If my last post was all about accountability, today’s is nothing but the simple joy of listing out my favourite albums, books, movies, and television of the year. Yes, that’s right, it’s time to play End of Year Roundup!
I’ve seen a few people putting their own lists out somewhat sheepishly this year, apologising for intruding on the time of others, because nobody really cares what they have to say, right? Well, I have two responses to that:
1. I always discover a few albums from other people’s lists
2. Making these lists is fun and nice and right now anything that’s fun and nice should be applauded.
So, without further ado, here’s some of my favourite things from 2019.
Top Ten albums of the year.
I’ve not been massively impressed by this year’s musical outpourings, compared to the last few years. I know from my twitter feed that loads of people have felt the complete opposite, but obviously something just didn’t click for me this year. That probably wasn’t helped by some very high-profile disappointments by bands I usually love (Baroness, I’m looking at you, and you 65daysofstatic). But there were still some fantastic albums this year.
1. Moon Tooth – Crux: A band always vaguely on my radar, but never quite worming their way into my heart’s affections, this year’s Crux swiftly shoved them right up said radar. A bewildering mix of insane prog-metal theatrics, grand pop sensibilities, and a singer more in the vein of Mike and the Mechanics than anything remotely metal, this is a strange, heady concoction, but it’s one I simply couldn’t stop listening to.
2. Pijn & Conjurer – Curse These Metal Hands: Apparently this was only intended as a bit of a lark, a joke made by two of British Metal’s most interesting bands. What they got was something that evoked the heady days of Baroness’s heavy sludge rock with parts of their own DNA to come up with a short but quite wonderful masterpiece.
3. Ithaca – The Language of Injury: A prime slice of modern hardcore inflected with the best of modern metal, Ithaca continued Holy Roar’s run as ‘best label in the world’ and what must at this point be the strongest run British metal has had since the 80’s. That it’s cut through with a ferocious rage at injustice only helps cement its place in my shriveled black heart.
4. Cult of Luna – A Dawn To Fear: The fact that this isn’t sat astride my top spot like the last two albums from arguably the best metal band in the world right now means it never hits quite the high of Mariner, but, let’s face it, Cult of Luna firing at 80% is better than most bands will achieve one their very best day. It’s possible this one needs more space to breathe, too.
5. Elder – The Gold & Silver Sessions: The band said this was a curiosity, a low-key stopgap between albums proper, but their gear change put them right in my wheelhouse. Instrumental stone rock fan worship from one of the most technically gifted bands on the planet, what’s not to love?
6. Astronoid – Astronoid: Just immensely lovely pop music played at black metal pace.
7. Defeater – Defeater: Hugely satisfying ending to hardcore’s longest-running narrative story. I’m guessing it’s the end, anyway, because it’s so bleak and harrowing lyrically as to leave them little room to go. You don’t need to have heard all their previous albums to ‘get’ this one, but for those following along, it’s a hell of a ride.
8. The Comet is Coming – Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery: I picked this up thinking it was going to be a stone rock album, but what I got instead was furious saxophone jazz-funk with a deep electro kick to it. And pretty bloody amazing, to boot.
9. Employed to Serve – Eternal Forward Motion: Just one of the best bands in Britain right now, being brilliant once again. If you’re down in the dumps about Britain’s slide into grinning fascism, stick this slab of furious grinding hardcore on and you’ll want to run out into the streets and start burning stuff.
10. Norma Jean – All Hail: Amazingly consistent band in good album shock! Despite no longer having a single original member in their revolving door line up, Norma Jean still bring anthemic hardcore like nobody else.
So, not an amazing year, all told, and a couple of those albums would have struggled to get onto the list in other years, but still a nice dose of quality.
Books of the Year: I am absolutely dreadful at reading things the year they come out, but I loved Gemma Amor’s Dear Laura novella, and wrote a fairly glowing review of it. In terms of old stuff, I finally read Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and it completely spun my world on its axis of general understanding, and I finally got around to reading Frank Herbert’s Dune, which it turns out is pretty good, to the utter surprise of absolutely nobody. In terms of writing-related books, I really got a hell of a lot from Damon Suede and Heidi Culinan’s Your A Game, and David Gaughran’s new updated version of Let’s Get Digital, his Strangers to Superfans and his Bookbub Ads Expert, even if I didn’t actually start running any Bookbub ads. Basically, if you’re a writer, you should read all of his books.
Films of the Year: I don’t get to the cinema much, and I don’t track my films in the way I do books and music, so I’ll just give a shout out to a few. Marriage Story was a terrific watch, Avengers: Endgame was flawed but still a fantastic curtain closer on the MCU’s big arc, John Wick 3 made me smile like a gurning loon, El Camino was the definition of satisfying, The Great Hack and Hail Satan? were both eye-opening documentaries, and my son’s face at the end of Detective Pikachu was one of my favourite things that happened. On the flip side, The Irishman can get all the way into the sea and stay there.
TV of the Year: There is far too much TV to watch, and I watched too much of it in a year when I also managed to cram in the whole of Game of Thrones. Here, in no particular order, are some of the things I’ve loved: Killing Eve, The Yorkshire Ripper Files, The Boys, Stranger Things, Line of Duty, Mindhunter, Derry Girls, What We Do In The Shadows, Rise of the Nazis, Ghosts, The End of the F***ing World, The Capture.
*takes deep breath*
His Dark Materials, War of the Worlds, Russian Doll, The Virtues, Peaky Blinders, Ozark, The Ted Bundy Tapes, and finally Good Omens. Phew. And I’m fairly sure I’ve missed some there. If you want the answer to the question ‘why didn’t Paul release any books this year’ we may have found our answer.
So there you go. A bad year, and a good year. And to round it off, I’ve made you a mixtape of stuff from the ten albums above, short enough to fit on a C90. Aren’t I nice?
Paul Stephenson is an author and blogger. His first series, the post-apocalyptic thriller trilogy Blood on the Motorway, is available now in ebook and print from Amazon, and free to read for Kindle Unlimited members. Get Short Sharp Shocks, a collection of three exclusive free short stories when you join the reader’s group. Subscribe to the blog to get a weekly roundup of all posts sent directly to your inbox. Also you can share using the buttons below, or why not buy Paul a coffee?