Kirkland Ciccone

Author of Happiness Is Wasted On Me, writer of Scottish fiction, auld punk, bookshop botherer, library lurker, and tea swigger. This is my blog.

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My favourite things of 2021

It’s that time of year again where everyone posts a blog about their favourite things of the years. “Things” mean different things to people, but for me it means books, music, film, TV, and moments that stick out for whatever reason. Let’s get stuck into the year we’re living through, now we’re nearly at the other end looking back the way. Caution: I might write something you disagree with.

My favourite books of the year:

Hasn’t 2021 been a brilliant year for fiction? New voices, established talent, and a Scottish publishing industry ready to try something a little different, and the emergence of a flourishing online community ready to celebrate books. Though my novel came out in 2020 (in the midst of the first lockdown), it got a second innings this year by being picked up by several book obsessed Instagram accounts, who in turn sent the sales upwards. I read more books than ever before (that’s a lot of reading) and settled for a small list which has to start off with We Run The Tides by Vendela Vida. A hilarious novel that made me feel like I knew the character by the last page, which is always the mark of excellent writing. Another novel that made me slightly jealous is Checkout 19 by Claire-Louise Bennett, which is full of sharp lines that slice, the sort of writing that makes me grateful for paper, ink, and binding. Graeme Macrae Burnet’s Case Study is the most devious novel I’ve read since my beloved Oh, Marina Girl. Sterling Karat Gold by Isabel Waidner is the most punk rock novel of the year, and possibly the most inventive. Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan is the most beautiful book I read in 2021. Then there’s The Everliving Memory of John Valentine by Ross Sayers, who will go stratospheric and we won’t hate him for it because he’s a very good person and can actually write. John Valentine is an indie film waiting to be made. Alex Nye’s Even The Birds Grow Silent might have suffered being released in close proximity to Mrs Death Misses Death (Death is a woman in both books), but they’re totally different prospects, and in Even The Birds Grow Silent, Alex might have put out her best work so far. I love her writing, always did. Sam Cohen’s Sarahland was a cracking book of short stories, which hardly anyone knows about, but they should go and get it now. Right now. Do it. Chris Kelso, whose metaweirdo fiction has long occupied a place on my shelf, put out Interrogating The Abyss, marking himself as someone whose non-fiction writing might bring him *whisper it* out of the underground. John Gerard Fagan dropped his life in Scotland and headed to Japan, writing Fish Town on his phone. An excellent book full of heart and humour, I loved it. There are more books, there are always more, but these are the ones that I can think to choose as the outstanding lot of 2021.

My favourite music of the year:

Wink by Chai might be too pop for rock purists and too rock for pop purists, but the rest of us know better. It’s a triumph and they might be the best band out there right now. Valentine by Snail Mail and Soberish by Liz Phair scratch my everlasting love for ’90s leaning alternative rock. Blood by Juliana Hatfield, likewise, is one of the very finest records of 2021. If you’re a fan of sparse synths with spare lyrics, then Lucy Gooch’s beautiful Rain’s Break (out on Fire Records) is for you and your ears. Violent Tendencies by She/Beast is a retro punk delight, while Cong! by Cong Josie sounds like Suicide, but their early stuff you prefer to the more polished output. It’s pure fun. One of the most satisfying albums, certainly one of the best comebacks, was No Gods No Masters by Garbage. A missing link (not a Curve reference) between Version 2.0 and Beautifulgarbage, No Gods is full of skull caving pink pop candy bops and I’m so grateful Shirley Manson is still with us, putting out relevant work. Entertainment, Death by Spirit of the Beehive was another alternative rock triumph by a band who don’t get the appreciation they merit. Hopefully, this album continues to reach wider audiences.

My favourite telly of the year:

The one in my living room is quite good.


Doctor Who: Flux was by far my favourite TV show of 2021, playing to Chris Chibnall’s strengths as a showrunner. Serialised writing allowed him to tell a bigger, stranger, crazier story and I was completely caught up in the whole thing, not even thinking about plot holes or mad moments. Jodie Whittaker was amazing, giving us a complex Doctor whose obsession with learning her true past hurt her best friend Yasmin, the two of them finally reaching a place of understanding by the finale. John Bishop’s Dan is likeable and a great addition to the crew. In terms of trash television, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills was deeply frustrating to watch as it involved Erika Girardi trying to control the narrative after being accused of being part of an embezzlement scheme. Sometimes reality television is too much reality, and real life doesn’t always give us the happy ending we want to see onscreen. BBC2’s documentary about Nirvana was another highlight, giving us a glimpse of a band before mega starmdom took them away from the underground. There’s a pub in Edinburgh I want to visit now because they played there once.

2021 has been a strange year, a hangover from 2020, but I’ve kept myself busy. Between us, I’ve been writing my second novel for adults (shhhhh, don’t tell anyone) plus another book that I hope goes well. In terms of my blog, it’s becoming more and more popular, with busy traffic and a lot of views. The most popular features this year have been my features on the albums I love by the bands that kept me sane. My apology to Garbage over my treatement of Beautifulgarbage has been widely read. Also, my blog posts about Midnite Vultures and Disgraceful by Dubstar continue to get traffic. My post about College Rock did very well too. One of the biggest bits of writing I put out on my blog is my Secret History of Cumbernauld Theatre, which ended up being quoted on the new Cumbernauld Theatre website. Also, my post about Divine/Ricki Lake/Kurt Cobain suddenly got viewed over the last few weeks, but I’m not sure why. Bots? Possibly. Let’s pretend it’s my voracious readers, eh? Meanwhile, my recent retrospective about Veruca Salt’s masterpiece was the least read of my blogs in 2021, a fact I didn’t take too badly.

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