I am the first person to admit that 2017 has not really been “my year”. It has been one of the toughest years of my life (second only to That Year When I Nearly Died), filled with an utter mix of dizzying highs and catastrophic lows. Whilst I’d love to write about these experiences in further detail, perhaps a blog that originally started out as a place for me to review books isn’t the right place.
I do, however, feel motivated to write some sort of summative piece on the year. Instead I’m going to do a series of Top 5s, recalling some of the pleasant experiences of the past 365 days.
- The Sun and Her Flowers
- The Vegetarian
This year my love for Ali Smith grew exponentially. I was already a fan of hers after meeting her for the first time a few years ago, shortly after she released the groundbreaking How to Be Both. In February I finally got myself a copy of Autumn, the first book in her seasonal series. In November and December I ended the year by reading Winter, the next installment. Whilst it is not an explicit continuation of Autumn – in terms of characters and plots – the books are fundamentally linked. Autumn began with a dream of rebirth and a coat of fresh leaves; an ageing Sophia begins Winter with a child’s head keeping her company. In Autumn, Daniel collects the youthfully gutsy paintings of Pauline Boty; in Winter, Sophia loves Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures. To paraphrase what Smith said during the Cambridge Literary Festival, autumn must happen for winter to arrive. It was Autumn that swung it as my book of the year, the first post-Brexit novel tapping into my political disappointment and impressing me with its unique form.
Rupi Kaur was another author that bookended my year. I went into January reading and re-reading Milk and Honey, and ended the year devouring The Sun and Her Flowers in a single day. Some of her poems feel a bit gimmicky to me, but others feel extremely relatable and raw, as though she has perfectly penned my own experiences.
- The xx – I See You
- Mura Masa – Mura Masa
- Blaenavon – That’s Your Lot
- Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone
- Real Estate – In Mind
Also: Los Campesinos, Alt J and Phoenix.
I don’t really feel like there are many new releases that I’ve really cared about this year, perhaps because I became more interested in electronic, house etc and less bothered about current indie/alternative offerings. My most-played new releases were without a doubt The xx and Mura Masa, both of which I enjoyed seeing live a few times. I also rated the offerings from Blaenavon, Loyle Carner, Real Estate, Los Campesinos, Alt J and Phoenix.
- Los Campesinos – Norwich Arts Centre
- Phoenix – Alexandra Palace
- Justice – O2 Academy, Brixton
- Mura Masa – O2 Academy, Brixton
- LCD Soundsystem – Alexandra Palace
Also: Beach Fossils, Joe Goddard.
I definitely went to fewer concerts in 2017 for a whole host of reasons ranging from increasing ticket prices to a shift in my priorities. Los Campesinos and LCD Soundsystem were fantastic as always, meanwhile Justice and Phoenix provided two of the best lighting designs I have ever experienced (all in one weekend as well)! Seeing Mura Masa for the first with with friends from university was also another highlight, cementing his place in my Top 5 after playing his remix of Night Swimmers by Foals.
- Radiohead – Glastonbury
- Pinegrove and Los Campesinos – Mirrors
- Loyle Carner – Latitude
- The xx – Glastonbury
- Everything Everything – Glastonbury
This summer I experienced my favourite Glastonbury to date, alongside another amazing weekend at Latitude and my first time at Best Kept Secret in the Netherlands. I also managed to squeeze in a range of day festivals, including British Summer Time, TRNSMT, and Mirrors. Seeing Radiohead four times in three countries was quite an experience, but the Glastonbury set was probably my favourite. Pinegrove (pre-sexual coercion confusion) also stood out as a particular highlight alongside co-headliners Los Campesinos at this year’s Mirrors Festival in Hackney. Mount Kimbie into Loyle Carner was a notable highlight at Latitude in July.
- Ross from Friends – Corsica Studios, London
- Joy Orbison b2b Jon Rust – Revolution, Cambridge
- Floating Points – Best Kept Secret, Tilberg
- Busy P – Phonox, London
- Jeremy Underground – The Junction, Cambridge
Ordering my favourite DJ sets of the year was a difficult task as I was absolutely fucked for most of them (sorry mum). In Cambridge the highlights include Ross from Friends, Move D, Joy Orbison and Jon Rust and Jeremy Underground. Ross from Friends also failed to disappoint at Glastonbury and at Corsica Studios (for my 20th birthday). In the Netherlands it was Floating Points and Joy Orbison (again) that stood out, whilst I still regret missing Dennis Sulta in favour of sleep. The weirdest night out of the year was definitely Busy P at Phonox (the afterparty for Justice’s gig at Brixton), which ended in chaos but makes it into the top five purely for my appreciation of French house.
I didn’t get to travel as much as I would have liked to in 2017, but I have picked out five cities that I visited for the first time this year. From the romance of Parisienne streets to the crumbling buildings on Kumanovo, all of these cities have a unique feel (and very different architecture).