I've given up trying to listen to or rate all the great new music that's being produced these days as it's completely impossible to keep up there's so much. Or maybe there isn't, as I look down some of the end-of-year lists and recognise half a dozen names of albums I played once because they'd been well plugged and thought they weren't really all that much. So maybe there's a lot of hype. I don't know and I don't have the time to find out.
Fortunately Last.fm has a music scrobbler which captures and counts the songs that I've played the most over the last year on certain types of media, and whilst that may be no indication of quality or even how much I rate them it's as good an indication as any. It's not the best of the year, it could be the best of any year.
So here are my Top 20 most listened to tunes according to Last.fm - or rather I'll just list one song per artist to keep things moving along a bit. I don't know if it's the best of anything, but it's music I've listened to and loved over the last 12 months, so I guess that's worth something.
Hope you like them too.
1. The Pastels - Check My Heart
My most-listened to single of the year from a band I first heard about 30 years ago with their 'Songs for Children' EP and who don't sound all that much different now. The new album is a treat but this song totally rocks my world. Simple, shambolic, full of joy. If Glasgow was really like this we'd all move there tomorrow. Go check your heart for tambourines!
2. Laish - Warm The Wind
The 'hit' single from Brighton band Laish's sophomore album, featured in another equally marvellous version on the 'Live at The Well' album, and here presented in another equally stunning if slightly nervy recording for Lo-Fi Dogma. This song should have been all over everything this summer but I guess there are many people who will have missed it. So catch up.
Laish have once again changed formation, Danny's moved to London and is mainly playing solo at the moment, but expect more momentous musical machinations like this one over the coming year. I had the pleasure of interviewing Danny earlier in the year, on the release of the 'Obituaries' album and you can read that here http://brightonmusicblog.co.uk/2013/03/14/a-conversation-with-danny-green-of-laish/
3. Lou Reed - Love Makes You Feel
Sadly Lou Reed died this year. He was definitely one of the most important influences on my developing musical taste as a young man, and as a songwriter. The Velvet Underground had a way with easy simple riffs, whether the rock'n'roll blast of Sister ray said or the laid back laconic chord changes of a song like Heroin (so obviously written by/for the perpetually strung out) made songs seem that much easier. But Lou's lyrics too were just amazing - simple, yet startling and surprising, full of a strange humour and warmth for humanity that from what I read seemed to contrast so vividly with his public persona. But you can't listen to songs like Some kinda love, Pale Blue Eyes, Sweet Jane without knowing that here was a man who knew real love for humanity and had worked out how to show it.
Lou's solos songs were equally startling, whether the pop familiarity of Walk on the Wild Side, the heart-wrench that is Berlin or the moving reunion with John Cale that was Songs for Drella (a tribute for Andy Warhol). This song was the one I played the most after Lou died, taken from his first solo album before fame came along. It contains all of that hallmark warmth and humility, and a beautiful sentiment too. When Lou announces towards the end "...and it sounds like this!" You will really believe it does.
4. The Self Help Group - Needles
I interviewed lead-Selfie Mark Bruce this year, and you can read that here too http://brightonmusicblog.co.uk/2013/01/28/interview-with-the-self-help-group/
5. Odetta - Hit or Miss
There's also a cover Hit or Miss by Bo Diddley which is well worth checking out.
6. The Small Faces - All or Nothing
7. Rowan Coupland - Skeletal, and Ivory Urn
But to really understand the song you need to know that it's actually based on real events. Some friends doing a 'live' performance art piece in Vancouver involving a girl being locked in a coffin and then carried away by four men, and a guy who'd taken a fancy to the girl earlier, concerned she was being abducted, chasing after them looking to liberate her. Maybe she really did need to be saved after all?
8. Electric Soft Parade - Brother, You Must Walk Your Path Alone
"There is no God, only water in the sea, There is no hell, only people that you meet, There is no way out of the anger and deceit, Brother, you must walk your path alone..."
9. Bill Callahan - Spring
This video is a solo acoustic version of the song Spring, which to my mind is pure poetry over a subtle west coast riff: "...everything is tired of praise, and mountains don’t need my accolades, and spring looks bad lately anyway..." Nothing much is said, nothing much happens. Bill goes walking in the countryside and thinks 'true spring' is the woman he wants to make love to "with a careless mind". That's it. Brilliant.
10. Macy Gray - Sweet Baby
"they may not see the love in you but love I do"A late arrival to this chart, coming in the week my daughter Lauren was in hospital and Nelson Mandela died. It seemed to fit. I remember hearing this song (which features Erykah Badu) in the USA around the time it was released and falling in love with it then. I'd always admired Macy Gray since her first album and I have no idea why she wasn't a massive star - a brilliant singer and songwriter, this was one of her finest efforts in my view. The album it came from was released a week after 9-11, so maybe this was just too much beauty for a darker time, who knows? But it's been well worth returning to.
11. Fleetwood Mac - Never Going Back Again
2013 was the year of the return of the Mac, and unfortunately I didn't get to see them live but I did revisit Rumours and Tusk a fair bit, and according to Last.fm this was the track that topped my playlist. I wouldn't have thought it would have been, and it's not the song of theirs I would normally pick, but this little Lindsay Buckingham solo folksy number made it to the top of the pile and still is rather special. The video is from a show in Japan in 1977.
12. Bobbie Gentry - Find 'em Fool 'em Forget 'em
13. Kevin Coyne - Uggy's Song
14. Oddfellow's Casino - Winter in a Strange Town
15. Lauren Shera - Once I was a Bird
16. Bridie Jackson & The Arbour - Scarecrow
17. Devandra Banhart - Long-Haired Child
18. Bella Spinks - Regenerate
19. Allysen Callery - In Your Hollow
20. Mark Wynn - And Dave Went Mental
...and that's it. Twenty artists, twenty tracks, one year. You can download the full collection in vibrant shiny mp3 format over on Box, for a little while (20 tracks in 119mb).