Thursday, 19 December 2013

That was the year that was: 2013

A parody too farIt's that time of the year again, the time for pointing out all the things worth remembering 2013 for. I was going to give these awards a name, maybe something based on a humourous acronym, but everything I thought of was puerile. I'll just call them something like the Totally Worthless Annual Trophies, I suppose, and leave the acronyms to other people. Here we go then, eyes down.

Best album

"The Messenger" by Johnny Marr - a stunning return, reminding everybody of the power he and his guitar can bring. Some might argue that lyrics from a certain Steven could add something, and maybe they would, but that's not to lessen the album as it stands. Essential, I would say.

Honourable mentions: "Amok" by Atoms For Peace; "Tooth And Nail" by Billy Bragg; "Antiphon" by Midlake.

Best song

"Handyman Blues" by Billy Bragg - aside from the fine (and semi-star-studded) video, if there's a song from this year that I can identify with more, I haven't heard it. We're all of a certain age, and none of us are men in the same way that our dads were, however you choose to measure.

Honourable mentions: "Barriers" by Suede; "Where You Stand" by Travis . Yes, it's been a quiet year.

Best gig

Another nod here for Johnny Marr whose set at The Waterfront in March was tight, encompassed songs from all periods of his career, delivered some musically perfect Smiths renditions and sent everyone home happy. Who could ask for any more?

Honourable mentions: a covers band! The Smyths were simply fantastic, not least for their comedically accurate "Morrissey"; a surprisingly vital Boomtown Rats at UEA.

Best book

"Joyland" by Stephen King. All the fuss this year has been about Shining sequel "Doctor Sleep" but this is far, far better. The writing is superior, the story is pacier, there's no middle-third slump, and you don't have to be a horror fan to enjoy it. An easy winner.

Honourable mentions: "Let's Kill Love" by Mark Kilner, a debut collection of wonderful (and enviable) consistency and quality; "Autobiography" by Morrissey, in which Salford's finest discovers he can still trouble the charts. The book charts, that is.

Best film

Hands down, this goes to "Gravity" for its ground-breaking depiction of life in orbit. Sure, we can all nit-pick about some of the finer technicalities (though I, for one, would rather see Ms Bullock de-suit to her underwear than to a NASA nappy), and a bit of disbelief suspension is required for the ending, but overall this is an astonishing film. I hope it has the same sort of effect of the youth of today as "2001" had on me many, many moons ago.

Honourable mentions: Ron Howard's typically detailed recreation of 70s Formula 1 in "Rush"; the achingly sad captive orca documentary "Blackfish", essential viewing if you have ever been to, or even thought about going to, Seaworld.

Best television

In this year's most fiercely contended category, the award goes to "The Fall" from the BBC. This serial killer police procedural, set in Northern Ireland, pulled no punches. The shocks and scares were only outnumbered by the fantastic acting performances, chief among which was Gillian Anderson, whose turn as an ice queen Met detective was nothing short of mesmeric. The story messed with your head too, not least in its characterisation of the killer. I won't spoil it by saying more, just go and watch it as soon as you can. Series two next year...

Honourable mentions: it's been a good year for TV, so there are lots. BBC political drama "The Politician's Husband"; French genius (and spookiness) in "The Returned"; the continued brilliance of "The Walking Dead"; scarily plausible "what if?" mockumentary "Blackout"; the serendipitous comic joy of "Gogglebox"; and I've even stuck with series three of "Homeland"...

Best comedy

Easy. "Nina Conti" - not for having gone to my old uni, and not for being eminently watchable in all kinds of ways, but for delivering a ventriloquism act that doesn't pander to its audience, is clever, inventive and beautifully crafted. Not only that, Nina reclaims the honour of vent acts the world over from its Orville-based nadir...

Honourable mentions: "Modern Life Is Goodish", Dave Gorman's endlessly inventive exploration of 21st Century life; the final episode of "The IT Crowd", for reminding everyone how to end a show properly.

Best theatre (new for 2013)

"Black Watch", a show of uncompromising raw power and unique staging. Modern warfare is horrific, especially when the reasons for what you're doing are dubious to say the least, and this searing portrayal of Scottish squadies' Iraq war experience demonstrates that, and then some. Visually arresting and utterly immersive, it's hard to think of a more emotionally affecting theatrical experience than this. See it somewhere if you can.

Honourable mentions: "How Like An Angel", a stunning, atmospheric combination of gymnastics, athleticism, music and movement. The late-night staging in Norwich Cathedral only added to the experience...

Best blogger (new for 2013)

The single thing I have most enjoyed watching this year, whether film, television or online, is Andrew Collins's "Telly Addict" video blog for The Guardian, twelve minutes a week of pithy insight, knowing comedy, informed opinion and knowledgable comment. If you don't already subscribe to this, you should. On top of this, Andrew also writes, for fun, the music blog "Circles Of Life", in which he seeks to dissect his favourite 143 songs of all time. Oh, and the excellent "other" blog, "Never Knowingly Underwhelmed". Andrew is, by some margin, my blogger of the year.

Honourable mentions: "Too Much Apple Pie" from Kippers and Spike; "My Top Ten" from Rol; and the occasionally NSFW, wonderfully acidic pseudo-consumer blog "Bitter Wallet".

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


  1. Happy with much of this (thanks for the plug) particularly Billy & Joyland, which I enjoyed immensely as one of the last books I read before all my time was stolen from me. Not sure when I'll ever get time to read Doctor Sleep or the Mozbiog, both of which are gathering dust on the shelf. Still...

    By the way, have you heard about all the upcoming Gene reissues?

    1. I have indeed, and will almost certainly be parting with some hard-earned to purchase them all. There's going to be a launch party on the 6th of February too, at The Barfly, Camden, including a Q&A with three quarters of the band. No prizes for guessing who's not going to attend.... Fellow Gene devotee Lewis Slade has all the re-issue details here.