It’s that time again when I examine what media I’ve consumed over the past twelve months and pick my favourites. Defining the best of anything is an entirely subjective act that nevertheless, I try to do every year. I’ve moved away from trying to pick the ‘best’ of anything as they are all different experiences, so instead, I have chosen a few in each category I like.
Let’s dive in.
Double Negative- Low
See, this is where the list is entirely subjective and changes from day to day. Is this album the most fun? Does it have the catchiest songs? Absolutely not. But it’s such a unique album whose sound perfectly sums up the chaos of the political situation of this year. After twenty-five years as a band, Low take a sharp left turn and bury their beautiful harmonies under layers of distortion and fuzz. At times it is like being in the middle of a maelstrom. It’s also got moments of quite stunning fragile beauty, such as the gentle and aching ‘Fly’. It’s absolutely not for everyone, but more than any other album this year, this album has grabbed me by the shoulders and hasn’t let go. They are also one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen, hypnotising and powerful.
Cocoa Sugar-** Young Fathers** I listened to this album on a whim and I’m glad I did. Hard to pin down, their third album sounds like nothing else, spanning multiple genres from hip-hop to dance and gospel. It’s such a unique sound and is thrilling.
Wide Awake!- Parquet Courts Another new band for me. Parquet Courts made uncomplicated guitar music, but it has such propulsive energy and is so much fun that they deserve all the hype they are getting.
Bonfire Night- Talk Less Say More Technically this was released last year, but I only found it recently. Talk Less Say More (aka. Matthew Jennings) writes stupidly catchy electropop that sounds like nothing else. This is the last in the Three Birds trilogy and a suitable culmination of all that’s gone before.
Sorry to Bother You- A razor-sharp critique of capitalism and race roles, this is a bizarre and wonderful trip into an alternate reality that is not far from our own. Tech bros haven’t come up with the idea of voluntary slavery yet, but with the gig economy it can’t be far behind. It’s also very, very funny and uses humour to disarm you and lower your defences. There’s a part about two-thirds of the way through that I did not see coming at all. However, it’s not out of nowhere. The more you think about the final act the more it ties into the themes of the film. Urgent and angry, this is a film that demands to be seen.
Coco- Every time I go into a Pixar film, I swear I’m not going to cry. Then they hit me with another sucker punch. Visually inventive with brilliant music, this is a superb meditation on ageing, memory and of course, death. You know, kid’s stuff.
A Quiet Place- Monsters have taken over the world and have super sensitive hearing, so a family survives in near silence. Unbearably tense in places, this film explores every angle of its premise. It’s also in and out in an hour and half<, which takes real skill.
I read42 books this year, from non-fiction to poetry. You can’t compare any of the below and find a ‘best one’ as they are so wildly different to each other.
Blankets- Craig Thompson- An autobiographical graphic novel about falling in love as a Christian teenager. The art work is beautiful, expressing a huge range of emotion. What’s most impressive about it is how Craig Thompson takes a personal story and spins it into a meditation on religion and the trials of life and the stories we tell ourselves to keep going.
Stories of Your Life and Others- Ted Chiang I loved Arrival, so I was excited to read the original short story that it was based on. I wasn’t disappointed. Each story in this collection is brilliant. Ted Chiang packs more detail and ideas into a short story than most people put into a novel. This is inventive, thoughtful science fiction based on proper science.
How Not to be a Boy- Robert Webb In a similar way to Sara Pascoe’s Animal, Robert Webb blends autobiography with jokes and a serious examination of gender roles. Attempting to conform to rigid masculinity made him struggle throughout his life and made him bury his true feelings in booze. Despite that, it is a laugh out loud funny book, with jokes on every page.
That’s it for 2018. I’ll see you in the 2019, where I will try to keep this blog updated more regularly. If you like this sort of thing, I have a semi-regular newsletter where I send out recommendations.
Let me know your favourites down below.