Oh, look at the time. It’s that time again: the time I write about the stuff I liked or consumed this year, briefly, for the edification of myself and nobody else, most likely.
Previous versions are here, here, here and here if you need an introduction.
As ever, my Last.fm account has captured most of the stuff I’ve listened to in digital format. It’s currently sitting at somewhere just south of 162k songs played, which means I stacked on another 9000 listens in 2017. It’s on par with 2016, which surprises me, as it feels like I’ve listened to a lot less stuff this year.
Once more, LastWave has come to the rescue to provide a picture of my listening behaviour over the past 12 months. You’ll want to click this one to get a better view, particularly if you’re looking for embarrassing musical revelations. (I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, though, so any shame you feel will be your own, perhaps.)
As you can tell, the listening dropped off in the middle of the year, coming back strongly towards the end. I suppose the concept of powering through the months just before Christmas with the aid of headphones and loud music still seems to be my preferred mode of holiday prep.
Thanks again to this page, you can glean the following listening-based trivia about the past 12 months:
- I’ve listened to 822 unique artists, 13% of all artists I’ve ever listened to.
- I’ve listened to 1024 unique albums, 10% of unique albums I’ve heard overall.
- I’ve listened to 6883 unique tracks, 11% of the unique tracks I’ve heard, ever.
- The bulk of my music – 82% – comes from outside my top 25 artist list.
- Most of the albums I listen to – 96% – aren’t in my top 25 album list.
2017’s top 20 albums by tracks played: Dean Hurley: Anthology Resource Vol. 1: △△; The Smiths: The Queen is Dead (2017 remaster); Morrissey: The Parlophone Singles ’88-’95; Murray Perahia: Bach Partitas 2, 3 & 4; Yusuf Lateef: The Complete Recordings 1959-1962; Gold Class: Drum; Slowdive: Souvlaki; Xiu Xiu: Plays the Music of Twin Peaks; Various artists: Twin Peaks: Limited Event Series Soundtrack; Various Artists: Do the Pop!; Queens of the Stone Age: Songs for the Deaf; Yasuaki Shimizu: Music for Commercials; T. Rex: Solid Gold Rapid Action; Yusuf Lateef: The Complete Recordings 1957-1959; The Black Angels: Death Song; Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch: Twin Peaks Archive; Various artists: Twin Peaks: Season Two Soundtracks and More; David Bowie: Nothing Has Changed; Pink Floyd: The Endless River and John Baker: The John Baker Tapes Volume 1: BBC Radiophonics.
Interesting list of most-listened albums. The Dean Hurley album is up there because it’s both long and excellent, though length also explains why Slowdive, the two Lateef compilations, the Smiths and Morrissey also appear – they’re albums with more tracks on then than most. Do the Pop! and Nothing Has Changed provided the soundtrack to a couple of car trips, which is why they was pushed a bit further up the list than might otherwise have been. Xiu Xiu are on there because they toured Australia with their Twin Peaks set, and I was lucky enough to see them twice. Twin Peaks-related stuff features strongly because well duh.
Perhaps the most telling thing is that the two Morrissey-related entries are firmly not his newest album. Thinking of better times, perhaps?
2017’s top 20 artists by tracks played: David Bowie, Angelo Badalamenti, The Smiths, Queens of the Stone Age, Yusuf Lateef, Crow, Lustmord, Slowdive, T. Rex, Morrissey, Pink Floyd, Dean Hurley, Don Walker, Xiu Xiu, Gilbert & Sullivan, Gold Class, You Am I, Tom Waits, Boris and Burial.
As ever, Bowie rules. Badalamenti is go-to background music, and The Smiths’ albums prove inviolable, no matter how much foot Moz shoves in his lantern jaw. The Queens of the Stone Age plays were almost entirely around the time of the (disappointing) new album’s release, and the (disappointing) gig they played here – since hearing about Homme’s behaviour of late, I’ve been giving them a bit of a swerve. Some familiar favourites crop up: more Pink Floyd (mostly Meddle, let’s face it), some Gilbert & Sullivan joy (Patience and The Gondoliers, I think), and the usual You Am I and Tom Waits suspects. Boris appears thanks to a concert-linked listening jag.
I did go to a couple of gigs this year, but few – other than Supersense and Xiu Xiu – stood out as spectacular, I guess. Melvins weren’t bad – I was glad to see them – but I wasn’t in the right mood for them, so it fell a bit flat. Ditto Boris – they were great but felt a little empty. The Mountain Goats were excellent, as usual, but the crowd kind of sucked.
Perhaps this is more about how I feel about crowds in general? Maybe.
The project of getting everything I have on physical media catalogued continues. Feel free to peruse my Collectorz database for a list of the most recently-ripped items, should that sort of creepery be your thing.
There was a reasonable amount of Good Stuff released this year, and while I did give five picks to Cyclic Defrost – despite not actually writing for them this year – I figure here’s as good a place as any to list more. In no particular order, I think these were my favourite things released this year, and you should go and buy them.
- Oxbow: Thin Black Duke
- Lawrence English: Cruel Optimism
- The Necks: Unfold
- Chihei Hatakeyama; Mirage
- Dread: In Dub
- Various artists: Even a Tree Can Shed Tears – Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973
- Bell Witch: Mirror Reaper
- GY!BE: Luciferian Towers
- Dean Hurley: Anthology Resource Vol. 1: △△
Other albums I got this year that I rate just below this leading pack: Alex Cameron’s Forced Witness, The Black Angels’ Death Song, The Chats’ Get This In Ya, Chelsea Wolfe’s Hiss Spun, Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World, Ellen Arkbro’s For Organ and Brass, Flesh World’s Into the Shroud, L.A. Witch’s L.A. Witch , Nicole Atkins’ Goodnight Rhonda Lee and Leyland Kirby’s We, so tired of all the darkness in our lives. All of these, too, have a lot to recommend them.
(A lot of these links will take you to the artists’ Bandcamp pages where your cash will go more directly to them. I’ve been buying a lot more on BC this year, a trend I see continuing in 2018. My collection is here.)
There can only be one album of the year, though. For me, that’s Gold Class’s Drum. It takes everything from the exceptional debut (my 2015 disc of choice) and improves on it. It’s darker, full of more regret, more stolen joy. It’s disconcerting and danceable and personal and sad and amazing. I like to play it on walks, which feels wrong somehow, but it’s where it works best.
After last year’s terrible showing, I cracked through more books this year. By the last day of the year, Goodreads reports that I’d managed to read 54 books, or about 12,700 pages. This is something that pleased me: my reading was a little broader than it was in 2017, and I found myself enjoying graphic novels again, particularly the astonishing Saga and the woeful tale of Jimmy Corrigan.
I read some great musician biographies this year: Dylan Jones’ tome on David Bowie tickled my fancy, as did works by Tex Perkins, Tim Rogers and Dave Graney. It was pretty good to learn more about local artists, and it’s something that I’m keen to pursue in the future. (I suspect my first book of 2018 will be Dave Graney’s Workshy, so I guess I’m starting as I mean to go on.)
My books-read list indicates I took in a little bit of everything this year: Gothic fiction, weird Australian lit, travel writing, crime fiction and kids’ books. As ever, I felt like I hadn’t read enough, but looking back at the list it seems a reasonable kind of score.
You can check out Goodreads’ version of my year over here, but I think this is the most salient detail.
I have a written list of books I’m going to approach in 2018, and I’m hoping I’ll still have it at year’s end so I can compare and cross off. I’m going to try reading fewer books, but more lengthy tomes in general: I’m hoping it’ll be the year I cross off Infinite Jest, as well as some other longer works that I never seem to find time for, including newer translations of the Odyssey, Iliad and Aeneid. I have visions of working through some Pynchon, some Melville and other assorted ten-buck word kind of writers, and I’m feeling good about it. Now to just keep that enthusiasm firing for another thirty thousand pages.
My own contribution to the written world was more sizeable this year: I actually wrote a novel. Well, I took part in Nanowrimo, something I’ve been signed up for ever since it began, but something I hadn’t yet completed. I write to spec for work but haven’t made the movement on my personal writing that I’d like to, so I figured I had no excuse, especially since I’d been to one of Dev’s classes earlier in the year and had been all het up about Getting Something Done.
(I also used it as a bit of a chance to get to use Scrivener properly – something I’ve had for ages but haven’t explored properly either.)
Anyway, I spent part of each November day cranking out a seat-of-the-pants tome that eventually coalesced into 60,000-odd words of stuff. It hangs together, sort-of, but it’s also a proof-of-concept exercise rather than something I’d ever want anyone to read. It’s proof I can do it, even with no plan and little motivation – so the next step is to do it with both, because I’m someone who likes the idea of working to a plan.
Watch this space, I guess. Assuming I can carve out time between epic inhalation, that is.
It’s been a cracker year for movies, I have to admit. According to my Letterboxd account, I’ve watched and one-line reviewed 402 films this year.
So yep, more than one per day. As with last year, the bulk of these are due to my Mubi membership, something that often disappoints, but which is great when it delivers. Of course, these aren’t full-length films necessarily – the service often shows runs of shorts, though it also goes the other way and shows eight-hour epics, too – but for the most part they are. Through the service I’ve discovered some fuckawful French films – there seem to be so many! – but I’ve also discovered some absolutely wonderful movies. It’s introduced me to Max Ophüls‘ films, to documentaries I’d never have considered, and to some canonical must-sees that I’ve somehow not yet seen. For the amount it costs per year – $70, I think? – it’s one of the best streaming investments I’ve made. (If you want to try it out, click here: we both get a free month if you do.)
Mubi accounts for 348 of the films I’ve seen this year, which means there was a lot of other viewing. I went to the movies a fair bit this year – more than I would normally, I think – and saw some great films this year. It seemed to be a bit of a year for oddity. Some of my favourites seen in-cinema were Get Out, mother! and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, though I did spend time seeing some absolute shit in there as well: hello, Rings and Jigsaw.
(Special mention goes to Blade of the Immortal for the Ludicrous Violence Content of the film. It was OTT and ridiculous and I loved it.)
I’m not sure I can pick a movie of the year, because that implies liking what you’ve seen. My favourite, more or less, was mother! because I’m always interested in what Aronofsky has to say, and – some obviousness aside – I thought the way it was made was spectacular in that kind of Kubrickian excess mode. But, like The Boys, it’s a film that’s very, very hard to like. I saw it a couple of times in the cinema and was more taken with the technical fact of its existence than I was with the story, which sometimes is a bit simple. Having said that, I have to applaud a director who’s still interested in making his audience feel like absolute shit while creating a film that basically says God’s a cunt.
That takes enormous stones or some kind of aneurysm. I gotta respect that.
I played a lot of games this year. A lot.
From my records I can see I completed 33 titles this year. That’s a bunch more than the previous year, and I feel pretty good about it – it’s a sizeable dent in the backlog. A lot of these were played on console, and I refuse to feel bad about it: it’s great to play stuff on the PC – it’s home to so much fucking oddness – but it’s also great to just stick a disk in something and have it work without needing to fuck with something.
Keeping up my love of playing games in series, I blew through the Uncharted series again in a lead-up to playing Uncharted 4 and the frankly excellent DLC-that-outgrew-itself Lost Legacy. It was great to revisit those characters, even though I now feel I no longer need to see Nathan Drake for a while. (Hey, with luck, we won’t have to – bring me some more Chloe and Nadine games, damnit.) I ran through the God of War series, and broke innumerable spines as the Goddamn Batman. I sailed high (ish) in the skies of Kyrat, I neck-stabbed in Paris and I hid from murderers and/or CHUDs.
It wasn’t all hack/slash big-buck stuff, though. I’m a sucker for decent narrative, and I absolutely adored Gone Home, the effortlessly creepy What Remains of Edith Finch, the lonely (and slightly cheesy) Everyone’s Gone To The Rapture, and the spectacular Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm.
In a startling run of tonal shifting, I played a game where you’re a comical bird-lawyer, a bunch of open-world weirdness, and a pair of Nazi-killin’ titles in the space of about two months. Let’s just say it was… confusing. But it best encapsulates the appeal of games: there really is something for everyone. There aren’t many hobbies where the sublime and the ridiculous sit so closely together, or where anyone’s dumb-arse idea can find a receptive audience, but I guess gaming is it.
My game of the year, though – even though it didn’t come out this year – was Yakuza 0. It was everything I’d hoped it would be. I spent more time in this virtual world than in any other, and regretted none of it. Where else can you become embroiled in real-estate gang warfare, have a chicken manage your business, play bodyguard to a Michael Jackson clone, offer moral guidance to small children and hit random thugs with bikes?
That’s right. NOWHERE.
This year was a year of ups and downs health-wise. I had my wisdom teeth forcibly removed from my skull, and the resultant shittiness made me glad I hadn’t elected to do it piecemeal, because it was not pleasant. On the other hand, my stomach stuff seems to be levelling out. Swings and roundabouts, perhaps.
2017 was a year of recharging. I wasn’t hugely social, which was perhaps necessary. I spent a lot of time wandering galleries, which seemed to be pretty revivifying.
So I guess this is as recharged as I’m going to get.
On the plus side, I’m ready for 2018. Let’s go.
If you made it this far, who the fuck are you?
Impressive. Thanks for the Gold Class heads up, hadn’t heard of them.
They’re the best. The two albums are on Bandcamp: really worth getting. They have a sound and they’re working it well: one of the best things I’ve heard in a long time.