I tried to post this on New Year's Eve but Blogger was sketching out and it wouldn't work - so much for my end of year list going up on the very last day but hey-ho, it's all still relevant. Twas another cracking year for books and music with much eager devouring afoot. Slightly less so for films, personally: only made it to the flicks twice, to see Arrival (which was very good and refreshingly, if at times disarmingly concise) and the slightly older, but utterly sublime Song of the Sea - a magical, beautiful film. I also greatly enjoyed watching Mr.Turner, and I took far more pleasure than I should have done in watching Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Tale of Tales was another good'n - flawed, but highly enjoyable and atmospheric.
As an avid reader of fiction I'm well used to finshing books with a distinct air of frustration, from either fizzling-out non-endings or otherwise unsatisfactory conclusions, but reading The Miniaturist followed by His Bloody Project proved a cruel double whammy. Both cracking books but somewhat ruined by expectations not being realised (in the latter case I was bloody certain the granny would have a pivotal part to play and change everything but she never got mentioned again and the book just plodded on to its conclusion. I'm not saying every book needs a pivotal granny but in this case everything seemed to be building towards it - a missed trick if ever there was one.
Still, you can't go wrong with with William Boyd, and Sweet Caress was the best of the new books I read this year. He just maintains such a high standard, even with a distinst break from the norm such as this one - a thoroughly refreshing read (not to mention a brave conceit) from one of the finest novelists around.
Other recent, if not new, books I read this year that I'd also recommend were the Lives of Others, A Brief History of Seven Killings (the Booker shortlist is always reassuringly reliable) and the somewhat older, previously mentioned Poisonwood Bible. I also got Prisoners of Geography for Christmas and so while I've only just started it, it's turning out to be one of the most fascinating and insightful books I've read - my understanding of the world has reached a major new level in a short number of pages and I can't wait to find out more! I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Music was excellent this year too. Clinton Fearon and Grouch are bang at the top of their game so a year with albums by both of them is a good year indeed; This Morning doesn't quite scale the utterly stellar heights of Clinton's previous, Goodness, but it's a grower so it might get there eventually (the odd performance wobble notwithstanding - tunes and sound are superb), and Corpus Callosum is a very, very fine slice of gloriously inventive and solidly grooving psychedelia.
In the wonderful world of metal I have to go with the general consensus and say the best album of the year was Gojira's Magma - they were pretty good before but they've really stepped up a few gears this time and Magma is incredible. You might even like it if metal's not your thing, such is the range of texture, atmosphere and fearless invention. And I think my other favourite album of 2016 is completely at the other end of the spectrum - Love Letter For Fire by Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop, whilst edging ever so slightly too far in the direction of twee at times, is just a lovely, lovely record.
And, POW - another last-minute blinder: like many it seems, I'd kinda lost interest somewhat in The Coral in recent years, but their new Distance Inbetween record is outstanding. Full of surprises, whilst doing everything that you might want it to in all the right places, it's driving but subtle, dark but warm; dynamic, atmospheric and psychedelic, and just full of downright cracking tunes - really really top notch. All the more so for buying on a whim whilst Christmas shopping (you've gotta treat yourself too, eh) - something I realised I (and, I'd wager, most people) don't do that much of any more in these days of easy, instant online previews. It's great to have one's curiosity piqued and then take a chance on something (anything really - not just music) without checking beforehand - just dive in! I should really add the caveat that, barring Soundcloud (where I'll tend to buy the tunes I like anyway, if they're released) I'm not a fan of streaming and I buy all the music that I listen to - old school, but preferable in every way. Streaming, to me, just feels like one massive, never-ending preview. Other good albums that I enjoyed from this year came from Hedflux, Meshuggah, Resonators, Squid Inc and the cracking new reissue of Yabby You's Beware Dub. Splendid.
Happy New Year to you all - I hope 2017 is a belter in all the best possible ways.