Post-Christmas ennui: cultural picks for when the inertia sets in

Priya Khaira-Hanks suggests some 2016 favourites to tide you over in those lethargic days between Christmas and New Year


Album: Solange’s A Seat at the Table

As you become one with your sofa, Solange’s slow, dreamy vocals and gradually building soundscapes will sooth you as you sink further into your festive stupor. However, her lyrics might not be quite such a salve, as she offers her unflinching commentary on race and femininity, conveyed through deceptively delicate melodies. Re-engage your Baileys-soaked brain whilst avoiding anything too aurally jarring—her refreshingly caustic exposé of white privilege comes via a sound smooth as honey. The accompanying music videos are perfect for when the tinsel-and-Santa-hat aesthetic is beginning to grate, as her clean lines, artful colour palette and striking juxtapositions are worlds away from onesies and yet another novelty Christmas jumper.

Book: The Muse by Jessie Burton

The Oxford graduate’s second novel is as good as, or perhaps even surpasses, her debut, The Miniaturist. The story flits between 1930s Spain on the brink of the Revolution, and the bohemian art-world of 1960s London, and accomplishes the rare feat of being both intensely readable and intellectually challenging. Highlights include compelling fictional paintings you wish you could see realised, the atmospheric portrayal of winter in southern Spain and a cameo from Peggy Guggenheim. When all you’ve read for the last three days is the Christmas Radio Times, this is an excellent novel to ease you back into your Vacation reading list.

Film: Moana

What better way to escape the grey gloom of a British Christmas than to travel with Disney to a magical, animated Polynesian island, where the chief’s daughter Moana is raring to escape small-island life and save the world. It seizes upon the best elements of Pocahontas and Frozen—cute animal sidekicks, soaring ballads about teenage angst—whilst omitting the bad—an abhorrent colonialist message, the irritating snowman. Moana escapes the curse of an unnecessary romantic storyline, the downfall of many a good Disney film, and, as if that wasn’t enough, features Jermaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords as a very glamorous crab.

TV drama: Stranger Things

Utterly consumable without leaving a bitter taste in your mouth, this 8-part Netflix series is sci-fi gold.  A homage to 1980s pop culture and early Steven Spielberg movies, badly-cut denim and dubious hairstyles abound—but don’t let that put you off. The Duffer brothers have created a world that seems at once familiar and fresh, injecting familiar tropes and iconography with new life. It’s the kind of addictive television that makes you want to cancel plans to rush home and watch it—and, appropriately for the post-Christmas slump, you will never look at broken fairy-lights in the same way again.

TV comedy: Fleabag

Natasha Burton has already perfectly summed up the filthy, perceptive power of Fleabag for Cherwell, but the box set is still on iPlayer for those who haven’t yet abandoned themselves to its glorious cynicism and moral depravity. After the over-indulgence and familial strife of Christmas, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s paean to selfishness couldn’t be more appealing. However, there is real emotion at the heart of this razor-sharp sitcom, which features joyous performances from Olivia Coleman as a stepmother dripping in smug satisfaction and Hugh Dennis as a grizzled and pathetic businessman. If you have been badly behaved this Christmas, take solace in Fleabag.


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