Top 10s of 2013
posted on December 9th, 2013

It’s that time again. I think this year has been exceptional for all strands of culture and I’m well pleased with how much I got to check out (especially films and books), compared to the last 2-3 years. So here we go, 2013 in culture…

An insanely good year for albums. I’m not including The Bear, nor Jim Bob’s album What I Think About When I Think About You though I’m very proud of both and think they deserve to be in any chart – but they’re banned from this list. Other albums I played or sang on are fine because I only did tiny bits; had no input into how the record turned out.

1. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
2. 65DaysOfStatic – Wild Light
3. Gill Sandell – Light The Boats
4. Future Of The Left – How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident
5. Savages – Silence Yourself
6. Los Campesinos! – No Blues
7. British Sea Power – Machineries Of Joy
8. Yo La Tengo – Fade
9. Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle
10. My Bloody Valentine – mbv
11. Bill Callahan – Dream River
12. Thirty Pounds Of Bone – I Cannot Sing You Here, But For Songs Of Where
13. Lorde – Pure Heroine
14. Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe
15. Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo – Dear River
16. Steve Mason – Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time
17. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
18. Danny & The Champions Of The World – Stay True
19. My First Tooth – Love Makes Monsters
20. The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law.

Honourable mentions: John Murry, Mark McCabe, Kate Nash, David Bowie, Frank Turner, The Bronx, Ben Marwood, Serafina Steer, Jamie Lenman, Lady Gaga, Jetplane Landing, Eels and Kathryn Williams.

ps. I know Kanye’s record has incredible sounds but I can’t get beyond how deeply the lyrics (and Kanye himself) annoy me.


1. John Parish Band at SXSC Festival, Winchester
2. Cut Ribbons at Great Escape, Brighton
3. the whole unplugged lineup at Uncivilisation Festival IV, Hampshire *
4. Ben Marwood at the Xtra Mile Takeover, 2000 Trees Festival
5. Brodsky Quartet ‘America’ short concert at Kings Place Festival (thx Ben Eshmade)
6. Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo, various venues on the Dear River tour
7. Frightened Rabbit, The Concorde, Brighton
8. Robyn Hitchcock’s 60th Birthday gig at Village Underground, London
9. Murray Xcert at the Xtra Mile Takeover, 2000 Trees Festival
10. Annie Dressner in Folk In A Box at King’s Place Festival
11. The Strypes at Great Escape, Brighton

* Small Shipwrecks, Grace Petrie, Thirty Pounds Of Bone, Matt Hocking, Owen Tromans and The Retrospective Soundtrack Players. Absolutely perfect evening.

Honourable mentions: Mary Epworth at Great Escape, Pip Mountjoy the other night in Durham, Revere in Folk In A Box, Crazy Arm acoustic and Oxygen Thief at Xtra Mile Takeover of 2000 Trees and Rachael Dadd at Shepherds Bush Empire. By the way my favourite live music performance I saw on telly was Biffy Clyro’s headline set at Reading Festival.

The second half of this year has been amazing for unusual, wonderful performances and I have a Top 10 already together – but I still have some shows to do, through to Dec 22, so I’ll wait and update this section on Christmas Eve. Ever the optimist.

A brilliant but also dark / intense year for cinema. Heard Harvey Weinstein on Wittertainment say he thinks it’s as good a year as 1939 (when Gone With The Wind and other masterpieces were released) and I wouldn’t argue.

1. The Selfish Giant
2. Pig The Dog (Maxy Bianco short for ‘Random Acts’ at Baltic Gallery, Newcastle)
3. The Act Of Killing
4. Gravity
5. 5 Broken Cameras
6. Don’t Move (Anthony Melton’s directorial debut for the Bloody Cuts series)
7. Nebraska
8. In A World
9. Springsteen & I
10. Robot And Frank

Honourable mentions: Enough Said, A Band Called Death, A Royal Affair (sort of last year but I only saw it when it popped up on Netflix) and I haven’t seen Blue Jasmine, Saving Mr Banks or Captain Phillips yet but I’m sure I’ll enjoy them.

I’ve been wondering the extent to which Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo’s Wittertainment radio show and podcast is single-handedly responsible for a rennaissance in how we critically watch films. It’s a wildly popular show in the UK, creates a unique safe space where smart conversation about film is nurtured without excluding the fun seekers. Immense value, shouldn’t be under-estimated – probably should write a blog about this because it contrasts with how I feel music criticism and conversation is going (ie. downhill!).

We got rid of our actual television this year, to watch on iPlayer (and less overall). I’ve also quit stealing TV, relying on Netflix US instead; so I’m behind with big autumn releases such as season 4 of The Walking Dead and latest episodes of Louie.

1. The Story Of Film: An Odyssey by Mark Cousins (sort of old – but only screened in US this year)
2. Parks & Recreation
3. Storyville: Google and the World Brain
4. Black Mirror
5. Orange Is The New Black
6. Newsroom Season 2
7. Top Of The Lake
8. Russian dashcams / crash compilations on Youtube (sorry, got addicted)
9. The Deadliest Catch
10. Adventure Time

Honorary mentions: The Walking Dead, Game Of Thrones, Bob’s Burgers, close proximity wing suit flying on Youtube, The Five(-ish) Doctors, Attenborough’s Africa, Boardwalk Empire, Peaky Blinders, Only Connect


1. Steven Pinker – The Better Angels Of Our Nature
2. Peter Ames Carlin – Bruce
3. Jim Crace – Harvest
4. David Sedaris – Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls
5. Jeff Noon – Channel SK1N (from 2012 but I only read it this year)
6. Tracey Thorn – Bedsit Disco Queen
7. Oliver Gray – Zander
8. F.W. Bateson – Essays In Critical Dissent (from 1972)
9. Annalee Newitz – Scatter, Adapt & Remember
10. Emily Bazelon – Sticks & Stones (incredible investigation of bullying, US schools & tech)

Honorable mentions: Beck – Song Reader, Lauren Beukes – The Shining Girls, Alan Johnson – This Boy and Dave Eggers – The Circle (only just started it but it’s amazing so far), Hanna Rosin – The End Of Men (and The Rise Of Women). I haven’t yet read Bob Stanley’s Yeah Yeah Yeah but at a glance it’s excellent.


1. Death at the Wellcome Trust
2. Barbara Hepworth Studio and Garden, St Ives
3. Women From The Fine Art Collection at Brighton Museum
4. Soviet Art 1960–1980s at S**tchi Gallery, London
5. Shardcore at 68 Middle St and elsewhere, Brighton
6. Subversive Design at Brighton Museum
7. ‘Random Acts’ short films at Baltic Gallery, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
8. Russian prison tattoos at the S**tchi Gallery, London
9. street art and public art in Newcastle
10. St Mungo Museum of religious art, Glasgow

Honorable mentions: Finders Keepers at Michael Hoppen Gallery, Into The Blue at Hove Museum & Gallery, Hong Kong New Contemporaries at S**tchi Gallery, GOMA, our visit to the Science Museum, butterfly garden and Minerals Gallery at NHM (with Rifa and Anthony Melton), can’t remember the artist(s) but the exhibition about ageing and altzheimers at Exeter Phoenix Gallery, and Keith Bennett’s community portraits, The Discovery Centre, Winchester


1. Tony Harrison reads V on Radio 4
2. Alexandra Loske: The First Giraffe (on my podcast)
3. Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo – Wittertainment
4. 500th episode of This American Life
5. Stuart Maconie – The People’s Songs
6. Bryan Cranston reads the poem ‘Ozymandias’ for the Breaking Bad trailer
7. Soul Music, BBC Radio 4
8. Slate Culturefest
9. Chris Packham’s Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4
10. Colbert on the Slate Gabfest live show

Honorable mentions: Danny Boyle and (just this week) Harvey Weinstein interviews on Wittertainment, This American Life / Planet Money investigation into disabled benefits, Slate Gabfest and Double X Gabfest, BBC Radio 4 Any Questions, BBC Radio 4 News Quiz, WTF with Marc Maron, Kermode’s 50 Years Of Cinema


1. Curious Incident Of The Dog In Night-Time at the Apollo Theatre, London (thx Rifa)
2. Uncivilisation Festival IV readings and conversation
3. James Bridle talk on drones at The Lighthouse
4. Mark Thomas: Bravo Figaro
5. Counter-culture debate at the ICA, plus booze afterwards with Michael Horowitz & others
6. British Animal Studies Network Conference, Strathclyde University
7. Rifa’s first Oneness Meditation, Totnes
8. Jeff Noon reads from Channel SK1N and poetry at Digital Late, Brighton Museum
9. Pecha Kucha Night Brighton #19 for Brighton Digital Festival
10. An Evening With Private Eye at the Lyttelton Theatre (thx Rifa)

Honorable mentions: Andy Bennett’s poetry at The SoapBox House, Ipswich, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror Q&A at the Duke Of York’s Cinema, Brighton, Kelly Boddington & Rob White’s LGBT Guided Tour of Brighton Museum

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