Our regular contributors select their highlights of the year
Julien Baker, a confessional songwriter with a heart heaving with woe, performing at Whelan’s in Dublin in November was a live performance that stands out.
Other highlights included Tycho, a “chillwave” quartet from San Fransisco, at Forbidden Fruit, and Clark’s Black Mirror-esque 2am performance at Electric Picnic. He’s on the same record label as Aphex Twin — but, with his scary, Ringu-inspired dancers, was influenced more by Aphex Twin videos than Aphex Twin songs.
John Maus at the Grand Social was fascinating — mostly because it was unclear whether he was impersonating a guy having an emotional breakdown on stage or was actually having an emotional breakdown on stage.
Radiohead at 3Arena was a surprise to those of us who’d written them off a professional mopers. Their refusal to take any satisfaction whatsoever from success is a lesson a younger generation of musicians could learn from.
The Stone Sky, the conclusion to NK Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy, was a sublime exercise in world building. And although it was published in late 2016, I enjoyed discovering Kij Johnson’s The Dream-Quest of Vellitt-Boe, a “Woke” revisiting of HP Lovecraft’s The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.
@Regrann from @jubileejen - It's 76 and sunny today so I'm taking my book outside! I'm currently reading The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson. This novella was just nominated for a Nebula Award, and it follows a professor as she looks for a wayward student in the Dreaming Lands. It's based off a Lovecraft story, and Johnson reinterprets it with a feminist slant. #currentlyreading #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookphotography #thedreamquestofvellittboe #kijjohnson #novella #nebulaaward - #regrann
For straight up, swords and sorcery yucks, Brandon Sanderson delivered again with Oathbringer. And though not really a book the Gloomhaven “role-playing game in a box” boardgame delivered some of the best flights of escapism of the past 12 months.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi pulled off the trick of being simultaneously offensive — look, Princess Leia is flying! — and boring (I came close to nodding off during the interminable casino scenes).
Also baffling was the acclaim shown to Wonder Woman – a decent super hero outing with admirable gender politics but nowhere near as good as reviews asserted.
Much better was Thor Ragnarok — epic and hilarious. Avengers: Infinity War has a lot to live up to.
Head and shoulders above them all was Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, which not even Jared Leto and his beard could ruin. Science fiction fans will be counting down to his adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune.
With Operation Wight Catcher, Game of Thrones got silly – but pulled it off in the end, thanks to blockbuster production values. Next year’s denouement (assuming it does arrive next year) should be spectacular.
The Handmaid’s Tale was admirable – yet hard to actively love (four episodes in, it started to feel like the TV equivalent of All-Bran).
Star Trek Discovery was a letdown – you wondered if anyone involved had actually sat through an episode of Star Trek. Far better – though yet to properly arrive this side of the Atlantic – was Seth MacFarlane’s Next Generation love letter, The Orville.
Mindhunter on Netflix meanwhile was the talky serial killer psychodrama starring Kristoff from Frozen that we hadn’t realised we needed
Did I mention Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Okay well, Justice League – two hours of Batfleck and Khal Drogo trying, failing, to crack wise.
The returning Curb Your Enthusiasm fell flat too — nothing screams 2003 like humour derived from social awkwardness.
Looking forward to...
Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water – it sounds like Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth Vulcan mind melded with a John Cheever short story.
It be interesting, too, to see how Alex Garland (Ex Machina) handles his adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation. Also, counting down to the rest of my Kingdom Death: Monster boardgame Kickstarter.
The base game retails at over €300 and you have to assemble the miniatures — top tip kids: don’t sit on an open tube of superglue — but the Clive Barker-meets-Hieronymus Bosch
setting is so singular, the effort (and glue stains) are justified.
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