End-of-year lists: an appetite-whetter

For the last few years I’ve been in the habit of compiling CD-Rs of my favourite tracks of the previous eleven and a bit months. Or I don’t, depending whether that would get me into trouble with some over-sensitive music industry pricks. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t like just giving people copies of albums (unless they’re by genuinely big-selling artists on whom it really will have zero negative impact): I want to support the artists by getting my music off them legitimately. And that’s also the point of the CDs: I try to encourage people who like what they hear to buy the full album, and I have known people do this – so there you go, the rights and wrongs of copyright law in microcosm.

It also affects the rules for the compilations. My usual rules apply, of course: never start or end with a closing or ending track (even putting an opener last or album climax first) – the album proves those tracks work well at the start or end of a record, so it’s down to the compiler to do something more imaginative with the sequencing. For the end-of-year efforts, other rules apply: most particularly, the tracks must come from albums that are worthwhile as a whole – I would feel guilty about directing people to spend a tenner on a record when the track that persuaded them to buy it was the only good one on there (does anyone spend as much as a tenner on a record any more…?).

Further rules: generally only album tracks from albums released in the year in question are acceptable – a 2007 single release from a 2006 album has no place on the 2007 compilation, for instance. Occasionally a single from an album due to come out next year is OK… but it’s exceptional (hence, this year, Emmy the Great and Howling Bells are missed off – the albums are due in 2009, though the singles are great).

There are yet more complications: what about records I really like but don’t get until the following year? Should they feature on the next compilation? Well, maybe – but generally I struggle to fit all the good stuff on a single CD without these interlopers. Oh yeah, that’s another one – I could just send people a folder of MP3s, or even a data CD, but I always keep myself to the running length of a single disc. Them’s the rules.

Every year I despair that the choices are getting more and more mainstream and obvious, and featuring the same artists every few years. This is probably true – I can’t claim to be as obsessively adventurous, or indeed as adventurously obsessive, about music as I once was. Then again, when I offer them to colleagues at work, the reaction is almost invariably that they’ve never heard of any of it – which is probably why I do it, frankly.

Ah, distribution – another issue! I try and leave it until mid-December, so invariably some of the people I would ideally like to hand the CDs to for their interest (and as a slightly apologetic substitute for a present – I don’t do gifts or cards for the Sky-Bully’s birthday) I end up not seeing until February, by which time the whole thing seems a hollow and out of date charade. And even then I usually forget to carry any around with me. The physical form of the things is also an issue – I try to do little sleeves with a design on the front, a tracklist on the back and a few brief words about the year in music on the back. The latter always seems hopelessly inadequate, so this year I’m just putting the URL of a blog post below the tracklisting forthose who want to read about it all! And as an alternative to the CDs, I suppose I might prepare a zip folder of low-bitrate MP3s that people who know my email address can ask me for, and I’ll happily send it (amusingly, I mistyped that as “low-bitrate MPs” at first – is there any other kind?).

So, by way of a taster for this year’s tracklist, which I’ll finalise next week, here are the listings from the last three years (album and record label given in brackets).

2007

1. The Broken Family Band – Dancing on the 4th Floor (Hello Love, Track and Field)

2. Noisettes – IWE (What’s The Time, Mr Wolf?, Universal Motown)

3. Sharon Jones & The DapKings – 100 Days, 100 Nights (100 Days, 100 Nights,

Daptone Records)

4. Super Furry Animals – Run Away (Hey Venus!, Rough Trade)

5. Emma Pollock – Acid Test (Watch the Fireworks, 4AD)

6. Paris Motel – Catherine By The Sea (In the Salpetriere, Loose Music)

7. Immaculate Machine – Dear Confessor (Fables, Mint Records)

8. Radiohead – Reckoner (In Rainbows, MP3 Download)

9. Herman Dune – I Wish That I Could See You Soon (Giant, Source Etc.)

10. Shy Child – Drop the Phone (Noise Won’t Stop, Wall of Sound)

11. Sylvie Lewis – Of Course, Isabelle… (Translations, Cheap Lullaby Records)

12. Iron and Wine – Boy With A Coin (The Shepherd’s Dog, Transgressive)

13. Laura Veirs – Nightingale (Saltbreakers, Nonesuch)

14. Lady Sovereign – Gatheration (Public Warning, Universal)

15. The Crimea – The 48A Waiting Steps (Secrets of the Witching Hour, MP3 Download)

16. The Besnard Lakes – For Agent 13 (The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse, Jagjaguwar)

17. Feist – I Feel It All (The Reminder, Polydor)

18. Roadside Poppies – People Who Never Answer Surveys (One Day You Won’t Feel A Thing, MP3 Download)

19. The Shins – Phantom Limb (Wincing the Night Away, Transgressive)

20. Rilo Kiley – 15 (Under the Blacklight, Warner Bros)

21. Arcade Fire – Ocean of Noise (Neon Bible, Music Brokers)

2006

Camera Obscura – If Looks Could Kill (Let’s Get Out of This Country, Elefant)

MJ Hibbett and the Validators – The Fight for History (We Validate!, Artists Against Success)

The Pipettes – Pull Shapes (We Are The Pipettes, Memphis Industries)

Paul Burch – John Peel (East to West, Bloodshot)

Flipron – Dogboy Vs Monsters (Biscuits for Cerberus, Tiny Dog)

The Long Blondes – Separated by Motorways (Someone to Drive You Home, Rough Trade)

The Handsome Family – Flapping Your Broken Wings (Last Days of Wonder, Carrot Top)

Colonel Bastard – Phone Box (MP3 download, http://www.colonelbastard.com)

The Hidden Cameras – Wandering (Awoo, Rough Trade)

Jim Bob – The Fist Big Concert for the Orchestra (School, Cherry Red)

The Piney Gir Country Roadshow – Big Apple Stomp (Hold Yer Horses, Truck)

Tilly and the Wall – Rainbows in the Dark (Bottoms of Barrels, Team Love)

Neko Case – Hold On, Hold On (Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Anti)

M Ward – Right in the Head (Post War, 4AD)

Darren Hayman – Caravan Song (Table for One, Track and Field)

The Hot Puppies – Bonnie + Me (Under the Crooked Moon, Fierce Panda)

Stephen Merritt – Ukulele Me! (Showtunes, Nonesuch)

Calexico – Bisbee Blue (Garden Ruin, City Slang)

Hot Chip – And I Was A Boy From School (The Warning, EMI)

Grandaddy – Guide Down Denied [edit] (Just Like The Fambly Cat, V2)

Erin McKeown – Thanks for the Boogie Ride (Sing You Sinners, Nettwerk)

The Broken Family Band – You’re Like A Woman (Balls, Track and Field)

Old Crow Medicine Show – New Virginia Creeper (Big Iron World, Nettwerk)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Honeybear (Show Your Bones, Dress Up)

Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint – Ascension Day (The River In Reverse, Verve Forecast)

2005

1. Erin McKeown – Bells and Bombs (We Will Become Like Birds, Nettwerk)

2. Sleater-Kinney – Jumpers (The Woods, Sub Pop)

3. Half Man Half Biscuit – For What Is Chatteris… (Achtung Bono, Probe Plus)

4. Doves – Almost Forgot Myself (Some Cities, Heavenly)

5. I Am Kloot – Sand and Glue (Gods and Monsters, Echo)

6. John Prine – Taking a Walk (Fair and Square, Oh Boy!)

7. Unit – The Explorer (Straight to Video EP, self-released)

8. The Young Knives – Weekends and Bleak Days (Junkie Music Make My Heart Beat Faster EP, Transgressive)

9. The Pipettes – Tell Me What You Want (Dirty Mind single, Memphis Industries)

10. Thomas Truax – The Fish (I’m Coming Home) (Audio Addiction, Psycho Teddy!)

11. The Raveonettes – Sleepwalking (Pretty In Black, Columbia)

12. Alfie – Your Own Religion (Crying at Teatime, Regal)

13. Milburn – Storm In A Teacup (Showroom single, Free Construction)

14. Colonel Bastard – Cup of Tea (Halcyon Days, self-released)

15. The New Pornographers – Jackie, Dressed In Cobras (Twin Cinema, Matador)

16. The Hot Puppies – Terry (single, Label Fandango)

17. The Crimea – Girl Just Died (Tragedy Rocks, Warner)

18. My Morning Jacket – Off The Record [edit] (Z, RCA)

19. Immaculate Machine – Broken Ship (Ones and Zeros, Mint)

20. Chris T-T – The Huntsman Comes A-Marchin (9 Red Songs, Snowstorm)

21. Misty’s Big Adventure – The Story of Love (The Black Hole, SL)

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