This time each year I write about something a little different: music. I listen to huge amount of music (as my last.fm scrobbles alone attest) whether working, moving, resting, reading, or playing. My annual #thisis20XX playlist – or the Jim Awards as a good friend once called it – is my attempt to rationalise and celebrate the best new sounds that caught my attention in the last twelve months. I always miss something I’ve heard and there is always something the DiS or Pitchfork round-ups which would have made the cut if I’d heard it, but then sheer scale of the problem – if you can call not having enough time to enjoy all the music you want to a ‘problem’ – is part of the fun. As much of my music listening ‘supports’ working, the playlist has a strong bias towards instrumental music: records from Kamasi Washington, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Vessels, Errors, Nils Frahm, Jaga Jazzist, Blanck Mass, Four Tet, Max Richter, Sons of Kemet, and Aphex Twin have been valued companions and research aids this year. My record of the year is Lease of Life by Errors, with The Sovereign Self by Trembling Bells a close second. And my track of the year is a tie between Laura Marling’s “Gurdjieff’s Daughter” and “To Die in L.A.” by Lower Dens (both from otherwise a bit meh records). Honourable mentions go to Everything Everything for finally making a record I get the fuss about, FFS for making me laugh, Mew for returning as preposterous as ever, Modest Mouse for returning, and Public Service Broadcasting for making history exciting (Go!).
Of course a year in music isn’t just about new music. This year I discovered the joys of Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim (1967) via Ian Penman’s LRB review of a new Sinatra boxed set. Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave (2014) finally got lodged under my skin. Les Revenants returned (excuse the pun…) and took me back – were I ever away – to Mogwai. The wonderful TV mini-series Show Me a Hero made unexpectedly compelling use of early-80s Springsteen, including “Hungry Heart”. The spectacular jazz drum score to Birdman gave me goose bumps. And – last but never least – I remain enormously grateful to all at BBC Radio 6 Music for continuing to make such engaging, eclectic, and fun radio. Worth the licence fee alone et cetera. More Tom Ravenscroft in 2016 please.