A year end list

January 1, 2015

2014 wasn’t a lot of fun for me personally. It had its highlights- most of them involving travel and the chance to get away from the daily drudgery. A trip to Paris, a couple of short escapes to Wales and most memorably, ten wonderful days in the Outer Hebrides kept me going, but on the whole 2014 was about a lot of hard work in my day job since I was daft enough to get myself a promotion of sorts, and a lot of worry and concern about the health of those near and dear to me. I enter 2015 weary, and yet filled with the hope that the pressures that saw me less involved with music over the last year might be easing and that I may now get a little more time with my wonderfully patient partner Julie, more time to spend with music, and with those friends in and around it that I have seen little of in recent months. Here’s hoping for renewed regular activity at this blog and in the pages of The Wire, the rebirth of my beleaguered CD label and one or two other projects alongside. We shall see…

Away from music, to anyone even faintly right-minded 2014 was not a good year to be around this increasingly depressing country. The way that racism, ignorance and blatant pigheaded stupidity has shifted so quickly from a minority sideshow to the genuine, if unfathomable threat of UKIP has left me lost for words. Not only am I genuinely shocked at how breathtakingly stupid my fellow countrymen can be, but also how shamelessly, guiltlessly cruel they can be at the same time. With only the ever present brilliance of Stewart Lee to keep a light burning for common sense my non-musical cultural activities this year have been mostly looking backwards to literature and classic painting, with my reading list basically being a collection of items that my friend Patrick just can’t believe I haven’t already read and a few traditional Italian cookbooks. I have indeed spent a lot of time cooking this last year. Apologies to those that noticed I almost permanently smell of garlic these days and apologies to Julie for not shutting up about herbs…

Despite the dearth of output from me regarding new music, I think I probably took more of it in over the last year than in any other given year. Not writing as much, not spending so much time thinking about music and instead just listening to it was actually in many ways a real pleasure, and I really heard a lot of it. Although there are still in the region of fifty or so albums still in their shrinkwrap here awaiting my attention I still managed to listen to five or six times that number, and I have to say that to these ears, 2014 was a really strong year for good music. I’m not really a fan of end of year lists, really hating the idea of ranking one CD against another and much preferring to share far more of my thoughts about a piece of music than just placing it on a thumbs up list. However as I didn’t actually write all that much about the music I loved in 2014 it does seem fitting as a consequence to put together a list of everything I really would have liked to have been able to spill my inevitable hyperbole over if time and energy had allowed. I sent a list of ten favourites to The Wire back in October, but of course this was far too early and I forgot enough to write two or three more charts besides. So I tried to sit down today and get a list of twenty absolute favourites together but found that I couldn’t shave the shortlist down below thirty. Such has been the quality of music released this year. So there follows a list of thirty discs I can wholeheartedly get behind. I could probably add another twenty on top but a list of fifty seems just too much of an arrogant extravagance, even for me. I have also numbered the list, a move I will doubtlessly regret, and thoroughly encourage you to ignore as by this time tomorrow I will have changed my mind entirely, but as one or two people have graciously asked me to try and present some kind of ranked list I have done my best.

May I take this opportunity to thank every musician or label that has shared their music with me in 2014. To show such faith in me despite my limited output is a noble act that leaves me humble and extremely grateful. I apologise for not replying to every email or for not saying thank you to every handwritten note slipped inside a jiffy bag. I hope I am able to do much better with this kind of thing in 2015.

Favourites from 2014….

**Edit: The list is now 31 long, as I had originally committed Ryoko Akama’s Code of Silence, thinking it dated from 2013.

  1. Marc Baron – Hidden Tapes (Potlatch)
  2. Haptic – Abeyance (Entr’acte)
  3. Jürg Frey – Jürg Frey (Musiques Suisses)
  4. Morton Feldman – Two pianos and other pieces (Another Timbre)
  5. AMM – Place Sub. V. (Matchless)
  6. Rhodri Davies – An air swept clean of all distance (Alt.Vinyl)
  7. Ryoko Akama – Code of Silence (Melange Edition)
  8. Tomas Korber with Konus Quartett – Musik für ein feld (Cubus)
  9. Jean-Luc Guionnet, Eric LaCasa – Home: Handover (Potlatch)
  10. Keith Rowe – The Art of War (aSB)
  11. Michael Pisaro – Continuum Unbound (Gravity Wave)
  12. Jürg Frey, Radu Malfatti – II (Erstwhile)
  13. Luciano Maggiore, Enrico Malatesta – Talabalacco (Consumer Waste)
  14. Jamie Drouin, Lance Austin Olsen – Sometimes we all disappear (Another Timbre)
  15. Eva-Maria Houben – Six sonatas for piano (Diafani)
  16. Angharad Davies – Six Studies (Confront)
  17. Michael Pisaro – White Metal, Pisaro/Prado Version (Senufo)
  18. Chris Strickland – Animal Expert (Caduc)
  19. Joseph Clayton Mills – The Patient (Entr’acte)
  20. Klaus Lang – Sais (Maria De Alvear World Edition)
  21. Vanessa Rossetto – Whole Stories (Kye)
  22. Jürg Frey – Pianist, Alone (Irritable Hedgehog)
  23. Catherine Lamb – Matter/Moving (Windsmeasure)
  24. Lucio Capece – Factors of space constancy (Drone sweet drone)
  25. Ferran Fages, Ernesto Rodrigues – Cru (Creative Sources)
  26. VA AA LR – Newhaven (Organised Music from Thessaloniki)
  27. Michael Pisaro White Metal, Panzner, Stuart version. (Makam)
  28. John Butcher, Rhodri Davies – Routing Lynn (Ftarri)
  29. Coppice – Vantage/Cordoned (Caduc)
  30. Kevin Drumm – Trouble (Editions Mego)
  31. Michael Francis Duch – Tomba Emmanuelle (Sofa)

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