2020 has been a somewhat peculiar year for me like most, in that most of my regular routine has been entirely disrupted and thrown to the wayside. I used to go to the cinema at least once a week and would typically take in the 3 comic book stores in central London within the same circuit. The end of routine has meant that I have not picked up the usual quotient of graphic novels as I no longer have the ability to browse and peruse how I was accustomed to - so no best of Graphic Novels for 2020.
I only visited the Cinema 7 times this year - which is probably the lowest amount ever, bar my first 5 or 6 years of life. In actual fact I only attended cinema for the first 6 or 7 weeks of the year - 3rd week in February there was nothing on that I fancied seeing, and my last public event of the year was the Birmingham Guitar Show at the end of February - meaning I missed that weekend’s releases too.
Since then, most of the big blockbuster releases have been cancelled / postponed, with the exception of Chris Nolan’s Tenet which I did not venture out to see. Near enough everything else has been moved forward to a 2021 or 2022 release even. There’s some significant infighting at the moment between Movie Producers and Studios as to what the ideal / preferred release path is - with many wanting to release direct to VOD now, but the directors, producers and cast members fighting to restrict those films to cinema releases only. Warner Brothers is giving VOD access to many of its new blockbusters over the Christmas / New Year period - courtesy of HBO’s streaming platform. This has in the past meant some of that content filtered through to the Sky / Now TV network, but I’m not sure what we in the UK will have access to if anything?
Most of my music listening typically happens in-transit - courtesy of headphones and iPhone/Spotify, when I’m on my way somewhere, but since I’ve been isolated at home since March 1st - those listening occasions have become a things of the past really. I tend to work largely at my desk - and at various times I will be multi-tasking - while YouTube is normally the regular accompaniment to that.
It’s been such a busy year that I really haven’t found the time for leisurely extended listening sessions. I think there’s a somewhat undue lean towards Jessie Ware’s ’What’s Your Pleasure’ which was my comfort food equivalent for the year - of a style I like to call ’Twilight Disco’!
Generally Spotfy, YouTube, Netflix, Now TV / Sky, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Apple TV have ably kept me company - in fact there is enough content there to keep one occupied for years - you just need to be in the right move for certain types of programming.
So an unusual year in every way - with YouTube and Spotify bringing harmonising universality - while the TV and Movie universe is entirely fragmented. Long gone are the days of Blockbuster Video Rentals where you could access every movie franchise - nowadays you need to subscribe to half a dozen different services to get similar coverage. Even that is fraught with difficulties and licensing issues as your favourite programs often disappear from view and reappear with new terms and conditions attached. Digital Visual Media is a constantly changing landscape wholly unlike Spotify - there there is more universal and consistent access. Even then I still find oddities on Spotify where I had synced certain album tracks in the past, but they won’t sync any more since the licensing terms have changed for the UK territory - most annoying and most bizarre!
Also I find it inexcusable and infuriating how several studios and platforms stop offering their films up for rental - and force to to buy the title to access it - when with digital you don’t really own anything as licensing is still limited - so you may loose access to content you bought you had fully secured. I consider it a total con-job and it has to change!
This extended listing is generally quite a big task and takes weeks of distillation down to the 20 or 30 preferences listed. I initially intended to have 20 Favourites for each - but had too many Music choices to limit to just 20 - I could conceivable have done top 50’s for those, but chose to go with 30 favourites for music, and a more manageable 20 favourites for Film and TV!
Do let me know if I missed out on / overlooked some of your own particularly favourites - obviously we are all individuals and tastes will vary...
There's something of a pattern to the top albums - a certain 80's and 90's nostalgia - with something of a lean into disco. This is not the orchestral disco of the 80's or the latter more plastic sounding disco. This has a certain degree of warmth to it and a sophisticated maturity. I like to call this 'Twiligt Disco' while the media refers to it as kitchen disco or grown-up disco.
I am already familiar with the template, and in fact complied a selection of 'Cashmere Disco' a few years ago - when you had a number of subtle 'Villa' remixes of tracks like Agnetha Fältskog's 'Wrap Your Arms Around me'.
Jessie Ware has been very significant to me this year and has probably occupied a good 25 or 30% of all my listening time - it's like a warm disco hug or blanket even - what always manages to comfort me.
There is definitely a significant not to certain genres that might be slightly skewed at the top of the listing - but through the listing you will see a pretty wide and international cast of genres.
All this stuff is mood based - and some days you are feeling certain styles of music over another. I definitely feel that my key albums here are essential comforts for the prolonged period of change we've all been going through.
I've already adjusted and massaged the order several times and on a particular day the order might be different again. I've undoubtedly overlooked some gems as happens every year - while I've listened to near enough every album that's featured in the various best of year top 100 and top 200 charts. This is my selection, and I stand by it! Most should find something they love here, and hopefully many will find music they weren't previously aware of.
This list features most of my favourite album artists too - such was the quality and consistency of those albums. They are however significantly broken up by a variety of different hooky tracks - with quite a smattering of electropop and bubble-gum electro even, as well as the riff-tastic killer Run The Jewels / Royal Blood collaboration.
The actual album track it's based on is a rather middling sort of affair - while with the Royal Blood input we have a riff monster along the impact of Run DMC's Walk This Way - but a more modern affair generally - with shared vocal duties too. This is quite a recent track but boy do I love it.
Grimes is up to her usual future-pop stuff - and 100 gecs is that sort of PC Music format we're so accustomed to of late - courtesy of A.G. Cook, Danny L Harle and Charli XCX in particular.
I obviously loved the sound and visuals of the Blood Machines mini movie, and the Carpenter Brut soundtrack is a modern-day Vangelis Blade Runner like masterpiece - especially the main theme - which is like Vangelis crossed with Daft Punk.
I had to get some club music in here too - and props go to Jayda G's brace of warm piano-house modern-day classics.
Interestingly Billie Eilish's To Time To Die doesn't feature on too many lists - surely one of the best Bond Themes of all time, and this is followed up by another cinematic Theme song - courtesy of Madalen Duke's Born Alone Die Along from he Charlize Theron Old Guard Netflix Special.
A good smattering of R&B here too, while I wasn't particularly taken by a lot of this year's hip hop heavy-hitters which is rare for me. I admire the bravado of that WAP track, but musically and lyrically it just didn't do much for me.
There's also quite a smattering of some really soulful music here - including the like of Lianne La Havas, Yves Tumor, and Moses Sumney - once more I hope you find something to like here - this is another fairly varied listing genre-wise.
As I related in the introduction I attended cinema auditoriums only 7 times this year within the first couple of months - my usual trio of Cineworld Leicester Square, Vue Leicester Square and Odeon Covent Garden! The 7 films I viewed were as follows - in order of viewing :
5 of those made it into my top 20
The remainder I have had to catch up courtesy of a number of different VOD platforms :
Netflix is particular is releasing some very worthy Oscar contenders - with Gary Oldman a likely shoe-in for best actor honours in Mank - the next time award season rolls around.
There's my usual mix of mainstream and independent cinema with plenty of quirky material here too - and a smattering of horror as has become the pattern in these last few years. A lot of the cinematic innovation happens to be taking place within that format - the introduction of creepy open spaces - courtesy of The Invisible Man for instance.
Many will flake out of Charlie Kaufman's densely complex 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' - once you know what it's about though it's really a magnificent and original movie.
The two Icelandic movies here are quite a juxtaposition to modern-day Reykjavík living - and offer up a different perspective on the culture of the Island. Props to the family connected 'Stjórnin' appearing very significantly on the soundtrack of The County.
This is quite an eclectic selection really - with lots of sort of psychological horror elements too - but generally and genuinely satisfying. Do note that some of these films may be over wordy and too slow moving to feature as a family or couples picture - in fact there's not much here by the way of acceptable family viewing!
I love how eclectic this listing turned out in the end - while for the longest time I expected Mando to feature in my top seat. However I had forgotten how much I really enjoyed 'What We Do in the Shadows' Season 2 - which is delightful from start to finish - one of the funniest shows in recent memory.
Mando of course takes the runner-up position, followed by the incredibly cinematic 'Gangs of London' whose Episode 5 is one of the best things ever to feature in your living room - I genuinely loved that whole series - which brought in several cinematic innovations that had never been properly used on the small screen before.
The Good Lord Bird is another modern classic in the making - and it's hard to describe just how much I enjoyed the Cheer series on Netflix.
In other places - shows like The Boys, Umbrella Academy and Doom Patrol were still doing incredible deconstructions of every super hero trope there ever was.
Besides Cheer - there were a number of great Documentary shows this year - including Tiger King, Immigration Nation, The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty, and The Last Dance - which just missed out on a top 20 placing.
There was quite a smattering of oddball comedies with heart - including shows like Ted Lasso, Teenage Bounty Hunters and Sex Education for instance.
And there were a smattering of home-grown hits the I didn't yet get around to watching - including Dave, Quiz, and I May Destroy You - shows I will need to dedicate some time to over the Christmas / New Year Schedule - while the Christmas Schedule for this year's BBC and ITV viewing is the absolute worst on record - unless you really love celebrity editions of gameshows!