Primavera in Barcelona last summer was one of the best festivals I’ve ever attended, and with its 50/50 gender split, billed as the new normal, it’s to be commended. Nothing was better than the theatrical performance of Christine. An amazing show, with a Charli XCX guest spot, from someone who’s going to be one of the stars of the next decade.
Finally the Brooklyn band returned to Irish shores and, over a two-hour set as the sun went down, more than sated appetites. It helped they were touring the best album of their career and could showcase the song of the summer, ‘This Life’.
The year belonged to and their homecoming set at Vicar Street in early December proved why they’re such an incendiary live band.
Kerry boy Junior Brother released an idiosyncratic take on folk that signalled one of the brightest, funniest talents in the country. Pull The Right Rope might be an acquired taste for some but it’s a delight once it clicks.
I thought I was done with Bon Iver after struggling with 22, A Million, but his latest effort, i, i, feels like the culmination of a decade of searching — and struggling — and is his most affecting record since his debut.
Sinead Gleeson’s essay collection Constellations hit home with as many people as expected. She’s a superlative and important writer. I also devoured Daisy Jones and the Six, a fictional oral history of a band based on Fleetwood Mac, by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which is being adapted for TV.
Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory was funny, moving, and original. It’s about an ageing man’s multiple personal crises, aided/hindered by a newfound interest in heroin. Utterly captivating.
Having started a weekly podcast column for these pages this year, my ears were opened to many more shows and genres than before. Tunnel 29 and The Critter Shed were standouts. It’s tough keeping up with Bill Simmons’ output but I’m a huge fan — so much so that I’ve become a regular watcher of the NBA this year. Simmons’ conversations with the author Chuck Klosterman are engrossing.
The Olafur Eliasson exhibition at the Tate was a fun feast for the eyes, while the Derek Jarman retrospective PROTEST! at IMMA was engrossing.
Spotify is an amazing tool but it’s just so hard for artists to make anything, let alone, a living, from their music. A tipping point is surely coming.
Most enjoyable piece I worked on...
The rise of rap has been one of the stories of Irish music this decade and the mid-west is a melting pot of talent. God Knows is one part of Rusangano Family and this year struck out on his own and via multiple collaborations. His positive energy was evident when I met him early in the year. A force of nature.
Looking forward to for next year... Tramp Press never steers us wrong and in 2020 is publishing a new book from Sara Baume and Doireann Ni Ghriofa’s non-fiction debut.Musically, I can’t wait to hear the second Fontaines DC album, which is already in the can. But I hope their talk of it being a bit Beach Boys doesn’t ring true.