Wait Until Next Year Annual Awards 2013

by Steve

Awarding trophies to captains of winning teams, October 14, 1937

You will have to imagine that this is a star-studded gala, attended by the great and good in all their finery, rather than some hastily cobbled together awards for the best of 2013. I don’t think I’ve exhausted anything over the past 12 months to justify full lists of albums/books/etc of the year. I’ve been far more of a dabbler, so it is probably best to read these ‘awards’ with caution, as it is not like I’ve consumed everything and anything in order to make a reasonably objective judgement. Essentially, here are some things I enjoyed across the year…

Book of the Year – Red or Dead by David Peace

I haven’t really read a whole lot that was published this year, but even so, I can’t imagine there have been many more impressive books than this one released in 2013. This was easily the best book I read this year, one that I devoured and one that stuck with me long after I finished it. I’m sure if you drew some sort of venn diagram with people who like modernist fiction in one circle, and the other circle with people who support Liverpool FC the population within the crossover would be reasonably small. Yet for anyone within that, this must be the perfect book. It tells the (fictionalised, although rigorously researched) tale of the Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, from his appointment at the club through to his death. It takes well over 700 pages to tell the story and has repitition at its heart, but the repitition is not just a neat author’s trick, it reflects the content – a man obsessed with football and his job, who knows that repitition lies at the heart of success, that repitition gives us meaning and structure in our lives. Throughout the form reflects the content. It is hard work, but it is worth it, especially as a rare humanity shines through, particularly at the book chronicles his retirement and the loss we must feel when what has given us so much meaning and purpose has gone.

Beer of the Year – Brüpond Belgian Farmhouse Experiment

I’ve always wanted to like Brüpond’s beer – they seem to have the right ideas around varying their styles, trying new flavours, but not veering too far towards novelty. But sometimes their beer tastes a little unfinished, the flavours don’t blend properly or aren’t balanced enough. So I was surprised that an ‘Experiment’ from them, so essentially something less planned, was a complete revelation. Their Farmhouse beer is sour, but in a way that is refreshing rather than gurn-inducing. It is completely drinkable, yet has enough complexity to retain interest. It is all that is good about craft beer.

Album of the Year – Trouble Will Find Me by The National

It feels like I’ve had a bit of an odd year when it comes to listening to albums. Spotify and other streaming services have enabled me to listen to a lot of new music, but I’ve rarely returned to albums after an initial listen or two. The closure of so many record shops has meant I’ve bought far fewer albums and I’ve never really got into great bulk buys online. Trouble Will Find Me was one of the few albums I did buy this year, and so one of the few albums I’ve played a lot. While that might be down to circumstance, it is also down to this being an excellent album. There is enough depth and detail, lyrically and musically, to encourage multiple listens. It has definitely grown on me as the year has gone on. Sometimes listening to The National feels more like reading a great novel. They are one of the best bands around and they seem to be showing no sign of letting up.

Coffee Place of the Year – Giddy Up Coffee

These coffee stands dotted around central and east London are absolute havens for those who need a decent coffee fix. This is a rare company that combines amazing, well-crafted coffee with an absolute friendliness and openness that the snobby London coffee scene could really learn from. A really wonderful company.

Pop Star of the Year – Pharrell Williams

The charts don’t really matter anymore. Singles don’t really matter anymore. However, 2013 showed BIG singles are still possible in the age of the download. Get Lucky and Blurred Lines were huge. People were talking about these songs, and whether you loved or hated them, they were relevant. Singles can still have an impact on the cultural discussion. They were also impossibly catchy. Pharrell Williams had a hand in both, plus released the rather lovely Happy, and like some sort of Pop Music Zelig seemed to be involved in everything interesting in pop music this year.

Blog of the Year – Planet Harris

I don’t think blogging should just be about ‘content’ as some nebulous concept, or a particular theme/subject matter. Great blogging is all about personality and humanity and feeling like you are hot-wired into the brain of another human being, can feel a little of what they are feeling, can get a glimpse into another world, another way of thinking. Nobody does this more consistently than the lovely Steven Harris, who nearly every day offers dispatches from his life and worldview with a rare honesty, wit and turn of phrase.

Sportsman of the Year – Luis Suarez

He is on course for scoring around 50 goals this year. He has been a complete nightmare in the past, but is now showing glimpses of being a team player and an actually reasonably decent human being, which is almost as frightening as the fact he seems capable of scoring at will. He is a fascinating and flawed character capable of moments of great beauty and great horror on the pitch, he can play both the hero and the villian in an age of bland identikit sportspeople. He seems the perfect sportsman of our times, one who demands debate, divides opinion and makes sport feel like it matters.

Image from Center for Jewish History, via Flickr