2021 has come and gone, and i dare say it was a fucking relief compared to the previous year. Yes, it was still a bit shit in parts, but overall, vaccination rates are up, restrictions are down, that awful man is no longer president of the United States, and poverty’s probably down again i don’t know i haven't checked. Here are some of the things that made me happy last year (in no particular order).
I’m not usually the EDM type — too much meaningless soulless wub-wub for my taste — but Porter Robinson’s Nurture brings some much-needed heart to the genre. So much of it resonated with me and helped me get through some tough times, be it “Get Your Wish’s” finding a reason to keep moving forward, “Mirror’s” teardown of anxious thoughts, or “Musician’s” struggles with creativity. Cheers, Mr Robinson.
I’m a Geordie boygirl born and raised, so i was predisposed to enjoy the new Sam Fender record, Seventeen Going Under— there’s a reason he’s already done two sold-out arena shows in Newcastle, after all. This album was the perfect companion to my walks throughout the region (more on those later); representing the north-east in all its many facets, from deprivation and government neglect to a proud history and modern culture.
“Aye” is like a supercharged, upgraded version of the frankly embarrassing “White Privilege” from his last album — think that “Daniel vs the cooler Daniel” meme; “Spit of You” brings me back to memories of my family in the Netherlands, and makes me wish i’d appreciated them more; Not to mention the final track, “The Dying Light”, which shows Mr Fender at his most Springsteen, tugging at heartstrings with a soaring anti-suicide power-ballad.
Wolf Alice’s third record, Blue Weekend, shows them at their anthemic, genre-fluid best. It opens with “The Beach”, which soars to highs so high you’d think they’d never top them — but the quality is so consistent throughout that it’s hard for me to pick out just a few. “How Can I Make It OK?” is an enchanting throwback about feeling unable to care for a loved one; towards the back of the album, the thrashing “Play the Greatest Hits” and emotional “The Last Man on Earth” feel completely at home together, despite only having a single track between them.
Film and television
It might not have been the best film of the year — or even the best superhero film of the year, for that matter — but my pick for my favourite film this year can hardly go to anything other than James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, simply by the merit of being the first film i saw in cinemas since Þe Before Times. It’s raucous, gorey fun which i wouldn’t have experienced any other way.
Independent of viewing-place — and you know this is true because i watched it on my computer — i’d say the best film of the past year would have to be Censor, a stylish indie horror from first-time director Prano Bailey-Bond. Set in the shadow of the “video nasty” panic, this moody mystery takes its time — but it’s worth every second.
Shawn Levy’s Free Guy was unapologetically shlocky, but i had fun with it, even if i did roll my eyes when that scene at the end happened (yi kna the one). I enjoyed Pig, with Nicolas Cage — check out the restaurant scene. Dune was the most gorgeous thing i’ve ever had the privilege of seeing on the big screen. The French Dispatch is Wes Anderson at his Andersonianest, and you’ll either love it or hate it — one thing we can all agree on, though, is that Jeffrey Wright should be the voice of every audiobook. Capping off the year was Spider-Man: No Way Home; of which, despite me having never seen any of his films, Andrew Garfield was absolutely the best part.α
I didn’t watch much TV this year, but what i did watch i rather enjoyed. Inside №9 was the absolute highlight; a distressingly bingeable horror-comedy-drama-thing anthology series with big names and bigger twists. So hard to pick, but my favourite episodes, if you want to start somewhere, are “The Riddle of the Sphinx”, “The Devil of Christmas”, “A Quiet Night In”, and the delightfully meta live special.
Dark is a brilliant German time-travel twisty-mystery with a ridiculously talented casting department and (thank the heavens) an actually satisfying conclusion that keeps you going all along the ride. Go in blind — you’ll regret it if you don’t!
I finally got around to watching Chernobyl, too, and it was just as good as everyone said it was. More effective horror than anything James Wan’s ever made, that’s for sure!
The “real world”
On the last day of 2020, i wrote up some predictions for 2021 — and one of them was that live sports and concerts would remain off limits until at least 2022. How happy i was to be proven wrong when i got dragged to an Elbow gig one September night. Guy Garvey, methinks, is one of the unsung heroes of Brit-pop/rock — so many artists have taken after Elbow, but they have a comparatively diminutive presence in the popular conscience compared to your Blurs, Oases, and Radioheads.
In more physical terms, this was the year i started (long December nights have gotten in the way of finishing it) my project to walk the Blyth and Tyne railway before it reopens, which has given me a fascinating look at the current fabric of this urbanised corner of Northumberland. I haven’t much more to say on that except that it’s been so, so lovely being able once more to get out and about more often — and ticking something off my bucket list too!
Well, that’s your lot. I’ve had a nice enough 2021 — i hope yours has been too.