In 2012 I got really into the world of speaking and discussions: always loved Radio 4 but now I owe a big debt to Franz Nicolay, who introduced me to American podcasts on tour last autumn, which made a huge impact. So I listened to less music and more words, though it was a decent year for albums. Also, I enjoyed more films and art galleries than the past few years, so this year’s lists feel better balanced than previous.
By the way, I’ve given up trying to filter out people I know personally from my end-of-year lists. Full disclosure: three albums in my top 10 are on Xtra Mile Recordings and a lot of these top 10s include folks I know a bit. But fuck it, it’s just my favourites, not some be-all-and-end-all about what’s ‘best’.
Anyway, you’re very welcome to add your reaction, or your top 10s in the comments section if you feel like it. Here we go…
1. Future Of The Left – The Plot Against Common Sense
2. Taylor Swift – Red
3. Jack White – Blunderbuss
4. Lau – Race The Loser
5. Bellowhead – Broadside
6. Ian Vine – Held/Always/Immer/Gehalten
7. The Pure Conjecture – Courgettes
8. Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun – Death
9. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball
10. Retrospective Soundtrack Players – The Catcher In The Rye
Honorary mentions: how did Tom Williams & The Boat or the gay orange dude from Odd Future not make it on here? I don’t know but they didn’t. Nor did Neil Young’s Psychedelic Pill, though it’s bloody great. Jess Morgan’s beautiful Aye Me only just got edged out. Singing Adams might’ve smashed it but their LP is only out this week and they didn’t send me one or anything, so I’ve not heard it yet. Ditto, Martin White & The Fax Machine Orchestra’s bonkers Master Flea.
1. Sinead O’Connor at St George’s Church, Brighton
2. Pearl & The Beard at The Green Door Store, Brighton
3. Jim Bob, Driving Jarvis Ham tour, various venues
4. Midwinter Picnic 4, Brighton
5. Future Of The Left / Fever Fever / Clowns at The Haunt, Brighton
6. Jess Morgan at Villa Marina Arcade, Douglas, Isle Of Man
7. Elliott Brood at The Palmeira, Hove
8. Thor Magnusson (live music coding) at Brighton Digital Festival closing party
9. Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun at Great Escape, Brighton
10. Pip Mountjoy at Stereo, York
I missed several gigs (after getting tickets/guestlist) that might have made it into this top 10, through cock-ups at my end – just last month both Robyn and Carter USM shows, at Brixton Academy, could’ve likely made the top 5.
Honorary mentions: Gill Sandell, Paul Kingsnorth and Ingrid Plum at Dark Mountain book launch, Eliza Shaddad in Ipswich, She Makes War at various venues on tour, Luke Sital Singh at Great Escape, Keith Top Of The Pops’ cacophony at Brixton Windmill, Oxygen Thief somewhere or other, Franz Nicolay’s end-of-tour show in Brighton, 45 minutes of Turner at Wembley, Jim Lockey (again) opening for Turner at Brighton Dome and the Rock Academy Isle Of Man end-of-week concert.
In 2012 I played 71 shows (versus 112 in 2011 and 120+ in 2010), with only one Hoodrats show (sans Johny). I didn’t perform at all outside the UK, despite killer opportunities to do so, which was a big downer. So, not a classic gigging year – but still some unforgettable moments. And funnily enough the two things I did this year that probably made the biggest impact were non-musical (TEDx talk and Not Just Shit But Dangerous article).
Anyway, as usual, I’ve listed these gigs solely based on how much I enjoyed being onstage, not how well I performed (though that affects it obviously), or how cool or big the show was…
1. Greenbelt Festival, Cheltenham (biblical thunderstorm)
2. QEH, South Bank Centre, London, with Spiers & Boden (A.A. Milne show)
3. Hebden Bridge Festival (eccentric night, lush crowd, longest ever set)
4. Three Legs Festival IOM, songwriters circle with Matt Creer, Jess Morgan & Christy D
5. The Lamb, Devizes
6. piano jam in Gypo & Jo’s living room, Port St Mary, IOM
7. St Martin-In-The-Fields Church, London, SMK Awards (just ‘M1 Song’)
8. Brighton Corn Exchange (doing the TEDx talk)
9. New Zealand House, London
10. Battitude 2012 at Brixton Windmill (Jon & Jen as rhythm section)
btw I’ve now played 1,996 shows in my adult life, so fairly early in 2013 I’ll hit my 2,000th. Needs something special, I reckon.
1. Oliver Sachs – Hallucinations
2. Jonathan Rose – The Intellectual Life Of The British Working Classes
3. Jim Bob – Driving Jarvis Ham
4. various contributors – Dark Mountain Issue 3
5. Hilary Mantel – Bring Up The Bodies
6. Ben Murray – Reading Proust (not published yet)
7. Maajid Nawaz – Radical
8. Robert & Edward Sidelsky – How Much Is Enough? The Love Of Money
9. Thomas Heatherwick – Making (this is a picture book really)
10. Haruki Murakami – IQ84 1-3
1. Thomas Hetherwick at the V&A
2. Shardcore’s Great Escape auto-generated fanzine scam
3. James Kendall’s photos at The Hope for BPB
4. Miro at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
5. The Rain Room at The Barbican
6. Carne Griffiths ink and tea work at Ink_d Gallery
7. Shardcore’s portrait of Jeremy Clarkson
8. British Design at the V&A
9. Mishfit’s Lakshmi graffiti on our back wall
10. Trevor Paglen at the Lighthouse for BPB
1. The Kid With A Bike
2. The Muppets
3. Beasts Of The Southern Wild
4. Bloody Cuts series of British horror shorts
5. Moonrise Kingdom
8. Cabin In The Woods
10. The Dark Knight Rises
Honorary mention: Princess Mononoke screened on film (not digital) at the Duke of Yorks. Ironically, for Brighton Digital Festival.
2. Adventure Time
3. Olympics and Paralympics Opening Ceremonies
4. Forbrydelsen (The Killing) III
5. The Walking Dead
6. The Thick Of It
7. Game Of Thrones
8. Felix Baumgartner’s jump from space live-stream
9. Nina Conti: A Ventriloquist’s Story
10. The Tube documentary series
ps. I know Breaking Bad was probably the best TV of the year but I’m saving the final couple seasons for later.
Honourable mentions: regained access to Daily Show and Colbert, also Veep, Smash! (loved the first few, gave up by episode 6), Wallander season 3, The Newsroom (yes!), Homeland series 1 (season 2 has gone bonkers, though performances are still excellent), Jon Stewart vs Bill O’Reilly: The TV Debate, Have You Heard From Johannesburg? documentary series. US Presidential election (watched simultanously on three channels + twitter), and that whales and dolphins TV series narrated by Stephen Fry
Also honourable mention for James Burke’s Connections, made in 1979 and the original TV series of Edge Of Darkness. Both of these would be in my top 3, if they’d been made this year.
LIVE TALKS & STAND-UP
1. James Burke talk at dConstruct
2. Bruce Springsteen’s keynote speech at SXSW
3. Tig Notaro’s live stand-up set, days after finding out about breast cancer
4. Storytellers Club: Mark Thomas’ story of activist betrayal, with Jim Bob and Isy Suttie
5. Hannah Lewis reads from ‘On This Site of Loss’ at Dark Mountain book launch
6. Meaning 2012: especially Indy Johar, Vinay Gupta and Caroline Lucas
7. Stewart Lee – Carpet Remnant World
8. tour guide’s bullshit ‘transvestite seduction’ story during the Blue John Cavern tour
9. Tom Armitage on Toymaking at dConstruct
10. Brian Aldiss, Jeff Noon and Lauren Beukes at Brighton SF
If I was to merge the categories, judge all culture as one, James Burke’s dConstruct talk would be my #1 of 2012. My mind was utterly frazzled and my heart opened. Listen to it here but only if you’ve the space to concentrate for an hour; it’s exceptionally rich food.
At this point, a nod of respect and gratitude to Brighton UX agency Clearleft. Not only were three of these talks under their wing (a hat tip to developer Jeremy Keith (@adactio) for curating and hosting both dConstruct and Brighton SF on one intense long weekend, the madman) but the company also invited me to tag along on their office outing, trawling London art exhibitions, two of which ended up in my art exhibitions top 10, above. That was a kick-arse day out.
RADIO / PODCASTS
1. This American Life: Our Friend David Rakoff (memorial edition)
2. Slate Gabfest during US Presidential primaries and election
3. In Our Time – Radio 4
4. David Sedaris reads his 2004 essay ‘Possession’ on Radio 4
5. WTF with Marc Maron, especially Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips) interview
6. Slate Culture Gabfest – Stephen Metcalf’s consistent insight into culture is extraordinary
7. Kermode and Mayo
8. Planet Money podcast
9. Mike Daisey’s episode of This American Life and and subsequent redaction
10. This American Life: Little War On The Prairie
And that’s my lot. Comments / disagreements / things I’ve missed out, all very welcome. If you want to compare it to last year’s top 10s, they’re here. Roll on 2013.