End of

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So, 2016 then. Everybody begins everything they say now with the prefix “So …”, as if perhaps what they’re about to say is a continuation of a previous statement, but actually isn’t. I can’t be the only person to have noticed this. You hear correspondents doing it when asked to comment on the news. You hear contestants doing it when they’re asked to describe the dish they’re about to prepare on Masterchef. Young people seem unable to start a sentence without it. It’s a tick; more like a punctuation mark than a word – a deep breath if you like. Like “like” it has crept into common verbal usage (you’ll note that nobody uses it in written text) and it means literally nothing, as with so much in contemporary dialogue.

So … it was way back in that prelapsarian age that was the second week in January when Squeeze, a band whose original members are around 60 years old, used a performance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show to protest against fellow guest, then-Prime Minister David Cameron.

They changed the lyrics of hit Cradle to the Grave to sing the line: “There are some here who are hell bent on the destruction of the welfare state,” with that preening waste of space Cameron watching. Glenn Tilbrook also slipped in the line: “I grew up in council houses, part of what made Britain great.”

It did not bring down the venal Tory government. In fact, the Tory government continued to destroy the welfare state, along with much else when it held a referendum without at any point thinking through what might happen if the British public voted “Non!” to staying in the European Union. Cameron did way more than kill the welfare state, he sleepwalked the electorate into an abyss, and then resigned five minutes after the votes had been counted so that he could spend more time with his money. The political picture has largely been dominated by quitting, and not quitting in the case of Jeremy Corbyn, who is Westminster’s mystery man. They seek him here, they seek him there. I stuck with him for way longer than he deserved, if only to disavow his fellow Labour MPs who sought only to stab him in the back while Rome burned all around them. It has been a shoddy display from them all.

You’ll note that 10 January, the day Squeeze made their valiant protest, is also the day David Bowie died, and with him, the universe. This year has been fucking awful. From Brexit to Trump, via Brietbart, post-truth, alt-right, fake news, black lives not mattering, saying that ice cream is gay, and acts of terror that almost became business as usual amid more unexpected deaths of the supremely talented than any other in living memory, the only response to the passing of 2016 is to say, “Fuck you!”

So, here are my books of the year.

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What was once a refrain has hardened into a truth. Most of my reading happens between the covers of the New Yorker magazine, which has the temerity to arrive on a weekly basis on my doormat (and which feels even more vital since Trump was voted in). However, a nice man at the Mail on Sunday called Neil took it upon himself to send me three books to review in 2016, all of which I enjoyed. They are almost half the books I read. Of the other four, two are by people I know, but both stimulating in their particular fields. And the sixth and seventh are by people who write for the New Yorker, with roots in work they did for the New Yorker: Jeffrey Toobin and Clive James (one of the chapters in the delightful Play All is reprinted verbatim from the New Yorker).

I almost wrote a cover story for Radio Times, but – typically for 2016 – it was rightly superseded by a last-minute tribute to Victoria Wood, who had died. Interestingly, they left Peaky Blinders on the cover in the Midlands, and here it is.

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Which takes us to the best telly. With Telly Addict cancelled by the Guardian in April, and revived by UKTV in June, I have spent a lot of the year watching television professionally. And these have been my personal TV shows of the year. Firstly, in pictures.

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And here they are, in pointless list form.

1. The Crown, Netflix
2. Fleabag, BBC3/BBC Two
3. Versailles, BBC Two
4. Westworld, Sky Atlantic/HBO
5. The Young Pope, Sky Atlantic/HBO
6. Masterchef: The Professionals/Celebrity Masterchef, BBC Two
7. Line of Duty, BBC Two
8. Dickensian, BBC One (cancelled by idiots)
9. Happy Valley, BBC Two
10. The Missing, BBC Two

11. The People Vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, FX/Fox
12. Peaky Blinders, BBC Two
13. Trapped, BBC Four
14. The Great British Bake Off, BBC One
15. Gogglebox/Gogglesprogs, Channel 4
16. The Code, BBC Four/ABC
17. National Treasure, Channel 4
18. First Dates, Channel 4
19. Modern Life is Goodish, Dave
20. The Night Of, Sky Atlantic/HBO

Oh, come on. It’s self-evident from here that these brilliant shows could be in any order:

Game of Thrones, Sky Atlantic/HBO
Thirteen, BBC3/BBC Two
The A Word, BBC Two
The Knick, Sky Atlantic/Cinemax (season two aired at the end of 2015, but early 2016 here)
Deutschland 83, Channel 4
Mr Robot, Universal/Amazon Prime
Planet Earth II, BBC One
Taskmaster, Dave
Grayson Perry: All Man, Channel 4
Billions, Showtime, Sky Atlantic
Ballers, Sky Atlantic/HBO
Hypernormalisation, BBC iPlayer
The Durrells, ITV
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Sky Atlantic/HBO
Hillsborough: The Truth, BBC Two (updated after the inquest verdicts)
Brief Encounters, ITV (cancelled by idiots)
Rillington Place, BBC One
Parks & Recreation, Dave (ended in 2015 in the States, but this year, here)
Victoria, ITV
NW, BBC Two
Ripper Street, Amazon Prime/BBC Two

And a special nod to Escape to The Country (BBC One/BBC Two), the show whose 15 series exist forever on a loop, providing harmless dreams to people in towns and cities. Also, Top of the Pops (BBC Four), whose interrupted loop continues apace, racing through 1981 and 1982 this year, and giving constant pleasure to the musically disillusioned.

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So … from music on TV to the best LPs. Like books, a finite field.

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It’s been a slow year for albums. Once again I’ve relied on 6 Music and Later for information and inspiration, with the added input this year of subscriptions to both Mojo and Uncut, whose compilations have been a source of joy, and helped create this Top 12 in no order. No single album put all the others in the shade, but without C Duncan’s A Midnight Sun (and his previous album Architect, which we only cottoned on to this year; likewise Julia Holter’s Have You In My Wilderness), Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool and Black Star by David Bowie, a few car journeys would have been less enjoyable. Nick Cave’s beautiful, personal, dissonant dirge Skeleton Tree was hard to listen to, and hard to stop listening to. The Kills did it again. And Kate Tempest’s Let Them Eat Chaos has proven impossible to listen to on headphones while simultaneously reading, as it demands your full attention. I like that about it. Dickensian was my favourite TV score LP of the year (the show sadly cancelled), and A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It From Here … comeback the only hip-hop record I’ve listened to from one end to the other.

For self-evident reasons, I spent much of my waking life listening to film scores, old and new, and doing so has brought peace to my soul. If you’re interested in my Top 10 Film Soundtracks of 2016, and my Top 10 Videogame Soundtracks of 2016, click on these Classic FM links.

Now, my other day job: films.

TheRevenantLnotesonblindnessdsidanielblakelifeanimated-comfireatseaboysembraceserpentwidechildhoodofaleaderSpotlightRoommustang2-com sonofsaul-com rams-com

I’m always torn as to whether or not to put my favourite films in a numbered list. It always seems so arbitrary. My ongoing system is this: I put an asterisk next to every film I see that’s in some way exceptional, and of the 223 films I’ve seen for the first time in 2016 (not all of them films released in 2016), around 80 are starred, although my Top 10 was easy enough to cordon off. The bulk of the films I see as a rule are in English, but the ones that often stand out and stay with me are not. Six out of the Top 10 are English-language (one of them, The Witch, in 17th century English); the others are not. It’s good to see so many unfamiliar names of directors so high up; I don’t believe I had ever typed Grímur Hákonarson, László Nemes or Robert Eggers in previous years, and they made my Top 3 films – and two of those are debuts! Pete Middleton and James Spinney, who co-directed the unique Notes on Blindness, a stunning film, don’t have Wikipedia entries, and neither does their film. I have to say, without Curzon cinemas and, more pertinently, Curzon Home Cinema, this list would be considerably less colourful and varied.

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1. Rams | Grímur Hákonarson (Iceland/Denmark)
2. Son of Saul | László Nemes (Hungary)
3. The Witch | Robert Eggers (US/Canada)
4. Spotlight | Tom McCarthy (US)
5. I, Daniel Blake | Ken Loach (UK/France/Belgium)
6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story | Gareth Edwards (US)
7. Mustang | Deniz Gamze Ergüven (Turkey)
8. Embrace of the Serpent | Ciro Guerra (Colombia/Venezuela/Argentina)
9. The Clan | Pablo Trapero (Argentina)
10. Notes on Blindness | Pete Middleton, James Spinney (UK)

11. The Childhood of a Leader | Brady Corbet (UK/France)
12. Fire at Sea | Gianfranco Rosi (Italy)
13. Life, Animated | Roger Ross Williams (US)
14. Hail Caesar! | Joel Cohen, Ethan Coen (US)
15. The Survivalist | Stephen Fingleton (UK)
16. Victoria | Sebastian Schipper (Germany)
17. Arrival | Denis Villeneuve (US)
18. I Am Not a Serial Killer | Billy O’Brien (Ireland/UK)
19. Paterson | Jim Jarmusch (US)
20. Chi-Raq | Spike Lee (US)

21. The Revenant | Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (US)
22. The Hateful Eight | Quentin Tarantino (US)
23. I Am Belfast | Mark Cousins (UK)
24. Wiener-Dog | Todd Solondz (US)
25. Cemetery of Splendour | Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand)
26. Sully | Clint Eastwood (US)
27. Julieta | Pedro Almodóvar (Spain)
28. Green Room | Jeremy Saulnier (US)
29. Things to Come | Mia Hansen-Love (France/Germany)
30. Room | Lenny Abrahamson (Ireland/Canada)

Thanks to my continuing tenure at the helm of Saturday Night at the Movies on Classic FM once again I was lucky enough to speak at length to these people about film music this year.

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It has been a terribly busy year, and I did not get out to art exhibitions. Which makes Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern a rare and thrilling treat. In the perfect pairing below, you can see O’Keeffe’s painting of the same Manhattan view captured in a photograph by her then-husband Alfred Stieglitz, one of the many illuminations in the way the exhibition was laid out.

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I went to the theatre twice and loved both productions I saw.

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Hangmen at the Wyndhams in London’s shittering West End by Martin McDonagh (whose film In Bruges I loved), a terrific black comedy about the last days of hanging, with David Morrissey as Britain’s last hangman, now running a boozer. The cast was further ennobled by Craig Parkinson, Andy Nyman, Johnny Flynn and Sally Rogers, and newcomers Bronwyn James and Josef Davies – not to mention the ingenious set. Because I know David and Craig, I met them for a drink afterwards in a theatre hangout and bathed in the cast’s glow. It must be tough doing the same thing at the same level of intensity every night. Mind you, they may not have any lines to learn, but we must give thanks to the dancers from Matthew Bourne’s company who threw themselves hither and thither in the name of bringing that beloved Powell and Pressburger film-about-a-ballet The Red Shoes to Sadlers Wells and turning it back into a ballet-about-a-ballet. This was our Christmas treat. It may not have been Christmassy – in fact, as you may know, it’s a tragedy – but it lit advent up all the same. I love watching dance. It’s not just the sight, it’s the sound of their physical exertion that makes it so special. Watching it on telly just doesn’t capture it. theredshoessadlers-com

In terms of live entertainment, I was privileged to see Billy Bragg and Joe Henry premiere their Shine A Light album at St Pancras Church in London in August. It’s a fine item to own, but seeing and hearing it essayed up close and personal was a rare pleasure. I’ve hosted a number of panels and Q&As, which means I was lucky to meet a whole host of interesting people in the arts: James Buckley, Paul Kaye, Louise Emerick and Ken Collard from the Dave sitcom Zapped; Maxine Peake and the original stars of The Comic Strip Peter Richardson and Nigel Planer for their latest escapade Red Top, also featuring Stephen Mangan and Eleanor Matsura; plus, the entire cast and crew of Peaky Blinders on two occasions: at the press launch and at the BFI (greedy!), an association with an ongoing show that I’ve loved being an ephemeral part of.

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It was a hell of a year. Enough to turn your hair grey. George Michael, Liz Smith and Carrie Fisher finished off the year in the manner in which it began. I was glancing down the UK “trending” topics late on Christmas Day and felt warm inside when I double-checked that all ten were related to telly programmes, on the telly. No capital cities, no celebrity names, no hashtags that began with #PrayFor. I went to sleep before 11pm satisfied that we’d made it through one day at least without the death knell tolling. I woke up on Boxing Day to the news that George Michael had been found dead, alone, at his home, the previous afternoon.

Feast, if you can, on all the amazing art and culture that was produced by the still-alive in 2016. It has to give us hope that perhaps the human race en masse isn’t hellbent on self-destruction, just a toxic few.

I am slightly fearful of pressing the “PUBLISH” key with three days left to go. But nobody ever won Masterchef that way.

 

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Inevitable Postscript: Debbie Reynolds, died a day after her daughter, on December 28, aged 84.

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2015: the year in music

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Well, I surprise myself. (And at my age, that’s a surprise in itself.) I have a solid 15 albums, all released this year, worthy of compiling into an end-of-year list. I will put them in qualitative order, despite the iniquity of doing so – I purchased three of these albums in the last couple of days, keen to catch up, so while the majority have had a really meaningful run around my head in the car (we drove from London to Cork in October, there and back, and many points inbetween, with a battery of CDs to guide us), on foot and on public transport, Adele, Kendrick Lamar and John Grant have some catching up to do. What the hell. Here goes.

1. Sleaford Mods Key Markets Harbinger
2. Adele 25 XL
3. Young Fathers Black Men Are White Men Too Big Dada
4. Carter Burwell Carol Varese Sarabande
5. Foals What Went Down Transgressive
6. Jamie xx In Colour Young Turks
7. Debbie Wiseman Wolf Hall Silva Screen
8. John Grant Grey Tickles, Black Pressure Bella Union
9. The Maccabees Marks To Prove It Fiction
10. Kendrick Lamar To Pimp A Butterfly Interscope
11. Pete Williams Roughnecks + Roustabouts Basehart
12. Rob St. John Surface Tension Rob St. John
13. Hot Chip Why Make Sense? Domino
14. Lana Del Rey Honeymoon Interscope
15. Blur The Magic Whip Parlophone

Sleaford Mods have been my lifesaver this year. I am at an age where I don’t expect to have my head turned by new artists (or newer artists, if you got there before me, and I rather expect you did). But this pair of East Midlands fortysomethings with their bendy vowels sounded as good as they read on paper. Good to get in at the ground floor with their eighth album – and I promise to dig backwards forthwith – but I’ve found it difficult not to play Key Markets through my ears. The only problem with it is that it demands your full attention. It’s not background music. So I’m reading less on public transport. And hearing the word “coont” a lot more.

I don’t discover music or artistes any more. How could I? I come to them at my own speed, and pay for the pleasure. I am no longer someone record companies or pluggers send records to. Why would they? (Actually, the quality indie reissues house 3Loop do, and I appreciate their loyalty.) This means I have entered a state of grace. I am a 6 Music listener, a Guardian music section reader and viewer of the BBC’s scant musical output (Later … With Jools Holland, Glastonbury, essentially) and these three institutions continue to direct me to a physical record shop on a physical high street. Not every month. Often in mini-binges, to catch up (and the prospect of a driving holiday in Ireland caused a phenomenal influx in late September).

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The big change in listening in 2015 has been Classic FM, who took me on in March. On a weekly basis this year I’ve been helping to curate a two-hour show of orchestral movie music and it’s been an education, as well as an excuse to play scores I already love. I’ve included two new, full scores in my Top 15, Carol and Wolf Hall, as I’ve listened to both as albums and returned to them again and again. The bulk of my iPod year has been taken up with classical music, and my savage breast is all the calmer for it.

And a final note about Kendrick Lamar. It was 6 Music and Alexis Petridis who between them led me to this artist and what turns out to be his third LP, and his second million-seller. Who knew? I bought the album – the “album of the year” for many critics – having only heard two tracks, and while slightly disappointed by the amount of “motherfuckers” on it, it’s clearly a work of uncommon invention and pluralism, and is a friend of jazz. I’ll need to try harder to get into it, as I really don’t like the interludes, but there’s something going on here, I’m just late to the party. As always.

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Oh, and a nice little link between two very disparate LPs: Rob St John’s delightfully immersive multimedia experience Surface Tension is based on recordings taken along the River Lea in London (it’s an elementally London record); Adele’s 25, which may have sold one or two more copies than Rob’s but they’re not really competing for the same audience, contains a lovely, gospelly song called River Lea. You have to look for connections, but they are always there. Buy both.

2014: My Top 50 albums

wu-tang-clan-a-better-tomorrowTVOTRSeedsManic_Street_Preachers_FuturologyJamieTCarryOnTheGrudgeg-i-r-l-pharrell-williamsElbow-The-Take-Off-and-Landing-of-Everything   Noah2JackAdaptorJAccuseDamonEveryday2aphex-twin-syroBEN WATT hendra space 2

OK, I’ve checked fairly carefully and I think I’ve only listened to 11 albums that came out in 2014. That’s fine. I’ve spent a great deal of time listening to existing music. I’d get to 12 if I included Pale Green Ghosts by John Grant, whose music I had never listened to before watching Glastonbury on television this summer and finding out that he was incredible. I was duly inspired and purchased both this, released in 2013, and The Queen Of Denmark, from 2010, two fabulous pieces of work from a man whose talent had lain hitherto undiscovered by me (but discovered by others). So in my slow world, Pale Green Ghosts, whose electronic, Icelandic influence I prefer of the pair at a pinch, is one of my Top 50, or Top 12 albums of the year.

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I don’t have an album of 2014, although I’m currently listening to the plangent and subtle Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn and A Better Tomorrow by a reinvigorated, still-on-it Wu-Tang Clan a lot as they are recent purchases and near the top of the virtual pile. (You may be interested to know that I tend to buy my albums in physical form, otherwise I forget I’ve got them.) I spent most of my adult life being sent records, first as a journalist, and latterly as a DJ, so the world of music was my oyster, particularly the new stuff. Since 6 Music lost my phone number over two years ago, the automatic supply has stopped. Therefore, with limited funds, I take few risks with what I buy. That said, most new music I hear sounds like old music, so I may as well listen to the old music, which I already own! (I like the sound of the new James Blake album, but it doesn’t sound different enough from the last James Blake album to spend a tenner on. Am I being harsh?)

I guess it says a lot about my conservatism that Elbow, Damon, the Manics, TV On The Radio, Jamie T, Wu-Tang and even The Aphex Twin are among my purchases this year. That’s hardly playing with fire, is it? (Actually, thinking about it, I was sent the Manics album as I retain a working relationship with the PR company who have looked after them for 25 years, although I did humbly request it.) I loyally watched every edition of Later and The Mercury Prize coverage, as if in parody of my age group and time of life, and occasionally someone caught my ear. I found FKA twigs interesting, and Jungle, and that duo with one bloke on drums, shouting, and another man on guitar, and that band where the singer gets really het up and emotional. I am not immune to the charms of the new. But rarely do I hear something truly original. This is not a problem for me. There’s enough music out there already, and the themed Global Globules compilations Stewart Lee kindly sent to me – again, old music, but new to my ears in many cases – are proof.

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I include GIRL by Pharrell Williams in my list, but if I’m brutally frank, I only really like half of it, and Happy knocks the rest of it into a cocked hat. I bought Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories in 2014 too (it came out in 2013), but again, it was the hit single that made it. Maybe a great album is hard to achieve in a world of tracks and downloads. Maybe people don’t put as much due diligence into them? The golden age of the long player may be over, but again, it’s not the end of the world, as there’s almost a century of recorded music already in the tank.

I’ll list my Top 50, in no qualitative order. If they’re on the list, they’re good enough for me.

The Wu-Tang Clan A Better Tomorrow
Damon Albarn Everyday Robots
John Grant Pale Green Ghosts
Aphex Twin Syro
Pharrell Williams GIRL
Manic Street Preachers Futurology
Elbow The Taking Off And Landing Of Everything
Jamie T Carry On The Grudge
Jack Adaptor J’Accuse
Clint Mansell Noah
TV On The Radio Seeds
Ben Watt Hendra

Now, I must try and remember the name of the two bands whose names I can’t remember (one is one word, beginning with “S”, the other is a definite article, The Something Somethings, like Crystal Castles but not that, possibly American). They might be worth investigating so that I can list their 2014 records in my 2015 roundup!

2011: on a mission

Here, then, after much deliberation are my Top 27 LPs of 2011. I’ve placed them carefully in order of greatness, but, to dust down an old cliché, if they are in this list, they are great. (Also, by the time you are about halfway down, you can barely get a cigarette paper between them.) I know it doesn’t matter in the broader scheme of things, but I have spent the past couple of weeks intensively listening again to the contenders for the Top 10, sometimes mixing them up on my iPod so that I don’t know what’s coming next, which may be counter to the spirit of the album, but it helped me make some difficult choices. There’s nothing like the feeling when a track comes up on shuffle from a playlist comprising only your favourite albums of the year and you don’t immediately recognise it but you know you love it. That way, impartial assessment can be achieved. So …

1. Rob St. John Weald

2. Ghostpoet Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam

3. Metronomy The English Riviera

4. The Horrors Skying

5. James Blake James Blake

6. Adele 21

7. Jonnie Common Deskjob

8. The Kills Blood Pressures

9. Battles Gloss Drop

10. Elbow Build A Rocket Boys!

11. Luke Haines 9½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early 80s

12. The Wild Swans The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years

13. Katy B On A Mission

14. Death Grips Ex-Military

15. Bon Iver Bon Iver

16. Anna Calvi Anna Calvi

17. Chris T-T Disobedience

18. TV On The Radio Nine Types Of Light

19. Lymes Goodbye Bangkok

20. Little Dragon Ritual Union

21. Frank Turner England Keep My Bones

22. Los Campesinos! Hello Sadness

23. Bombay Bicycle Club A Different Kind Of Fix

24. Alex Turner Submarine

25. Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi Rome

26. Das Racist Relax

27. Martin John Henry The Other Half of Everything

Here’s what happens now: you’ll post comments beneath this list and ask me why I haven’t included an album you love, and it will be because of one of these two reasons – I haven’t heard the album, or I don’t like it enough to put it in my Top 27. So, no King Of Limbs by Radiohead or PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake. It’s just a matter of taste. There’s something very odd about liking one of the most successful albums of all time – Adele’s 21 – but I’ve had it for most of this year and I’m still enjoying listening to it. I can’t help liking so many of this year’s Mercury shortlist either – that’s just the way the cards fell. I have no desire to shock you with my obscurity or impress you with my cool. I am 46.

I do like the fact that my list is bookended by two Scottish-based solo records with a similarly pastoral/geographical looking cover, and that both are solo debuts, too. That seems entirely apt. I’ve found my love of music reinvigorated this year, as I’ve stated for the record elsewhere – by depping on 6 Music, by watching Later…, by hanging around Josie Long, and by the fact that smaller labels tend to put handwritten notes in with things, and that makes me take notice. I like that this has happened, as I was worried that I could no longer form new relationships with artists. This turns out not to be true. I’m genuinely more excited about the new than I am about the old as this year turns into another one.

Enough of my yakkin’ – let’s play some records!

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Well, what a turn-up. Recent experience at this time of year tells me that I am either losing patience with new music, or else new music is getting less and less essential, particularly in long-playing form. I usually struggle to come up with a meaningful Top 10 albums at the end of the year, as you’ll see from previous year-end roundups. Individual songs, yes, but not full albums, which have come to disappoint me more often than thrill me this century.

Not this year. It’s only November, and I’m only gathering contenders together at this point, but look at how many albums of 2011 I’d call brilliant. I won’t even list them all yet, but I’ve counted 24 so far. In any other year, I’d be grateful for a substandard Radiohead album to make the numbers, but King Of Limbs, which I must have listened to about three times since it came out in February, doesn’t even make the longlist. As for Arctic Monkeys, not this year.

I put a call out on Twitter for music of black origin, ie. hip-hop, earlier this week and thanks to your recommendations – and Spotify – Death Grips and Das Racist are the most recent additions to the runners and rider. I am only really just discovering their albums, Ex Military and Relax, but I love them already.

Still plenty of time, but if you think I’ve missed something, by all means give it a shout-out, as they say. (Oh, and I should thank Josie Long for her positive influence on my appetite for forlorn-looking indie music, an almost random selection of which I now force myself to listen to on a weekly basis; thus far, it’s mostly given me individual tracks to love, such as singles by Fireworks Night, Rob St John and Ian Humberstone, but Jonnie Common is a great example of an artist I might never have listened to a year ago, and whose exquisite Deskjob album I have come to adore. Lymes are another example of the potential riches of the tiny label netherworld.)

Without planning it, I seem to have a lot of Mercury nominees in here, too. I will never again dismiss the Mercury prize. They clearly got something right this year.