Magic Moment: Caribou, Vicar Street. Caribou’s headliner at Vicar Street in November was sublime and spooky, with delicate beats and waves of old-fashioned human emotion coming together gorgeously.
Dan Snaith — the artist behind the moniker — was touring career-best LP Our Love and, with live drummer and lashings of sweat, tunes such as Can’t Do Without You triumphed in a potentially tricky concert setting.
Best TV Viewing: True Detective, Sky Atlantic. Was True Detective flawless? Not quite — there were issues with the final episode and its descent into what felt suspiciously like pat sentimentality. Until then, though, the Matthew McConaughey-Woody Harrelson two-hander hardly placed a foot out of step.
With Louisiana’s rural-gothic atmosphere pushing down like an oppressive weather front, the show’s baroque ambiance was irresistible, while its repurposing of the existential horror of HP Lovecraft evoked dread without tipping into silliness. With new cast, director, and setting for season two (including Colin Farrell), can lightning possibly strike twice?
Best read: Project Nemesis, Jeremy Robinson. As a connoisseur of the unashamedly low-brow my big thrill this year was discovering the Kaiju novels of Jeremy Robinson (the latest installment, Project 731, is just out).
For those not au fait, ‘kaiju’ is a Japanese coinage for giant rampaging monsters, typically emerging from the deep ocean and keen on leveling Tokyo. Tightly paced and decently written, you gulp down Robinson’s books in just a few sittings. His tilt at the genre was certainly a lot more engaging than the big-screen Godzilla reboot of last summer (yes, the monster WAS fat).
Best film: Guardians of the Galaxy. What would happen if Quentin Tarantino was in charge of a hammy superhero movie? Guardians of the Galaxy gave us a good idea. From the moment Blue Swede’s ‘Hooked On A Feeling’ swooshed into earshot during the opening credits, it was obvious this was going to be a comic book adaptation with a difference.
Funny, moving, and with an irresistible 70s soundtrack, Guardians reminded us that big, silly blockbusters have their place. Best music: FKA Twigs, Shabazz Palaces: There were lots of stand-out records in 2014 but, if pressed , I would have to nominate FKA Twigs’ LP1 as the one that has stayed with me.
Other positives included the return of Shabazz Palaces with Lese Majesty and Swans’ astonishing To Be Kind. There was also satisfaction to be had watching U2’s presumptive album giveaway — the record was crowbarred into 300m iTunes accounts without permission — blow up in the band’s faces.
Letdown: Taylor Swift, 1989. One of the stranger happenings of 2014 was the stampede to acclaim Taylor Swift as an important musician with interesting things to say. The catalyst was ‘Shake It Off’, her guilty pleasure mega-single — and, yes, it was irresistible, provided you set your critical faculties to one side (nothing wrong with that).
However, follow-up long-player 1989 was no kind of masterpiece — and certainly not the pop triumph it was hailed as by many journalists. Sorry Taylor— you’re an interesting celebrity but in no way the saviour of mainstream music.
Looking forward to in 2015: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As an unashamed fanboy, there can be only one cultural highlight for this writer in 2015:A new Star Wars movie. Sure, you can quibble with JJ Abrams as director — there are justifiable fears he will reduce Star Wars to a blaring sequence of reheated cliches, as with his noisy Star Trek reboot.
Still, his revisiting of the saga can hardly be any sorrier than George Lucas’ ghastly prequels. Also, as of December’s teaser trailer, we know that light saber cross-guards are the best idea ever. It’s something to hold onto as we count down to December’s release date.
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