After my fellow Britpoppian, @BritpopMemories, shared his views on the highlights of 2018 I thought it only proper that I prove we are not the same person, or the product of some Russian bot farm, as none of you think by providing my own little list of good things from 2018.
Are you sitting uncomfortably?
Memory Songs (A Personal Journey Through the Music that Shaped the ’90’s) by James Cook (Unbound)
From the pen, heart, mind and soul of former Flamingoes front-man James Cook comes a thoughtful, meditative, honest and emotional look at the songs, the moments, the people and the events that helped shape him and the decade that brought him to the very edge of “proper” fame.
Not a memoir…or at least, not a typical memoir. This is a book that goes further than mere retelling of events and dial-a-cliche, boy in a band, tales and takes you somewhere deeper and purer.
You can hear James and I discussing the book, and more, here
Coal Black Mornings by Brett Anderson (Little Brown)
Another book that transcends the genre of rock and roll memoir arrived in the shape of “Coal Black Mornings” by Suede singer and songwriter, Brett Anderson. Avoiding a “cocaine and gold discs” style story Anderson, instead, delivers a beautifully poetic telling of life before fame.
Death, grief, love, ambition and the all consuming desire to be someone are described with a writing style that is every bit as elegant as its author. When one considers the horrors of much of “Autobiography” by Morrissey “Coal Black Mornings” is a masterpiece of restraint and of a desire not to settle for anything less than excellence.
The Road to Jonestown (Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple) by Jeff Guin (Simon and Schuster)
A detailed and devastatingly intimate look at the life of Jim Jones and the terrible fate that befell those who believed in him…and who simply feared him…this fact crime book is more horrific than anything that the likes of Stephen King could ever dream up.
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay (Harper Collins)
A disquieting, and frighteningly believable, tale of an ordinary American family who have their lives turned upside down, and inside out, by…something. A layered and terrifying horror novel that suggests that the real horror lies not in the supernatural but in the ordinary.
The Book with no Pictures by B.J. Novak (Penguin)
Reading to your child(ren) can be a chore…not because you don’t love ’em but because, often, little kids demand multiple readings of the same story. Sometimes those stories are, to be blunt, boring. Thankfully actor/writer/producer/director B.J. Novak has come to the rescue with a book that is wildly funny and that demands repeated readings.
On Body and Soul (Ildiko Enyedi)
Delicate, thought provoking, romantic, philosophical, demented, strange, unsettling and beautiful…if you want anything more than that from a film then you must tell me both what that is and where you have found it. If you don’t want those things from a film then may I recommend the works of Mr M. Bay of Hollywood?
Apostasy (Daniel Kokotajlo)
First time writer/director Daniel Kokotajlo dug deep into his personal experience of growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness to deliver a film that not only exposed the dark truth of that particular religion but that had much to say about family, love, faith and power. Arguably the best film from a British director this year.
Hereditary (Ari Aster)
The best horror film of the year was also one of the best films of the year. With nods to “The Shining”, “The Exorcist”, “Rosemary’s Baby”, “The Omen” and all manner of J-Horror classics, specifically “Ju-on” and “Dark Water”, “Hereditary” still managed to be something entirely unique and genuinely surprising.
Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
Palme d’Or winner “Shoplifters” shines a spotlight on the nature of family, the awfulness of life on the fringes of society and asks us to consider what right and wrong really mean. At the same time it manages to be relentlessly entertaining, achingly sad and plays host to some of the best performances in a film this year. In a perfect world it would win the Oscar for best picture this year…not stuck in the ghetto of best foreign language picture. As close to perfection as film gets.
Free Solo (Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin)
Alex Honnold is a free soloist climber. You know what that is right? He climbs improbably high mountains and other improbably high things without any ropes…or any other equipment. It’s just him, his hands, his feet and…well, that’s it.
El Capitan is a 3,200 ft high wall of granite in Yosemite National Park. That’s really high. Improbably high. Nobody has ever climbed it free solo. Now you can watch Alex Honnold attempt to do exactly that and, along the way, you can feel every muscle in your body tighten to such an extent that you fear they may never relax again and sweat so freely that it will look like you have been in a bath when the lights go up in the cinema.
This is terrifying and inspirational film making.
You have ears and a soul.
So you understand that Erasure are the perfect pop group.
No more need be said.
Before things went a bit…funny.
Not in a ha-ha way.
Before that there was a tour in support of possibly the weakest Morrissey solo album…that, improbably, managed to elevate that suite of less than charming songs into something brooding, powerful and magnificent.
Clever old Morrissey.
Oh sure his band toured this year and, yes, it was beyond fantastic and, yes, it was one of the live highlights of the year but…
Mark Morriss is as fine a singer-songwriter as any other this little island has ever produced and seeing him in a tiny pub in a “Wicker Man”-esque Scottish Borders village is one of the great delights of my year.
For so many reasons.
The music for sure.
But mainly because I got to see Jaime on stage again…he looked happy, which made me happy.
God speed Jaime.
Two of the best bands in British pop music history.
On the same stage.
On the same night.
Of course it was perfect.
How could it be anything less?
The best day of the year.
Maybe of any year.