Friday, 16 December 2016

That Was The Year That Was: 2016

2016 was a good year for the ReaperIt's mid-December and so, with the weary inevitably of a celebrity death, it must be time for a recap of what's been good this year. Not much, I hear you say.

This is the sixth time I've recapped a year like this (for completists, here's 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011) and, taken together, all these reviews really do is demonstrate how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Only worse, this year. Still... onwards.

Best album

Going Going by The Wedding Present - much respect is due to the right honourable David Gedge who, even after plying his jangly guitar-based indie trade for 30+ years, still wants to try new things. The whole album is a joy, and the first four tracks are as innovative as anything you'll have heard all year.

Honourable mentions: hotly contested this year, with Everything At Once by Travis, A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead, Night Thoughts by Suede, The Bride by Bat For Lashes and Head Carrier by Pixies all being worthy of repeated plays.

Best song

Idlewild by Travis featuring Josephine Oniyama - this is a seductive earworm of a song, and reminds me a bit of various Morrissey duets (step forward Siouxsie Sioux, Chrissie Hynde, Nancy Sinatra). I could listen to this over and over and over.

Honourable mentions: Burn The Witch by Radiohead, which very nearly took top spot; the gut wrench of Dollar Days by David Bowie.

Best gig

Another win for The Wedding Present with their low-key, intimate gig at The Royal Function Rooms (a misleadingly grand name if ever there was one) in Rochester. A blistering, up-close and personal set, with Mr Gedge or especially fine form. Nice to chat with him before the gig too, in particular about the track Secretary, and to get my Going Going lyric book signed. All this, topped off with exemplary company as ever from The Man Of Cheese made this the gig experience of the year for me.

Honourable mentions: having said that, the sheer feeling of something special I got from watching Paul Simon at the Royal Albert Hall made that evening a very close second; Travis were terrific value, as always; Ben Watt with Bernard Butler was also very good (top tip: you should always take any opportunity you can to see Bernard play guitar up close).

Best book

For the seductive prose and remorseless sense of the uncanny, this year's nod goes to Slade House by David Mitchell. It's one of those that you want to race through, but don't want to end and, as a wannabe author myself, something I wish I had written.

Honourable mentions: a bit of a cheat here because it was published in 2005 but I got around to reading In The Miso Soup by Ryu Murukami and it blew me away; Mark Kilner's run of short story excellence continued with his third collection, Process Of Elimination; Adrian J Walker's End Of The World Running Club also kept the pages turning; non-fiction wise, I also very much enjoyed That's Entertainment: My Life in the Jam by Rick Buckler, despite the lack of an index and the need for a better editor; oh, and another old book, The Promise Of Happiness by Justin Cartwright, is worth a look.

Best film

A difficult category, mainly because I haven't been to the cinema as much as I'd like this year, but the nod goes to The Witch, partly for Anya Taylor-Joy's standout performance, partly for the superb evocation of time and place, partly for creeping out the entire cinema and partly for Ralph Ineson ensuring we'll never think of him as Finchy from The Office again.

Honourable mentions: this year has been all about films I wanted to see but didn't get around to (I, Daniel Blake and Nocturnal Animals, take a bow) but at least Room adapted well to the big screen; the Q&A afterwards didn't add much (aside from the odd cheap laugh) but Louis Theroux's My Scientology Movie was quite an accomplishment, especially considering the challenges faced making it.

Best television

Another fiercely contended category. The award goes to series three of Line Of Duty, for keeping me on a knife-edge throughout, and adding the phrase "urgent exit required" to my permanent pop-culture lexicography.

Honourable mentions: another good year for TV (it's the new film, don't you know?), so there are lots. Deutschland '83 very nearly scooped the top prize; series two of the BBC's Happy Valley lived up to its predecessor; Channel 4's National Treasure, in which not one of the excellent cast put so much as a foot wrong; and for documentaries, Louis Theroux's Drinking To Oblivion, shocking and heart-breaking in equal measure; I've enjoyed the second series of Humans, although it's hard to see how it will end. Oh, and series two of The Missing would doubtless have featured, except I haven't got around to watching any of it yet.

Best comedy

Last year's winner, Modern Life Is Goodish, retains its title, as Dave Gorman continues to explore the ridiculousness of our 21st Century, post-truth, post-Europe, post-everything world.

Honourable mentions: I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue on Radio 4, not least because Jack Dee seems to have really found his feet as host. Never fails to raise a smile.

Best theatre

Rodrigo Pardo's Flat, a show about one man in his apartment, might not sound too inspiring. But stage that show high up on the side of a building, using wirework for the actor to move around (and shift your perspective), and it turns into something truly memorable.

Honourable mentions: this might sound sappy but I don't care - I took the family to see The Lion King at the Lyceum. We had amazing seats, became totally immersed and it all got a bit emotional. Another theatrical moment I will not forget.

Best blogger

Retaining his title for the fourth consecutive year is Andrew Collins, whose Telly Addict video blog, ditched by The (foolish) Guardian but rehoused by UKTV, is twelve minutes a week of essential viewing. It should be on actual TV, if you ask me. On top of this, Andrew also writes, albeit very sporadically, the music blog Circles Of Life, in which he seeks to catalogue his favourite 143 songs of all time. Oh, and the excellent "other" blog, Never Knowingly Underwhelmed. Andrew is, once more, my blogger of the year.

Honourable mentions: blogging is dying art - a blog is to Twitter as vinyl is to MP3s, sadly. There's still some good stuff out there, not least Crying All The Way To The Chip Shop from Lee; The (New) Vinyl Villain from JC; My Top Ten from Rol; and a new entry, A History Of Dubious Taste from Jez.

Man of the year

Irish senator Aodhán Ó Riordáin, whose speech in reaction to Trump's election success neatly articulated what so many people were feeling. And he stood up and said it in a front-line political setting, not over a pint in the pub. What was it he said now? "Trump is a fascist and I’m embarrassed by the Government’s response." Or something like that, anyway. Good man, Aodhán; the world could do with a few more politicians like you.

Honourable mentions: in a year of so much misery, it's hard not to admit that Ed Balls has had a good twelve months. Okay, so he's not an MP (for now) but his book has done very well, and he's the new chairman of the football club he loves. Oh, and what's that, you say? Dancing?

Woman of the year

Abigail Bamber, who epitomises everything great about the NHS, in demonstrating that lifesavers don't have days off. In a year of awful news, click her name for a positive, life-affirming story, to whit: "most nurses go into nursing because it is a vocation - not a job."

Honourable mentions: Hillary Clinton, naturally. She fought the good fight, kept out of the gutter however often her opponent tried to drag her down to his level and, in the end, polled more votes than any male candidate in US election history. And when, soul-crushingly (for her and basically the whole world), she still lost what she must surely have felt her whole life had been leading up to, she managed to do so with dignity. #ImStillWithHer

Tool of the year

Everything that is wrong with contemporary politics, 21st Century hate crime and the normalisation of extreme views is summed up by Breitbart-peddling Milo Yiannopoulos. Ye gods. What an utter tool, the sort that only a mother could love. As a nation, we should be ashamed to have produced Milo. And what a pity that sixth formers from his old school were prevented from debating with him - they'd have given him a damn good grilling.

Honourable mentions: Trump, Farage, all the usual suspects ... what a depressing year 2016 has been.

And that's it. The year is nearly over, thank goodness. There's been a lot in to to loathe... but what have you loved?


  1. I liked the Wedding Present album a lot; I just wish Gedge had sequenced those first four tracks through the whole album rather than front-loading them. After the first few listens, I ended up skipping to track 5 at the start. I don't think I'd have skipped them if they'd been more spread out.

    Slade House was the best book I read last year too... Then again, due to the usual commitments, it was also one of the only books I read last year.

    Loved Line of Duty and I agree about Humans... Although ultimately, season 2 ended with the exact same cliffhanger as season 1: kinds making s2 redundant in some ways.

    Thought The Witch was thoroughly depressing though, and not at all scary: sorry!

    Thanks for the usual honourable mention. I'll have to arrange a nasty accident for Andrew Collins, see how that resets the playing field.

    1. You're bang on regarding the Weddoes track sequencing. And The Witch wasn't scary so much as unsettling - the cinema audience I sat amongst seemed oddly quiet, tense, when the lights came up. Not scared but rattled.