Best things of 2015
One of the joys of having a blog is being able to self-indulge in posts like this, so here are some of my things of the year, interspersed with some favourite pics.
Gig of the year
Well, Skin Côntact's triumphant Vinopolis gig has very fond memories, of course. But the most brilliant gig for sheer energy and excitement was Wolf Alice at the Brixton Academy in September. A close second was Canadian alt-rockers Alvvays at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. Most rock n roll moment of the year goes to Evol Walks at The Viper Room in Hollywood. A blistering set in a legendary venue, channelling 80s hard rock without a trace of irony.
Flop of the year was Belle & Sebastian at Somerset House, who were amateurish and boring. And the most bizarre performance by a significant distance was the art-prog-jazz outfit Magma at Cadogan Hall.
Book of the year
Against every expectation I had when first reading it, How To Be Both by Ali Smith was phenomenally good. Very high concept, and borderline unintelligible in places, but it came together at the end in a very gratifying way. Immensely satisfying and fiercely intelligent - a book that makes you feel smarter. I re-read it immediately.
Very honourable mentions go to Jonathan Coe's Number 11 and The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock, both of which I enjoyed very much. The former is intricately plotted and really took me by surprise at the end, while the latter is an evocative account of the space race.
Film of the year
Whiplash came out right at the beginning of the year, but I didn't see it until November. What a film. It's billed as an uncomfortable watch, and it certainly has grit - but it is completely compelling and superbly acted. There's one slightly unlikely moment involving a car collision, but the final scene is one of the best and most satisfying endings to a film I've ever seen. As Alex Hunt tweeted:
I didn't bother with the new Bond, but I did enjoy The Martian, and I'm going to see the The Force Awakens on 30 December, so there might be a late challenger to Whiplash. But I doubt it.
Album of the year
This is too tricky to award to just one, so I'll split it between the mind-bendingly good To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamarr, My Love Is Cool by Wolf Alice, Bonxie by Stornaway and The Race for Space by Public Service Broadcasting. Currents by Tame Impala was good, but not as good as Innerspeaker, for me. I loved Sufjan Stevens' Come On Feel The Illinoise in 2005, but this year's Carrie & Lowell didn't really do it for me. Guilty pleasure award goes to Last Of Our Kind by the Darkness.
Meal of the year
A very long wine trade lunch with Gaia Gaja at Bocca di Lupo was very indulgent and enjoyable. However, there was something very special about an anniversary meal at Dishoom King's Cross, which is superbly atmospheric, and serves authentic, delicious food.
Play of the year
A slightly fallow year, but Bugsy Malone at the Lyric Hammersmith was very good. Behind The Beautiful Forevers at the National Theatre was so badly written I walked out. Golem at the Young Vic was very inventive if a bit obvious.
Wine of the year
Honestly no idea. If I thought about it, the shortlist would be much more about the context than the wine itself. This should be wine's purpose, after all - to enhance an existing situation. Perhaps the most memorable one was the Jacquesson 2002 I drank the night I passed the MW. Let's make that moment of the year too.