So at the end of just about every year since 2000, I’ve rounded up my favorite (mainly cultural) stuff of the previous 12 months and posted it online. Here are my picks for 2010, which I’ll soon be adding to my permanent Annual Favorites page.
Aside from the great idea of keeping a running annual favorites page, I also appreciate Stephen’s inclusion of museum collections/exhibitions and wines. I keep telling myself I need to keep a beer/whiskey/etc. journal.
We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.
I was fascinated with Stendhal at 13 and with Thomas Mann at 15 and, at 16, I loved Chopin. Then I spent my life getting to know the rest. Right now, Chopin is at the very top once again. If you interact with things in your life, everything is constantly changing. And if nothing changes, you’re an idiot.
The difference between potential and output comes from human qualities. You can make a list of the qualities you admire and those you despise. To turn the tables, think if this is the way I react to the qualities on the list, which is the way the world will react to me. You can learn to turn on those qualities you want and turn off those qualities you wish to avoid. The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken. You can’t change at 60; the time to look at that list is now.
Children — (if it Please God) — Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one, — object to be beloved & played with. — —better than a dog anyhow. — Home, & someone to take care of house — Charms of music & female chit-chat. — These things good for one’s health. — Forced to visit & receive relations but terrible loss of time. —
My God, it is intolerable to think of spending ones whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing after all. — No, no won’t do. — Imagine living all one’s day solitarily in smoky dirty London House. — Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps — Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro’ St.
or Not Marry?
No children, (no second life), no one to care for one in old age.— What is the use of working without sympathy from near & dear friends—who are near & dear friends to the old, except relatives
Freedom to go where one liked — choice of Society & little of it. — Conversation of clever men at clubs — Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle. — to have the expense & anxiety of children — perhaps quarelling — Loss of time. — cannot read in the Evenings — fatness & idleness — Anxiety & responsibility — less money for books &c — if many children forced to gain one’s bread. — (But then it is very bad for ones health to work too much)
Perhaps my wife wont like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool —
The final result:
Marry — Marry — Marry. Q.E.D.
See also: lay it all out where you can look at it.
I’m not limiting myself to 2008—I’m never that up-to-date, and you already know about Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver without my telling you. I spent some time sorting through my iTunes and came up with albums that I bought or first gave a serious listen to this year. I made selections month-by-month:
Stardust is a Willie Nelson album from 1978. It’s a collection of old standards, like Stardust, All of Me, Moonlight in Vermont. I love those good songs that have such a rich history. Some of them are 60, 70, 80 years old, and they’re still good, and there’s probably many more good covers to come.
I had a 4-way tie for favorite Radiohead album until In Rainbows came along. Easily my most-played album this year.
I pretty much flipped out when I first listened to Ainadamar. I spent a nice Saturday afternoon playing it very, very loudly following along with the Spanish libretto. The music has a cool mix of Cuban and Moorish influences.
Jeff Buckley, Live at Mercury Lounge. Hard to find, google it. Lots of goofy stage banter. He plays Buckley standbys and also the childhood classic 3 Is a Magic Number, Nina Simone’s The Other Woman, and the old folk tune Dink’s Song.
Moon Pix is one of the early Cat Power records. I love the loose, sliding feel to the whole album.
Johnny Cash at San Quentin. I’d rank this over the Folsom Prison recordings. It’s a barn-burner. The audience is so fired up.
Saxophonists Paul Desmond & Gerry Mulligan have some lovely things to say on Two of a Mind.
Glenn Gould: A State of Wonder collects Gould’s famous recordings of the Goldberg Variations—the 1955 recording that helped make his name and the 1981 recording shortly before he died. Great stuff.
I was too cool for Fiona Apple’s debut when it first came out. Now that I’m older and wiser Tidal has gotten a good bit of play.
Speaking for Trees. I’ve never seen the movie that goes along with it, but the sounds are great. There’s some guitar noodling, crickets and bugs buzzing in the background, Chan Marshall’s singing. That’s about it.
Bach: Cello Suites. Pierre Fournier performs. Great music for background, deep listening, or dancing if you know your gigues, menuets, courantes, gavottes, etc.
Shostakovich: The String Quartets. The Fitzwilliam String Quartet plays the 15 quartets. It’s a lot to take in.
A bit of a weak month, but I liked string quartets of Leoš Janáček and Maurice Ravel. The first time I heard Janáček’s String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters” was on NPR while I was driving. One of those tunes where you have to stay in the car until it’s over.
Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time. A nostalgic pick. I hadn’t listened to this album since elementary school, but I stumbled across it in our office iTunes network. It still sends me off to air guitar land. See: Wasted Years, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and the mini-history lesson in Alexander the Great.
Rush – 2112. Sucker for prog rock.
Ibrahim Ferrer – Buenos Hermanos. I’m convinced one of the best reasons to work with other people is for the intra-office music sharing. A co-worker introduced this album to me. My favorite pick by far is Boliviana, I emailed her: “The last minute of the song makes me want to be on the patio of a little coastal villa somewhere in Central America, dancing with all my friends while the sun sets.”
Soul of the Tango: The Music of Ástor Piazzolla. Yo-Yo Ma plays passionate Argentinian dance music.
Went on vacation and didn’t listen much. Didn’t find anything fantastic when I got back home.
Southern Country Gospel. I love albums like this that make you remember how much that gospel, bluegrass, blues, country, and folk are so intertwined. And I love the common emotional elements: love, struggle, desire, hope, etc.
Blood on the Tracks. I’m a latecomer to Bob Dylan. I’ve forgiven myself and I’m working on it.
Charles Mingus wrote The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady as a ballet, set to jazz suite in six parts.
I stumbled on a couple music reading lists on Amazon. Daniel Levitin suggests 11 books to read on music. Songwriters on Songwriting could be good and I’m especially curious about The Art of Practicing.
And Alex Ross wrote a top twenty guide for 20th-century music, both books and recordings. I’m curious about John Cage’s Silence and Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation.
Let’s see… glancing back through the year, here’s what I’m most glad to have read. I wrote about most of these…
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow
Burning Chrome by William Gibson
The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean by Douglas Wolk
He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo
The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis
Interaction of Color by Josef Albers
Theory and History by Ludwig von Mises
Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace by Joseph Williams
Too bad I don’t have a better remembrance of what I read but didn’t review. Need to keep better track of that.
My top artists for 2007, according to last.fm. Not the most representative collection, because the long tail of my listening habits is, well, really long. But aside from a few surprises, it’s pretty fair. One thing that’s not a surprise: I am decidedly out-of-date. I think only a few of these folks came out with an album this year. And a lot of them are dead. I almost never know what’s going on in the music world, but I’m okay with that.
On with the list…
Jeff Buckley – No surprise here. Pretty sure I’ve got more of his music than any other person in my collection.
King Crimson – Big surge in the second half of the year. In the Court of the Crimson King quickly became one of my favorite albums, ever. And Beat is a lot of fun.
Pink Floyd – Old standby.
DJ Ti?´sto – This was a bit of a surprise, but In Search of Sunrise has gotten a lot of play. Like today, for example.
Claude Debussy – Heavy play of the Nocturnes and Children’s Corner.
Dave Brubeck – Didn’t expect him so high, but he got featured in a couple of playlists.
Radiohead – No surprise.
Jean Sibelius – Huge surge this winter, after reading The Rest Is Noise.
Philip Glass – I went on a Glass-collecting spree this fall. Still have something of love/hate relationship with his music.
Feist – We had a good year together, except for when she released an album when I was out hiking for a couple months.
Sergei Rachmaninoff – Pretty balanced play from an old favorite, across the spectrum of symphonies, concertos, choral works and chamber stuff.
Madonna – Never really listened to her until this year. Big fan.
Bela Fleck & the Flecktones – Another surprise here. Didn’t think I was listening to them so much, but I got addicted to “Big Country” for a while.
Pat Metheny – Probably would have ranked higher if last.fm kept track of all the play on road trips.
Henry Purcell – I sat through Dido & Aeneas a bunch of times so I could hear the final aria and chorus in context.
Johnny Cash – A good bit of the older stuff, but especially American IV.
Duran Duran – Rio, mostly. Especially “New Religion“.
Daft Punk – Eh. Need to play this less, I think.
Al Jarreau – Mostly the live album, Look to the Rainbow.
Carly Simon – Almost all from Anticipation.
Erik Satie – Almost exclusively due to the Gymnopedies.
April March – For some reason, the fact that she’s over 40 really boggles me.
Will Scruggs – A good friend and brilliant jazz saxophonist.
Joanna Newsom – Surprised she wasn’t higher on my list. Probably would be if her songs weren’t so epic and awesome. Still feel like an idiot for not going to her Atlanta show this past November.
Machito – The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite got into a couple playlists.