FEATURE: Ali Welford – A Look Back At 2020 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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We chat to some of our passionate and dedicated team to find out what they thought of 2020…with some occasionally sweary results! Here, Ali Welford tells us about his past twelve months.

Sum up 2020 in three words.

Toriest year ever.

Your favourite band/artist of the year?

Having been starved of human interaction for the past nine months, I’ve found particular solace in local voices, and listening to folks I actually know. In spite of everything, it’s been a pretty exceptional year for North East music, so there’s been no shortage from which to choose!

My Band/Artist of the Year is a tie between Bad Amputee and Me Lost Me. Bad Amputee’s wondrous, folk-tinged slowcore debut Convenience Kills is my favourite record by anybody, anywhere over the past 12 months, and it’s difficult to think of another band over recent years who’ve been more aggressively up my street. Me Lost Me, meanwhile, is an artist we’ve known is a bit special for some time now, but even so her new album The Good Noise caught me off guard with the sheer breadth of its sonic palette. A huge step-up.

Your favourite song of the year?

My first thought is Rhona by Bad Amputee. I also had this as my SOTY last year, but since it was actually properly released in 2020 I’m going to claim it again. That said, nothing this year has filled me with such joy as Arab Strap’s big comeback single The Turning of Our Bones. They’re my favourite band in the world, and their first new song in 16 years is not only worthy of their name, but genuinely among the finest they’ve ever released. To say that I’m excited about their upcoming album would be something of an understatement…

Favourite TV show of the year?

I’m not a big TV lover – even during lockdown, there are just other things I’d prefer to spend my time on. I enjoyed David Tennant’s disturbingly matter-of-fact performance as serial killer Dennis Nielsen in Des, but the winner by a country mile is Better Call Saul – the only ongoing drama I’ve any real emotional investment in. Rhea Seehorn and Tony Dalton were magnetic for every second they were on-screen, and it’ll be fascinating to see how the sixth and final series resolves the links to Breaking Bad.

Your favourite film?

I’ve seen a grand total of two films this year: 1917 and Parasite (original, I know!). Both were masterful in their own ways, but I’m going to take the less hip route and go with 1917 – a truly mesmerising cinematic experience. I’m really looking forward to watching Ammonite – starring Kate Winslet as pioneering fossil hunter Mary Anning – but it’ll have to go some to come anywhere near those two.

Best book you read?

A tie here between The Missing Lynx by Ross Barnett and Inner City Pressure: The Story of Grime by Dan Hancox. The former is an entertaining examination of the incredible mammals which have disappeared from the British Isles over the past 15,000 years – from cave hyaenas and sabretooth cats to Irish elk and beavers. It’s written with a flair that’s pretty rare in books concerning prehistory, and makes a compelling case for reintroducing some species which endure elsewhere. The latter, meanwhile, is as much a socio-economic history of London over the past two decades as it is a genre history. As a white northerner with little social or cultural common ground, I found it an enlightening read.

What was your favourite gig / live stream event?

Otoboke Beaver’s show at Sage Gateshead back in February was an absolute blast, and seems even more joyous in retrospect. Little did we know that an international touring band entertaining a packed-out room would soon become such an alien concept… An honourable mention to my first post-lockdown show at Bobik’s, featuring Nev Clay, Laurie Shepherd and Claire Welford. Experiencing live performance again was such a wonderful sensation, and I’ve no doubt the next gig I attend – whenever, wherever and whoever that may be – will prove an equally cathartic experience.

As welcome as they’ve been, I can’t say that live streaming is a medium which holds much appeal for me. I’ve caught a few, but even calling them a pale imitation of an actual live music experience feels like a stretch. Plus, not having to leave the sofa, get dressed or interact with people isn’t such a draw when you’ve scarcely left the sofa, got dressed or interacted with people for nine months…
The one exception was T
USK Virtual – a phenomenal undertaking, and the only live stream I’ve watched which has felt like an actual ‘event.’

Any upcoming artists we should keep an eye out for in 2021?

This is a hard one to answer considering my usual means of encountering new artists – gigs – have been all but wiped out. When they eventually do return, I expect Lovely Assistant will make an impact, particularly once their (fabulous) debut album is ‘officially’ released. I’ve also enjoyed what I’ve heard so far from Jodie Nicholson, and although they’re more established I reckon Ceitidh Mac and Archipelago could both have big years.

Predictions for 2021?

It’s going to be shit, isn’t it? This may be a tad optimistic, but I’m going to predict it’ll be the SECOND worst year most of us have experienced. I guess you could call that progress of sorts…

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