Tuesday, 3 January 2012

That was the year that was: 2011

A parody too farI don't usually write end-of-year reviews like this, but I know what you're thinking: stop apologising for the things you've never done 'cause time is short and life is cruel. On that basis, I guess it must be up to me to change my blogging habits, if not this town called Malice. Here, then, are my highpoints of 2011 or, as I understand I should now say if I am to be a pop-culture media figure, here are last year's best bits.

Best album

"The King of Limbs" by Radiohead - yes, here's where I admit that my taste in music is never going to get less parochial. I like what I like, and I shouldn't apologise for that. "The King of Limbs" isn't anywhere near as good as "In Rainbows" but the fact that it's still my album of the year suggests that either it's been a bad year for the long-player or that I haven't bought many. Possibly both.

Honourable mentions: "Collapse Into Now" by REM (still parochial); "What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?" by The Vaccines (a bit more down with the kids).

Best song

"Nørgaard" by The Vaccines - fast, exciting and enough to get me interested in the album. Better than their breakthrough single too, you know the one that very deliberately has "sex" in the title.

Honourable mentions: Slow Moving Millie's version of "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" from that ad, not least for giving blokes in pubs across the country the chance to rake over the coals of the "what makes a good cover" debate.

Best gig

Former Gene-frontman Martin Rossiter's triumphant return at the Barbican. He's still got it. If I were you, I'd make sure I had tickets for his slot at the Shepherd's Bush Empire on the 3rd of March, supporting My Life Story. I'll see you there (you can buy me a pint).

Honourable mentions: the amazing I Am Kloot at the Norwich Arts Centre; the triptych of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Morrissey at the Hop Farm Festival.

Best book

"Submarine" by Joe Dunthorne, 2011 being the year I got around to reading it, rather than the year it came out. And no, I haven't seen the film, though I understand that's okay. The book, though, is a compass-point-sharp description of being a teenage boy lost in the process of growing up, a hybrid of Catcher In The Rye, Black Swan Green and Adrian Mole, and full of cultural references that you'll enjoy. A little bit of a slow starter, but stick with it.

Honourable mentions: the ubiquitous "Room" by Emma Donoghue; "America Unchained" by Dave Gorman, in which he sticks it to The Man™.

Best film

"Black Swan" for its unsettling portrayal of mental illness, it's clever monochrome palette, great performances from Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. A powerful film that left me feeling decidedly wrung out by the time the credits rolled.

Honourable mentions: "Another Earth" - a beautiful, intelligent and moving piece of sci-fi starring and co-written by Brit Marling, surely one to watch.

Best television

"Page 8" from the BBC. Just my kind of television: it made you think, it made you concentrate and it made you want it not to end. A great cast too, headed up by the always-watchable Bill Nighy and the bewitching Rachel Weisz.

Honourable mentions: "Black Mirror" from Channel 4 and the pen of Charlie Brooker, the first episode of which generated more discussion in the staff canteen than any other television of the year, including reality- and celebrity-shows.

Best comedy

"Dave Gorman's Powerpoint Presentation" which, I can quite honestly say, is the funniest live comedy show I have seen on any stage, anywhere, ever. He'll be touring it again in 2012 - if you enjoy intelligent comedy that isn't at someone's expense, that is observational without being McIntyre, that plays with your (pre)conceptions of the world around you, well, I really do urge you to pick up some tickets.

Honourable mentions: most things with Mark Watson in, for many of the same reasons as Dave.

And that's it. Agree/disagree? What were your best bits?


  1. Album - Tiny Birds 'Hymns for the Careless' is the only new album I've been listening to over and over.
    Song - Alex Turner - Hiding Tonight - from the Submarine soundtrack, funnily enough.
    Gig - I don't think I've been to a gig this year. I can't remember if the Fleet Foxes was June 2010 or 11. I find this quite funny.
    Book - I liked 'Submarine', film too, although I got in a happy argument with some people afterwards about some of the links to other things - it doesn't feel at all 'Catcher in the Rye' or (god help me) Adrian Mole to me - I think he has more insight than any of those narrators, maybe more like Billy Liar which was always my favourite of 'those' things anyway. The last Wallander book. Can't remember what else.
    Film - I liked Submarine very much - I liked Never Let Me Go very much even though I didn't think it really worked (and got into an ever bigger argument online on the guardian's site about it). I watched 'Drive' the other night and enjoyed that a lot too.
    Television - I got around to The Wire this year and have watched the first two series of that now which were very good indeed. If I can cross between this and...
    Comedy - .. then I would also add Stewart Lee - the TV show and various other things I've finally caught up with. The only 'stand up' I saw was Mark Thomas talking about walking the wall in Israel/Palestine which was excellent
    Play - just to get a bit of cultural snobbery in, in a tourist kind of way the only thing I saw was Frankenstein which was fantastic.

    1. Some great choices Adam. Maybe the Adrian Mole reference has worked its way into my subconscious because of the diary entries our hero writes that make up part of the book. As for gigs, I have to use Songkick to keep track of mine now - I say "have" like it's a chore, but actually I love Songkick - here's my gigography. And I really want to see Never Let Me Go, but am making myself wait until after I've read the book. Oh, and I was going to invert the cultural snobbery by including a sporting highpoint, but I didn't think too many people would be that interested in Norwich City getting promoted back to the Premiership...

    2. I went to UEA and lived in Norwich for ten years - I would have cared.

    3. I moved to Norwich for UEA too, '89-'92. I left afterwards, but have since moved back. Were we contemporaries there, I wonder?

    4. We were contemporaries, I was at UEA 1987-90 so I was a third year when you started - American Studies and mouthing off at union meetings. More of the latter, really.

    5. Well there you go. I believe this is where I say "it's a small world"...

  2. Slow Moving Millie? Really?

    1. I know what you mean about the SMM track, but here's the thing (as I might say if I was from across the pond): no, it's not her best work (I prefer Beasts), and no, it's not as good as the original. It's not even my favourite cover of this song, that honour belonging to Dream Academy. And no, I don't especially like the saccharin advert that SMM soundtracks either. But it gets an honourable mention because, good, bad or indifferent, it made me stop and listen, hard. Not too many new songs did that in 2011. I, er, probably haven't listened to as much new music as I would have liked lately either...