Now reviewed at Culture Revival: the debut album by London duo Swanton Bombs. Mumbo Jumbo and Murder is a short, sharp set of rock songs, and — well, the review will tell you more.
Chances are, you won’t have heard of Girl in a Thunderbolt (Norwich singer-songwriter Maria Uzor); neither had I until I was sent her EP to review for Culture Revival — and what a discovery. Songs for Modern Lovers is a set of four dark, folk-ish tracks to which no simple categorisation can do justice. I loved it.
Video: ‘Run Away’ (NB. Not on this EP)
It’s been a good year for reading, watching and listening, I think; so here’s a look at my favourite books, movies and music of 2009.
Here are my favourite books whose first publication was in 2009, with links to my reviews. (NB. The order isn’t meant to be too strict; all these books are warmly recommended.)
1. Eleanor Catton, The Rehearsal
My favourite book of 2009 is an extraordinary work of literature which examines the masks people wear and the shows people put on in life, against the background of a school scandal. Catton doesn’t put a foot wrong, and the result is a novel that’s both highly experimental and compulsively readable.
2. Keith Brooke, The Accord
Brooke is, in my opinion, a vastly under-appreciated writer; this story of a virtual afterlife is the best of his works that I’ve read. The Accord works on so many levels: as a novel of ideas, as a novel of character, as a thriller, as an experiment in style… It’s a heady concoction that deserves as wide an audience as possible.
3. Rana Dasgupta, Solo
An elderly Bulgarian man looks back on his life in the first half of this novel, then dreams of a new life for an old friend in the second. A beautifully written, richly rewarding book.
4. Adam Roberts, Yellow Blue Tibia
At the behest of Stalin, a group of science fiction writers dream up an outlandish enemy for communism, and discover that the truth is uncomfortably close. Enormous fun, and a feast for the imagination.
5. Margo Lanagan, Tender Morsels
A powerful fairytale about the difficulty of looking life in the eye, and the possible consequences of not doing so. A deserved co-winner of the World Fantasy Award.
6. Jedediah Berry, The Manual of Detection
A deeply atmospheric detective story whose heart beats with a unique strangeness.
7. David Vann, Legend of a Suicide
A mosaic portrait of a father’s suicide, with a strong sense of place and a sharp eye for character. A unique work of literature.
8. Conrad Williams, One
Williams evokes the profound horror of apocalypse whilst maintaining an intensely personal focus. Harrowing, but powerful.
9. A.C. Tillyer, An A-Z of Possible Worlds
Twenty-six individually bound portraits of what-if. The most beautifully made book of the year, with stories to match.
10. Evie Wyld, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice
A quiet, insightful tale of silence between fathers and sons, and the consequences of leaving things unspoken.
11. China Miéville, The City & the City
A murder mystery set in overlapping cities, and a fascinating fusion of fantasy and crime fiction.
12. Trevor Byrne, Ghosts and Lightning
A young man returns to Dublin after the death of his mother, and struggles to anchor his life. Well written and nicely observed.
And the best from previous years…
Ken Grimwood, Replay (1986)
A perfectly constructed and beautifully observed tale of a life lived over and over again in different ways. This is an absolute jewel of a book which I am enormously glad to have read this year.
Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008)
A marvellous coming-of-age (or beginnings thereof) story told in a brilliantly realised voice. A page-turner of depth and richness.
Though I didn’t intend it to happen, I got somewhat out of the habit of watching films in the latter half of 2009, so my view of the cinematic year is a bit skewed. But my favourite film from 2009 was a brilliant British fantasy called Franklyn; and, from previous years, I was most impressed by Once and Hard Candy — both excellent films, though very different in mood.
Instead of picking out albums, I’ll present a list of some of the best songs that sountracked my year (though not all originate from 2009); but, if it’s on here, you can (in most cases) consider it a recommendation for the relevant album:
Bat for Lashes, ‘Daniel’ [review]
Doves, ‘Kingdom of Rust’
The Duckworth Lewis Method, ‘Jiggery Pokery’ [review]
Florence and the Machine, ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’ [review]
Franz Ferdinand, ‘Ulysses’ [review]
Friendly Fires, ‘Paris’ [review]
Glasvegas, ‘Flowers and Football Tops’ [review]
Lisa Hannigan, ‘I Don’t Know’ [review]
Charlotte Hatherley, ‘White’
The Invisible, ‘London Girl’ [review]
La Roux, ‘Bulletproof’ [review]
The Leisure Society, ‘The Last of the Melting Snow’ [review]
Little Boots, ‘New in Town’ [review]
The Phantom Band, ‘The Howling’
Snow Patrol, ‘Just Say Yes’ [review]
Super Furry Animals, ‘The Very Best of Neil Diamond’ [review]
Sweet Billy Pilgrim, ‘Kalypso’ [review]
The Temper Trap, ‘Sweet Disposition’
White Lies, ‘Death’ [review]
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, ‘Zero’
So, that was 2009. I hope that 2010 holds as much to look forward to.
I went to see Snow Patrol at the weekend, and what a great night it was. A brilliant performance, and even a surprise guest appearance by Elbow (it was as much a surpise to Snow Patrol as anyone else). My review of the gig is now up at Culture Revival, and you can read it here.
Video: ‘Just Say Yes’ (live)
I have a review up at Culture Revival of the latest Team Waterpolo single, which is a fantastic song that surely’ll bring a smile to anyone’s face. Now, with music reviews, I’d normally link to a video; but should I still do that when the review is about only one song? On balance, I think it would be churlish of me not to, when I like the song so much.
So, here is ‘Letting Go’:
EDIT: No more than five minutes after writing this post, I went over to Team Waterpolo’s Facebook page to post a link to the review, and I discovered that the band have decided to split. Very sad news.
Now up at Culture Revival is my review of Over the Sun, the first album by Rodina, a jazz-pop outfit from Leeds. It’s quite a mixed write-up, and I’m not sure I’d have listened to the album had I not been sent it for review; so I leave it to you to make what you will of my thoughts.
The full review is available to read here.
It took some searching to track down any of Rodina’s music that I could embed here, but I found the acoustic performance below. It’s more stripped down than the album version; but there’s also a music player at the band’s website (linked above).
Video: ‘Runaway Bay’ (live)