The majority of the music on this list isn’t even new, but then this was always more about the music that framed my particular year than the music that was released during it.
A few random notes:
Comanche – Cake
I saw Cake in Glasgow at the start of the year. This was unexpected, given that I didn’t even realise they were still together until about a month before the show. One of the benefits of following artists on Spotify is that it tells you when people are going to be playing nearby. This is clearly a feature that works out for everyone. My friend Duncan gamely came with me on a school night to see a band from which he knew only one song. When they played ‘Comanche’, he commented that it was hard not to follow the commands that open the song. And later in the year I started strength training. Sometimes the universe provides the setup.
Work It – Marie Davidson/Soulwax remix
I find this to be pure motivational badassery. Which I needed a lot of this year.
Half A World Away – R.E.M.
This live version came on 6Music as I pulled into the parking lot of IKEA on a Friday night to sort out some final bits of my kitchen, so I sat there and listened to the whole thing. IKEA in Edinburgh is out towards the Pentland hills, and the sun was doing some very attractive setting over them. It was probably the calmest trip to IKEA I had all year. (Friday nights. That’s the secret. You’re welcome.) Redoing your kitchen is madness, even if it’s good madness. I needed a moment. This worked.
Love On Top – Beyonce
I did a lot of swivel drills to this song in Trisha Sewell’s Suga Bomb class. It was hard work. She is the actual best.
Cupid – Amy Winehouse
A busker was playing this song outside Lidl in the summer. It’s a great song, and this is a great version. I miss Amy Winehouse.
Nuts To You – Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band (not on Spotify, go buy it on Bandcamp!)
I saw these women live twice in a row this year. The double-up was a happy accident, and I’m glad I got to go back for more. They are awesome. I want to be Marla Dixon when I grow up. And check out those addictive 3-part harmonies.
King of Pain – The Police
When I was in Georgia, I was reading the second Hyperion novel, which is a lot about pain, and in some pretty brutal ways. This song got stuck in my head in a near-torturous loop. It fits with the book well, and I do like the song, but my god sometimes your brain does things with earworms that are unfair to your sanity. But then, I’m the one reading a book about suffering when I’m on holiday. So.
On The Sunny Side of the Street – Swing Shouters (not on Spotify, go buy it on Bandcamp!)
This is one of my favourite songs to dance to. I collect every version I can and play it often when I DJ. My love for The Swing Shouters probably borders on fangirl-ish at this point, but they are absolutely solid and I would happily travel anywhere to dance to them. They released a new album (hooray!) at the end of the year and their recorded version of this song is, predictably, absolutely lovely.
Tugboats and Tumbleweeds – Bill Callahan
Closing my eyes and listening to Bill Callahan is nearly as restorative as sleep for me. Incidentally, I listen to a lot of Bill Callahan when I’m on airplanes. This was another new album I was very happy to see.
Spotify’s end-of-year and end-of-decade wrap-ups for me are skewed as always by my use of the service for swing practice and DJing. But weirdly, my top 5 artists of the year are mostly non-swing (Cake, John Grant, Talking Heads, Ella Fitzgerald, Bill Callahan), while every single one of my top 10 songs is swing. Apparently my top artist of the decade is Ella Fitzgerald. I’m ok with that.
On the reading front, I read more this year than I probably have any other year of my life. And a lot of really high quality stuff, including probably the best post-apocalyptic novel I’ve read to date (Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut). I surpassed my 36 book goal by one and a half (I’m currently halfway through Stephen King’s IT), reading 12,370 pages across 37 books. It seems like an impossible number when you add it up, but it averages out to just over 30 pages a day.
Favourites, in the order that I read them:
- How Not To Be A Boy – Robert Webb
- Unsheltered – Barbara Kingsolver
- Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
- The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
- The Fall of Hyperion – Dan Simmons
- How To Be Famous – Caitlin Moran
For 2020, I’m setting the same goal but hoping to diversify my selections even more. I’ve just signed up to Heady Mix, which is a bi-monthly book subscription that showcases writers from underrepresented groups. I make a concerted effort to read across a diverse range of writers, so I’m really excited to have stumbled on this. I get reading suggestions from a lot of places, but largely from people I know, and I’m aware of the bubble that involves.
Quite a few people keep suggesting that I get into audiobooks to add to my reading, but I love podcasts too much to give up that listening time for more books. This year, The Anthropocene Reviewed (as mentioned in my last post), Dolly Parton’s America, and Have You Heard George’s Podcast? are my favourite new ones. Ryan Swift also continues to absolutely smash it on The Track.
I won’t say much more about the year here as I have plans to write about bits of it later. It felt like a bit of a mental car wreck, particularly the first two thirds. This is probably evident in my playlist, and it was nice to have all these amazing books to escape into. Things started turning around after my epic month of overdue holiday in September though, and I learned an awful lot about how to maybe avoid falling into such dark holes in the future. Thanks to my friends who took care of me and/or put me in my place as necessary.
In 2020 I would like another awesome holiday with my friends, and a new Fiona Apple album. Over the holiday, I have some control. As for the album, it’s been 8 years (!) and there are rumours, so hopefully this is not a foolish dream.
(Side note: as I’m about to post this, Tom Ravenscroft is playing Fast As You Can on 6Music. They NEVER play Fiona Apple on 6Music. I’m going to take this as a sign.)
As a new year gift, I leave you with the best food thing I learned on the interweb this year: YOU GUYS. You can peel ginger with a spoon.
Once you know this, it is really the only way to do it.
If I’m the only person who didn’t know this was a thing, don’t spoil my joy. I read the tip pretty early in the year, and it still makes me happy every time I need to make use of it.