1987 has a lot to answer for

I recently curated the music for a birthday party where a fair portion of the playlist was taken from songs originally released in 1987 (with a side order of 1983, 1984, and a few old favorites for good measure). As a result of this, I spent a fair bit of the last few weeks listening to music from this era, and it struck me how similar 1987 and 2017 were, both in the types of music that were popular (at least to me) and also in some of what was going on in the news. 1987 was an election year too, with The Housemartins and The Blow Monkeys (amongst others) singing about the need to change a right wing female PM for something more socialist. There were also great records from The Wedding Present, Pixies, Sonic Youth, New Order, The Fall The Cure, Depeche Mode, and the swansong from The Smiths (as well as several of their best singles). 1987 was angry, dissatisfied, and just under half of the country wanted a change, but that change didn’t come for another few years.

Fast forward to 2017 and it’s another election year. The way we buy and consume music is almost unrecognisable, but I do note with interest that my vinyl buying habit is roughly equivalent to how it was 30 years ago, and that I’ve bought records by many of my 1987 favourites over the last year or so. I still buy lots of new music, but it seems that like Twin Peaks, Slowdive, Wire and a certain brand of gum, the things I liked then are definitely coming back in style. Which can only be a good thing.

Albums of the year so far

I don’t miss compiling a list of music recommendations each month. I do miss making the occasional list of things I’ve enjoyed though, so I thought I’d make it a semi-regular thing to post details of what my end of year list would look like if the year ended today.

What I’ve got so far is in the following Spotify playlist:

At some point I’ll write them all out, but that day is not today.

2017 plans

It’s 2017. It’s been 2017 for a while, but as I was ill for most of the Christmas holidays, today is the first time I’ve really thought about the fact that it’s a new year, and that I’m back at work tomorrow.

I don’t really make resolutions, but I think I may be kicking off some new projects in 2017.

Towards the end of December we bought year-long Cineworld unlimited cards, which means we need to see two films per month (at least), or something like 22 or 23 over the year. We have seen three so far (in three days). Seeing films as they come out gives me something new to blog about, so I’ll likely be writing about some of them, especially if I feel I’ve got something to add that I’ve not read elsewhere.

I started using my iPad more (and my computer less) a couple of months ago, and I’m finding that to be sufficiently liberating that I might want to blog about it. I feel slightly less enthusiastic about the Surface Pro 4 I use for work now, but I may also find that there are Windows 10/Surface Pro specific things I want to blog about as well.

I plan on buying a lot less music this year, and using Spotify for pretty much everything to do with discovering and playing new music. I have my existing collection available on all my devices anyway, but this year I want Spotify to be the default way I consume music (unless it’s vinyl of course). I don’t plan on buying much more than what I get with my Rough Trade subscription (11 records, plus whatever freebies I get), although I will be putting things I really like on my wish list around birthday and Christmas time (so June and December). My hope is that I’ll spend a lot less on music, and will also get to spend more time with things I do buy. As a. result of this I won’t be posting monthly lists of things I’ve listened to, but might start writing about specific things in more depth. Today I bought a new perspex box that will fit around 20 records in it, and that should be all my music-related storage needs sorted for this year (which is just as well as I’m running out of space).

I didn’t do a great deal of socialising for most of 2016, for a variety of reasons. I don’t really have a plan to fix this, although starting a new job a month ago has already shaken things up a little in that respect and it’s quite possible that it will sort itself out organically. If nothing else, I’m going to be going to the cinema a lot more this year, which is a step in the right direction.

I might of course do none of these things and do something else instead, but I thought it was worth a statement of intent at the start of the year.

New Music – December 2016

In December I seem to have split my time between starting a new job and being ill. Neither of these are conducive to discovering new music. I did manage to stumble upon a few things though.

Childish Gambino – “Awaken My Love”
J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only
Run the Jewels – Run The Jewels 3
Brian Eno – Reflection
Nine Inch Nails – Not the Actual Event

This will be my last monthly roundup for a while. I’ve not quite finalised what my blogging in 2017 will look like, although I expect it will involve albums of the month, a lot more writing about films I’ve seen, and perhaps more about using an iPad for the vast majority of my online life.

Albums of the year 2016

As always, I’ve listened to a lot of new music this year. It’s been my second year of collecting vinyl, and my second (and last) year of blogging about my monthly discoveries (2017 is likely to be a little too busy to commit to that for another year). This year I’ve split my choices into three categories – my top 10 albums by how many times I’ve played them, my top 10 vinyl purchases, and a selection of other things I’ve listened to this year that I really like.

Top 10 from Last.fm

I’ve used last.fm to track my listening habits for the past 10 years. Whilst it doesn’t track anything I listen to on vinyl (or in fact CD), it does cover everything I’ve listened to on my computer, my phone and my iPad, on a variety of different music players. The following albums are my top 5 based on that criteria, although it should be noted that I also own the Unloved album on vinyl so there is a chance I’ve actually listened to it more than anything else this year.

She Makes War – Direction of Travel
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Shearwater – Jet Plane and Oxbow
Unloved – Guilty of Love
Tortoise – The Catastrophist
PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project
Frightened Rabbit – Painting of a Panic Attack
Jesu & Sun Kil Moon – Jesu/Sun Kil Moon
Yorkston/Thorne/Khan – Everything Sacred
The Wedding Present – Going Going

What strikes me about this list is that there are a lot of familiar names there, and I’ve listened to (and written about) most of these artists a lot in the past. The two new names on this list are She Wakes War (my favourite record of the year, and one that reminds me a lot of Trouble Will Find Me by The National in both subject matter and my general emotional response to it) and Unloved (one of several “supergroup” records in my list this year, and one that I keep coming back to).

10 more that I’ve played a lot on vinyl

I started collecting vinyl again two years ago, and these are the ten records from 2016 that I keep coming back to (along with the Unloved album which I’ve already mentioned). It’s interesting to note that only one of these (Black Mountain’s IV) is a double album, and I’m now fairly sure that having something spread across more than one record does limit how much I listen to it.

Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
Minor Victories – Minor Victories
Angel Olsen – My Woman
Black Mountain – IV
Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve – The Soft Bounce
Pixies – Head Carrier
Wild Beasts – Boy King
D.D Dumbo – Utopia Defeated
RM Hubbert – Telling The Trees
The Magnetic North – Prospect of Skelmersdale

This list probably owes a lot to the fact that I get sent one record a month by Rough Trade, and definitely features more newer artists, and debut records. I loved the idea of Minor Victories before I even heard the record (and hearing it didn’t change that), and I really didn’t expect another good Iggy Pop record (and certainly not one that good). There isn’t really a filler track on any of these, and all come highly recommended.

My favourite records of the year (that I’ve not already mentioned)

This is very much the best of the rest, and also a few things I’ve not played that often, but would still say are my favourite records of the year.

Brian Eno – The Ship
BadBadNotGood – IV
Conor Oberst – Ruminations
Bon Ivor – 22, A Million
Charlie Hilton – Palana
Moby and the Void Pacific Choir – These Systems Are Failing
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos
Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
Banks – The Alter
Melanie De Biasio – Blackened Cities
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
Okkervil River – Away
James Blake – The Colour in Anything
Steve Mason – Meet the Humans
Knifeworld – Bottled out of Eden
Blixa Bargeld & Teho Teardo – Nerissimo
Shirley Collins – Lodestar
Cate Le Bon – Crab Day
Riley Walker – Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
Childish Gambino – “Awaken My Love”
Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Anohni – Hopelessness
DJ Shadow – The Mountain Will Fall
Wire – Nocturnal Koreans

This last list is much more diverse, with a lot of rap and R’n’B, a little jazz, and a fair few things that defy classification. I think it’s a fair representation of my listening habits over the last year though.

New Music – November 2016

I have discovered lots of interesting music in November, including the long lost Sea Nymphs album that was recorded in 1991 but only released this year (and which can be bought from the Cardiacs store. There was also a surprising electronic Lambchop record and an equally surprisingly angry Moby record.

The Sea Nymphs – On The Dry Land
Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions – Until The Hunter
Sleaford Mods – TCR
Marie Davidson – Adieux Au Dancefloor
Lambchop – Flotus
Moby and the Void Pacific Choir – These Systems Are Failing
The Sweet Release of Death – The Sweet Release of Death.
Emily Reo – Spell 10″

Back to the 80s

Yesterday appeared to be 1980s day. I created a playlist the day before called rediscoveries and listened to it for most of the day (with a brief break to listen to Hope Sandoval’s new record on vinyl). I can’t remember the last time I listened to Tears for Fears, OMD, Ultravox, Japan, Simple Minds, Furniture and The Associates, but it’s the sort of music that takes me back to childhood the moment I hear it. Other things from this era have stuck with me in the years that followed, but there is quite a lot about the 1980s that I very much left in the 1980s, as I left home, moved to a new city, and reinvented myself in the way people do when they go to University. Maybe in a few years time I’ll be ready to revisit the 1990s through a filter of nostalgia, but for now I’m content with enjoying music that sounded dated 20 years ago but that now sounds surprisingly contemporary.

New Music – September 2016

September is always a busy month for me. It’s also a month where a lot of my favourite artists released records. This is just as well as I didn’t really have time to find much else to listen to.

Teenage Fanclub – Here
Wilco – Schmilco
Angel Olsen – My Woman
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
De La Soul – And the Anonymous Nobody
Ryley Walker – Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
Okkervil River – Away
Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley – Sketches for the Musical JIB
Hannah Peel – Awake But Always Dreaming
Bon Ivor – 22, A Million
Pixies – Head Carrier

New Music – August 2016

I think I spent most of this month listening to a playlist of most of the recorded output of The Fall. This experiment may spawn a blog post at some point, but in the meantime here is a list of everything I listened to when I needed a break from the wonderful and frightening world of Mark E Smith.

Dinosaur Jr. – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not
Wild Beasts – Boy King
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – Blind Worms, Pious Swine
David Konopnicki, Bertrand Delorme & Cyril Grimaud – Book of Angels vol. 29
Blixa Bargeld, Teho Teardo – Nerissimo
Peter Broderick – Partners
John Paul White – Beulah
The Album Leaf – Between Waves
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – Arañas en La Sombra

New Music – July 2016

There is a lot of music below, and it transpires that some of it was actually released at the end of June, rather than during this month as I originally thought.

Oh, and for the jazz haters, there is jazz here (especially towards the end of the list).

The full list of music I discovered in July is:

Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve – The Soft Bounce
DJ Shadow – The Mountain Will Fall
Bat For Lashes – The Bride
Old Fire – Songs from the Haunted South
Swans – The Glowing Man
Plaid – The Digging Remedy
The Julie Ruin – Hit Reset
Metronomy – Summer 08
Róisín Murphy – Take Her up to Monto
Let’s Eat Grandma – I, Gemini
Aphex Twin – Cheetah
Jack and Amanda Palmer – You Got Me Singing
BadBadNotGood – VI
If These Trees Could Talk – The Bones of a Dying World
Christian Fennesz & Jim O’Rourke – It’s Hard for Me to Say I’m Sorry
Jambinai – A Hermitage
Jeff Parker – The New Breed