There is a realisation. It doesn’t come on right away, it approaches slowly – like a ferry. The wonders of blogging, there’s no one around to complain about my similes. The realisation is most evident if you use something like last.fm. You notice that your “Top Artists” and “Top Albums” don’t change. Every week of every year, I’m sticking to the formula. I play The Fall, I play Radiohead, Suede PJ Harvey etc etc. Essentially, I listen to the music of my youth and I obey the standard pattern of tastes forming and generally not changing. This gets even more skewed when you listen to your music on streaming sites like Spotify. You can get further locked in to playlists that aid your trip round the musical supermarket through the usual aisles – no one is watching.
In 2017, I set out to find new things. New job meant new commute meant a lot of ear time to fill. The curated Spotify playlist “Discover Weekly” helped. It does tend to suggest a lot of things I already know – one week it included Teenage Kicks, it needs an obviousness filter – but I did find some real gems from it. I also listened to 6 Music a lot more. I particularly enjoy Shaun Keaveny of a morning. All this together meant that my listening became a little more eclectic. Although, if you looks at the charts overall, only Alt-J challenged the old guard like Oliver Burke’s haircut – how much further can I go?
Anyway, for no other reason than end of year list compulsion – here is an end of year list of my favourite new music from 2017. Well, the ones I remembered to remember. All tracks linked to Spotify.
Great voice, plucky off-beat acoustic guitar, Kate Bush harmonies. In fact, pretty much Kate Bush everything – which is no bad thing at all. I like to buy Jesca a peppermint tea and talk about our next holidays. Just lovely.
Bit of a change of mood. Dark, brooding, like gothed up, instrumental Rage Against The Machine with more driving synths than guitars. Imagine if Bauhaus and Kraftwerk had babies. In fact, don’t, that’s a horrible image. Like Crawford Baptie finding out there is only the heel left – no one is watching.
This is a slight cheat. This isn’t any kind of musical departure for me. This is girls with guitars. This is PJ Harvey, The Breeders, Throwing Muses, Elastica even. This is well kent – but no less good for all that. They even throw a micro-nod to Cannonball by The Breeders with a wee guitar stop here and there. I’m not amazed but I’m happy, like getting a 3 for 2 offer on your favourite shower gel.
Talking of girls and guitars. This is awesome. They even supported The Fall this year. I would venture there is even a very slight whiff that rockabilly Rollin’ Dany thing going on here. Obviously, using a Fall track as a frame of reference is a bit like expecting people to know who Crawford Baptie is – not just thrown together this.
Now, we could fight here. You could easily shout “Scott, you were listening to that when you had hair!” – and you would be right. When I left my summer job when I was 18 I was given £35 in record tokens. And, as you did on such occasions, entered a record store soon after with crazed eyes intent in securing as much black plastic as I could. I bought 7 albums that day. 7, for £35. This was, indeed, the Day. One of them was Soul Mining. Nothing appeals to the young pseudo-intellectual as pseudo-intellectual melancholy. And, as it turns out, nothing appeals to an old pseudo-intellectual like melancholy played slowly, sadder and with a oldsy piano sound that twangs like my aged hamstrings when I stand up. This makes me feel old and young all at the same time. You had to be there.
I watched San Junipero on a very early flight from London to Glasgow. As we came in to land, I was fighting back the tears. What an amazing piece of television. And what an amazing soundtrack. It had all the 80’s throwback you would need but set against the BladeRunnery Vangelisness of this. Pop didn’t eat itself but it did work hard not to drown in its own tears. If you haven’t seen San Junipero then, well, get on with it. Bring tissues.
Rob Hubbard on a wild night out, Kraftwerk breeding with Jean-Michel Jarre’s truculent teenage son. It’s one of those songs that flirts with the idea of getting you a speeding ticket, you’ll walk quicker thinking you probably look like Keith from the Prodigy. Crawford Baptie probably doesn’t like it, he away to the Spar for a pan loaf.
Sexy-rock-tastic-funky-bunch-in-the-house. I’d probably drink Tequila with Harlea. She, on the other hand, would assume I’d turned up to teach Sanskrit or do her taxes. “Run away old beardy fool!” she’d cry – horribly misquoting Lord of the Rings. Big shout out the pigeon brothers “whoos” in this. I approve.
Dark, brooding, ominous – but enough about me, this is quite good. Urban, or something. Word. The bass line is the winner here. I’d like to be Ghostpoet’s bass player.
I listened to Alt-J a lot this year. This Is All Yours was my go-to album for many a dark morning. Didn’t like Relaxer quite as much but this song is great. Makes me think that Alt-J should do a Bond theme. I think that would be ace. I may be alone, like that Galapagos Tortoise guy, George.
I finally saw Nick Cave live this year. It was awesome. Warren was awesome. His violin was awesome. Like it is here – although not played like a shrieking banshee. This is lovely, from the Gaugin soundtrack.
Y’know, Chuck D could read out the phone book and it would still be the coolest thing you’d hear all day. Do you still get phone books? Try and tell that to kids today and they won’t believe you.
This pretty much starts off by sounding like Bauhaus and goes Echo and the Bunnymen with a sprinkle of Beck. Maybe my tastes haven’t changed at all. Maybe I just want new versions of the same stuff. Maybe you should shut up.
This is it, the big one, the song of the year or, as my daughter calls it “not that one again”. You see, we do a turn about DJ thing in the car and as this track comes in at a whopping 8 mins 24 secs, she thinks that unfair as you can cram quite a lot of Harry Styles into 8 mins 24 secs. Anyway, this has it all, girls, guitars, changes and an excellent wig out. Soundtrack of my summer and beyond.