This was an eventful year for Scottish duo Arab Strap. They released As Days Get Dark, their first album in 15 years, which finds Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton still exploring the dark corners of the world, but from an older, wiser, more weary perspective. It's not just a skillful return, but one of their best records, and it's turned up on a number of Best of 2021 lists, including Mojo, The Quietus, and Uncut. If you haven't checked it out you can listen below.

We've been asking artists for the Top 10s of the year, and Aidan has given us his, which is a mix of albums, books, TV shows and movies. Would you be surprised to learn his list includes Billie Eilish? Aidan actually gave us 11 -- check out his picks, complete with commentary, below.

Arab Strap have a few dates lined up for 2022 in Scotland and Ireland. Those are listed below.


Album: Low – HEY WHAT
I think it's astonishing that a band so far into their career – their first album came out decades ago when I worked in a record shop, my only proper job – are making their best and most exciting music ever. The last couple of albums were great, but HEY WHAT's incredible. I was obsessed with it for weeks and listened to it every night – it's so inventive, full of surprises, but also sad and beautiful. It's one of the best albums ever.

Book: Rebecca Watson – Little Scratch
I find it really hard to engage with normal old prose in perfect sentences and paragraphs; I can't really enjoy a book unless I love its language or form – and this ticks all the boxes. It's kind of like a freeform poem in a novel that puts you inside the head of a woman who's been sexually assaulted the night before, and covers the whole day after, as she comes to terms with it. Obviously it has some very serious scenes, but what I didn't expect was the humour and really moving moments – it's really funny and, as you'd expect, heartbreaking too.

Rebecca Watson – Little Scratch

Music: L'Rain – Fatigue
I don't where to begin describing this record, I've heard nothing like it before. It's a bit like scrolling through radio stations – every track seems to have its own identity, and there are loads of field recordings and samples ... yet it still manages to work as a surreal, innovative whole, with L'Rain's voice holding it all together. You feel pretty dizzy by the end.

Comic: Ram V & Filipe Andrade – The Many Deaths of Laila Starr
My favourite comic this year was this tale of the Goddess of Death trying to find her place in a world where the secret to immortality has been discovered. Which makes it sound like the usual comic fare, but it's not at all – I really loved Laila, and the story's beautifully told, but if I told you anything about it, I'd spoil it. All I say is: there's an entire issue written from the perspective of a sentient cigarette!

attachment-Filipe Andrade – The Many Deaths of Laila Starr

Music: Romance – A Kiss Is Just a Kiss
I've been buying a lot of cassettes this year, mostly from Bandcamp. This one from Romance is a lovely – I'm not quite sure how they made it, but it seems to be sampled from classical records and musicals. It's a dreamy, gorgeous, and slightly unsettling wee album, perfect for listening to in bed, after a few pints.

Film: Halloween Kills
I've been obsessed with the Halloween films since I first saw them as a child – I think I was 8 – and was very, very excited for this, especially after the reboot in 2018. And I feel I have to mention it here because it needs some love – it was pretty much universally panned, but I fucking loved it. Does it make sense? Not really. Is it full of fanservice? Yes, but as a lifelong fan, I don't care. It's an absolute mess, just sheer, over-the-top chaos – kind of like a hyper-sequel – and full of wee nods and easter eggs that make me feel like part of a very old family.

Music: Self Esteem – Prioritise Pleasure
I've been following Rebecca Taylor's work since her time in Slow Club, but this new album's a revelation – she is now a proper pop star, and she's never sounded better or happier. The songs might be about self doubt, bad behaviour and sexism, but they're a joy to listen to. The first single, "I Do This All the Time," might be perfect.

TV: Succession
I don't really watch a lot of new TV these days, usually I spend 40 minutes searching Netflix for something then just get frustrated and watch clips from The Sopranos on YouTube. So I was a bit late to Succession, and recently binged the first two series in a week. This year's season is excellent. I love how someone can be utterly despicable in one scene then completely pathetic in the next; and I've no idea why I care about these people, they're all horrible – with the notable exception of Greg, of course, but I think it's only a matter of time before he becomes wholly corrupted. I've even warmed to Tom Wambsgans this season, which is quite a shock.

Book: Natasha Brown – Assembly
Another book that plays with form, written in various styles throughout, that's really inventive and thrilling to read. But it's also very illuminating – it's about a Black woman in the UK and addresses both the blatant and insidious racism inherent in our postcolonial culture, and does more in 100 pages than some authors manage in an entire career.

Natasha Brown – Assembly

Music: Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
I loved Billie Eilish's first album, but the follow-up is not at all what I expected – in a very good way. It's of a much darker tone that took me by surprise, and Finneas seems to have dialled the glitzy production back a little to focus more on his sister's voice. She sounds incredible throughout, easily shapeshifting from classic Hollywood chanteuse to vocal-synthed popstar and beyond. I bought a ticket for her show next year, but I'm slightly concerned that I'll look like a very lonely old man among all the young folk. Can't wait!

Book: Warren Ellis – Nina Simone's Gum
I know we've already had 10, but I've literally just finished this and I loved it. A beautiful book about music, community, worship, and strange wee clowns that visit overnight. Loved it.

attachment-Warren Ellis – Nina Simone's Gum

24 JANUARY - Burns & Beyond Festival - EDINBURGH, Assembly Rooms
14 JULY 2022 - Empire Music Hall - BELFAST
15 JULY 2022 - Cyprus Avenue - CORK
16 JULY 2022 - Dolan’s - LIMERICK
17 JULY 2022 - Whelan’s - DUBLIN
18 JULY 2022 - Whelan’s -DUBLIN

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