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

2014 – a year in listening

2014 was the year I made the unplanned, and surprising even to myself, decision to listen predominantly to music made by women. I don’t know why I made the decision, it sounds like rather a naff thing to do and yet that’s what I’ve done for what I think is a whole year (though I’m not sure when I started so can’t be entirely certain). I don’t have expectations of learning or discovering anything from this approach, but it does serve as a way both of narrowing the focus of my attention and of diverting it from what I would otherwise expect to experience. As such I’ve found it worthwhile and therefore, at the time of writing, I continue to adhere to this approach.

Of last year’s albums, I’ve continued to listen to Boards of Canada and more occasionally to DJ Rashad (RIP), Emiliana Torrini, Holden and Julia Holter.

New releases in 2014

Actress: Ghettoville
Anja Lechner & François Couturier: Moderato Cantabile
FKA Twigs: LP1
Jenny Hval and Susanna: Meshes of Voice
Jon Hassell: City: Works of Fiction (Psychogeography)
Kate Tempest: Everybody Down
Laura Cannell: Quick Sparrows Over The Black Earth
Lee Gamble: Koch
Lykke Li: I Never Learn
Me’shell Ndegéocello: Comet, Come To Me
Mica Levi: Under The Skin
Sabina: Toujours
Scott Walker + Sunn O))): Soused
St Vincent: St Vincent

Most listened to artists in 2014

1. Cassandra Wilson (2,199)
2. Me’Shell Ndegéocello (2,115)
3. Marisa Monte (1,451)
4. Billie Holiday (1,271)
5. Colleen (1,030)
6. Céu (1,019)
7. Esperanza Spalding (1,008)
8. Cibelle (895)
9. Emilíana Torrini (682)
10. Janelle Monáe (594)
11. Buika (555)
12. Bebel Gilberto (534)
13. Annette Peacock (443)
14. Laurel Halo (372)
15. Miles Davis (358)
16. Little Dragon (352)
17. Susanna (347)
18. Kraftwerk (286)
19. FKA twigs (282)
20. Lee Gamble (277)
21. Bebo & Cigala (263)
22. Kate Bush (260)
23. Lykke Li (248)
24. Joni Mitchell (233)
25. Micachu (225)
26. Estrella Morente (224)
27. Karina Buhr (214)
28. Tulipa Ruiz (212)
29. Sabina (211)
30. Pat Metheny Group (204)
30. Patricia Barber (204)
32. Bárbara Eugênia (202)
33. Agnes Obel (199)
34. Michael Franti & Spearhead (193)
35. Kanye West (186)
36. Logos (185)
37. Meredith Monk (175)
38. Jon Hassell (174)
39. Marilyn Mazur (171)
40. The Mountain Goats (165)
41. Rhythm & Sound (163)
42. Julia Holter (160)
43. Disclosure (157)
44. Anja Lechner & Vassilis Tsabropoulos (156)
45. Boards of Canada (153)
46. Jenny Hval & Susanna (150)
47. Fatima (148)
48. Eleni Karaindrou (143)
49. Kate Tempest (140)
50. Nico (137)

Seven artists appear in both this year’s and last year’s top 30, exactly the same figure as last time. My top 30 scrobbles last year totalled 16,955, this year it’s 21,521 which is a fairly significant increase, but probably doesn’t represent any overall increase in listening.

Thanks to last.fm

Previous years:

Posted at 12pm on 07/01/15 | 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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