2012 – a year in listening

Look back number 10, a decade’s worth of reflection – which makes it sound far grander than it is. I’m as rapacious and I think catholic in my listening as ever, perhaps more so. My habit seems to be focused on intense bouts of listening to certain artists, periods which might last anywhere between a month and a year or more; then moving on, the trail gone cold, sometimes to be returned to, sometimes not. Those artists that bear return tend to hover around the top of my listening chart, namely Kraftwerk, Miles, Scott, Kip.

A quick iTunes smart playlist for 2012 turns up remarkably few notable albums. I wonder whether I’ve deleted noteworthy releases, but if they were worthwhile I probably wouldn’t have removed them. I’m forced to conclude that most of the wonderful music I’ve listened to wasn’t released this year. Looking back at 2011, it seems like there were more worthwhile releases. I’m firmly not of the belief that music is on the wane, but I wonder whether as I grow older I’m less interested in the new. Something to keep an eye on.

Music released in 2012

Actress – R.I.P.
Thank god for ambition, for a desire to push boundaries and question.

Andy Stott – Luxury Problems
Took a while for this to click with me. Will be playing this intermittently, but regularly through 2013 I suspect.

Kuedo – Work, Live and Sleep in Collapsing Space

Just an EP with one new track and two remixes. Will there be more in the vein of Severant in 2013?

Mala – Mala in Cuba

Unexpectedly great fusion of Cuban music and dubstep. Would love to hear this developed further, suspect it never will be.

Scott Walker – Bish Bosch
This has just been released, I’ve only heard it eight times, but I expect to hear it a lot more. It sounds lighter than The Drift which was such a challenge, as though something dark shot suddenly out into bright sunshine. Scott’s voice is pitched slightly higher, there seem a few more hooks, a slight return to the heights of Tilt. Each album is an unknown, this I suspect will grow and grow in stature.

Sigur Rós – Valtari
Such keening grandeur, the group’s first album after the departure of their drummer begs the question of what the future holds for the group. Sincere thanks to Arthur for buying this and visiting me with it this year. Some years ago I’d bought (), but I’d never been able to engage with it very much. Valtari, with its gorgeous cover image, just made sense and led me to gradually acquire their whole back-catalogue. At time of writing I may or may not be on the verge of ceasing to listen to them. Then again I’m playing Valtari right now and adoring it again on its 37th listen. They make simply beautiful music, I love the Icelandic sounds of Jonsi’s words, their productions, the swooning loveliness of it all. I do adore generosity, which Sigur Rós share with the likes of Penguin Cafe Orchestra  I have tickets to see them with Amy and Gabriel and Arthur in Glasgow in March, can’t wait!

The xx – Coexist
More of the same, just even subtler than the debut. Lovely. Favourite recent play, driving in the falling darkness and light rain over the moors on the A66 from Frodsham to Richmond with Amy and Gabriel between Christmas and New Year.

Music released before 2012

I listened to a lot of Miles this year, something I expect to continue doing. The revelation this year was the wonderful Complete Session of the 1965-68 Second Great Quintet, I’ve known this music for more than 20 years, but the door just opened fully this year on the wonder of this group’s music. Sigur Rós were this year’s major discovery due again to ears opening on Valtari and then exploring backwards. I started listening again to Kip Hanrahan despite this year’s new album (At Home With Anger) being a disappointment. I returned to Scott and am amazed by Bish Bosch, released only a month ago, an incredible work that reignited my passion for all his work. I listened to a lot of Fovea Hex who produced wonderful soundtracks to my walks along the silent, distant parts of the Thames and other riverways. Wim Mertens was another new discovery, his music helped during my dad’s illness, especially when there seemed no hope. Mertens led to Michael Nyman whose soundtracks for Greenaway are just wonderful, likewise his Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat operetta as well as the Celan and Ariel song suites sung by Ute Lemper. Billie Holiday’s been playing on fairly constant rotation recently, her bittersweet range a source of solace, as was Eleni Karaindrou’s elegiac compositions for Angelopoulous’ films. Michael Mantler was another new discovery, intense and challenging, must start listening to him again as have stopped the last few months. This past month I’ve started to listen to The Durutti Column again, music from my youth that still gives me great pleasure, Dagmar Krause, Can and Roxy Music. What will 2013 bring?

My listening in numbers

1. Miles Davis (2,153)
2. Sigur Rós (1,851)
3. Kip Hanrahan (1,101)
4. Scott Walker (875)
5. Robin Williamson (752)
6. Fovea Hex (646)
7. Kraftwerk (604)
8. Shackleton (524)
9. Arto Lindsay (516)
10. John Martyn (480)
11. Wim Mertens (476)
12. Tindersticks (466)
12. Michael Nyman (466)
14. Actress (445)
15. The Incredible String Band (442)
16. Duke Ellington (434)
17. Al Di Meola (408)
18. Kuedo (393)
19. Billie Holiday (391)
20. Wayne Shorter (363)
21. Main (337)
22. Fluxion (325)
23. Eleni Karaindrou (320)
24. Michael Mantler (315)
25. David Bowie (307)
26. Seefeel (306)
27. Lambchop (304)
28. Marilyn Mazur (286)
29. Bill Evans (275)
30. Andy Stott (272)

Last year, my top 30 artists totalled 20,215 scrobbles (the reduction from this year’s 16,833 may be attributable to no longer being able to listen to music at work). Only 9 artists in this year’s chart remain from last year (Miles Davis, Scott Walker, Robin Williamson, Kraftwerk, Arto Lindsay, John Martyn, Tindersticks, Marilyn Mazur).

Thanks to last.fm

Previous years:


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