With apologies for the tardiness…it’s been a busy time!
I’ve been keeping a monthly Youtube scrapbook for a while now. January’s is available here, or you can watch/listen below. There’s also some cracking stuff working back through the lists from December, November and October of last year (if I do say so myself).
It wasn’t an amazing month for me, musically. I seemed to struggle to connect with much – not sure exams helped. Got into Lil Peep for a bit, then tired of the abrasiveness of some of his tracks. Ended up listening to a lot of Yung Lean and Bladee, as usual. Picked through a few best of lists from the end of last year, but wasn’t really getting inspired. Actually think the new XX album is very good, though, as is new Bonobo. Started to appreciate the Trentemøller and Nicolas Jaar albums from last year a little more, too – worth checking them out.
The highlight was Hannah releasing her first single right at the end of the month. It’s called A to B, and it’s an absolute banger. Watching how much work goes into taking something from conception to full realisation and release has been fascinating, not to mention humbling.
My one live outing was to see Beach Slang at the Haunt in Brighton. I missed the opening act, but Harker who were second on were really very good. And Beach Slang “exceeded expectations”, as a fellow audience member put it. Lots of drunk energy, and they played for a full hour and a quarter, filling gaps in the set list with the Cure / Pixies / Oasis covers. Interesting mix of young and old there, too – they seem to appeal to people between the ages of 16 and 60, which is pretty impressive!
It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally caught up with the rest of the literary world and read some Ferrante. It was the first of the Neapolitan novels – My Brilliant Friend – and frankly, it was great. The atmosphere of it was enveloping, the plot gently engrossing, and it did a very good job of winding down a brain fried and alert from revision in the evenings.
I also read Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Comes Last, and Laline Paull’s The Bees. Both were dystopian visions: one of a near future in which a collapsed economy has forced people into voluntarily entering a community where they spend half of their time in jail, the other a humanised insight into the totalitarian workings of a beehive.
The former was entertaining, but felt a little forced – particularly having read Oryx and Crake last year, which was exceptional. The Bees was more inventive, and I read the first hundred pages or so in a flurry of activity. I began to tire of the protagonist by the end, though. They seemed more a guide around the hive than a fully-fledged character. Which was a shame, because the world was incredibly well imagined. I’ll certainly never look at bees the same way again.
Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea has been sat on my bookshelf waiting to be read for years, now. At the end of the month, I finally got round to it. An epic tale of human endurance and futility told in 100 pages, it’s a masterful example of lean but evocative storytelling.
Films / television:
Briefly. I’ll start with TV. As with books, I’ve been catching up – firstly with Billions, which was wicked, and secondly with the bizarre and slightly barmy Westworld. Billions was the more enjoyable, Westworld the more ambitious, thoughtful and, frankly, creepy.
Was unusually bad at going to the cinema. Didn’t even make it to La La Land, despite the hype (or perhaps because of it?). I did manage to catch Rogue One before it left cinemas, though. Nothing groundbreaking there, but entertaining stuff with some of the most astonishing CGI scenery I’ve ever seen.
The best film I watched wasn’t in the cinema, and was a documentary. Alex Gibney’s Zero Days, about the “Stuxnet” virus co-developed by US and Israeli intelligence to take down Iranian nuclear facilities, was astonishing. I’d almost call it compulsory viewing. All the more compelling for the fact that the existence of the virus may never have come to light. Makes you wonder how much other crazy stuff is going on beneath the banal news headlines.