top ten ‘most-listened-to’ artists of 2013

so, as another year draws to a close, one finds oneself reflecting on this most-recent set of twelve moons now passed and all they have come to embody. as time permits, i am trying to allow myself the necessary moments to look back upon all that has transpired and to word a few of my own facts in the case, much for my own interest as well as your own reading pleasure.

how so much has transpired indeed, and how there is much to reflect on, to be sure. so, might i boldly begin with the jovial task of finding myself in a position to discover and indeed reveal my own top-ten ‘most-listened-to artists’ of 2013. calculated using the magic of my last.fm account, whilst factoring in my vinyl listening habits into the equation, the list reads thusly.

no. 10 : songs: ohia

a perennial top-ten artist for the last ten consecutive years; a fact that needs little explanation to the adept among us. but this year the entry swathed in impossible sadness. i can scarcely relate my own personal desperation at the knowledge of the passing of jason molina this year. if there was ever any one artist who so deftly captured the tortured pain of depression and the majestic beauty of efforts to fight its cruel embrace for my own personal voyage, then it would be he. listening to songs: ohia is, for me, a willingness to accept the unbearable weight of sadness, but to display a willingness to fight; to try to press on, ‘step by step through the black’, but how the understanding that he lost his own battle this year is a weight so hard to bare. may he finally be at peace, and may his songs stay with us until we reach our own inevitable end.
no. 09 : glenn miller

another perennial favourite, since my early childhood, when i first had the chance to audition my fathers’ vinyl edition of the jimmy stewart movie soundtrack of the glenn miller story. on to when my father and i would frequent the fairfield halls in croydon to take in the touring big bands still operating to this day. it is hard for me to step back and really assess the music of this, the most-celebrated of the big bands, for it is so intrinsically linked with my early childhood memories, my teenage years and onwards. often emerging from unlikely sources to always remind me of its power, ‘made cool’ again by david lynch with his movies and twin peaks successes, embelished with the nostalgic weight and significance of the war-time period, not least with the death in action of its leader. songs from an earlier time and place, made more innocent with the downward spiral we have witnessed since.
no. 08 : yo la tengo

another truly-perennial entry. yo la tengo is the band that i often cite as being my ‘favourite of all time’, a statement i can only logically prescribe to for the simple fact that their repertoire contains songs for almost every musical mood i can find myself in. from the most beautiful soothing ethereal pieces through to dark and a heavy dirges, by way of jazzy escapades, folksy moments of intimacy, waves of fuzzy shoegaze, country leanings and moments of sheer whimsy. i had the privilege of being introduced to their work by the near-legendary fbcfabric as our friendship was first beginning to blossom and how we have celebrated their work together ever since. still, for my own part, yo la tengo music is spring-time music, and how the binge beginning sometime when the light starts creeping into the month of march is always sure to secure a top-spot in my listening list for any given year.

no. 07 : helen forrest

surely a new entry into my ‘most-listened’ list, although it was early last year when i first began to procure myself rare 78 recordings from this most enchanting vocalist. her repertoire was vast indeed and how there are so many standards so effortlessly presented by her in collaboration with all of the big names of the swing-era, but for my own part, how the lions share of my listening has been taken up with just one recording; her rendition of ‘moon ray’ with artie shaw & his orchestra. i can scarcely imagine that there is anyone in the western lands who is unfamiliar with this piece, perhaps vitally or perhaps in a whistful dream of a childhood memory, but how i can only wholeheartedly recommend repeating listenings with a view to exploring more of her recorded catalogue; there are so many beautiful moments of time captured with early recording techniques for our own ongoing pleasure.
no. 06 : koko blue

the only entirely new entry on the list for 2013 and indeed the only music to actually have been released these past twelve moons. i had the distinct pleasure of getting to meet the enchanting miss koko bonapart in guelph, ontario whilst being on the ‘our accents sure are pretty’ tour back in the spring of 2009 and was quickly prompted of her songwriting prowess, but how it took my patient waiting until she unveiled the ‘crosses and planks’ album this year, and how it still managed to exceed all expectations. to say that i fell deeply in love with all of the songs contained therein would be the only way to do justice to my feelings for these wonderfully crafted pieces. the beautifully clear and simplistic production, the perfectly soothing melodies and then this impossibly rich and mesmerising voice. how my long summer months were spent bathed in the radiance of these hypnotically soothing sounds, and given such deeper resonance with the weight of the finely-crafted words therein.
no. 05 : philip glass

philip glass seems like a name i have been familiar with my whole life, but i imagine the first chance i had to sit and listen to his music was at age sixteen, when a copy of his ‘low symphony’ fell into my hands, or perhaps dare i mention when i watched ‘candyman’ for the first time. the scenes are a little blurred now, but they were enough for me to show great enthusiasm when fbcfabric mentioned his name for the first time and kindly shared with me a few more of his masterful works. still, as much as i am always ready to audition any number of his works it is still always his work on ‘the hours’ soundtrack that ensures his continued presence in my ‘most-listened’ list. it really is one of those rare recordings that i can listen to on repeat all day and all night. his immediately indentifiable style presented in such a warm and powerful fashion, cascading pianos and strings forever altering and changing their collective shape, a constant undulating set of waves to lull and stir in equal measure. hypnotic, mesmerising, soothing and rousing; absolute perfection indeed.
no. 04 : ornette coleman

most-likely a new-entry for this years’ list, but an artist that has been on my periphery vision for many long years now. how i must have first been drawn to his exceptional talent as a boy of fourteen or fifteen watching david cronenbergs film adaptation of william s burroughs’ ‘naked lunch’ and being immediately struck by the wildly-disorientating tones and patterns. of course i understood that it was ‘jazz’ at the time, perhaps even ‘free-jazz’, but it seemed like such a revelation to me; a revelation that has wonderfully haunted me since. still, my path back to his work has been slower than i would have imagined until it finally began to blossom these few years past til it finally reached full-bloom as the spring became the summer this year now passed. but what can be written about such a legendary figure? should you be adept then you will understand immediately, but should the moment still not be upon you, then do allow yourself the chance to let the music start to soak in; there is impossible magical waiting in the strange half-light.

no 03 : the andrews sisters

of all the great vocal-jazz groups of the swing-era, the andrews sisters must surely be the most well-reknowned, and with good reason indeed. three sisters; laverne, patty and maxine, operating alongside the glenn miller orchestra and a wealth of other big-band greats, performed unrivaled concerts and recorded an absolute wealth of vintage recordings during their fantastically successful career, and how we are to this day so lucky to be able to still cherish these magical slices of history and time for our own listening pleasure and musical journeys. there can be no denying that their music is from a different time, a different world indeed, but one that still resonates so strongly into this modern, meaningless world, and one that offers such timeless themes wrapped within a wonderfully sweet and charming whole. for my own listening pleasures, the ‘chesterfield broadcasts’ with the glenn miller orchestra are the truest delight to be found within their catalogue and the lions’ share of listenings that have them featured so highly in this list.

no. 02 : the boswell sisters

surely the only vocal-jazz group worthy of ranking a place above the andrews sisters can only be reserved for the true originals; new orleans’ very own boswell sisters. beginning their highly-celebrated recorded careers at tender ages in the early 1930’s after already successful performance careers from the very youngest of ages in their native city, the three sisters essentially invented what could be done with their art and at the same time re-wrote every rule for their own creative ends. they were the only vocal-group who were allowed to manipulate the standards in their own desired style and how the results are bewitching to say the least. should you simply be a music scholar wishing to study melodic technique, phrasing, timing and the like, or should you simply wish to be swept up in the magic of their catalogue, one cannot fail to marvel at their impeccable resume. yet still, the fact that absolute legends such as ella fitzgerald spoke of their massive influence can only reveal the facts in the case of their status to be irrefutable.

no. 01 : howard shore & ornette coleman

this combination of artists can only mean one thing; the soundtrack to david cronenberg’s 1991 film adaptation of ‘naked lunch’ by the omnipotent william s burroughs. i can confess, after repeated viewings over many years, to being rather partial to the movie, although certain elements, most-notably the last ten minutes, always disappoints me bitterly; but the soundtrack is something completely different again. from my first listenings via the film itself from that young age and across the subsequent years, to finally being able to procure a copy of the soundtrack itself, i have been utterly mesmerised by the sounds therein. this fascinatingly harmonious union of two absolute masters of their craft, coming together to create something that really does raise their own individual arts to even greater height is a magical event that could indeed only have come about due to the needs of this film adaptation by one great of yet another. still, harmonious unison could surely be much better predicted in this meeting of musical minds than the failed experiment that is cronenberg sourcing burroughs untouchable masterpieces. let us put the film aside, press play on the disc and enter our own personal interzone for a brief tenure of emotive exploration.

so, there we have it. a nicely curious collection of artists, and how i can do nothing but wholeheartedly recommend you taking some time to explore any and all on this list for your own personal experience, or perhaps i might simply have been able to nudge you into revisiting some of these treasures from your own archives. how there can be little greater pleasure to be had within the musical arts than to spend some time auditioning some of the very best quality music at ones disposal indeed… and here’s to the constant state of ongoing exploration into further depths of artistry and creative odyssey.
might i briefly take a moment to thank you for your interest, and how i shall boldly also hint that i am currently compiling a list of my ‘top releases of 2013’ for your amusement and delectation too. how there has been a wealth of staggering new music this year, and how i very much intend to take a moment to celebrate some of this young material that has emerge since last we cast our thoughts back across the long moons. so, please do stay tuned, and here’s to the ongoing, to the onwards and upwards. sending all the love.
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