Every Christmas when I was a kid the present I’d most look forward to was the Compilation Tape. The album put out close to the end of the year with the year’s big hits on it.
Or, as the case usually was, a number of the year’s big hits and a bunch of songs that were random tracks which either (a) the record company wanted to push; or (b) I’d never heard of. In going back and looking at these tapes now – and yes, I still have them all in a box – it’s frequently the songs that I dismissed as a young teen as ‘crap I’d never heard of’ that I now most appreciate.
Here I give you “Howlin’ for Hits” from 1984.
You’ll see on the cover there a veritible Who’s Who of mid-80s pop and rock. It includes “Billie Jean” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Maniac” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. It also includes songs from bands not big enough to make the list on the front cover, like Depeche Mode and Style Council and Tears for Fears.
These tapes were perfect for me. A middle of the road commercial FM radio listener, spending my pocket money on mixed lollies and the odd cassette, taping songs off the radio, but not being ‘into’ music. A Compilation Tape delivering me a whole lot of singles in one place = most desired Christmas present.
Now my music taste is completely different. It really changed sometime during my last year of school, 1990. That would have been the last time I listened to commercial FM radio. Cannot stand it now. That’s not always about the music though, it’s mainly about the ads and the presenters. Also, in recent years, the auto-tune.
While I buy and listen to whole albums now, 35 or 40 a year, I also buy individual songs – so much easier to do now – and I still gravitate to certain songs, singles, and like a compilation. A mix-tape. Like most people I just make them myself. And I don’t wait for Christmas.
At the beginning of each year I start a new Playlist and over the course of the year I just add the songs that are most popular with me to the list. I’ll burn it progresively to CD to listen to in the car, and, as such I come to know these songs really well. Limit one song per artist, which can sometimes be a hard call. Sometimes the song is a single. Sometimes it’s something buried on the album. Sometimes the album came out the year before, but the song only hits me in the relavant year.
All of which is a very round-about way of getting to my 2011 Playlist:
Royal Blue – Cold War Kids (Mine is Yours)
I’ll Be Waiting – Adele (21)
Strange Girl – The Airborne Toxic Event (All At Once)
All of This – The Naked & Famous (Passive Me, Aggressive You)
Helena Beat – Foster the People (Foster the People)
Losers – The Belle Brigade (The Belle Brigade)
Make Some Noise – Beastie Boys (Hot Sauce Committee Part Two)
Beatles & Stones – Beady Eye (Different Gear, Still Speeding)
Sydney, I’ll Come Running – Brett Dennen (Loverboy)
Two Against One – Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi, feat. Jack White (Rome)
Piledriver Waltz – Artic Monkeys (Suck it and See)
Nail in My Coffin – The Kills (Blood Pressures)
Exile Vilify – The National
Machu Pichu – The Strokes (Angles)
(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care – Cee Lo Green (Rave On Buddy Holly)
Got it All (This Can’t be Living Now) – Portugal. The Man (In the Mountain, In the Cloud)
Puzzle Pieces – Saint Motel
Monday Morning – Death Cab for Cutie (Codes and Keys)
A Long Time – Mayer Hawthorne (How Do You Do)
Second Song – TV On The Radio (Nine Types of Light)
Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye (Making Mirrors)
Lonely Boy – The Black Keys (El Camino)
Poison & Wine – The Civil Wars (Barton Hollow)
The Death of You and Me – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds)
Lover to Lover – Florence + The Machine (Ceremonials)
Money – The Drums (Portamento)
Teardrops on My Pillow – Dum Dum Girls (Only in Dreams)
Tree By the River – Iron & Wine (Kiss Each Other Clean)
Of course there are many other songs on the albums, and many other albums that I’ve loved and listened to during the year. As for my favourite album? That’s always so hard. The ones getting the most play have been those by The Belle Brigade, The Drums, and The Black Keys (though that will roll over into next year and I might already have started my 2012 Playlist for the purposes of putting Gold on the Ceiling on it). But if forced to make the call my favourite album of the year is Blood Pressures by The Kills.