The Books, Music and TV that helped during Lockdown – Part 1 – by Ben
It’s definitely been the year to dust off books you’ve been meaning to read, listen to that new album that’s begging to be played and binge watch that box-set that everyone’s been telling you about. It’s safe to say that I have read, listened and watched more in the first half of this year than I have in others. So I have a whittled down a few favourites that I’ve enjoyed this year, and I would advise everyone to give them a try!
Run the Jewels – RTJ4
Atlanta top-tier MC, Killer Mike and Brooklyn underground mastermind El-P come together for their 4th album RTJ4. Again, I find myself amazed that these guys continue to smash my expectations. El-P’s production across the album ranges from abrasive to bouncy to choppy to grand… I could go on. Rapping wise, Killer Mike and El-P are doing what they do best. 2 Top class MC’s and they continue to come with witty, clever, funny and politically charged lyrics which detail the current state of the US, regarding Racism, classism and political unrest. If you’re into Hip-Hop (or not), you should definitely give this a listen.
Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death
With the release of Fontaines D.C.’s debut album, Dogrel, back in 2019, I was pleasantly surprised and became an instant fan of their gritty post-punk sound. This year, they have followed up with their 2nd LP, A Hero’s Death. Again, I found that my expectations were more than exceeded. A sullen and mature album in-comparison to Dogrel, the band has such a distinguished feel that makes their music immediately identifiable. The lyrics are poetically insightful, charming and chilling and delivered in the grippingly prominent voice of Grian Chatten. It was clear after Dogrel, but with A Hero’s Death, Fontaines D.C. have cemented themselves as the most exciting young band out of Ireland and I can only see them continuing to impress in the future.
Tiger King – Murder, Madness & Mayhem
Maybe the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen? It’s up there for sure. The true crime documentary follows the story of infamous big cat breeder and zoo-keeper, Joe Exotic. The day-to-day running of Oklahoma Zoo and interviews with staff and crew give an immediate impression of the wild lifestyle of Exotic and co. But, there is so much more to unpack. The series presents tales of foul play, murder, corruption and politics just to name a few. When you think the story can’t get any more crazy, it does. None of the main subjects are particularly likeable people as many of them are involved in exploitation of big cats and other animals, as well as many other negative traits. On the other hand, the story is incredibly entertaining, which left me quite conflicted as a viewer; how can I enjoy a program where all the people who are involved are so loathsome? But you know what, I did enjoy it, I really enjoyed it. You’ve got to see it to believe it.
Money Heist / La casa de papel
A unusual group of robbers come together to attempt to pull off the biggest heist in Spanish history. The Royal Mint of Spain in Madrid is the target and only the most perfect plan can penetrate the bank of the capital. I had no idea what to expect going into this series, I only heard good things about it which did peak my interest but I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. The story is so intricate. There are many layers which reveal different obstacles and challenges for the main characters to overcome. The acting is really good, a large variety of characters who all have contrasting attributes which lead to really entertaining interactions and developments. The star of the show for me is the script. Very clever, witty writing which details so much about the story and gives us insights into pretty much all of the characters we see. It’s so good to see a show of this quality which isn’t a Hollywood inception with a team of 30 writers and a huge production team. I would advise anyone to give Money Heist a watch, and if anyone tells you otherwise, Bella Ciao!
Ham on Rye – Charles Bukowksi
An oldie that I’ve just got round to reading. Ham on Rye is a novel based on the life of the writer Charles Bukowski under the pseudonym Henry Chinaski. Set in the time of the Great Depression, Bukowski details his early life in a brutally honest way. Between a dysfunctional, abusive home-life and challenging school days, Chinaski is often lost in his own thoughts, trying to make sense of the complicated world in which he finds himself. You see Henry develop from a young boy, into a jaded, lost adolescent, turning to alcohol and getting absorbed by the writing of D.H. Lawrence. A really bleak read in parts but so well written, so sincere, funny, witty and uncompromising. In the way that Bukowski tells the story, I found myself vividly picturing the surroundings and feeling the tension of all the situations that Henry found himself in. This is the first novel that I have read of Bukowski and I will definitely be reading more.
A Life in Football: My Autobiography – Ian Wright
I enjoy reading autobiographies, especially by heroes of mine. Ian Wright, ex-professional footballer, most notably for Crystal Palace and Arsenal, was one of the most prolific Premier League goal-scorers throughout the 90’s. Now a popular TV pundit, Wrighty has covered cup finals from the World Cup, The Euros, FA Cup and is also a regular guest analyst on BBC’s Match of the Day. A lot of people associate Ian Wright with being a genuine and fun-loving person who gave their all to the sport they love. But there is a lot to know about the past which has made the man we see today. This book delves deeply into Wright’s life, exploring the many highs and lows that have come along the way. You definitely get an insight into the man, a very revealing, honest and apologetic recounting of key stories that have stayed with him through the years. As the reader, I couldn’t help but like the man even more. He’s not perfect and he doesn’t pretend to be, but it’s his honesty and vulnerability makes you trust his story, you believe him entirely.