Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Albums of the Year, 2018

I paid more attention this year, which is why I probably think it's been a 'good' year for new music, and why I'm bothering with a list for the first time since 2012. With the usual disclaimer that even if I'd listened to every record released in 2018 at least 15 times over, this list of favourites (as opposed to 'the best') would still be random and entirely subjective, and would read differently tomorrow compared with how I've aligned the albums today. Did I really like Halo Maud's record marginally less than Marisa Anderson's? Should you rank Oneohtrix Point Never's music side by side with Fatoumata Diawara's? Probably not. But here we go anyway: 

40. Vera Sola- Shades (Spectraphonic)
39. Rosanne Cash- She Remembers Everything (Blue Note)
38. Karine Polwart- Laws of Motion (Hudson)
37. Selling, Gold Panda & jas Shaw- On Reflection (City Slang)
36. Bombino- Deran (Partisan)
35. Liela Moss- My Name Is Safe In Your Mouth (Bella Union)
34. The Field- Infinite Moment (Kompakt)
33. Robyn- Honey (Embassy One)
32. Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood- With Animals (Heavenly)
31. Lubomyr Melnyk- Fallen Trees (Erased Tapes)
30. Natalie Prass- The Future and the Past (ATO)
29. Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert- Here Lies the Body (Rock Action Records)
28. Vanessa Peters- Foxhole Prayers (Idol Records)
27. Halo Maud- Je suis une île (Heavenly)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Books of the Year, 2018

I know - who publishes a top four? The answer: people who only read four books published this year that are worth mentioning. Apologies to the thousands of other authors I neglected because I got distracted by football magazines, music autobiographies, Orwell's wartime essays and diaries, and the instructions to my bluetooth speaker (still haven't worked it out).   

4. The Day That Went Missing by Richard Beard (Vintage)
Nicky Beard, the skinny nine-year-old kid on the front cover half-covered in a beach towel and crouching on a rock, looks just like I did in the 1970s. A few hours after it was taken, on August 19th. 1978, he drowned off the Cornwall coast, watched by his helpless older brother, Richard, who only just managed to pull himself free of the same treacherous undertow before running for help. 
The novelist uses this memoir to re-explore a day that his family had conspicuously ignored for 40 years. It will resonate with anyone who's experienced grief the British way. Exactly a week before this tragic drowning, my own favourite uncle died in a domestic accident. After the funeral, we didn't talk about it either. I remember my mum running out of the living-room to cry sometimes in the following months. But the emphasis is that she ran out of the room. No one said anything. No one ran after her. Meanwhile, she felt unable to subject us to her raw, raging feelings for her lost brother. It just wasn't done.
Beard goes back in time to piece together what happened that day and in the following weeks, juxtaposing his own memories with those of his family, the coast guard who pulled his brother's body from the water, the official records, and the banal condolence cards that even in the days just after death suggest it's maybe time for everyone to move quickly on. Who was this boy, what remains of his identity in the minds of those who knew him, and why do we live in a culture so scared to properly grieve that we blank out those who've died as though they never lived at all?