I can’t really say that there was anything special about this year, musically speaking. Probably the biggest event of interest was A Fine Frenzy taking over as my most scrobbled artist. Perennial #1 Harry Gregson-Williams was finally dethroned after a very quiet year for film scores on my charts. Despite no new album this year (huge sad face) I still racked up over 1800 plays for Ms. Sudol; a huge testament to how much I appreciate each and every one of her remarkable songs. I am anticipating next year’s release so much that I fear I may actually be placing too high an expectation on it. The handover of supremacy was actually a highly staged event on my part, as I also pumped out enough Dido tracks to simultaneously change the guard from M/F/M/F to F/M/F/M (Hans Zimmer dropping to #4). With both these ladies releasing new albums next year, I feel the female dominance will only grow - and I guess I’m quite alright with that, as between them they probably represent the two most influential artists I’ve had the privilege of chilling out to over the past ten years.
Glancing over my charts, there is pretty much a bit of everything for 2011. A Fine Frenzy was my most listened artist of the year and then there was open ground to Rachael Yamagata and Florence + the Machine. The former was carried over from last year and was probably a little underdone in terms of scrobbles. Unfortunately Rachael was largely a highly concentrated bomb of plays who then disappeared to spend the rest of the year hiding away in my library. Which is a pity, because they are all a fantastic bunch of songs – so much so that it’s hard to pick a winner. Florence on the other hand had a steady presence throughout the year, culminating in the release of her new album Ceremonials. I hazard to say it’s not as good as Lungs, or at the very least it’s a very different style. That said, it does have some standout anthems. ‘Shake it Out’ is my most played, but ‘Only if for a Night’ would be my favourite track. Has all the elements of drama that I love in a song.
Quite a few other female vocalists made an appearance this year. Vanessa Carlton finally released Rabbits on the Run mid-year. Like Rachael I think this has been a bit underdone in my library due to the subsequent discovery of new music shortly thereafter, but it will suffice to say that Rabbits is probably not my favourite album of hers. This owes a little bit to the lyrics and the attitudes of some songs but mainly to the ‘filler-esque’ quality of some of the tracks (in my opinion anyway). Still, it was good to have her back as she has a sort of gentle, fragile pop sound that is lost on the head-banging party anthems of contemporary pop music. Imagine a ‘Thousand Miles’ on the radio today!
New faces included Adele, Clare Maguire, I Blame Coco, Sophie Zelmani and Lisa Miskovsky. It was so pleasing to see Adele dominate pop charts, radio and the web this year. Strangely, a lot of guys at the school I work at were regularly seen chilling out to ‘Someone Like You’… highly uncharacteristic! ‘Set Fire to the Rain’ was my favourite track. Clare Maguire had the same sort of wholesome pop/rock sound that got me so highly attached to Ellie Goulding last year, but with a much more ballsy voice to boot. Hard to pick a favourite from her. Zelmani’s ‘Going Home’ was my most played track for the year (and actually the only song of hers in my library). A wonderful 4 minutes to relax and unwind. Coco was a bit quirkier and somewhat of an uncharacteristic artist for me, but I enjoyed the change, albeit temporarily. ‘In Spirit Golden’ was my favourite. Finally, Lana Del Rey has been a recent addition and by all accounts it’s going to be a bright year for her in 2012; I look forward to it. As I do the anticipated new releases from Michelle Branch, Alison Sudol, Dido and Ellie Goulding.
To rock and its associated genres, and after spending quite a few years ignoring them (much to the Moody dismissal saga, etc.), I took a punt on Evanescence’s new self-titled album and was mostly impressed. ‘My Heart is Broken’ is entirely fantastic – quite possibly my fav Ev song now – and the rest of the album was pretty decent, if a little heavy for my liking. While they’re not really a genre of music I’d regularly play these days, it’s funny how much nostalgia can drive you to listen to certain types of music. I really did love them back in the day! Other rockin’ contributions came from Train, Snow Patrol and a variety of other alt-rock bands that cut it in mainstream during the early noughties, again added for nostalgic purposes.
Most of these rock scrobbles involved consolidation, which was probably the theme of the year. I very much subscribe to the idea of being a ‘true scrobbler’, but in many ways I take it a little further in places. If a song is added to my library then I feel it should at least get listened to a few times. Thus I spent an intermittent amount of time throughout the year raising the minimum play counts of a lot of old stuff in my library. This actually proved quite an entertaining process, as most of the songs were older ones from high school, so I managed to notch up quite a bit of nostalgic listening throughout the year. And nothing beats bringing back the memories from the past through song.
Conversely, I’m quite sure I spent a lot of this year creating many more memories through music. 2011 has been quite socially and actively limited for me as I have been working full-time and also studying full-time. As a result I spent most of my weekends at home, by the computer, doing Uni work, much the same as I did after coming home from work. Not surprisingly, a lot of music from earlier in the year – notably The xx, Rachael Yamagata and Adele, now revives memories of completing assignments on Colonial Australia, Inter-war Britain and Radio and Television from the turn of the century. Not exactly the greatest recollections to have attached to such awesome music, but I guess there’s not much that could be done *shrugs*. As a no-life sucker for punishment, most of my social interaction came from work (I’m a teacher* at a local high school), which is a bit of a departure from normal 20-something socialisation. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with kids. Especially most of the kids I work with, who can be quite challenging at times. Most, though, have an enormous list of redeeming factors that make you want to keep trying. A particular class I had this year (of girls, would you believe), was easily the most enjoyable bunch of kids I’ve worked with. Where I’m often more inclined to be happy to be rid of kids, I was actually very sad to see that bunch go. But (and I’m getting to the point of my ramble, yes), the wonderful ‘Still Alive’ from Lisa Miskovsky will forever hold together a bunch of wonderful memories from the girls. Sends a shiver down my spine every time I put it on. Don’t we all just love the power of music?!
Finally I think it’s worth mentioning the addition of several classical artists and their more contemporary counterparts. I finally took the plunge and bought an antique piano with every intention of becoming the next grand master. In the first week I had taught myself the very amazing ‘Amazing Grace’ and a few other tunes and melodies, but unfortunately Uni unceremoniously planted itself firmly between us. I assure myself that this inconvenience is only temporary - one semester to go and I will be free to pursue it! In the meantime there is plenty of Ludovico Einaudi and Roberto Cacciapaglia to be inspired by, both wonderful additions to my library this year.
Well can you believe it, I’ve just written 1500 words in well under 2 hours. I’ll giggle sarcastically as my next assignment due is only marginally bigger. And even though I have three weeks to finish it, I’m not convinced I’ll get there!
Anyway, on to my top tracks for the year, as is customary.
Fav new female vocalist tracks:
5. Clare Maguire – ‘Bullet’
4. Florence + the Machine – ‘Only if for a Night’
3. A Fine Frenzy – The Well (Demo)
2. Lisa Miskovsky – ‘Still Alive’
1. Sophie Zelmani – ‘Going Home’
5. Ulrich Schnauss & Jonas Munk – ‘Johnny (Sentimental Fool)’
4. Ludovico Einaudi – ‘Nuvole Bianche’
3. Hammock – ‘Sinking Inside Yourself’
2. Two Steps from Hell – ‘Eyes Closing’
1. The xx – ‘Intro’
5. Last Night Of The Proms – ‘God Save the Queen’
4. Snow Patrol – ‘Set Fire to the Third Bar’ feat. Martha Wainwright
3. Blue Foundation – ‘Ghost’
2. Stars – ‘Dead Hearts’
1. Evanescence - ‘My Heart is Broken’
There we have it. A belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May 2012 be filled with fun, laughter and lots of scrobbles!
* I like to think I’m a teacher, but the truth is I’m only a teacher’s aide. Inferiority complex begins now.