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Best of '09

What was the most memorable arts event of 2009? Were you blown away by Enron at the Royal Court? Did you love Lily Allen at Glastonbury? Was Antony Gormley's Fourth Plinth the defining cultural moment of the year? Or perhaps it was an unheralded gig or play in your local theatre which stole the show?

Here, Independent writers name some of their favourite cultural moments of the year.

In the comments form below or via email to arts@independent.co.uk nominate your favourite - in film, music, theatre, comedy, dance or visual arts - with a brief explanation as to why it tops your list and we'll print a selection in The Independent Readers' Review of 2009.
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Richard O'Connor: Songs of 2009, #3

Posted by Best of '09
  • Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 05:03 pm
My 2009 hotchpotch below...

Animal Collective – My Girls
The Duckworth Lewis Method – Jiggery Pokery
The Decemberists – A Bower Scene
The XX – Basic Space
Passion Pit - Moths Wings
Wild Beasts – Hooting and Howling
Grizzly Bear – Southern Point *
We Were Promised Jetpacks – Quiet Little Voices
Mumford and Sons – Little Lion Man
Andrew Bird – Souverian *
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – Lesley Gore on the T.A.M.I
M Ward – For Beginners

Click here to listen to the playlist on Spotify (free, painless and not-at-all spammy registration required)

* not available on Spotify

Tell us your favourite cultural moments of the year in the comments form below or email them to arts@independent.co.uk. We'll print the best in the paper.
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Larry Ryan: 4AD

Posted by Best of '09
  • Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 05:52 pm
4AD is one of the best indie labels around and this year saw them release excellent records by the likes of Atlas Sound, The Big Pink, Camera Obscura, Deerhunter and St Vincent among many others. To celebrate they've put out a digital sampler of tracks from these album - for the price of an email address you can download them at 4ad.com/features/2009 or listen to the songs below...





Tell us your favourite cultural moments of the year in the comments form below or email them to arts@independent.co.uk. We'll print the best in the paper.
When it comes to visual art, as the cliche goes, I'm no expert but I know what I like (and I like what I know); or, in the words of Monty Burns, "I'm no art critic but I know what I hate." Either way, I'm no expert but a regular enough gallery-goer, and what I really liked this year was the Ed Ruscha retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, looking at the American painter who has knocked out canvasses since the late '50s with his suitably cool gaze. Ruscha has been based in LA for most of his career - you can almost imagine him surveying the landscape impassively, squinting into the West Coast sun.

This brilliantly arranged show over a large series of rooms took us through the key stages of his career without overloading the audience - I still feel there is plenty more interesting Ruscha work to be discovered. I had previously seen "The End" (1991) at MOMA a few years ago but viewing it this time opposite "Exit" (1990) enhanced both, each dramatic painting playing on their cinematic themes.

In Ruscha's paintings pop art, abstraction, advertising and graphic design collide in a brilliant take on modernity and American culture. Words, slogans and ideas float through his canvass, some over mountains, others over painted colour schemes - reds, yellows, browns, blues - as if they're whirling around your head, half-remembered from a magazine ad or a billboard. Buildings appear sitting solitary as if seen while flying down a freeway or in a still from a film shot viewed on a big screen.

I can't always figure out what Ruscha is getting at but I like where he's going and I like what I see. The calm American's enigmatic, cool poses are damn addictive.

Tell us your favourite cultural moments of the year in the comments form below or email them to arts@independent.co.uk. We'll print the best in the paper.

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Matilda Egere-Cooper: Songs of 2009, #2

Posted by Best of '09
  • Monday, 14 December 2009 at 03:36 pm
My favourite songs of 2009:

Mos Def - Casa Bey
Robert Glasper feat. Bilal - All Matter
Beyonce - Single Ladies
Speech Debelle - Go Then Bye
VV Brown - Game Over *
Lady Gaga - Just Dance

Click here to listen to the playlist on Spotify (free, painless and not-at-all spammy registration required)


Matilda Egere-Cooper writes about music for The Independent

Tell us your favourite cultural moments of the year in the comments form below or email them to arts@independent.co.uk. We'll print the best in the paper.
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Simmy Richman: Songs of the year

Posted by Best of '09
  • Thursday, 10 December 2009 at 05:30 pm
My best of 2009 playlist looks something like this...

School of Seven Bells: Iamundernodisguise
Wilco: Bull Black Nova
Andrew Bird: Oh No
The Decemberists: The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros: I Come in Places
AA Bondy: When the Devil's Loose
Camera Obscura: My Maudlin Career
Brandi Carlile: Pride and Joy
Magnolia Electric Co: O Grace
The New Pornographers: Hey Snow White
Grizzly Bear: Two Weeks *
Bill Callahan: Eid Ma Clack Shaw *
Richard Swift: Atlantic Ocean
Regina Spektor: Laughing With
BLK JKS: Molalatladi
Phoenix: Lisztomania
Mos Def: Wahid
Iron & Wine: Swans and the Swimming *
Son Volt: Dust of Daylight

Click here to listen to the playlist on Spotify (free, painless and not-at-all spammy registration required)


* not available on Spotify

Simmy Richman writes for The Independent on Sunday

Tell us your favourite cultural moments of the year in the comments form below or email them to arts@independent.co.uk. We'll print the best in the paper.
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Hannah Osborne: Drag Me To Hell

Posted by Best of '09
  • Thursday, 10 December 2009 at 04:01 pm
2009 saw Sam Raimi returning to what he does best. After wandering into the abyss of blockbuster filmmaking with his Spider-Man trilogy, Raimi released Drag Me To Hell. With more jumps than a defibrillator, the film harked back to his Evil Dead duo from the 80’s.

Drag Me To Hell follows the plight of Christine Brown played by Alison Lohman. She is a bank clerk who, very foolishly, refuses an extension to a gag educing old gypsy woman in order to get a promotion. Christine is followed by the old woman into the car park where (of course) she is fatally cursed, and will be dragged to hell in three days.

Along with the face hiding and seat gripping, Raimi offers regular bouts of comic relief, which are tinged with a devilish black humour. A poster of a cat with the title ‘hang in there’ is particularly amusing; as Christine goes on to butcher her kitty in the hope her soul will be spared.

The whole film is categorically facetious, leaving the audience entirely satisfied. Sam Raimi has the ability to make excellent horror films. And hopefully 2010 has more to offer; with the announcement that new film, The Evil Dead, is due for release next year.

Tell us your favourite cultural moments of the year in the comments form below or email them to arts@independent.co.uk. We'll print the best in the paper.
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Holly Williams: Green Man Festival

Posted by Best of '09
  • Wednesday, 9 December 2009 at 12:09 pm
Maybe choosing a festival is a bit of a cheat – lots of artists under one open sky. But Green Man probably contained my favourite one-off musical performance too, in Bon Iver’s Saturday set. A slow convert to singer-songwriter Justin Vernon’s stuff (although friends had been telling me all year how amazing the album For Emma, Forever Ago was) this soaring performance completely sealed the deal. Bon Iver found just the right balance between staying true to the simple arrangements of bittersweet love-and-loss songs as found on the album, and allowing an epic, multi-instrumental emotional swell to give you the sort of spine shivers that only happen at live performances. The set pulled a large - and soon enraptured - crowd, making this the sort of ‘festival experience’ it’s easy to gush over, especially when Vernon got us all singing along on ‘The Wolves’. It really was a bit magical, though.

But Green Man is also a good all-rounder, with an eclectic line up, great atmosphere, friendly people and a stunning location in the Welsh hills (which feels happily close to home for me). As well as getting reliable doses of sunshiney indie-whimsy from Emmy the Great, Camera Obscura and Vetiver, there were delightful new finds while dozing in the grass (the haunting weirdness of Mary Hampton springs to mind), and late nights were catered for with danceable DJ sets, film screenings, and bonfires.

Tell us your favourite cultural moments of the year in the comments form below or email them to arts@independent.co.uk. We'll print the best in the paper.
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Edward Seckerson: Jerusalem, The Royal Court, London

Posted by Best of '09
  • Tuesday, 8 December 2009 at 04:16 pm
Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem - by far and away the richest new play of the year - was in so many ways a cultural watershed. This, our England, our "green and pleasant land", is seen here through the eyes of the wastrels and drop-outs, the self-disenfranchised, the booze-fueled embezzlers of our green belt.

Johnny Byron is a Falstaff for our times holding his raggedy army enthralled with his own unique brand of English folklore and in Mark Rylance's astounding performance (soon to be seen again in the West End) we begin to understand how heritage is something we all share - the great and good, the not so good, and the no good.

Edward Seckerson writes about the arts for The Independent

Tell us your favourite cultural moments of the year in the comments form below or email them to arts@independent.co.uk. We'll print the best in the paper.
independent minds

Larry Ryan: Nyle, 'Let the Beat Build'

Posted by Best of '09
  • Tuesday, 8 December 2009 at 02:14 pm
In my round up of some of the best music videos of the year yesterday, I left out what might actually be my favourite video of the year. It's by a young rapper called Nyle - who was relatively unknown before this video. The song is a nice cover of Lil Wayne's 'Let the Beat Build', but what really makes it standout is the stunning single take video. A simple premise perhaps, but executed brilliantly.



Tell us your favourite cultural moments of the year in the comments form below or email them to arts@independent.co.uk. We'll print the best in the paper.
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Julian Hall: Just for Laughs and more

Posted by Best of '09
  • Tuesday, 8 December 2009 at 12:34 pm
My cultural highlight of 2009 was the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, held in July. I realise that this may not sound immediately relevant to a UK readership but in actual fact there was a lot of homegrown talent out there including John Cleese. Writing exclusively for independent.co.uk I was able to get a sneak peak at Cleese’s return to live performance, notable more for the occasion than the content.

Moreover, there was a chance for me to flag up great US acts like Louis CK before he came over here and to check out the stand up set of Parks and Recreation star Aziz Ansari, a young man with some corking gags and hopefully a great future ahead of him. I have to also name-check "blast from the past" Bobcat Goldthwait (aka Zed from the Police Academy series) for one of the funniest half hour sets I’ve heard in a while.

While mooching around Montreal my mp3 was largely playing Flo Rida’s R.O.O.T.S. which would count as another highlight of this year. While decidedly not a fan of the track ‘Jump’ I got hooked by the bewitching arrangements on the tracks ‘Finally Here’ and ‘Never’ as well as the riffs of ‘Available’ and ‘Mind on My Money’. While we are stopping for tunage I am currently wearing out Jay Z’s ‘Empire State of Mind’, I might yet give the rest of that album (The Blueprint 3) a chance. While I wouldn’t want you to think that all my cultural life was packed into the month of July, I caught the film Adventureland on the way over to Montreal and found this ‘Apatow-lite’ effort played very well to my penchant for cute teen movies.

During the rest of the year I greatly enjoyed the Edinburgh Fringe shows of Tom Wrigglesworth and The Pajama Men, meanwhile, on tour, Daniel Kitson, Dylan Moran and Michael McIntyre stood out for me. During my down-time in between comedy shows I’ve lapped up True Blood on TV and am now safe in the knowledge that I don’t just have to watch Buffy on repeat for a heady mix of hot blondes and vamps. Result.

Julian Hall is The Independent's comedy critic

Tell us your favourite cultural moments of the year in the comments form below or email them to arts@independent.co.uk. We'll print the best in the paper.
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