I think the byword for this year has to be ’eclectic’ as there seems to have been no single unifying theme in any of these categories. No specific genre type dominated or set the scene - and there were excellent representatives of pretty much every kind of sub-genre. I found it easy to assemble the first 10 selections, much more tricky to then limit the selection to 20, and hardest of all to place them into a specific order. I would say largely the top few or 10 are the most relevant, and then the rest may really be listed alphabetically - as on different days the order might vary significantly. I chose my top-billed features by those that impacted on me the most and had the most emotional resonance - whether artistically, or by pure feel. Music was the easiest to define really as the number of repeat playbacks is usually a decent signifier of success/popularity, although you need to add some weighting to more recent releases to make up for the fact that they’ve not been around for so long.
In any case I’m delighted with the grid of 9 pictured above - which is a very decent snapshot of the year for me. I think most of those would hold their place on any given day, while those occupying positions below would be more likely to change from day-to-day. The intent of this piece is really to expose you to more of the good stuff and to encourage you to check out something new which you were possibly not properly aware of!
Happy reading in any case and I hope most of you get something out of this - it took quite a while to compile and sort in the end!:
My top billing entry here is not really one that the critics unanimously adored, although most of the rest of the top 10 is universally critically acclaimed. There was just something about Assassination Nation which really appealed to me - the satirical commentary on the ills of social media, toxic masculinity and mob mentality - and the whole execution was slick and thrilling throughout with superb soundtrack and fantastic end/credits sequence. There was plenty of visual and editing verve throughout the film, and as a huge fan of 'Heathers' found this to be a fantastic example of sort of spiritual heir to that!
Many Critics have Lynne Ramsey's 'You Were Never Really Here' as their overall favourite, and it was mine for most of the year. I also really loved Gullermo Del Toro's 'The Shape of Water' a sort of 'Creature of the Black Lagoon' meets 'Amelie'. There is quite the smattering of quality horror films this year - so I guess that could be a continuing trend over the past few years. Super Hero films are still largely fun, and there is a smattering of still visually inventive sci-fi and action thrillers, and some thoroughly entertaining period pieces. I would say there is something for everyone here, albeit these are all really rather 'adult' films or intended for the more mature viewer.
I attended the cinema pretty much once a week on schedule - so there was plenty to draw from here - there was really only one film which I regretted seeing in the cinema - which was the cheesy as hell 'The Festival' which was no way near 'Inbetweeners' territory/quality really, and was the one experience I could have done without - everything else - even 'The Meg' in 4DX has some degree of merit:
The year started of really well on Netflix with 4 of the shows in my top 5 appearing in the first few months - and I enjoyed all those enormously - including 'The End of the F***ing World' which I had somehow missed on Channel 4. In the end it was neck-and-neck between that and 'Killing Eve' who's overall verve finally put it in the lead for me. Killing Eve has done very well in the end-of-year lists, alongside Donald Glover Jr's ongoing Atlanta show - which I've yet to properly catch up on.
There were several shows I started but dropped out of - including the BBC's 'Bodyguard' and 'Little Drummer Girl' I feel the all-in-one releases have an advantage over the serialised series really as they put the viewer in much better control over their viewing pattern - and there are many a series I have absorbed in just 2 or 3 settings - which of course is not possible for drip-fed serialisations.
Apart from sport really I consume pretty much 99% of my 'TV' on-demand and when I want to - meaning Netflix, Amazon and Now TV still reign supreme - with the BBC actually recently having taken steps to compete on a more equal footing with the availability of more of its own 'Box-Sets'. I also signed up to YouTube Premium this year - principally to watch 'Origin' which was a lot of fun, and I also took in the almost equally impressive 'Impulse'. There really was plenty to see this year, and often the volume of what was available pulled me away from and distracted me from watching shows I had already started - meaning that the longer-term serialised programs often ended up as casualties as I latched onto something else while waiting for further follow-up!:
Music is always my trickiest category really as I listed to such volume and variety over the year - it's difficult to represent fully how much I get through as such. With my ongoing guitar obsessions I am also back to listening to more heavier rock and metal even, but it's still the more artfully crafted largely pop-music which gets the most repeated playbacks - that and 'In The Moment' which I latched onto this last Christmas and which entertained me throughout my convalescence and continues to resonate still albeit latest output from 2017!
For this year though there were a handful of albums that stood out in terms of repeated playback, and one in particular - Metric's excellent 'Art of Doubt' which I am enjoying pretty much to the same degree as their other seminal release 'Fantasies'. I'm a huge fan too of Meghan Remy / U.S. Girls and her previous 'Half Free' was one of my all-time favourites as is this follow-up. Bishop Briggs seems to have gone largely unnoticed by most this year but I've loved her output too, as well as the new Clean Bandits which is almost likely listening to a greatest hits compilation of wall-to-wall dance-pop-smashes.
There's quite a wide range genres covered here, and I'm disappointed I could not fit more categories in - but there's largely a little bit of most things here - apart from heavier rock and metal - I'll try and accommodate those more next year! Also of note this year were a couple of soundtrack albums I really enjoyed - of course Gaga's 'A Star is Born' and 'Assassination Nation' playlist version!
One song really stood out this year - which did owe a touch to the excellently choreographed video, but the song stands up on its own merits and that's Donald Glover Jr's damning critique/satire of present day USA - 'This is America'. Again 'eclectic' is the word of the day here as I liberally jump between genres from Hip Hop to House and onto classic lilting vocal jazz!
Second place is occupied by the suitably modern/retro DefMix-esque and Korean vocal house classic 'Itgehane' by Peggy Gou - that one really resonated with me. As did 3rd choice 'I Know You Love Me' by Lisa Ekdahl which just sounds effortlessly timeless. There really is a little of everything here bar heavier genres and I found this category particularly difficult to rationalise as I had so many entries initially.
'This is America' was obviously going to be my top-ranking choice pretty much from the start - it was all the others that resulted in pretty substantial periods of deliberation. In any case I am happy with the spread of what is covered here - although on any given day the ranking may likely change of course!:
I feel I often single-handedly keep Orbital Comics going with my many ongoing graphic novel purchases. I must admit that the Marvel/Star Wars Aphra series is something of a guilty pleasure for me, but I largely prefer the output of the more independently minded collectives - with Image and Humanoids my long-term favourites who are still maintaining their super-high quality of output.
This was another tricky category - not necessarily the overall selection, but definitely the final ranking / order. In the end I decided it on how much these issues resonated with me when I read them, and it was pretty clear which the final / top 3 would be. I think in terms of variety of quality and rate of success no imprint still comes close to Image in what it covers - there are so many great ongoing series - alongside a myriad of exciting new entries.
The one that resonated the strongest with me this year was the highly imaginative new world of 'Prism Stalker' which combines the best of creative art with sublime world-making and intriguing narrative arc - I really look forward to seeing how this sort of psychedelic sci-fi classic will pan out. Not quite as original but beautifully haunting and visually arresting is 'Isola', followed by the rather more creepy 'Gideon Falls'. I reckon that trio as much as any is a good representation of the best of the graphic arts in 2018.
I was delighted to see James Stokoe back in action on Aliens : Dead Orbit, and as long as Humanoids maintains its relationship with Alejandro Jodorowsky it will continue to shine in my eyes. For Graphic Novels there really has never been more choice or overall quality for adults and kids alike - kids will love the beautiful artwork of Katie O'Neill's on-message 'Aquicorn Cove' - and there are a tonne of really creative and imaginative titles for younger minds.
I still see this genre as an essential springboard for so many different creative cultures - informing TV, Movies, Architecture and Social Engineering to name but a few. The Graphic Arts are still one of the most visionary mediums and frequently a portent of things to come - both cinematically and in reality. There is something still so magical about the best of these - they transport you to different times, places and realities...: