2014 consumption: a look at some stuff I liked

It’s a new year, and for me that’s as good a time as any to look at what I did last year. More specifically, to look at my consumption of books, music, games and stuff over the past year. I’m not certain it’s interesting to anyone other than myself, but given that I’m a stats nerd – odd for someone who was definitively crap at them during my university years – and because I’m into recording stuff. What I’ve listened to. What I’ve read. What movies I’ve seen. Et cetera. Some of the data’s incomplete but it’s a reasonable portrait I suppose. This’ll be a long one.

I record most of my listening on last.fm, as I have done for years now. For ten years, this year. Basically, any time I play something on my computer – which, at work, is where I listen to most of my music anyway – or now, on my iPhone, it’ll send a record of it to my profile. I try to record the stuff I listen to at home – usually with this thing – but far less reliably. Given it’s been running for the longest of any recording I’ve done, there’ll be more data here to work from.

It’s a useful source of information – the sidebar listing what I’m listening to comes from last.fm data – and provides enough statistics to keep me happy. For example, the counter on my profile tells me that since 2005, I’ve listened to 132,000 tracks, more or less.

But how did I fare last year? Well, here’s a graphical representation of my top artists for 2014:

Some things don't change.

As to how those listens were distributed, there’s this helpful chart – which you’ll have to click to read, undoubtedly.

Click to enlarge.
A jetstream year, 2014.

This link also provides a wealth of information. Apparently, I listened to 996 individual artists over the year, or 19 per cent of the unique artists I’ve listened to in the past decade. I listened to 1566 unique albums in 2014, 19 per cent of the unique albums I’ve heard since 2005.

2014’s top 20 albums by tracks played: The Beatles Past Masters; Pye Corner Audio Black Mill Tapes Vol 1-4; Kirin J. Callinan Embracism; Gareth Liddiard Strange Tourist; Queens of the Stone Age …Like Clockwork; Kate Bush Hounds of Love; Red Hot Chili Peppers Blood Sugar Sex Magick; Future Islands Singles; Dick Diver New Start AgainThe Saints Wild About You 1976-1978: Complete Studio Recordings; Shellac Dude Incredible; Bauhaus In the Flat Field; GF Handel Music for the Royal Fireworks/Water Music (Hogwood/Academy of Ancient Music version); Django Reinhardt Django Reinhardt (iTunes compile album);  Billy Joel Greatest Hits Vol. I & II; The Beatles Abbey Road; The Smiths Hatful of Hollow; Angelo Badalamenti Twin Peaks: Season Two Music and More; Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin IV and Big Black The Rich Man’s Eight Track Tape.

(Yes, shut up.)

Here’s how this year compares to my overall listening, as both lists of top artists and line graphs of how those artists fluctuate. My habit of going on jags of listening to one particular artist seems pretty obvious – though this is often magnified by the fact that some albums (Past Masters or the Pye Corner Audio compile) have lots of tracks.

2014’s top 20 artists by tracks played: The Beatles, David Bowie, Tom Waits, Ed Kuepper, Queens of the Stone Age, Led Zeppelin, Kate Bush, Angelo Badalamenti, The Cure, Swans, Shellac, Oneohtrix Point Never, Aphex Twin, Morphine, Pye Corner Audio, The Smiths, Kirin J Callinan, Tricky, Bohren & der Club of Gore and Arvo Pärt.

Click to enlarge.

2005-2014’s top 20 artists by tracks played: Tom Waits, Pink Floyd, The Cure, The Beatles, Einstürzende Neubauten, Morrissey, The Smiths, Led Zeppelin, You Am I, David Bowie, Suede, The Mountain Goats, John Zorn, The Drones, Built to Spill, Crow, 16 Horsepower, Ed Kuepper, Bohren & der Club of Gore and Pulp.

Click to enlarge.

Some shuffling, but a lot of the same names, eh? However there’s one thing which remains constant: Strange Tourist is an absolutely amazing song. Easily one of my most-played tracks of the year.

(Though I tend to listen to albums generally – that’s why there’s no list of most-played songs here, as they consist mostly of whole tracklistings rather than a mixture of songs.)

There’s a lot more I could write about my ripping/tagging/updating process and the associated quibbles with the internet’s standard for tagging classical music… but I don’t really want people to go to sleep just yet. Instead, check out some music reviews I wrote for Cyclic Defrost.

I began using Goodreads to record my reading progress as I had a couple of instances where I accidentally reread a book but didn’t realise until I hit an important plot point. It’s frustrating, if you possess a fear (quite justified, I suppose) that you’ll never read all the things you want to – why spend time reading something again when it didn’t make much of an impression the first time?

Ridiculous, I know.

Anyway, I use Goodreads in concert with ReadMore, an app which works as a reading timer and booklist. It also has the happy sideeffect of being able to accurately predict when you’ll finish a book, which is a boon given that I’m afflicted with the inability to stop reading something once I’m a third through it.

This year was the fourth year I’d taken part in the Goodreads Challenge, where you aim to read a certain number of books during the year. The other years I’d taken part I’d aimed to read 100 books, and managed to complete the goal each time. But I did find myself reading a bit of shorter stuff – Tintin and Asterix graphic novels, for example – to scrape in under the line.

Not 2014! No, I went for a book a week. I was concerned that I wasn’t enjoying reading as much as I’d like, so I dialed back the number of books and went for chunkier stuff. I ploughed through the novels which form the basis for Game of Thrones (well, as many as there are now), James Ellroy’s Underworld USA trilogy, Murakami’s 1Q84 whopper and a range of other stuff – you can see the list here.  Curiously, my reading statistics indicate that though I read 57 books in 2014 (as opposed to 2013’s hundred), I read almost 1000 more pages than in the previous year (23,026 versus 22,732) and only 1000 less than my best year (2012, when I read 24,317 pages over 113 titles). So less is more, it would seem.

I also have tried to write more fulsome reviews for the works I’ve completed this year. They’ve been posted at Goodreads and mirrored here, so if you’re looking for some literary inspiration, feel free to check them out.

I put my Playstation 3 to good use this year. I’d held off buying one for years – they launched in 2006, ferchrissakes – and so it means I’ve a healthy backlog, acquired cheap, to play through. It also means that – akin to my desire to watch TV shows in one hit – I can play through series of games pretty much completely.

Down to numbers: over three-quarters of the games – 33, give or take – I played this year were on the PS3. Possibly due to the lack  of dicking around required to get something playable happening – my laptop is not a gaming powerhouse – but also because it’s very easy to hit the lounge and blast something out on a big screen TV. I completed almost everything I began (notable exceptions being Far Cry 2 because it didn’t grab me, and Hotline Miami because it’s bloody hard, amongst others) and I enjoyed it more. There were a bunch of shooters, true, but I looked for more narrative stuff – admittedly more difficult on the PS3 than on other platforms – and found that most of the stuff I finished had enough narrative to leaven the shooting or grinding.

Nope, never gets old.

(I remain enamoured of the Assassin’s Creed series, though. ACIV: Black Flag was brilliant, largely because it contained heaps of sea shanties, which are always worthwhile.)

The X360 didn’t really have much use this year – Risen was pretty much all I played on it – but I expect that to change next year as I power through the Mass Effect series. As a platform, the PC was pretty under-utilised – mostly the excellent Papers Please and some silly simulators (if you’ve not seen Goat Simulator you haven’t really lived – check the trailer here) – though when you have something as low-powered as my laptop, it’s probably a good thing.

I haven’t really counted the PS Vita (because I have a bunch of stuff for it, but played very little) or the iPhone (because I was crap at recording what I played on it) but I think the console still would obliterate all else, even with those added. I expect the statistics will change a bit in the coming year, as I’ll have access to a better gaming computer. I’ve been putting off buying a new PC – for sound work and for gaming – for years now – but there’s a reasonable price/performance crossover which means 2015 is The Year Of The New Computer. Add to that I’ll have access to a non-G4 Mac for the first time (for work purposes) and I’m expecting to plough through some of the Steam backlog I have going. Exciting changes! (Well, from a gaming statistics point of view, anyway.)

Then again, I do still have some games on the PS2 which need completing. Assuming Sega never releases hi-def ports of the Yakuza series on a more modern platform. The world needs more Shinjuku simulators, truly. I mean, check this out – it’s a teaser from a HD remaster they’ve announced but have said fuck-all about since:

When I visited Tokyo, I could recognise a lot from this game. It’s fantastic. There’s rumours of a new one for the PS4 and between that and a new Uncharted, then just maybe…

If you’re looking to add me to a gaming friends list, I’m on Steam, the PSN and X360.

This is the first year I’ve used Letterboxd with anything near regularity. (My profile is found here.) Described as ‘Goodreads for the movies’ it’s pretty much that: I reckon it’ll receive more of a workout when Netflix launches here.

I also started writing pithy reviews on the films, with fairly variant humour mileage.

We watched 42 movies this year, which is more than I thought but less than I’d hoped. There’s been a lot of ploughing through TV series in a row (including the complete run of Seinfeld, which is apparently great help if you’re studying mental health) which has eaten into film time. I hope to rectify that this year – there’s a plan for working from home which means scheduling will be easier, and there’ll be no transport chewing up two hours of every day. That’s a movie, right there!

I can’t really compare the data from this year to any others as there’s not been enough plugged into the system to give me anything meaningful. I’m sure that’ll keep you on the edge of your seats until next year, though. I’ve made a list of ’70s greats from my recent read of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls which should fill 2015 pretty well.

But what sucked the most in 2014? Oh, that’s easy.

Yes, it's as bad as you think.
A real bag of arse.

I watched a bit of stuff, listened to a lot of stuff and read less-but-more books. I ploughed through a bunch of games. And I found recording all these things was positive, as it provided a happy sidebar – data! – to something I would have done anyway. The accountability is nice, though I can imagine it’s not for everyone.

It’s kind of weird that one of the largest posts here is so navel-gazing. Anyway, I hope it is of interest to somebody. And I promise there won’t be one like it until this time next year!

One last thing…
Our number of cats doubled this year, from one to two. That’s a pretty awesome statistic, especially given that the obnoxious interaction level of the pair has decreased mightily in the past few weeks.


Cats are great.

Did you really get to the end? I’m amazed!


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