Tag Archives: reflection

The Music I Listened To in 2017: (#24-1)

I listened to 544.66 hours of music on Spotify this year – about 13 full-time workweeks – and captured all the data with Last.fm. The ranking is ordered by how many times I listened to a song by the artist, with #1 claiming the most listens.

My top 50-25 artists were published in the last post. So here, without further ado, are the rest of them.

My #24-1 most listened artists of 2017:

24. Anderson .Paak
.Paak may have crept into the top 50% of my artists this year on the strength of his NPR Tiny Desk concert alone. I probably watched it 30 times this year. His record ‘Malibu’ is great too.

23. Jon Hopkins
Surreal soundscapes that thrive on simplicity. Hopkins can have an impact as strong as an artist who goes five times as loud because of the clarity of his compositions.

22. Eric Satie
When I picture the streets of Paris in my mind, a Gymnopedie by Satie plays in the background along with the image. A more formidable critic could even trace a line from Satie across the century to my previous entry, Jon Hopkins.

21. BADBADNOTGOOD
After compulsively listening to their first studio album for months, I got to see BBNG perform live this year. They’re full of young, raw talent and I’ll be waiting to see how they develop.

20. The xx
I haven’t gotten into the newer work by the xx, but their first album stays in my rotation. There’s so much heart in their songs.

19. Oddisee
Homegrown D.C. hip-hop instrumentalist Oddisee has a classic track about biking through the city, and a lot of other chill tunes that sound like home to me.

18. Lapalux
Lapalux’s ‘Lustmore‘ is a couple years old, but it wins the ‘sexiest thing I listened to in 2017’ award. Discovered by way of the tracks featuring Andreya Triana & Szjerdene, known to me from their work with Bonobo.

17. Mac Quayle
I haven’t watched any of the latest season of the TV show Mr. Robot, but I have continued listening to the soundtrack while I’m working to force a quality of suspense to all the hum-drum shit I have to do.

16. Jack Johnson
Jack’s easy, happy songs feel ageless, even 15 years after the first time someone recommended him to me – I remember it clearly as one of the sincerest recommendations I’ve ever been given.

15. Yppah
I don’t really know anything about Yppah – if I had to guess, one day Spotify recommended it based on my listening to Tycho. OK, computer, you have figured me out. I’ve been returning to ‘Eighty-One’ a lot this year.

14. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Nine Inch Nails were hugely popular when I was in high school, but I only came to appreciate them years later. This year I’ve been playing the soundtrack to the film ‘The Social Network’ on repeat, and it makes perfect background music for watching polite society immolate itself on Facebook in 2017.

13. Steve Reich
Learning about and listening to Reich this year was kind of a milestone for me – a lesson I taught myself in what I was capable of enjoying. I guess I’ve always been more of a pop and rock fan, so this kind of neo-minimal-classical is a brave new world to me.

12. Thelonius Monk
At the end of some long workdays, driving home through the city, the only recording I want to hear is ‘Round About Midnight.’ Monk sounds like those minutes after the daily grind is over but life keeps buzzing all around.

11. The Roots
The legendary. I don’t watch the Fallon show, despite their nightly presence as the house band, but I go back to their records over and over. ‘What They Do’ is still as fresh & powerful to me as it was when I first heard it 20 years ago.

10. Odesza
I learned about Odesza by hearing them on the ‘Song Exploder’ podcast, as they explained the genesis of the song ‘Kusanagi.’ The song turns out to be completely unlike the rest of their catalog, but I really enjoyed getting into their music this year. So much happy energy.

9. Nick Drake
There are some nights in the Summer when there’s a full moon and the world is quiet and the only music that should be played at that moment is Nick Drake. There are lots of other moments when it’s OK to listen to Nick Drake, too.

8. Igor Stravinsky
As a contrast to Debussy’s soft piano work, I got into Stravinsky’s challenging violin concertos this year. Thanks to Alex Ross’s tremendous book ‘The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century‘ I learned a lot about Igor, and now understand how I’m hearing echoes of him in jazz and rock.

7. Claude Debussy
Debussy emerged as my favorite composer as I went deeper than usual with my interest in classical music this year. I’m not at the level of discerning which renditions I prefer, or which orchestras I like, or anything like that – but ‘Claire de Lune’ is the most beautiful composition I listened to in 2017, 112 years after it was first published.

6. Wolf Alice
What an amazing discovery Wolf Alice was for me this year. On the strength of their appearance on the Trainspotting 2 soundtrack, they slid into my top ten. I just caught their concert last weekend and Ellie Roswell & Co were just as brilliant live as they are on record.

5. Tycho
There are not many artists I’d rather listen to than Tycho when I’m feeling good and optimistic and bright about the future of the world. They sound like a self-help book without any words, in a completely non-corny way, if that makes any sense. The latest record is a year old now, so let’s keep ’em coming guys.

4. Foals
Has it really been two years since ‘What Went Down’ came out? It still feels new every time I spin it – but don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see a new record from Foals in 2018. As strong as ‘WWD’ was, I probably listened to ‘Total Life Forever’ even more this year.

3. Little Dragon
I had the pleasure of seeing Little Dragon perform live for the first time this year. I started writing a blog post about it, but really just couldn’t find words. If Super Mario, Janet Jackson, Pink Floyd and Lady Gaga came together to form a super group, they still couldn’t come up with what Little Dragon does.

2. Bonobo
Meeting Simon Green & Co. as they toured the U.S. this Summer was a highlight of my year. Readers of my blog will know how much I appreciate them. I listened to their new Grammy-nominated album exhaustively in 2017 and will continue to do so for years to come.

1. The Beatles
I know, they’ve been around for a few years. I’m a little late to the party. I started going deep on the Beatles last year after watching Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Love’ performance in Las Vegas, which remains one of the most incredible live entertainment experiences I’ve ever had. This year I read Bob Spitz’s tremendous (and enormous) biography, and I had to listen along with every anecdote. Their story and their music goes beyond inspiration and into something else – an earnest belief that all you really need is love.

ode to a Cat

Twelve years ago, one of my high school English teachers congratulated me on graduating, and gave me a thoughtful gift that I still appreciate – poems by Neruda. Now its cover is warped and pages are faded, but I’ve nearly memorized my favorite verse from the collection:  ‘Oda al Gato’

For no reason other than cats are awesome, here’s a (translated) excerpt:

“your kind
need not puzzle us, surely –
you, the least of the mysteries
abroad in the world, known to us all, the pawn
of the lowliest householder –
or they think so! –
for each calls himself master,
proprietor, playfellow,
cat’s uncle, colleague,
the pupils of cats
or their cronies.

Not I:
I reckon things otherwise.
I shall never unriddle the cat.
I take note of the other things: life’s archipelagoes,
the sea, the incalculable city,
botanical matters,
the pistil, the pistil’s mutations,
plus-and-minus arithmetic,
volcanoes that funnel the earth
the improbable rind of the crocodile,
the fireman’s unheeded benevolence,
the atavist blue of the clergyman-
but never the cat!
We do not concern him: our reasoning boggles,
and his eyes give their numbers in gold.”

 

When I’m hanging out with my cat (London, seen above) I really feel Neruda’s words. London doesn’t want to be a human, or dinosaur, or anything else. He doesn’t care about wearing pants. He has serious business to attend to, all the time. I don’t know what it is – but it’s serious.

His most beloved way of attention-getting is the head-butt. If there is something he deems I should be paying attention to, head-butts are distributed until I comply.

If I’m sleeping in, and he decides I have better things to do, he plucks the strings on my guitar with his teeth until I’m awake. He has is own bed, and uses it often, but prefers sometimes to stage his dreams on top of mine, pawing his way into a cocoon on my pillow. His bed, my bed, the breakfast bar. Any flat surface will do. Naps are unscheduled and frequent.

Some cats aren’t friendly. They hide under the bed when company arrives, or they haunt their people from high perches, sneering down unlovingly. London is the opposite. He will climb your legs and shoulders at first introduction. He prefers to carefully screen any reading material I pick up before I can settle in with it, swatting at the pages, sprawling across the entire book.

I don’t know what chorus he learned it from, but many afternoons a concert takes place in the bathtub. Merrroooh, Murraww, Meereew, he sings – it bounces off the bare tiles, loudly. When he isn’t singing, sometimes he is annoyed, and then his voice is inexplicably an exact replica of Marge Simpson’s groan – Mrhhrrmmmmmhh.

Sometimes I wonder how his memory works. If he sees a suitcase start filling up with clothes, it becomes abundantly clear that he is Not O.K. with anyone leaving, even if it’s been months since the last time he saw a suitcase. But on a regular basis, he needs a soft reminder that eating my plants is an offense punishable by water bottle squirting.

He used to live with his brother, Paris, but they are now separate. As kittens they got along famously, but they’ve now been apart for a few years. I’m curious what kind of a reunion they might have. Would it be, “Oh, hey bro, good to see you again”…? Or something more like “I’m going to pee right now, on this carpet, so you know that I belong here and you don’t.”

Head-butting is a great attention-getter, and he employs it often. But he can also work below the radar to let humans know where the power really lies.

Coming home a few years ago to my apartment, after a long workday, I found some of my neighbors outside talking with a group of firefighters. Someone had left their gas burner on, and filled the building up with noxiousness. It wasn’t me, of course, because I am Super Responsible.

But… walking inside, and finding my apartment door open, I was shocked. It was coming from my apartment. I hadn’t used the stove in days – how was this possible?

London winked at me from the corner. The knob on the stove had been turned by his little paw, just enough to start up the gas without a flame. In his innocent leaps and bounds across my kitchen appliances, harmlessly searching for a snack, my furry friend had made an invitation to the fire department.

I’ve since forgiven him. What choice do I have? Not only did he maintain my favor, but I continue to shovel his poop from a box of sand whenever he decides its necessary.

When he’s scrunched up into a little cat-ball, quietly looking through the window out upon the wild, vast expanse of the patio, eyes wide open, fixed intently on this, and then that, and then another thing – something must be on his mind. But as Neruda said, I’m not going to be the guy who finally unriddles it.