2017: A Year In Review

Yeah, but not really. I only like certain things, and top threes are about as far as I can get on any given topic. I’m going to try and give you my view of 2017, but without any of the bleakness du jour.

First things first, what the actual fuck was that? What just happened? Am I right in saying we had an election last year? Was there any need? And why – how? – is Theresa May still Prime Minister? Boris fucking Johnson?  It’s probably all answerable with the words “Brexit” and “Jeremy Corbyn”, but that just poses more questions than it does answers. It’s been an odd, surreal, slightly nauseating ride. It led to a year where all bets were off, and anything odd which happened being met with a Gallic shrug.

Secondly, the year had carried an ominous smell of fear, which I found strictly unnecessary. I am aware that there was/is a mad man with nuclear weapons (which one, your choice), and that decisions were being made in government to benefit business alone. Human rights we eroded, and minorities were being abused with government approval. On the plus side, we are all standing together behind the victims of sexual abuse. That’s a win. The way that evil wins is for good people to do nothing.

Third, fundamental shifts take place in increments. Last year was set to feel like all doom and gloom. In actual fact it felt no different from previous years, in measurable terms. The shifts we have had have taken place subtly. Things are different, and individually mad, but the changes were small. We are right to keep vigilant against the darkness, but we need to stop expecting seismic shifts.

I look at the “Best Albums of 2017” on the BBC News website, and I feel alienated. It’s not that I’d ever object to pop or hip-hop, it’s just that I don’t live in a world where they are the only flavours of music. In the same way that reality TV and talent shows are not the only flavour of TV. I like cookery programmes. And I like balls out, dirty, angry rock music. Hence, my top three albums of this 2017.

The first two were such pleasant shocks, from areas I had not expected: Sanctimonious by Attic is a truly lovely story of a convent overtaken by a murderous Abbess, intent on keeping her charges pure. One problem: they keep getting inseminated by the local lads. Cue the deaths of many babies, and an hour or so of beautiful falsetto vocals. Just don’t ask what an “Angel-machine” might actually be.

Zeal and Ardor is a one man band. Manuel Gagneux took slave chants from American cotton fields and replaced Christ’s love with Satan’s wrath. And it worked a treat. Icy cold Black Metal riffs played on toy pianos mix with haunting refrains depicting Satanic Magick. It’s not easy listening, but it is as catchy as syphilis. “The river bed will run red with the blood of the saints and the blood of the holy”.

If you used to like Black Metal, but then felt that you needed something more ravey, you probably already know Samael. Swiss, Industrially-minded shouters, now focussed on human unity, and a truly wondrous prospect. I can’t imagine anyone else managing to sound quite so very angry while telling the world “Now is the moment to destroy all that tears us apart.” It’s what last year needed to hear.

That’s two areas of the world of 2017 discussed, but what about more? That’s the problem. So much has happened last year that it feels remiss to discuss any one thing. Conversely, to discuss things at all feels like ephemera, like by writing about the best TV and cinema of 2017 we’re belittling the huge events. The world feels oddly bland, as if summarised by a snarky Buzzfeed post. It’s queasy.

The last few years have been defined by deaths, it feels. However 2017 subverted that, and made it sadder by intent. Last year, for reasons beyond my understanding, a number of rock stars took their own lives, and sent shockwaves around the world. The deaths of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington were shocking and saddening in equal measure. The rock scene was left dazed, unable to comprehend the pain seemingly endured by our best and brightest. The need for unity grew.

Death cannot be the only thing which defines us, no matter how secure it seems. Sometimes all we need is unicorns. Actually, that’s a lie: we do not need unicorns, and the unicorn trend we have seen in food in 2017 has been anathema to me. The only positive upshot to it was the inevitable backlash which ensued, producing “Goth Foods”: black ice cream in black cones, with black sprinkles. Lovely.

2017 was the year of fidget spinners, of millennials being told to improve their lives by not eating avocado on toast, of fake news, rose gold and slime. It was a year where it felt that divisions were as real as the unity of human experience. It was a strange ride and I for one am very glad it’s over.

So, 2018 then. If 2017 has taught us anything it is that the world is not about to die in a ball of fiery death any time soon. I fully expect that the 42nd President of the United States will remain in office for his full term, and that there will be no actual hostilities taking place with North Korea. On the other hand, countless people will be needlessly butchered all around the world. That’s who we are.

The way we watch TV and films has changed over the past few years, and that will continue. The big problem is that it may well get a lot more expensive. The proposed merger of aspects of Disney and Fox creates a media behemoth with fingers in all of the pies. Those of us who currently shell out for Prime and Netflix may soon start to feel pushed in to Hulu. And that is the thin end of an expensive wedge. The end of net neutrality could start to push up the price of accessing web content in 2018.

My musical hopes for 2018 include great new albums from any number of my favourite bands: Týr, A Perfect Circle and Ghost all have new albums currently in the works. There are rumours of the return of Nachtmystium, which is so outlandish it can only have been announced in 2017. Fingers crossed.

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