A round up of some of the films, books and music that I’ve (mostly) enjoyed so far this year.
Darkest Hour: Oscar winning performance by Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in a film focusing on his early days as Prime Minister during WWII.
Early Man: Latest Ardman stop motion animation based around when the Stone Age met the Bronze Age. Lots of gags for adults as well as kids.
Makala: Great documentary following a charcoal burner in Democratic Republic of Congo as he hussles to make a better life for his wife and children.
Sweet Country: Very good, hard-hitting (in all respects) Australian western, exploring racism in the Western Territory. Based on true events.
You Were Never Really Here: Joaquin Phoenix gives a great performance as a war veteran who routinely uses violence to rescue young girls from prostitution. Then he finds himself caught up in something much deeper than he thought. Another great film from Lynn Ramsay.
Ascension by Gregory Dowling: Very good murder mystery with a good helping of political intrigue. Set in Venice in the mid 18th century.
Die of Shame by Mark Billingham: Excellent crime thriller in which the action centres around a self-help group of addicts. Decidedly different, and a real page turner.
Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard: Crime thriller set around a cruise shipping company. Critically acclaimed, but some of the plotlines are rather preposterous.
The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer: Very good crime thriller. A crime reporter who is very closely tracking a serial killer explores the lengths she would go to in order to get a scoop as their lives become intertwined..
Wild Tales by Graham Nash: Biographies are normally narcissistic, but this one takes the biscuit. The first part is interesting (about his early career including the Hollies), but then the book mostly drones on about the dysfunctional nature of Crosby, Stills and Nash (and Young), and drugs, covering ground that he’s been documented before elsewhere.
Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen: Frank appraisal of the life and times of Springsteen and some of the people of America that often get overlooked. Even if you don’t like Springsteen’s music, it’s worth reading.
Whyte Horses “Empty Words”: The mighty psych-poppers are back. Their first album was very good indeed, and this one is even better. Dom Thomas is a genius!
Hookworms “Microshift”: Hookworms add a dance spin to their previously raucous sound. Shades of LCD Soundsystem, in places, only much better.
Hollie Cook “Vessel of Love”: New label, but same old Hollie Cook, sounding better than ever as she works her way through 10 original reggae songs, all neatly produced by Youth (of Killing Joke fame).
Johann Johannsson “Englaborn and Variations”: A fitting epitaph to the sublime Johannsson’s life. Includes a re-mastering of debut album “Englaborn” and several variations of some tracks, either by Johannsson himself, or by others, such as A Winged Victory For The Sullen.
Nils Frahm “All Melody”: Frahm celebrates his new studio in Berlin with a blend of the classical and the modern, going for a bigger more expansive sound than usual. He also captures some of the sounds of the new studio along the way.
Loma “Loma”: Quite a low-key album (no pun intended), with shades of Low and even a bit of Clinic. This one’s a real grower that rewards repeated plays.
Field Music “Open Here”: If Talking Heads had been British, this is what they would have sounded like. This time around the brothers Brewis are trying to make sense of the Britain we now live in, in their own inimitable pop/funk style.