The rise of hyphenates and the demise of icons

As the concluding hours tick down on what to many has seemed a fairly dismal lap around the sun politically and in terms of “iconic” deaths I thought it was time to add my evaluation to the numerous top tens, best tweets and wtf moments of 2016.

This year has seen the rise of the hyphenates: retro-politics, post-truth and the alt-right; within its bounds the deaths of David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Mohammed Ali, Prince, Fidel Castro and most recently George Michael and Carrie Fisher. However, at the outset I was compiling a list of my favourite YouTube channels in a funk of what must have been supreme boredom. Is there anything to add since that fateful conglomeration? Well, perhaps Anthony Fantano’s music reviewing platform The Needle Drop – a concise yet expansive format by a reliable curator that is entertaining enough to be accessible to the mildly curious. It’s been hovering in my recommended bar for months now, but only over the last couple of weeks have I had the weakness to surrender to its insistence and click the link. The results have been rewarding – broadening my mind (particularly in the direction of hip-hop that started with the rap duo Run the Jewels, and which I hope to explore more in 2017) whilst being similar enough to what I already like to build that essential modicum of trust.

January concluded with Jetpacks at the Electric Circus (they were promised them). There unfolded a happy reunion between myself and my former boss and head chef at the Standing Stones. From this stemmed an offer of a job at the restaurant he was then working for, The Roamin’ Nose – an Italian Bistro, and I started working there in mid-February. That month was not only a time of new beginnings, but also of distressing conclusions as I reached the end of Dan Harmon’s brilliant series Community. Meta-humour abundant, inexhaustibly creative and genuinely heart-warming – it’s a definite recommend.

After going to see an icy production of guaranteed crowd-drawer Frankenstein, it was time to get serious and start hunting for a second-year flat. Against an aptly chilly backdrop we eventually fell in love with our ideal high-ceilinged, single-glazed, second floor, compact condo. Controlled, deep breathing was required for our initial visit. We had to see past the battered furniture, the pizza-strewn carpet – underneath the rubble, below the debris lay the real Edinburgh Dream right before our eyes. The occasional mouse is the only aberration in the fabric of this urban paradise.

April was occupied by work, exam leave and depression. Rainy trudges alone to flats an hour’s walk there and back. By the time I’m home my soles are worn, the heel is torn loose and my socks are damp. I resort to eating bread out of boredom. One week I return from an Orcadian interval in the monotony. It seems my flatmate has a girlfriend.

May gives me an excuse to see friends again as the band gets back together one last time before and after exams. Increasing my awareness of the genius of Paradise Lost, I come to embrace Hipsterdom ever further, beginning a relationship with nearby coffee shop Cult Espresso and developing a taste for the mocked “flat white”. In exams I do not excel, but I pass and get to stay on into second year.

In late May I realise that I do not have a job. I phone up the Ferry Inn and make enquiries. In June I start as a commis chef and get a good number of hours. I feel good about myself working here – just enough responsibility while still having leeway for my inexperience. Some prior commitments still linger and work is broken up in the middle of the month with volunteering for the St Magnus Festival. For me the highlight had to be the updated baroque opera, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in the Cathedral, which was over an hour of sheer virtuosic bliss in haunting acoustics.

July was filled with Ferrying at the Ferry Inn, which proved an ideal location for after-work meet-ups, although perhaps led to a geographically curtailed social life of convenience. Shopping Week was experienced as an increase in salads on top of usual levels as locals joined the steady onslaught of German tourists and crab-loving Italians arriving infallibly by the busload.

August was a great month for me. My time at the Ferry Inn drew to a close and the labelling puns became ever more contrived. Just as agricultural show season ended I said goodbye to chef whites and donned a press lanyard as good excuse to get into a packed programme of theatre for free at the Edinburgh Fringe. I was lucky enough to see plays about drug mules, Nordic Noir, Dickens adaptations, Beckett reimaginings, and Madame Bovary dragged into the 21st century.

But the fun didn’t stop there. At the beginning of September, I found myself on a Ryanair flight to Berlin for two weeks dedicated to the exploration of northeast Germany including a detour to Prague. The experience was terrifying but I’m very glad I did it and it has given me the appetite for further excursions of a similar nature.

When it was time for Greenday to wake up I had my first opportunity to see my friend’s band The Motion Poets live at the Three Sisters. Combining alt-rock with a distinct bluesy streak and a good feel for digestible indie, I can see the four-piece making a success of it and I wish them the best of luck. Having scored a gig at Bannerman’s in Glasgow this December, it seems that they are already on their way to climbing up the bill.

I went to some excellent gigs in the month of October including Honeyblood at Electric Circus (due to be closed down soon, which is a shame). I saw Warpaint at Queen’s Hall and was engulfed by waves of post-rock techno minimalism at Stereo in Glasgow, where I saw Canadian outfit Suuns. In mid-October I also finished watching the early 90s cult series Twin Peaks, which is an absurd, hilarious and horrific crime drama/soap opera directed by David Lynch. Apparently it’s making a comeback in the new year. Not sure how I feel about that, but I’m sure it’ll be good.

November witnessed a changing of the guard politically, not least in the change of editorship at The Student, where I opportunistically leapt into the void that was the Features editing power vacuum. I have learnt so much already and will hopefully continue to learn and improve for the duration of my tenure.

At the beginning of December, I managed to weasel my way into the FreshAir Christmas meal. My tenuous credentials being that I help compile and rate the weekly playlist, and that I have a friend who has a show. I had only two exams, those being (the now redundant because we’re not going to be in it anymore!) European Social Policy and German grammar. Then a week ago I departed for the isles where I am now typing this, although I’m planning to return to the capital to take in the New Year.

On a personal level 2016 certainly could have been a lot worse. I’ve had a good variety of occupations, fascinations and locations. I’ve seen more of the world and got to experience a lot of culture first-hand. However, I am worried about the world in the coming year because unfortunately there is still a lot of room for deterioration even if we have already witnessed some real crevasses of discourse. How these new lows will translate into new laws in the next few months remains to be seen. All I have to say is that we must maintain vigilance.

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About alasdairflett

I live in Orkney and I am interested in alternative and indie music.
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