2020

I have gotten into the habit of documenting my listening habits over the spaces of time to seeing if I could glean anything meaningful from those statistics. With over 500 unique albums listened to over the course of 2020 I had some sifting and sorting to do.

So…?

Did I?

Did I find anything worth writing about? I think there are some insights that can be gleaned from these lists. For instance, which albums did I listen to the most based on the year they were originally released?

The top spot in that category was taken by the year 2020 with 96 unique albums listened to. This statistic did not surprise me in the least because I like listening to new music. Second place was 2019 with a significant drop to a mere 19 albums, not as many as 2020 but these were still relatively fresh and deserving of another spin around the turntable.

For third place I took a big jump back to 1971 and 1978 with 18 albums released in each of those years that I listened to. The next three most listened to years are all in the 1970s, which came as no surprise to me. In 1970 I turned 16, got a summer job and bought some records with the money from my first foray into the working world. In 1973 I graduated from high school and two days later got a full-time job with a decent salary that helped feed my appetite for music. After the 1970’s my listening jumped all over the place from 1958 to the present.

The next stat is for how I listened to all that music. Thanks to Covid-19 and isolating at home I decided to go through our vinyl collection, starting at A and going through the alphabet. I didn’t listen to every album but I did listen to 210 slabs of vinyl. iTunes came in second with 146 albums that I listened to. I only listened to three cassette tapes in 2020 and no 8-track or reel to reel tapes. I should mention that these statistics are all for full albums, I do not keep statistics for single releases or album samples.

The next category is for the most listened to artist in 2020, and the winner is Pink Floyd, with eight albums in 2020 that I listened to. ‘A Momentary Lapse of Reason’ was the only album with two listens, which is interesting to me because I am a huge DSotM fan, 1973 right!

A line of hospital beds stretch into the distance on an overcast beach. A man sits on one bed holding a mirror. The sky is slightly purple.

Second place was Daniel Amos with eight albums and two listens to their album ‘Mr. Buechner’s Dream’. These two come as no surprise to myself or anyone who knows me, the two artists are longstanding favourites for me.

The most listened to album goes to ‘Greatest Hits’ by Various Artists. This happens every year, for some reason I like listening to compilation albums such as this one from K-Tel, which I bought in 1973 from the Hudson’t Bay store in Grande Cache shortly after I graduated from high school, if my memory serves me well there were only about a dozen of us in the grad class.

After that there was a log jam for the most listened to albums of 2020 with these all tying for the top spot:

‘Hermit of Mink Hollow’ by Todd Rundgren

‘Lateralus’ by Tool

‘Shades of Deep Purple’ by Deep Purple

‘Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs’ by Colter Wall

‘The Beatles’ by The Beatles, aka ’The White Album’.

The final observation is for the 2020 album of the year award.

Wait, I don’t do album of the year awards.

What we do have are some of my favourite listens from 2020, with a heavy emphasis on the word some.

Bob Dylan: ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’. I saw him live in concert in 2017 and that was not a pleasant experience, this album restored Dylan to my good books.

Gwenifer Raymond: ‘Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain’. I had never heard of her before this album came out, and now I can’t stop listening her. An achingly beautiful album.

Colter Wall – ‘Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs’

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1280px-westernswingswaltzes.jpeg

Colter Wall came roaring out of Saskatchewan playing honest country and western music and with this, his third release, he builds on what the first two laid down and then upped the ante.

Speaking of good C&W music, Sturgill Simpson – ‘Cuttin’ Grass ‘, entertained me for hours.

Sturgill Simpson is like Colter Wall in that I have been listening to his music since he released his first album back in 2013. His newest, ‘Cuttin’ Grass’ is both a departure and a return. It is different from his last release and similar to his first. I have played this on vinyl, and it sounds incredible.

Lucinda Williams – ‘Good Souls Better Angels’ I am a latecomer to Lucinda Williams’s music but having found it I only want to hear more and this release sounds might fine.

Neil Young – ‘Homegrown’ I have been listening to Neil Young’s music since the day before forever. This is reminiscent of some of his early stuff, more acoustic and folky.

Steve Earle and the Dukes – ‘Ghosts of West Virginia’ All I knew about Steve Earle was his big hits, Guitar Town and Copperhead Road. Until last year, when I started streaming some of his music, and then this album came out and now I have my ear glued to his music.

The Avett Brothers – ‘The Third Gleam’ I keep ‘Emotionalism’ and ‘The Carpenter’ in fairly steady rotation, at least once a year and now this recording will start that round dance with them.

Colter Wall, Sturgill Simpson, Lucinda Williams, Neil Young, Steve Earle and The Avett Brothers are all to the Country and Western music of today in same way that Willie and Waylon and the boys were to the Nashville establishment back in the ”70s. Outlaw country isn’t dead; it’s alive and well in the hands of folks such as these.

Kronos Quartet & Friends – ‘Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet & Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger’ The Kronos Quartet hasn’t laid down a lousy album, ever. This record is story telling at its finest.

Shabaka and the Ancestors: ‘We Are Sent Here By History’ This album is jazz, new jazz, attention-getting jazz. Smooth and raw and emotional. It is good music, nothing more and nothing less. I also nominate this for album artwork of the year. It is stark but it conveys a message by forcing us to focus on what is shown.

This brought to mind the album cover of ‘Unknown Pleasures’ by Joy Division, stark but striking in the same way. I also listen to ‘Unknown Pleasures’ frequently.

I hope you have enjoyed your 2020 musical experience, if nothing else it provided a soundtrack to the year through the gift of music. Some of these albums created a distraction away from the shit show that 2020 was. Demi Lovato created the best commentary on 2020 with her song ‘Commander In Chief.’ Music also provided more than a few moments of pure pleasure. For each of the artists in this list and to all of the artists that I listened to but who didn’t make the final cut, thank you.

pee.s. this picture disc was number 500 for 2020

Twenty Nineteen In My Rearview Mirror

Music Book That I Enjoyed In 2019

 Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life by Steve Almond

Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life

New Release That I Enjoyed In 2019

 Schlagenheim by Black Midi. I realize that this album may not be for everyone but it was good for me and to me. The video is a runner up for my favourite of the year:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rc3LSW_XTwI

They are fresh, different and incredibly good musicians that I want to see live, perhaps on my next trip to the U.K.

Black Midi

Most Listened to New Release Of 2019

 III by The Lumineers, this album grabbed my ears and I didn’t want to stop listening. I think it may be because of the content of the songs, they are built around the stories of people struggling with addiction, which creates struggles with relationships, and struggles with life in general. I could relate to what I was hearing and that encouraged me to hear it again, and again. In fact, I am going to listen to it again right now.

III Lumineers

Most Listened to Album

 The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 by Bob Dylan, for some reason 2019 was the year of Bob Dylan. Perhaps I was trying to erase the memory of his live concert at Calgary in 2017 which left a dirty taste in my mouth. Anyhow, I listened to this CD set over and over and over. For a Dylan fan, it is a very well done time capsule of his early years as a recording artist, we find him trying out some folk standards alongside some new material. It may not be the best recording if you are a new fan of Dylan, but for a long time fan such as myself, this was a very rewarding listen.

Witmark Demos

Most Listened To Artist With A New Release In 2019

 Tool. Their album of the year, Inoculum, was a close second to III by the Lumineers, but Tool was the most listened to artist because after multiple listens to Inoculum I would then listen to their back catalogue and then I would return to Inoculum which meant that as, an artist, Tool achieved the most listens by any single artist of 2019.

Tool Inoculum

Best Album Artwork/Packaging

Tool, Fear Inoculum. A double winner and justifiably so, the music and package worked together and were so well crafted that it would be a sin to not mention is.

Most Listened To Artist Of Any Year

 Bob Dylan, it was a runaway this year, I listened to him twice as many times as the second-place artist.

Most Listened To Band Of Any Year

 King Crimson, they edged out Pink Floyd this year even allowing for the viewing of Roger Waters: Us + Them (Film Screening) @ Cineplex South Edmonton October 2, 2019. I only listened to two King Crimson albums twice, the other dozen listens were of a dozen different recordings by the band, yeah, I do like them a bit. I was also influenced by seeing them live again this year.

Most Listened To Format

 I would have bet that I listened to more streaming music including Apple music but to my surprise, I listened to more music on CDs than any other format. Apple Music came in second and LPs were third.

Music Video Of 2019 That I Liked

 I don’t watch a lot of music videos but here is one that I did watch, multiple times, and I enjoyed it every time I watched it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNKD6TstzUk

Music Video From Any Year That I Still Like

 Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel, this is still an amazing video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJWJE0x7T4Q

Pleasant Surprise Of The Year

 Close Talker presents Immersion: (3d-360 Headphone Concert) @ Art Gallery of Alberta on August 6, 2019. This is brand new tech and I was grateful to be one of the first to hear it. I walked in there not knowing what to expect and walked out in awe. This is another one that I can not put into words, you have to hear it live to appreciate it.

Event Of The Year

 Moonshot Phonographs Grand Unveiling Party @ Moonshot Phonographs April 13, 2019, check them out: https://moonshotphonographs.com/

I am so happy that my good friend, Todd, got the vinyl printing press up and running.

Moonshot_Est._2017

Concert Of The Year

 A tie for this category which is no surprise because I walkout at the end of just about every concert saying it was the best. Many of the shows I saw this year were the best, unfortunately, many of them were only the best for a day. There were two however that kept their glow:

King Crimson @ Royal Albert Hall in London England on June 20, 2019, this one was a Christmas present and I loved every minute of the show in a venue that was actually on my bucket list of places to take in a concert. So many wonderful acts have graced the stage and now I can say that I was there. This was my second time to see King Crimson live, the first was in Calgary at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in 2015 and both shows were mind-blowing good. They remain a favourite of mine after many, many years of listening.

Review: King Crimson at the Royal Albert Hall | Times2 ... 

Godspeed You! Black Emperor w/Kevin Doria @ Starlite Room August 27, 2019, was the other show that topped this category. They are an amazing collective of amazing musicians that held me spellbound from the moment they graced the stage till the moment they walked off. This wasn’t just a music concert, it was an event. The lighting was provided by four projectors at the back of the house, we were right beside them, that a very talented gentleman used to such good effect that he should by all rights be listed as a member of the band. I can’t describe it in mere words, you had to be there, if they come back to Edmonton grab some tickets, I will be there for sure.

In Summary

 Twenty Nineteen was a good year for music. It started slowly with only a handful of live shows here and there and not many new releases that hooked their riffs into me, but the pace gradually crept up through the summer and it ended up being another good year for music in my sphere of listening. There were numerous live shows and way too many albums that deserve to be on year-end lists, but I don’t want to bore you to tears by listing them all here. You can check out our live show compendium at WeatheredMusic.ca and if you want to know everything that I have listened to this year send me an email and I can send the list with all the albums, 567 so far but I have 10 more days to go as I write this. Bon voyage, I am off to see 20-20.

 

Norman’s Summer Music

 I finished reading David Bowie’s biography by Marc Spitz. It was a good read with plenty of references to songs that I liked listening to while reading the book, which is tricky because I only read the book in my car and I don’t distract and drive. Anyhoo, that’s another story for another day, let’s just say for now that I listened to Bowie over the last couple of months which brings us to the topic of this posting. Namely, what have I been listening to lately?

summer-songs-gathering-beauty

 Bowie, mostly his early to mid-career tunes. Space Oddity from his eponymous second album is still a great listen. Aladdin Sane is such a nice play on words, and The Jean Genie is as catchy today as it was in 1973, which is saying a lot because 1973 was the year I became a Drooling Fanatic (page 7 of Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life by Steve Almond).

 I think I started into Bowie in July, just back from a jaunt to London where I scored Alladin Sane on vinyl.

 These lads are insane. black midi, with their album Schlagenheim. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rc3LSW_XTwI

   I also scored Sons of Kemet, Your Queen Is A Reptile. Fresh sounds from the London jazz scene, thanks to Rough Trade Records.

 What else have I been listening to? Lots of New Wave (ish) music. Nick Lowe, Soft Cell, The Psychedelic Furs, That Petrol Emotion, etc. The mid to late eighties new wave scene has been on my playlists since, well, the mid to late eighties.

 Another band that never leaves my playlists are The Pink Floyd. I saw David Gilmore Live at Pompei on the big screen and then Roger Waters Us and Them on tour, on the big screen again, and in between those two stellar movies I read Nick Mason’s book, Inside Out. Which was as good as the movies, just a slower format.

 Another perennial favourite of mine is King Crimson, who I was very fortunate to see live at The Royal Albert Hall in London. And of course, I came home with hard copies of their music so I can keep listening to them.

 The Barr Brothers, saw them live and bought their CD’s and would pay to see them again.

 Flash And The Pan, a group from Australia that I keep playing at least once a year. The song Hey St. Peter is a favourite of mine.

 Talking Heads, Tom Waits, Joy Division, Tonio K., Van Morrison, Decemberists, Lifesavers, Michael Knott, The Swirling Eddies, Frank Zappa, … and the list goes on. A good chunk of this music dates me but I am comfortable with that.

 We Are The City, I liked them live. Spiritualized, And Nothing Hurt, a great piece of music. Nuella Charles, some very good homegrown talent on our homegrown vinyl plant, https://moonshotphonographs.com/.

 Low Roar, one of the best live shows I have ever seen and a darn good recording to boot. 

 Syd Arthur, tough to find hard copies of anything they have recorded but I managed to score Apricity on CD this summer.

 Godspeed You! Black Emperor, an amazing show, simply amazing. Their records are good but live… I don’t have enough superlatives.

 Russian Circles, a really good show that satisfied my heavy metal craving for that month. Best crowd award goes to the metalheads that were there that night.

 The Needs, some good Scandinavian power pop. Völuspa, aka Kirsten Knick delivers some Scandinavian synth-driven pop music.

 Rhye. I don’t know where to start. The spelling, yes that is spelled correctly, Rhye. The show, it was mesmerizing. I love it when all the ingredients come together and make the two hours fly by so fast it seems like the show just started, please don’t stop now!

 Cody Jinks. His new album, After The Fire, got me hooked on him and I went on a binge listening to his back catalogue. I am hooked on him now and I hope he tours up here in the great white north much like another country rebel, Sturgill Simpson, who also dropped another great album.

 Last but not least, The Lumineers, III. This album struck a chord with me due to its subject matter of addiction and messy lives.

So, that’s my summer and early fall listening, a new blog will be coming out early next week. Snapshot reviews. Until then, happy listening my friends.