2016 – a year in listening

There are currently 66 albums in my iTunes library that were released in 2016. The last few years I’ve been disappointed when I’ve come to look back at the previous 12 months’ releases, but this year I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many high quality releases there have been.

The most amazing piece of music I heard and received in 2016 was without doubt The Cat Permits Winter by Matt Rogers. Why? Because my partner commissioned the beautiful solo violin composition for me as a Christmas present.

I turned 50 this year (*). One aspect of getting so damn old that I’m pleased about is that I continue to be passionate about music and continue to actively explore new genres, time periods, regions, etc. As I look back at my music summaries of recent years I’m a little shocked at how much of my listening is new this year. I started out 2016 listening to a fair amount of contemporary Arabic music and end it with a focus on east European techno, 80s Japanese new music and (as for much of this year) contemporary female Brazilian singers. What will 2017 bring? Music may become even more of a refuge.

I mark the passing of Alan Vega who appeared to stay true to his genuinely admirable credo right to the end. David Bowie’s passing was sad, but I’ve yet to want to engage with Blackstar, the vast majority of his work since 1979 having disappointed.

(* My comment left on Fovea Hex’s Last.fm page: ‘Turning 50 this week I was lucky enough to stay in a house once owned by Noel Coward. My first-born, partner and I sat in the darkness watching the lights of the ferries as they crossed to and from France. As we talked we listened to Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent, it was perfect.’)


Anohni – Hopelessness
Luisa Maita – Fio da Memoria
Mark Pritchard – Under The Sun
Matt Rogers – The Cat Permits Winter
Steve Lehman – Sélébéyone
Susanna – Triangle


Beyonce – Lemonade
Cassi – Donna
CéU – Tropix
Equiknoxx – Bird Sound Power
Fovea Hex – The Salt Garden I
Jessy Lanza – Oh No
Lee Gamble – Chain Kinematics
Mark Ernestus’ Ndagga Rhythm Force – Yermande
Milena Kriegs – Human Experience
Noname – Telefone
Scott Walker – The Childhood of a Leader
Underworld – Barbara, Barbara, We Face a Shining Future


Newly released in 2015:
Laurel Halo: In Situ
Mette Henriette: Mette Henriette

Newly released in 2014:
Anja Lechner & François Couturier: Moderato Cantabile
Lee Gamble: Koch
Me’shell Ndegéocello: Comet, Come To Me
Scott Walker + Sunn O))): Soused


It was another great year for concerts.
* = favourites.
~ = lowlights.

Scritti Politti (Roundhouse, February)
Junior Boys + Jessy Lanza (Oslo, Hackney, February) *
Ceu (The Forge, April) *
Susanna (Cafe Oto, April) *
Matt Rogers (King’s Cross Station, April) *
Arve Henriksen (LSO St Lukes, May) ~
Laurie Anderson (The Dome, Brighton, May)
Thomas Stronen (Kings Place, May)
The Raincoats (Photographer’s Gallery, June)
Hermeto Pascoal (Barbican, July) *
Cavern of Anti-Matter (Dingwalls, September) *
Me’shell Ndegéocello (Rich Mix, October) *
James Blood Ulmer (Rich Mix, November)
Autechre (RFH, November) ~

Listening figures:

/ 20 most listened artists:
(Artists scrobbled – 821)

1 Mette Henriette – 1,068
2 Joni Mitchell – 965
3 Céu - 776
4 Hermeto Pascoal – 736
5 Mariana Aydar - 723
6 Me’Shell Ndegéocello – 574
7 Yasmine Hamdan – 530
8 Susanna - 513
9 Luísa Maita – 482
10 Natacha Atlas – 462
11 Kraftwerk – 459
12 Cavern of Anti-Matter – 458
13 Flavia Coelho – 430
14 Jessy Lanza – 426
15 Miles Davis – 391
16 Cibelle – 385
17 Cassandra Wilson – 372
18 Anelis Assumpção – 329
19 Laurel Halo – 327
20 Mark Pritchard – 320

/ 20 most listened to albums:

1 Mette Henriette – 1,068
2 Susanna – Triangle – 441
3 Céu – Tropix – 331
4 Mark Pritchard — Under The Sun – 287
5 Cassy — Donna – 278
6 Jessy Lanza — Oh No – 253
7 Anelis Assumpção — Anelis e os Amigos Imaginários – 240
8 Cavern of Anti-Matter — Blood-Drums – 226
9 Mariana Aydar — Peixes, Pássaros e Pessoas – 221
10 Luísa Maita — Fio da Memória – 205
11 Cavern of Anti-Matter — Void Beats Invocation Trex – 204
12 Mariana Aydar — Kavita 1 – 198
13 Beyoncé — Lemonade – 189
14 Flavia Coelho — Mundo Meu – 184
15 Luísa Maita — Lero-Lero – 178
16 Anja Lechner & Vassilis Tsabropoulos — Chants, Hymns and Dances – 176
17 Yasmine Hamdan — Ya Nass – 165
18 Mariana Aydar — Cavaleiro Selvagem Aqui Te Sigo – 158
19 Natacha Atlas — Something Dangerous – 156
20 Scott Walker — The Childhood of a Leader – 153

All figures thanks to last.fm.

Previous years

Posted at 5pm on 31/12/16 | 1 comment | Filed Under: music read on

2015 – a year in listening

2015 wasn’t a vintage year for new music in my humble opinion. I have 35 albums in iTunes listed as released this year, but only 16 that I have much regard for or think I’ll continue to listen to. Of these, I’ve listened to The Unthanks most though it’s not their strongest album, I feel similarly about Colleen’s and Ibrahim Maalouf’s latest. I’m relistening to Jlin, Jenny Hval and Matana Roberts because of praise in other end of year lists and glad that I am. I’ve not heard Eivind Aarset’s I.E. enough yet to judge it, but it sounds promising, likewise Natasha Atlas and Food. I’ve really enjoyed The Mountain Goats, Laurel Halo’s long-awaited – at least by me – return to recording and Ibeyi’s eponymous debut.

This year’s recordings that I think are genuinely extraordinary are:

David Torn’s Only Sky (criminally unmentioned in any critical appraisals I’ve seen)
Sidsel Endresen and Stian Westerhus’ Bonita (oh I wish they’d come and play in the UK), and
Mette Henriette’s amazing debut.

2015 also saw the sad departure of Ornette Coleman from this earth. Yet he remains so damn alive and so vital in all his recordings. Prompted by his death, I listened afresh to his last albums – the Sound Museum pair and his final Sound Grammar – and found great pleasure in them where previously I’d found them disappointing. I firmly believe now that he remained vital and fascinating to the end. I feel honoured to have heard him play a few times over the years. The last time was at the Royal Festival Hall with Dan, when he curated a South Bank Meltdown, I think it was the same band as Sound Grammar, two basses and Denardo on drums. He let them play for a bit at the start, then when he himself began to play I had the oddest sensation of everything ‘shifting sideways’, it was as though my sense of reality briefly changed. Remarkable. Ornette was one of the great artists of the 20th century. I only wish his work could benefit from the sort of treatment accorded to Miles Davis via those delightful box sets. Unfortunately, due to the number of different companies he recorded for, it’s unlikely to ever happen. I did feel a degree of frustration as I read the various appraisals and obituaries at the authors’ failure to engage in any meaningful way with Ornette’s work from 70s Prime Time onwards. Again, where Miles’ 70s work was critically reclaimed, Ornette has suffered, his early innovations and blues expressiveness obscuring the breadth and depth of his long and admirable career’s challenging achievements.

This year’s joyful discoveries/opening of my ears included Joni Mitchell, Sidsel Endresen, The Unthanks and Ibrahim Maalouf who I expect to continue to listen to in the coming year. The tail end of the year saw my attention turn to Arabic music including Yasmine Hamdan, Dhafer Youssef, Natacha Atlas, Anouar Brahem and the aforementioned and rather marvellous Maalouf.


2015 is the first year in far too long that I’ve attended anything more than a handful of concerts. Long may that continue. * = favourites.

Sidsel Endresen and Jan Bang (King’s Place, April) *
Buika (Barbican, April)
Savages, Unthanks, The Gluts * and others (Latitude, July)
Suicide (Barbican, July) *
Arto Lindsay (Cafe Oto, August)
Esperanza Spalding (Shepherds Bush Empire, November) *
Wim Mertens (King’s Place, November) *
James Holden, Polar Bear (Electric Brixton, November)
Mountain Goats (Shepherds Bush Empire, November)
Annette Peacock (Cafe Oto, November) *
The Unthanks (Scala, December)

New releases

Colleen: Captain of None
David Torn: Only Sky
Eivind Aarset: I.E.
Food: This Is Not a Miracle
Ibeyi: Ibeyi
Ibrahim Maalouf: Kalthoum, Red & Black Light
Jenny Hval: Apocalypse Girl
Jlin: Dark Energy
Julia Holter: Have You In My Wilderness
Laurel Halo: In Situ
Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Three
Mette Henriette: Mette Henriette
The Mountain Goats: Beat The Champ
Natasha Atlas: Myriad Road
Sidsel Endresen and Stian Westerhus: Bonita
The Unthanks: Mount The Air

Most listened to artists

Five artists appear in this year’s and last year’s top 20.

1. Joni Mitchell (2,019)
2. Ornette Coleman (1,694)
3. The Unthanks (1,150)
4. Sidsel Endresen (958)
5. June Tabor (622)
6. Buika (593)
7. Cibelle (510)
8. Pat Metheny Group (476)
9. Madredeus (460)
10. Mette Henriette (412)
11. Eivind Aarset (353)
12. Susanna (349)
13. Ibrahim Maalouf (309)
14. Róisín Murphy (306)
15. Mariza (285)
16. Scott Walker (243)
17. Jan Garbarek (225)
18. Laurel Halo (225)
19. Colleen (209)
20. Lee Gamble (208)

Thanks to last.fm whose protracted redesign seems finally to be an improvement on the previous version.

Previous years

Posted at 6pm on 04/01/16 | no comments | Filed Under: music read on


I’ve been writing this blog for quite a lot longer than three years and now I’m finally getting round to writing something in the About page. But what to write? Oh well, if you check the category listings you’ll see what I cover. It’s a ragtag assortment of bits and bobs, anything that catches my fancy really. Unsurprisingly, much of that is music. I much appreciate comments, but whether you feel like making them or not, I hope you find something of interest.

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