December 17, 2011
It’s mid-December, I think I have one review of the year post in me, and as you can see, that one review is of the year in music. So, on with remarks about music itself, and about how I access it these days.
I’m old-fashioned enough that I listen mainly to albums, rather than to say, playlists. Among many 2011 albums I enjoyed, three stand out. If I had to choose a favorite, it would be Bright Eyes’ The People’s Key. If I had to choose a best, I would wonder what I meant by that, and decide that it was something to do with being likely to feature on best of the decade lists when they appear. Then I’d go for PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake. Cults’ self-titled debut is the third of my picks.
Each of these three is among the top 25 albums of the year as chosen by listeners to the NPR show All Songs Considered. I hope that doesn’t make me too predictable: at least none of my three was higher than number 20. NPR Music has been a big part of my listening this year.
If you like album of the year lists, check out Metacritic’s meta-list, derived from “year-end Top Ten lists published by major music critics and publications.” PJ Harvey and Bon Iver seem to have first and second place, respectively, sewn up. If you really like music of the year lists, check out Largehearted Boy’s list of online music lists.
So, how to listen to albums these days? When I buy an album, it’s almost always in the form of a download. It’s usually from Amazon, since I get an immediate download, further downloads if I need another copy, and access via a Cloud Player stream from pretty much any device I might be using. I also use Google Music, in a “let’s try the service out, and may as well have yet another copy of the album somewhere” way.
If I want to listen to a whole album without buying or even downloading it, I usually use Spotify. I use the free version, and so can’t run Spotify on my iPad or Android. Here’s a Spotify playlist, with a track from each of the three albums I mentioned above – plus “Suck It and See”, since that seems like a good sentiment with which to kick off a sampler playlist, and I like the Arctic Monkeys and their new album.
I wish I could review some live music, but I don’t get out to see much live music these days. Nevertheless, it was a good year to be a music lover.
February 14, 2011
Arcade Fire won the Grammy for album of the year (via HuffPo and lots of other places). Are they indie? Sort of. Did they deserve it? Well, it’s a very good album, and to criticize an album called The Suburbs for sprawling is perhaps to miss the point.
That said, I think that my album of the year was Laura Veirs’ July Flame. It was among my top 5 of the first 6 months of 2010, and overtook the midpoint front-runner by lasting particularly well. My favorite album released in the second half of the year was Lisbon, from The Walkmen.
Although there was no one release that told me in no uncertain terms that it was my album of the year, 2010 was a pretty good year in music. But it was, according to NPR and other sources, a very bad year for trying to sell music.
Which brings us to 2011, to Radiohead, and to their latest attempt to sell recorded music. I, and many others, will be downloading The King of Limbs in less than a week. The download, which costs $9, is one of two formats in which KoL will initially be available. The other is very analog, with two 10″ vinyl records, and lots of pieces of artwork. It also includes a digital download – and even a CD, to appease those stuck between the analog and download eras, and those who think that for $48 they should get a CD as well.
My album of 2011 so far is Bright Eyes’ The People’s Key, which will be released tomorrow. So today is the last day on which it can be streamed on NPR.