To celebrate the end of a stellar year for culture, both in the UK and abroad, we asked the BOP team to share some of their personal highlights from 2018. We’ll be publishing them over the next three days, starting today with our choices for the year’s best TV and music.
2018 was a great year to spend quality time on the couch, and not just because of the World Cup. Whilst Brexit provided its own melodrama, the BBC was creating some of its own scripted drama. It’s hard to remember a year where there was stronger or more original content from new, young, and diverse talent.
Taking time off from Line of Duty, Jed Mercurio broke viewing records with Bodyguard, with the first episode arguably the best single hour of TV all year, even if the show did run out of momentum a little after. Killing Eve was a delicious treat, adapted by the wonderful Phoebe Waller-Bridge (creator of Fleabag), featuring great clothes, a killer soundtrack and a career-making turn by Jodie Comer as a vulnerable psychopathic assassin with a girl crush.
This year, Hugo Blick, TV’s greatest auteur, returned with Black Earth Rising, a complex drama about the international criminal court and the West’s wider entanglement in the Rwandan Genocide. The difficulty of the subject matter was sensitively handled through daring transitions into monochrome animation and the hard-at-times-to-follow plot was held together by a standout lead: the multi-talented rising star Michaela Cole.
The Little Drummer Girl was the second of the BBC’s recent John Le Carre’s adaptations, but those expecting Night Manager-style gloss and action may have been disappointed. Instead, the genius decision to appoint Korean director of Oldboy, Park Chan-wook, to helm the series produced a beautifully shot, slow burn psychological drama of at times hallucinatory intensity.
As with the Le Carre adaptation, Informer used the hook of undercover agents to delve into questions of identity; both the young British-Pakistani informer (a wonderfully cocky and charming big screen debut by Nabhaan Rizwan) and his handler, the brilliant Paddy Considine, in his best role in years.
And all this is without mentioning the very satisfying Yorkshire reboot of Dr Who, or the BBC’s excellent factual output in series such as Inside the Foreign Office, School and A Dangerous Dynasty: House of Assad.
After 2017 lavished us with musical riches, 2018 reverted to the 2010s trend: not all that much of interest going on in the mainstream, but plenty of gems to be discovered in the margins.
Things we liked covered a range of genres and from around the globe. From Montreal, psychedelic Québécois-pop-noise-ensemble, Suuns released Felt. Their latest album took their sound a dimension further; emotionally violent and emboldening. ‘An album to revolt with’, as one member of the team describes it. From Johannesburg, duo FAKA released Queenie, a brutally sounding yet terribly infectious Gqom track; a new Durban born genre of dance music that is redefining electro music across Africa and the world.
A clutch of emerging US female artists of varying indie hues came to the fore this year. From the charismatic, retro White Stripes-esque Mattiel, to sleek, clever rap/pop of Dessa, and BOP friend Molly Burch’s sophomore album First Flower (highlight being To the Boys).
It was also a strong year for Jazz. Following on from last year’s collection of great releases from a newly vital jazz scene, Kamasi Washington released his greatest offering yet; Heaven and Earth. While lesser known act, Ambrose Akinmusire released Origami Harvest – an astonishing mash-up of jazz, chamber music and laid-back rap.
We also got out to catch our favourite bands live. Looking for a small family friendly festival, this year we tried Tropical Pressure. Billed as a mini-Womad by the sea, it brings together international artists from South America, the Caribbean and Africa, as well as UK artists. Highlights included a wonderful set from the ‘queen of Colombia’ Toto la Momposina, accompanied by her children and grandchildren in a ten piece band.
Wilderness Festival was another hit for us. On the mainstage, Justice wowed with their high-volume bass and light shows, whilst Chic returned with their disco classics. Off the main stage, we enjoyed a Disney singalong; The Little Mermaid with full orchestra, in a sunny crowded festival field. And in southern Wales, this year’s edition of BOP client Green Man Festival married incredible landscape and family-friendly programming, with some of the world’s best indie rock and folk acts. Particular highlights from this year included sets by Kevin Morby, Grizzly Bear, and Teleman.
Despite the musical riches within new sub-genres, sometimes the best things can be found right on your doorstep. Sometimes you just need something familiar, visceral and immediate. Shame’s full-length debut Songs of Praise is just that. If you were to analyse their music, the conclusion would be that there’s nothing very original on offer from the young South Londoners. And yet, the combination of angular post-punk abrasiveness, blistering energy, vocals that hum with anger and wit, and hooks the strength of reinforced concrete delivers a knockout punch.
Finally, our very own Kate Ingram performed at The Troxy for Some Voices’ Seasonal Speakeasy (pictured above). With music from Amy Winehouse, Shirley Bassey, Plan B to Basement Jaxx and a host of west end stars, they’re dubbed ‘London’s coolest choir’, partying like it’s the end of prohibition in art deco heaven.