2018 in Review

Some of the best things that I read, watched, listened to, or otherwise consumed in 2018.



Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Please don’t ask me why it took so long for me to watch this show, because I honestly don’t know.  I’ve been excited about it ever since Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna first appeared on Scriptnotes to discuss the pilot in 2014.  But somehow until April of this year, I’d only managed to watch one episode.  Now it’s firmly in my top 5 TV shows of all time.

A musical comedy, season one of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend presented a light-hearted riff on familiar romcom tropes.  By season three, it was exploring the stigma surrounding mental illness.  I watched 44 episodes in under a week, and promptly set to work convincing every single one of my friends to get on board (I wasn’t terribly successful, but I keep trying).  The show is currently partway through the fourth and final season, and I can’t wait to find out how things will wrap up for Rebecca and her friends.

If you’re already a fan of the show, I know what you’re going to ask.  Today, my top 5 songs would be: A Diagnosis, I Have Friends, I Go To The Zoo, Trapped In A Car With Someone You Don’t Want To Be Trapped In A Car With and You Stupid Bitch — but these could change at any moment.  Honorary mentions to Gettin’ Bi and Fit Hot Guys Have Problems Too.

Other series I watched and enjoyed this year include The Good Place, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Younger, Riverdale and Taskmaster.


Punch Up the Jam

Ginger recommended this podcast to me as we were recording an episode of How to Be Funny.  That episode has not yet been released (for reasons that I shall discuss at a later date — please be patient), so let’s move on to discussing this other, better, and much more successful podcast.

Hosted by Miel Bredouw (who you may know from Vine) and Demi Adejuyigbe (of Gilmore Guys fame), each episode of Punch Up the Jam explores a different pop song, breaking down the lyrics and discussing exactly how ridiculous they are.  The hosts then present a “punch up”, in which they offer their own improved version of the tune.  It’s very funny, both Miel and Demi’s musical chops are SO IMPRESSIVE, and I’m not doing it any justice in this write-up.  Just download and listen.

I recommend starting with Semi-Charmed Life featuring special guest Mara Wilson.  And then just work your way through the entire catalogue because they are all great.

Other subscriptions in my podcast app include Scriptnotes, My Dad Wrote a Porno and West Wing Weekly.


Bri Lee – Eggshell Skull (non-fiction)

Gail Honeyman – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (fiction)

I read both of these books while in the UK.  The former in Glasgow; first in a Yo! Sushi at lunchtime, and then in the lobby of a Travelodge, passing time before the overnight bus to Bristol.  It’s not a book I would recommend reading in public — nor is the latter.  Both had me awkwardly dabbing away tears while avoiding onlookers’ concerned glances.

Bri Lee’s Eggshell Skull is more than just a memoir.  It’s an examination of the Queensland legal system, and the emotional (and legal) ramifications of sexual assault.  Witty, intelligent and moving, I’m not at all surprised to see this book continually listed on literary prize shortlists.

I picked up Eleanor Oliphant after reading a review comparing it to Bridget Jones’ Diary.  That review was incredibly misleading, as this was not the lighthearted romantic novel I was expecting when I pulled it out of my bag in the line for Garbage’s Birmingham gig.  It was an outdoor concert, and the light hung around pretty late.  An easy but compelling read, I struggled to put the book down, even cracking it open between support acts.

I also read a heap of excellent YA this year, including (but not limited to): Jandy Nelson – I’ll Give You The Sun, Alice Pung – Laurinda, and Celeste Ng – Little Fires Everywhere.


Garbage – 20 Years Paranoid

After flying to Europe for 20 Years Queer in 2015, I accidentally set a precedent for myself.  So, when Garbage announced the 20th anniversary tour for their second album (Version 2.0), everybody assumed that I’d buy tickets — which I did, to 11 of their 13 European dates.

Although the setlists were largely the same — with Wicked Ways segueing into Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus, and the insertion of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams at the end of You Look So Fine — each concert was also completely different.  At the start of the tour, Shirley described Soldier Through This as the saddest song the band had ever written, but by the end of the European leg, she had turned that statement on its head.  The song is about a man who cannot handle his partner’s success and drive, but it’s also about a strong and independent woman who isn’t willing to give herself up just because her partner feels inferior.

Different-sized venues garnered completely different crowds, from the tiny student union hall in Newcastle to the Bataclan in Paris.  For me, the highlight was Manchester.  It was the first date with Estrons in the support slot — and they were absolutely brilliant.  A four-piece from Cardiff, frontwoman Tali won me over right away, dedicating Make A Man to the dickhead she would be seeing in court the next day.  Their album You Say I’m Too Much, I Say You’re Not Enough was released in October.

But back to the gig — the atmosphere at Manchester Academy was electric, and it was possibly the most responsive crowd of the tour.  Also, it was the night that I got to show Shirley my tattoo, and that was pretty damn special.

I also saw Tim Minchin, Alanis Morissette, Foo Fighters, The Preatures, Ali Barter and many more local and international acts.  2018 was a great year for live music – and it’s not over just yet.  I’ve still got the Falls Music & Arts Festival to come!


Camp Cope – How to Socialise and Make Friends

Camp Cope were one of my highlights at last year’s Falls, and I was counting down until the release date for this album.  It did not disappoint, immediately taking pride of place in my Spotify rotation.  A raw and relatable album about the experience of being a woman in this world (specifically in the music industry), How to Socialise and Make Friends speaks to me on a level that a lot of recent releases couldn’t dream of reaching.  Don’t get me started on The Face of God — it’s a story too many people have felt ashamed to tell.

This year I’ve also really enjoyed new music by Courtney Barnett, Ariana Grande, The Vaccines, Ali Barter, The Regrettes, Arctic Monkeys, Florence + the Machine, Mark Ronson & Miley Cyrus, and other artists (these are just the first ones to come to mind), but somehow my most played song on Spotify was No You Girls by Franz Ferdinand, released in 2009.


Hamilton (London West End)

A little late to the game on this one — but in my defense, I couldn’t justify flying to New York just to see Lin-Manuel Miranda on Broadway (as much as I would have loved to).  At the Victoria Palace Theatre, the royal boxes have “limited view”, which is how Mum and I managed to snag what we think were the coolest seats in the house — at a discount!

The production was excellent.  I have no point of reference for comparison to the original (aside from the Broadway cast recording), so I’ll say that it was just as good.  It was also the only musical I saw this year, and therefore won this category by default.

What were your top picks of 2018 (or just some things you enjoyed)?  Scroll down past the “related posts” and let me know in the comments.


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