It’s the golden age of tellay don’t you know?
The acting. The script. The acceptable use of slo-mo. The Handmaids Tale was, for me Jeff, TV drama (or any drama) at its finest, built around a deservedly Emmy-winning turn from Elisabeth Moss (my second favourite Scientologist). Like the shallow charlatan I am, I saw a few press shots before it kicked off and thought ‘a period drama. No thanks’, but I gave it a go and I’m glad I did. Heartbreaking, compelling and props to whoever waited to air it until 45 got in. It seems less like a far-fetched dystopia than ever.
It was always going to be good. David Simon’s latest miniseries has that trademark ability to evenly distribute backstories amongst a mostly brilliant cast. Maggie Gyllenhaal is great (always) but Dominique Fishback and James Franco are the standouts. Lots of people from The Wire are in it, for a change.
No-one does the mundanity and parochialism of English life like Shearsmith and Pemberton. Some might say sacrilege, but it’s my favourite thing they’ve done. Dark humour and brutal twists in every episode.
Will Arnett was back underneath the saddle as the narcissistic, self-sabotaging, washed-up alcoholic horse-man, and this season took it up a level emotionally. Every season has been good, but the story of Bojack’s long lost daughter and showrunner Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s ability to address subjects like dementia and mass shootings with comedy and sensitivity mean this is essential watching, even if you think it looks ridiculous from a screen shot. (Which it does)
Give Joanna Scanlan all the awards. Although this series she dialled it down a little. The three female leads are all brilliant again and the plotting’s as good as you’d expect from Paul Abbott.
Rick and Morty season 3
Funny. Clever. Maybe too clever. It’ll make you laugh out loud and it’s endlessly inventive but you never have anyone to root for. Everyone is awful, which makes you feel a bit awful after each episode.
Master of None season 2
Bigger scope for Aziz Ansari’s drama series that’s occasionally funny. He’s very likeable and it’s fun to watch, it’s got a killer soundtrack but his parents still can’t act.
It was strange watching this at the same time as Arrested Development. Why is Michael Bluth laundering eight million dollars for Mexican gangsters? Makes Missouri look nice, under less stressful circumstances.
Not an easy watch, but an important one. I love my home town damnit, but I’m always sceptical about the provenance of the seemingly endless listicle pieces that nominate Bristol as The Best Ever City To Live In. The stories of Drugsland need to be told and remembered, before they get lost in a sea of instagrammed avocado lattes.
Podcasts. Listen to them all!
Stretch and Bob are back on the airwaves! Their radio show which ran from 92-99 on KCRW was (apparently) essential listening for hiphop heads and broke a number of huge artists. I say apparently, I’m from Bristol and internet radio wasn’t a thing back then.
But, What’s Good sees them return casting a wider net, more reflective, wiser but still with that same energy for music. They got Stevie Wonder on their podcast. Do I need to say much else?
Furnished with the best podcast theme of the year, The Nod hosts Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings explore different aspects of black culture, from historical icons to food obsessions.
The chemistry between the two hosts is what makes this. I wouldn’t have found out about The Nod if it wasn’t for…
Another Gimlet Media podcast, Reply All looks at the more esoteric corners of the internet, from net neutrality, to click farms, to phishing scams who pretend they work for Anonymous, to what happens when your Uber account gets hacked remotely from Moscow.
It helps that PJ Vogt, one of the co-hosts, has the most infectious laugh in the world.
Podcasts had been around for a good while before Serial came out, but that show did wonders for the popularity and possibility of the medium.
From the same team at This American Life, S-Town takes another forensic look at an, um, American life where morals and motives are ambiguous.
The production and in particular the music is great, and it’s easy to warm to John P Macklemore, the protagonist of this unique and tragic story.
These are my favourite sequences of tracks mixed into one another, 2017.
The mix I’ve returned to the most this year. Soulja Boy? Eagles of Death Metal? Paul Simon? Justin Timberlake? Plump DJs? All featured. It’s not for everyone (it has a lot of trap/EDM type stuff on), but for me Jeff it bangs from start to finish and shows A Trak’s prowess as a selector, technical DJ and producer off perfectly. Not that that was ever in doubt.
Probably my favourite DJ of the last five years, and this, one of his most recent mixes, showcases his style perfectly. Seamless movement from disco to house via other less cool genres that still throw up a classic. He’s not afraid to play obvious crowd pleasers but always does so inventively, plus he masters tricks only the best DJs bother doing, namely mixing in key and convincingly playing with tempo mid-track.
It was nice to see MJ Cole join the ranks of Solid Steel, a show I’ve followed for 20 odd years. Radiohead, Steve Reich, Nils Frahm all get a run out and this mix reminds me of his great entry in the ‘Back to Mine’ series for its deep, soulful ambience.
Two obsessions of mine. Together. Drawn mostly from Endtroducing, The Private Press and Run the Jewels 1, the busy production of tracks like ‘you can’t go home again’ and ‘napalm brain/scatter brain’ suit El-P and Killer Mike’s incendiary rhymes down to the ground.
Here they are. My tracks of the year. A listicle of opinions lost in the maelstrom of troll farms and needless anger that is internet 2017. But I do bloody love all this music.
This track must be good because the production is all over the place, and despite that it makes the list. With a chorus built around a late 70s Brainstorm disco-funk vocal hook and Joe getting on the mic in the verses, it’s a classic Goddard house bumper.
This is fun Beck, not mellow Beck (though they’re both good). One of the rockier numbers on the new album, it’s Beck opening up the taps on the distortion pedals with abandon. Still my favourite Scientologist.
Thanks A-Trak for making me discover Vince Staples. This, the first track on his last album, has some 90s Smith and Mighty vibes to it (and that’s why it’s great). Keep keepin’ on St. Vincent.
If like me you’re a hiphop fan but not an obsessive, you’ll probably have your favourite era, and it’ll be difficult to shake you out of believing that however much you like the new stuff it’ll never touch the classics. “The greatest time for MCs has passed”, blah blah.
Well now. Throw all that nonsense out the window. Kendrick Lamar Duckworth is a genius and one of the best to ever do it, and DAMN isn’t even his best album. Like a fool I read the track listing of DAMN and thought ‘pff, these simple, one word track titles in capitals won’t have the layers of meaning and depth of his magnum opus, To Pimp a Butterfly’.
Talk about judging an album by its cover.
While DAMN shows a different side to Kendrick’s soul this is still a masterpiece and thankfully Bono hardly features.
Born Slippy with a speed Garage bassline.
1999 with a longer intro.