Words and Music, Paul Morley, Page 352, Paragraph 2 and 3, extended mix.

“‘The lists in this book,’ I ventured to a Kylie momentarily caught precisely midway between a cynical world and a romantic one, ‘locate us somewhere, I hope beautifully, midway between the slight and the complete, between the incomplete and the deep.’

Kylie fainted. I think my audacity had penetrated the barrier of fame that separated her from everyday speculation, and had caused a couple of vital wires to snap. She had a way of fainting in slow motion that was both alarming and alluring. I had to explain that, yes, the list often just a nice way of passing the time, of showing of the hipness of your choices, a sketchy part of a self-portrait, a way of wallowing in a bubbly nostalgia that returns you to a simpler, sweeter time, of trying to contain sheer chaos in little patches of consoling order, of making plans for a future that seems so blank and featureless you have to impose shape on it by transferring things in easily wrapped packages. Lists help you believe that there will be a future – by reminding you that the things you are listing have happened, in a time that was once a future, and that therefore there will be a future where things will happen that can then be listed and taken forward to remind us of a past where stuff was generated that made us believe there is a present and so, ultimately a future.”

Words and Music, Paul Morley

Which is the best preamble I can think of to my obligatory last.fm rolling yearly top 20 (sort-of) chart of albums:

1 Tunng – This is… Tunng: Mothers Daughter and other Tales
18
2 Sigur Rós – Agaetis Byrjun
17
3 Jim Noir – Tower Of Love
16
4 808 State – 808:88:98
14
5 Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene
9
5 Richard Hawley – Coles Corner
9
7 Hot Chip – The Warning
8
8 Television – Marquee Moon
7
8 Sébastien Tellier – Sebastien Tellier Sessions
7
10 Viva Voce – The Heat Can Melt Your Brain
6
10 Gorillaz – Demon Days
6
12 Grandaddy – Excerpts From the Diary of Todd Zilla
5
13 Various Artists – Lost in Translation
4
13 Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (Deluxe Edition) (disc 2)
4
13 Gary Jules – Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets
4
13 The Auteurs – New Wave
4
13 The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning, Strike
4
13 The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers
4
19 Brian Eno – Before and After Science
3
19 Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
3
19 Wilco – A Ghost Is Born
3
19 Mull Historical Society – Us
3
19 Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans
3
19 Charlotte Hatherley – Grey Will Fade
3
19 We Are Scientists – With Love and Squalor

And top ten tracks

1 Television – Marquee Moon
7
2 Justice Vs Simian – We Are Your Friends (Radio Edit)
6
3 Nick Drake – One of These Things First
5
3 The Automatic – Monster
5
3 Sébastien Tellier – La Ritournelle
5
6 Sigur Rós – Intro
4
6 Jim Noir – Key of C
4
6 Sébastien Tellier – Fantino
4
6 Arctic Monkeys – When the Sun Goes Down
4
6 Belle and Sebastian – Funny Little Frog
4

By comparing both of them, it’s clear that my last.fm usage is a reflection of where my music is – i.e. I listen to last.fm a lot at work, where I have very little music stored on my hard-drive(s).

There’s a smattering of iTms purchases which tend to be earworms I need to purchase and listen to immediately, DRM-be-damned. In this category I would place Justice Vs Simian’s ‘We are your friends’, ‘Monster’ by The Automatic and ‘Key of C’ by Jim Noir.

Sidenote: it is extremely gratifying for the reader of Paul Morley’s ‘Words and Music’ to find while referencing the wikipedia definition of ‘earworm’ that it’s first example of an earworm in popular culture is ‘I can’t get you out of my head’ by Kylie Minogue.

There are also things revealing of deeper needs, flaws and habits here – but again related to place. I often have a overwhelming need to play Television’s ‘Marquee Moon’ loudly on my speakers when everyone else have left my little bit of the office – which is well represented here.

It’s also clear that aside from these ‘hits’ that I placed on heavy-rotation I spent most of my listening year in my own long-tail, as it were. Heh – I think I might be disappearing up my own buzzword there. Ahem.

Revealing, in review, in terms of Last.fm’s character: it’s radio-station metaphor seems to have a powerful hold on me. I walk away from it, I leave it running, I come back to it.

There’s an implicit ‘passivity’ pitch: ‘just enjoy the music, it’ll be exactly what you want’ which belies the activity you have to invest in it: rating, banning, skipping.

To quote Paul Morley again, the list is a way: ‘of showing of the hipness of your choices’ but a last.fm list is a mix of my choices, a machines choices and a multiplication of the two via the choices of others.

When I look at this list I see things that have a high rating that I would never actively ‘select’ e.g. Gary Jules (Gary Bloody Jules?! That’s putting a major dent in the ‘hipness of my choices’) but have probably played to no listener and multiplied their way up the list each time they have sung to no-one but the database.

So presenting a last.fm list of your year can feel an oddly-outsourced form of self-portraiture. A partly ghost-written musical memoire.

Yet – there are some gratifying things there – things which I discovered through last.fm and social-music-discovery-technology (clumsy!) – like Broken Social Scene, Tunng, Sufjan Stevens (late to the party on all three, another hole in the hipness of my choices…)

Richard Hawley ranks highly too – one of the albums which I think I always played as an album – a rare thing in this shuffle-culture, and also one that on a road-trip to West Wales I found that myself, my wife and my father all enjoyed. Again – rare!

So the list ends, 2006 ends – but last.fm keeps on cataloguing, “reminding you that the things you are listing have happened, in a time that was once a future, and that therefore there will be a future..”

Happy new year!

0 comments
  1. Maiken said:

    Spoilt your rather credible list with your silly obsession over the oh so vacuous Kylie reference.Do you ever write anything without going on and on and on about that bland glimp?

  2. Matt said:

    Umm. I think you might have missed the fact I was quoting Paul Morley’s book ‘Words and Music’. I think *I* may have missed the over-mentioning of Kylie in seven or so years of writing here…

  3. Jeremy said:

    imagine… so, if the uploaders are right, the afterlife (v0.1Beta) ends up being a non-stop screensaver of all those youtube vids you watched, with your lastfm tracks cycling in the background.. the list slowly growing as associations grow. lol.

  4. Jem said:

    Oh how i love Richard Hawley. Good call.

  5. Iain said:

    I love that Tunng album. Only discovered it a few weeks ago so I’m late to the game. As normal.

    But there’s an awesome compilation called Folk Off (ha ha) put together by Rob da Bank which has a great cover of Pioneers by Bloc Party done by Tunng.

    Get it. You’ll like it – judging by the stuff in your list.

  6. Words and music. Probably one of the best books on popular music written. Few years ago mind🙂

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