own agenda, romantic interests, and secret worlds. Nobody quite has it as together as they'd like the world to think – and each deals with it in their own way. It's a smart film that never talks down or patronises, and successfully draws you in to its own world.

    (Watch trailer ★ Rotten Tomatoes: 89%)

  4. High Fidelity

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    Based on the stunning novel by Nick Hornby, High Fidelity tells the story of Rob – an aimless thirtysomething whose life revolves around music. After a painful breakup he decides to track down his ex-girlfriends and find out why they split, and try to figure out what he's doing with his life.

    John Cusack is witty and sharp, and the writing is keenly-observed and funny. Anyone who loves music – or has ever had their heart broken – will find a strong resonance here.

    (Watch trailer ★ Rotten Tomatoes: 92% ★ Roger Ebert: ★★★★☆)

  5. Harold and Maude

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    Harold is a socially isolated young man, the son of rich parents in San Fransisco. Smothered by his mother, he develops a predeliction for faking his suicide around the house. After his mother sends him to see a psychiatrist after a particularly bloody scene, Harold decides to start attending funerals. While there he meets Maude, a 79 year old woman high on life. Maude likes to steal borrow cars, model nude for a friend's ice sculpting, smoke, and generally enjoy life. Harold's mother signs him up to a computer dating service and force him to live as an adult, but Harold gradually becomes more and more infatuated with Maude...

    Made in 1971, Harold and Maude has gradually grown a quiet but impressive reputation. Ignored when first released, it's now included on the American Film Institute's lists of 100 funniest and 100 most romantic movies of all time, as well as being selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. It doesn't feel dated at all – it's got this wonderful awkwardness about it, as well as a certain British feel. Funny, endearing, and poignant, Harold and Maude is a surprisingly affecting and entertaining story that unfolds naturally and engagingly.

    (Watch trailer)

Books

  1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

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    This is the first book in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga. A veritable sensation, you'll either love or loathe this adventure-romance novel. It was made into a box-office hit movie last year, sold more than 28 million copies worldwide, and won countless awards. It tells the story of Bella, a young lady who moves to live with her father in Forks, Washington. She's quickly befriended by many in her new school, but one boy – Edward – is distant, aloof, and contemptuous. Bella is fascinated by him, all the more so when he saves her life in a seemingly physics-defying manner. She begs him to reveal how, and finds her suspicions are confirmed: Edward's a vampire, seduced both by her beauty and her blood.

    Containing adventure, mystery, romance, and a splendid blend of fantasy and reality, Twilight's been the yardstick for this genre that no others have yet measured up to. If you haven't read it yet you must – you'll either fall in love with Edward and his sparkling skin, or find out for sure that you prefer your vampire stories the old-fashioned way.

    (The Telegraph)

  2. The Bell Jar by Silvia Plath

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    Silvia Plath's only novel The Bell Jar is rightly considered a classic. Long suspected to be semi-autobiographical, it tells the story of a young woman who gets an internship at a New York City magazine. Indifferent to the glamour and hedonism around her, she struggles through her internship and other parts of her life as she sinks deeper into a depression. Baffled by life and the possibilities supposedly open to her she struggles to find something to cling on to, describing herself as being trapped under a bell jar and struggling for breath.

    Despite this bleak description there's beauty and insight in both the story and the text. Plath's skill as a poet shows through her nuanced use of language, resulting in a highly readable book. There's comedy and amusement too, as despite her depression Esther is a quirky, intelligent character to relate to.

  3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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    Charlie's a shy, introverted Freshman with intelligence beyond his years, somewhere around the middle of the social pecking order. Through a series of letters to an unidentified recipient we learn about his life, and the struggles within it – crushes, exploring sexuality, drugs, family tensions, and more. As the story progresses we see Charlie bloom as a person, but it's certainly not an easy trip.

    Perks is Stephen Chbosky's first novel, though you wouldn't know it from his smooth, assured style. He captures the mood of an awkward but intelligent teenager perfectly. Charlie is a genuinely nice person, a welcome break from so many cynical or vicious characters. Chbosky references numerous books, films, and songs during the story, making it a great jumping-off point to explore other works. Perks is currently sixth on the American Library Association's list of most challenged books due to its smart, non-preachy way of approaching topics like homosexuality, drugs, and sex – a good reason to read it.

  4. The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis

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    Bret Easton Ellis is one of those writers who produces book after book of critically-acclaimed literature. The Rules of Attraction is his second novel, sandwiched between Less Than Zero and American Psycho. Transformed into a film in 2002, it tells the story of a group of promiscuous, privileged arts students. Written from three main points of view, the story focuses on the love triangle between the three main characters as well as their drug habits and debauchery. It deals with the death of romance, reality avoidance through music, and the hollow nature of incessant partying. Despite these cynical qualities it's funny too, and written with razor-sharp wit.

  5. Coloring Outside the Lines by Aimee Cooper

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    Aimee Cooper's memoir captures the mood and culture of the punk scene in the 80s perfectly. After seeing Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers pretty much by accident, she became more enamoured with punk and wound up writing for Slash magazine. In her journey from wide-eyed initiate to grizzled gig veteran she encounters riots, skaters, Mexican gunslingers, and countless bands – some legendary, some forgotten.

    This book is easy-to-read, engrossing, and entertaining. It's brief, but this is more to do with the straightforward writing and brilliant storytelling than with a lack of pages. Punk fans and those interested in the 80s scene will get the most out of this, but anyone who enjoys rock and roll vicariously will be entertained.

Graphic Novels

  1. Jhonen Vasquez – Johnny The Homicidal Maniac

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    Before going on to make the wonderful Invader Zim, Jhonen Vasquez created Johnny The Homicidal Maniac. Originally published over 7 issues and collected here as a book, it's a violent but darkly comic story revolving around Johnny's life. The story unfolds through small scenes from Johnny's life, blurring subjective and objective reality as well as never fully explaining why Johnny is the way he is. There are many diversions into side-stories and comics-within-comics that add pep. Not recommended for younger readers, there's a lot of humour and enjoyment to be found in Vasquez's weird worlds.

  2. Neil Gaiman – The Sandman

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    Neil Gaiman is one of the most revered and prolific scifi/fantasy authors today. Sandman, an epic tale spanning 75 books, is one of his best known works. Each of the 10 stories (plus several spin-offs) tells the story of Morpheus – Dream personified. Gaiman described the series' plot as "The Lord of Dreams learns that one must change or die, and makes his decision." The earlier works are darker, while the later tales are closer to fantasy. It melds the real world with those of 'higher planes' (the realm of dream, for instance) in a way that's believeable and engaging. Morpheus is a vulnerable, confused, vicious loner who is also powerful, knowledgeable, and kind. Surprisingly sensitive for an immortal being, he has a close relationship with his older sister Death and a more precarious bond with other Endless such as Desire. The Fates make regular appearances, as do other characters from mythology and legend.

    The key thing about Sandman is this: it's good. Really good. It may take a while to get to you, but it will – I found the first story hit and miss, but the second was extraordinary, as were the short stories that immediately followed it. The characters are complex, the stories full of suspense and drama, the writing literate. It's resolutely aimed at adults and stands firmly as a graphic novel, instead of that title being a soubriquet for 'comic'.

  3. Rob Reger – Emily The Strange

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    Emily The Strange is a character created by Rob Reger. An ascerbic 13 year old girl with a habit of tinkering with electronics and accompanied by a squadron of cats, Emily has a fascination with the dark and macabre. The hardcover books are somewhere between a coffee table book and a grown-up picture book, with the artwork being the key attraction, whereas the comics are more story-driven and a little bit more loose in the art.

    It's definitely worth using the 'See Inside' feature when selecting an Emily book/comic as a gift – some are quite simplistic (making them unsuitable for big fans of graphic novels) and some are a little violent in places (possibly making them unsuitable for younger readers). They can also veer off into 'goth' instead of 'emo' – you do not want to get them mixed up by accident.

  4. Laurell K. Hamilton – Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures

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    Anita Blake lives in an America where vampires not only exist, but are legally recognised: the only country on earth to accord them rights. The thing is, when a vampire commits a crime, you've to punish them immediately. Prison doesn't really work for someone killed by sunlight and able to turn into a bat. That's where Anita comes in: she's an 'animator' by day – someone who raises the dead for a living – and by night a court-appointed vampire executioner.

    These graphic novels tell the first story from Laurell K. Hamilton's immensely popular series Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter. They're very much modern mainstream vampire fare: vampires with long hair and ripped bodies, femme fetales, ass-kicking heroines, and so forth. The men are all handsome and the women all beautiful. But despite the way it should be empty cliché, it isn't: it's not got the depth of Sandman, but the tension is greater, the story's compelling, and the artwork's impressive. I particularly liked the interplay between Anita and the vampires – both are scared of and confused by the other, and both spend their time trying to seem more confident and powerful than they are. If you take your graphic novels seriously or don't like vampires then this isn't for you, but if you're looking for an easy read or a vampiric introduction to graphic novels. You'll need both volumes unless you want only half the story – they don't stand independently as self-contained stories, unlike the other novels presented here.

Gadgets

  1. Logitech Squeezebox

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    This wonderful music player works with your home's wifi network to play hundreds of online radio stations and your iTunes library. It sounds good, has a great interface, and is plenty loud too. Best of all, it's small enough – about the size of a loaf of bread – to live just about anywhere. You can plug in your iPod via a line in cable. If you're a Last.fm user you can use this to play your Last.fm stations, as well as scrobble to your profile, and you can even share music with your friends on Facebook.

  2. 1TB External Hard Drive

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    This 1 terabyte hard disk is a perfect way to store your music, movies, photos, and other documents. A terabyte is a cavernous amount of space - enough for over 1,000 movies, 300,000 songs, or 10,000,000 photos. It connects to your Mac or PC via USB 2.0 (the fastest currently available) and really is plug-in-and-go.

  3. Samsung 10 Megapixel Digital Camera

    BuyBuy BatteriesBuy Memory Card

    This is a neat little camera that won't break the bank. Its 10 megapixel sensor and large LCD screen help you make great pictures, along with features like automatic skin touch-ups and face detection. With a maximum ISO of 1600 it's great for low-light situations like gigs and parties, and has built-in image stabilisation to reduce camera shake. It's also got a timer mode for better self-portraits, along with many in-camera special effects.

    The Samsung ES15 takes two AA batteries – I recommend these Eneloop batteries (also available with a charger) as they're great for high-drain devices like digital cameras, and won't lose their charge over time (unlike normal rechargeable batteries). You'll also need an SD memory card for storage.

  4. Musician's Earplugs

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    If you love live music you need a pair of these earplugs. They're fantastic. The Elacin ER-20s are designed to reduce sound levels in a natural way, so music is clear and you can hear people talk. I go to a lot of gigs and I like to stand at the front; these earplugs mean sound levels are never painful and I get no ringing in my ears afterwards. They're also good for you long-term; music's more fun when you're not going deaf.

  5. Sennheiser Closed-back Headphones

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    If you've only ever listened to music through in-ear or earbud headphones, these will come as a revelation. Sennheiser have been making headphones for over 60 years, and their reputation is deservedly out of this world. It's honestly not an exaggeration to say that you will hear instruments in your favourite tracks that you never noticed before, not to mention new levels of bass. In-ear headphones simply can't reproduce the satisfying 'thump' that a larger headphone can.

    The HD 228 pictured here is optimised for use with iPods, MP3 players, and laptops but will sound great no matter what the source. They're light and compact enough to be used on-the-go, and each earpiece is adjustable and has extra-soft earpads so you can wear them for long periods. They're closed-back headphones, which means that the back of each earpiece is sealed so the noise of the world is significantly reduced – and people around you don't have to put up with your musical taste as well...