Last year's review proved quite popular, in the context of this blog, and I had a lot of fun writing it. So much so, in fact, that I'm going to (try to) repeat the trick. Here, then, are my highpoints of 2012 or, as I understand I should now say if I am to be a pop-culture media figure, here are the year's best bits.
"The Defenstration Of St Martin" by Martin Rossiter - the return from self-imposed exile of former Gene frontman (© everybody) Rossiter is a sparse affair, almost exclusively just voice and piano. Emotionally raw too, no more so than on ten-minute opener Three Points On A Compass. Some may say this is a bleak album, but just because the subject matter is serious it doesn't mean there aren't many genuinely uplifting moments to be had amongst the sorrow. A most welcome return to the Rozza.
"Default" by Atoms For Peace - a real grower, this might not seem very accessible at first but stick with it. There's something about the clipped, syncopated rhythms of this that engrain themselves after just a few listens. Whets the appetite for next year's album nicely too.
Billy Bragg's Woody Guthrie set at the Voewood Festival. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of Woody's birth, Bill played an intimate set of Guthrie originals and songs from the Mermaid Avenue sessions, for which he and Wilco had set unrecorded Guthrie lyrics to music. After Bill's frankly wonderful set, he then helped to conduct a fundraising auction of a first edition Guthrie biography, before pressing the flesh with virtually the whole crowd. Top, top work.
"11.22.63" by Stephen King. Sorry to be quite so mass-market but this really is the best book I've read all year. For several years, in fact. It's no secret to regular readers of this blog that I am a fan of King's work, so you might think I've got blinkers on and maybe I have but, regardless, this is King's best work for a very long time, perhaps 20 years. It's proof positive that he isn't just a horror writer too - this is a complex story, painstakingly researched and carefully woven into the known events of the JFK assassination. Put aside your preconceptions and book snobbery, forget who the author is, and just go and read this exceptional book.
Honourable mentions: the debut novel "Killing Daniel" from Sarah Dobbs, whose cross-cultural literary thriller identifies her as an author to watch; "Dave Gorman vs The Rest Of The World" by Dave Gorman (obviously), in which he plays games for our entertainment.
In a year of great films, the nod goes to "Martha Marcy May Marlene" for its original storyline, captivating central performance for Elizabeth Olsen, and some properly unsettling moments... especially the ending.
Honourable mentions: the Nordic noir of "Headhunters"; "Prometheus" for being nearly great; "Killer Joe" for proving that a film can have Matthew McConaughey in and still be terrific (and dark as night) as long as you have someone like William Friedkin at the helm.
"White Heat" from the BBC. This mini-series, set in the present but with most of its story-telling in 60s and 70s flashbacks, didn't get anything like the recognition or viewing figures it deserved. Ridiculously, the five hours of this are now available on Amazon for less than a fiver. If you enjoyed Our Friends In The North, then maybe you'll like this too.
Honourable mentions: "Olympics 2012" from the BBC. An almost unimaginably large task, to cover such an event, but once again the Beeb gave us cause to be proud. We should give daily thanks for the fact that we as a nation are not solely in the thrall of Murdoch for our broadcast media.
"Ted" - a bit of a cheat, as I could have shoehorned this into the Best Film category, but Ted made me laugh more than anything else I've seen all year. I'm not ashamed (though maybe I should be) to admit that I was crying with laughter in the cinema, shaking like a schoolboy trying to disguise a giggling fit in class. So funny that I watched it again, in its entirety, on a recent long-haul flight, despite having just seen it at the cinema. Parental advisory, obviously.
Honourable mentions: "2012", a satire which, like "Yes, Minister" before it, made you laugh like hell and then wonder if, in fact, real life was even more absurd.
Best sport (new for 2012!)
Jessica Ennis who, there's no other word for it, was awesome at the Olympics. A multi-eventer completing the hurdles in a time faster than the individual hurdles gold medallist at Beijing? And refusing to do anything other than win her 800m heat, even though all she had to do was finish ahead of her much slower nearest overall competitor? Classy. Subsequent TV appearances reveal her to be grounded and natural too. Much of YouTube seems obsessed with her bottom, but I won't comment on that. Instead, I'll just ask what does she have to do to win Sports Personality Of The Year? Third in 2009, third in 2010, second this year... it's no consolation but Jess gets my nod here.
Honourable mentions: not the Ryder Cup, despite Europe's incredible comeback, but specifically Phil Mickelson's unbelievably generous display of sportsmanship towards Justin Rose on the 17th and 18th holes of their match on the final day - an object lesson in how sport should be played, even at the highest level; Norwich City's unbeaten run in the Premier League, currently ten games and counting, including victories over Arsenal and Manchester United - at present, Barcelona are the only top-flight European team with a longer unbeaten league run!
And that's it. Agree/disagree? What were your best bits?