Annual semi-data-driven favorite songs list: 2012

Somewhat late this year, here is my semi-data-driven look back at my 10 favorite songs of 2012. (I have previously conducted this empirical/subjective exercise for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.) As I did last time around, I’m posting this on the otherwise dormant in order to take advantage of the useful table plug-in. I’m “hiding” (sort of) this post by giving it a fake post date — the real post date is March 23, 2013.

Here’s the top ten. Number-crunching and analysis follows.

[table id=20 /]

As always:

  1. I start out by seeing which songs I played most often, per iTunes data.
  2. Then I cross-match that information with my one-out-of-five-stars ratings, and tweak accordingly.
  3. Then I sometimes tweak a little more.

Continuing last year’s trend, I’m buying a lot less music these days than I was when I started doing these analyses, and evidently I’m not listening as much, in iTunes, to the music I do acquire. Also continuing the prior year’s trend, there was quite a bit of music last year that I meant to buy, but so far have not. I’ll repeat my 2011 assessment verbatim: “Partly I’ve been busy, partly I’ve been on a budget, and partly there’s so much interesting music around that’s released free-and-legal, I haven’t really found myself sitting around craving new sounds as much as usual.”

On to the numbers. Last year I added to my iTunes library 244 songs that were released in 2012. The comparable number in 2011 was 262; in 2010 it was 350; in 2008 it was 377; in 2007 it was 325. So the downward trend from last year continues.

So let’s look at the Top Ten. Remarkably, I only awarded five stars to two 2012 songs! Although I played “Ruin” slightly more often, the real standout of the year for me was “Come Save Me,” so I gave that the top spot.

Re-listening to my most-listened songs, I felt I had to do a little more subjective tweaking this year to recognize music that I acquired later in 2012 that I suspect will get more plays in the future. Notable among these are “I [Heart] You,” and “Voting Booth.” The latter is notable because it was part of the Disquiet Junto project run by Marc Weidenbaum. This is an amazing series in which Weidenbaum issues an “assignment” every week to the informal crew of musicians who have involved themselves in the project, and who then create new music in response. “Voting Booth” is by Ethan Hein, who I have basically become familiar with via Disquiet and who was, for me, the most pleasing musical discovery of last year.

I’ll also mention for the record the songs that got more plays than what I ended up putting in my final Top Ten: “You’re So Cool!” by MegaFun, “Moogy Foog It,” by Karriem Riggins, and “On Your Way” by Alabama Shakes all got 12 plays,  “Cigarette Afterwards” by rawb1 got 13, and “El Caudillo Del Sur” by Centavrvs got 14. All good stuff, but as noted above, I made some tweaks — that’s the subjective part of this list!

Given how late I am with this, I’m going to cut the analysis short right there, and offer a belated: Happy New Year!

Annual semi-data-driven favorite songs list

Once again: It’s a new year, so it’s time to take a semi-data-driven look back at my 10 favorite songs of the year just ended. (I have previously conducted this empirical/subjective exercise for 2007, 2008, and 2009. )

Here’s the top ten. Number-crunching follows.

[table id=5 /]

As always: I start out by seeing which songs I played most often, per iTunes data. And I cross-match that with my one-out-of-five-stars ratings, and tweak accordingly.

There’s no question that “Liquor Pang” and “Heart of Steel,” in addition to dominating the most-played count, were my top two of 2010. My third-most-played song, “Lever Pulled Down,” by Sam Phillips, got 19 listens, yet my subjective cross-check bumped it out of the top 10. It’s good, but … Well anyway, the only other song I bumped was “Baby Don’t Go,” by Dum Dum Girls. (Also “good, but…”) I made room for “Snowden’s Jig” and “Fuck You” — the latter being the most questionable call. I really loved it the first time I heard it, but despite the lowish play count, I’ve heard it probably too much since via other non-quantified sources, and I have doubts about whether I’ll continue to enjoy it. Maybe if I wait five years.

Anyway the rest of  the list pretty much tracks out.

Some random notes:

  • Looks like I added about 1,300 songs to my iTunes in 2010, about 350 of which were actually released in 2010. Last year I did a breakdown where I integrated non-current releases with current releases, but this year I don’t have time.
  • I do also use Pandora, but not really in a way that results in hearing a lot of current music there. I bring it up because that’s one of a number of examples of ways I might hear music that’s left out of this exercise.
  • I came upon “Blue Gowns” by way of Hype Machine, which I’d never really played with until last year. It was probably the only thing I heard via Hype Machine I that I think I would otherwise have missed.
  • “Daydream” is something I heard via Popcop.
  • The Corin Tucker Band album is great through-and-through. The Galactic album is also full of great stuff, and if you’re writing them off as a lame-o “jam band,” it’s your loss. I have zero interest in “jam band” music, but that’s not what this record is, at all.
  • I feel bad that nothing from the Los Lobos record made the top ten; it’s also very good all the way through. Similar feelings about Girl Talk’s new one.
  • A very late entry this year that might have made the cut under different circumstances is the most recent Mexican Institute of Sound EP; I only bought it a few weeks ago, but at least two songs (“Territorio” and “Educación”) are clearly five-star-worthy.
  • One more in the sort of honorable mention category: “Repetition As Culture Force,” by Sherbe, which I heard via Disquiet. Recommended.

As last year, I thought it would be interesting to use Normalisr to see which artists I spent the most time listening to in 2010. (Normalisr pulls listening data from LastFM.) The results:

[table id=6 /]


  • I’m glad I went through with this phase of the exercise again, as it reinforced my general feeling about the Los Lobos, Girl Talk, and Corin Tucker records noted above.
  • No surprise that Elvis C. wins once more.
  • I hope Cousin Lymon is happy to see the Kinks put in a stronger showing.
  • Speaking of Cousin Lymon, I think he’s the reason for the Moritz von Oswald Trio listening. Thanks for that, C.L.

Dept. of Awesome: The LuvSound Sampler

Recently, longtime friend of Murketing Marc “Disquiet” Weidenbaum became a father. is a site that he’s run for years, covering the world of ambient/electronic music and all things related, because he’s interested and because he loves it. Disquiet regularly gives attention to musicians, and a corner of the music world, that others tend to overlook. It’s a great thing, Disquiet.

And it turns out that the musicians who are often the site’s subject really appreciate it. Because when the word got around about Mr. & Mrs. Disquiet welcoming a new member to their family, a bunch of those musicians teamed up and created the 11-track Soothing Sounds For Baby.

Now that’s a gift.

You can listen to and even download said gift over at Disquiet, right here.

A musical rebuttal to an Altlantic piece about “freeloaders”

Illustration by Jeremy Traum; click for more on the first seven interpretations.

This month’s Atlantic includes a piece by Megan McArdle called The Freeloaders: How a generation of file-sharers is ruining the future of entertainment. It struck me as a rather retro argument at this late date, but Marc Weidenbaum over at Disquiet had a more interesting response. He critiques the essays specific points here. Even better than his written reply, however, is the musical one that he proceeded to curate.

Marc (a greatly respected friend) took particular issue with McArdle’s matter-of-fact equation of the fate of “the music industry” with the fate of music, which struck him as a non-contribution to the important discussion of copyright and culture in the digital era. He figures there has been, and will continue to be, plenty of worthwhile music made whether or not the present major record labels figure out profitable business models. Now, it’s easy to say that — but Marc did something specific to make his point. Noting that the piece was accompanied by an illustration that happens to incorporate a musical score (above), he invited musicians to compose new interpretations of the illustration. So far seven have done so — for free — and Marc has posted those on his site — also for free. It adds up to 55-minute musical response. Give it a listen here.

He has also has an open call out for more musical interpretation/responses; contact on

Imaginary bands

San Francisco singer-songwriter Sonny Smith has a project called 100 Records: He made up 100 fake bands/artists, and wrote songs, created backstories, and so on, for each. An exhibit featuring the covers of the 100 records that resulted is at Gallery 16 in SF. I think this is the related blog. More info here, and here.

Thanks: Steve P.!

The idea of the book, cont’d: As source of music

Friend of Murketing Randy Ludacer points out two pieces by Steve Roden that are relevant to this site’s occasional series on the idea of the book.

Steve Roden. Click for more.

From 1999, a piece called Observatory.

the piece was inspired by a quote from joseph cornell’s diary regarding the 5 things he always saw from his kitchen window. he oftern referred to his kitchen as his ‘observatory’. 5 tape loop compositions were composed; each using one of cornell’s 5 things seen. there were electronically transformed tape loops from the sounds of birds, trees, sun (in this case the sounds of the sun harnessed through a magnifying glass burning a contact mic), snow (tv static) and rain.

each of the 5 loops was placed in a cassette player that was concealed in a hollowed out book. each book had a speaker embedded in its spine, so that the audio equipment was concealed and the sounds seemed to quietly eminate from the books. MORE

Steve Roden. Click for more.

And from 2008: “When books are like butterflies.”

i began by notating every sound in the book as well as every color that appears in sequence, and used these lists to generate a sound work, a text work, and a set of images. the installation consisted of a series of 15 sculptural forms, each using two books and an audio speaker. the text and images exist in the form of printed dust jackets which cover the books, and visually frame the sound as it eminates from the speaker. the text follows the description of every sound in the book, in sequence, with each text also following the color sequence of the book. the images are mostly background images from victorian photographs i have collected over the years, that somehow relate to the generator of every sound in the text (such as swan’s wings, or a bell). MORE

Steve Roden. Click for more.

The idea of cassettes: Quick rewind

Okay, so, I think I’ve more or less fully updated the monster post on The Idea of Cassettes, with the many, many suggestions and tips from readers. (Example left.) Probably I’ve missed some stuff.

Quick notes:

It looks like someone has started a Facebook page called Cassette, that seems to have been inspired by the post? I’m merely a reporter. But if you’re a cassette fan, be A Cassette Fan.

Also: It was great to see the post get noticed by MetaFilter, and Coudal (“Now that’s a blog post”), but for some reason I was particularly amazed to be noticed by Needless to say I was ID’d as “Some Guy”:

Also needless to say, the post was not a “history of the audio cassette tape.” But I’m thrilled to see it tagged “interesting.” Zero complaints.

Anyway there are a crazy number of additional items and links added to the original post. But I recommend just perusing the comments and reading what those who didn’t have a link, but had something to say. It’s really amazing, I think, how evocative the cassette clearly is to many — memories, romance, nostalgia. All from such a crummy hunk of mass-plastic!

Finally: Disquiet, which played no small role in inspiring this whole thing, happens to have a great post up that notes this cassette discussion and segues into some great info and observations about other music-object events and insights of the moment. Recommended.

Thanks again.

The idea of the cassette: A gallery with musings

[ 3-24-10 Note:Below the jump, there are extensive updates to this post based on comments and other feedback.]

By Kate Bingaman-Burt. Throughout this post, click image for additional details.

In a recent essay for a museum show about music and objects, I made the following rash assertion: “The poor old cassette – cheap, plastic, fragile— enjoys none of the romance associated with vinyl culture.” In retrospect this was a silly thing to say; at the least, I wish I’d said it differently. It’s a different kind of romance, and it certainly isn’t creating anything like the unlikely resurgence in sales of vinyl that’s occurred in the last couple of years. But it was flat wrong of me to imply that nobody cares about the idea of the cassette.

I brooded about this for a few weeks and started collecting links and images relating to the various ways that the idea of the cassette persists. I’ve compiled much of that in this massive post, and welcome your suggestions about examples or useful reading that I’ve missed. Unlike my series of posts on the idea of the book, this will be more of a one-stop approach, like the earlier gallery of default anonymity. That is, I’ll add stuff to this post as I find it, or you tell me about it.

What follows, then, is a bit of a hodgepodge, but I’d really love to hear your thoughts. Do you still have a box of old cassettes somewhere? Do the images here do anything for you? Do you feel any cassette nostalgia?

“All My Tapes, Part 1,” by Bughouse

It so happens that smack in the middle of my brooding and link-collecting, Pitchfork published a huge essay setting out to explain the “underground resurgence” of cassettes, citing “a confluence of cultural trends.”

Instant access to almost any recording has left some of us over-stimulated, endlessly consuming without really digesting what we hear. Many children of the 1980s first owned their music on cassette, so for them the format represents a nostalgia for simpler times; younger kids probably never owned cassettes in the first place, so for them tapes don’t have any negative associations. The spread of Internet-enabled smart phones and 24/7 social networking has made work and pleasure increasingly intertwined in our digital existences. Like records, cassettes offer listeners a tangible experience at a time when our jobs, our social lives, and our popular culture are becoming more and more ephemeral.

Noted in the Pitchfork piece is the British cassette-only label The Tapeworm (“No barcodes,” the label’s site announces almost immediately, and that strikes me as a pretty interesting thing to tout as a selling point) and this roundup of 101 Cassette Labels. Wieden + Kennedy’s WKE site recently had a short video feature on a couple of cassette-only labels in Portland.

From Andy Sawyer’s “Signs of Use.”

That said, the idea of the cassette, so far as I know, doesn’t have all that much to do with with nostalgia for or connection to the sounds it produced; you can find somebody to tell you vinyl sounds better, but are there advocates of the audio quality of cassettes? Read more

Site and Sound

Here’s an essay I wrote in connection with Rewind Remix Replay: Design, Music & Everyday Experience, an exhibition at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, through May 23, 2010. It’s available over there as well, but only as a PDF. So I figured I’d post it here. It’s a bit of an unusual piece for me, and I’m not certain how well I carried it off, but it was fun to write. I welcome feedback…


One Home, Sixteen Objects, and the Things We Listen To Now

Surely the first decade of the 21st century will be remembered as a pivotal time in the history of listening. But it won’t be because of a new genre that burst on the scene, the way rock, rap, punk, even disco, changed the music we listen to. It will be because of the objects and technologies that changed the way we listen. Such transitions always seem abrupt (especially as they’re treated in the popular press) but unfold more gradually for most real-life listeners.

So as the decade wound down, I decided to conduct an inventory of objects and devices for music-listening in my own home. I’m more of a music fan than a gadget fan, which leads me to embrace music-oriented technology faster than any other sort (I owned an iPod before I owned a cell phone). At the same time, I can be slow to chuck old formats and objects just because something new has appeared; possibly the more dated relics of twentiethcentury listening technology cluttering my home ought to have been discarded by now. But since analog and digital coexist in this particular environment, it’s an opportunity for a useful one-listener object ethnography. Read more

Annual semi-data-driven favorite songs list

Well it’s January 1 and thus time once more to look back at my personal listening data to see if it can help me name my 10 favorite songs of 2009. (I have previously conducted this empirical-subjective exercise for 2007 and 2008.)

Here’s the Top Ten, followed by the number crunching.
[table id=1 /]

As in the past, I start out by seeing which songs I played most often, per iTunes data. And I cross-match that with my one-out-of-five-stars rating, and tweak accordingly. “Out At Sea” by Heartless Bastards was my most-played song of 2009 that was also released in 2009, according to my iTunes. This lines up with the subjective view: It probably is my favorite song of the year, it’s awesome, and perhaps if it ends up in a car commercial or whatever it’ll get the respect it deserves.

“Bumpo” was probably my favorite thing from Nomo’s record, but I pared away some others that I listened to almost as much. The next few tunes I’d say the playcount lines up with subjective liking. “Le Petit Sauvage” at number 6 is a bit of a cheat: I seem to like it more than I’ve played it.

The next several tunes all need some kind of comment. I’m late to the game on “How You Like Me Now,” by The Heavy, which I gather became well-known early in the year by way of a TV show or something; I only heard it pretty recently, and I think the low play count reflects the fact that I haven’t had it that long. A similar issue (recent-ish release) made me cheat “Bad Romance” past other stuff I’ve played more often. The Bran Flakes put out an interesting record, but I had to exercise subjectivity to pick “Stumble Out of Bed” as the best track; I actually listened to “Van Pop” more frequently (and that’s also really good). (In retrospect, however, I wish I’d just gotten a few Bran Flakes songs, not the whole album.)

Props to Disquiet and its regular postings of free, legal downloads, for being the source of two of my faves: Shoebomber’s “Le Petit Sauvage,” and the Grassy Knoll re-invention of Junior Kimbrough, “Done Got Old.”

Missing the top ten by a narrow enough margin that subjectivity easily could have put them over the top if I’d been in a slightly different mood. “Good Eye,” by Bruce Springsteen, because although the record isn’t great, this song is; “Crystalized” by The xx (I first heard it via Popcop); “It’s a Rainbow (Blame Me),” by Lisa Germano, which is from The Believer‘s music issue; “Space City,” by Booker T, because as much as I listened to his pleasing 2009 album, I think the whole beats the parts; “Las Hadas” by Juan Son (I heard it via DJ/Rupture’s site); and “The More I Do,” by The Field.

I also took a look at some data collected by LastFM, and another site I learned of this year (via Music Machinery), called Normalisr, which dips into your LastFM data and tracks your listening by time, instead of by number of plays. More, including my favorite non-2009 songs of 2009, after the jump. Read more

Kate Bingaman-Burt Wants To Draw Your Mixtape

She explains:

I want to draw your mixtapes. I want your sad songs, you love jams, your sing at the top of your lungs car tunes, your break-up tape, your make-up tape and your BFF-4evah cassette.

I am only drawing the tape. If you want to participate, please snap a picture of the best side of your favorite tape and email it to me (see my profile) or upload it to your flickrstream and let me know.

A couple of months ago I was rooting through a box of cassettes, and thought about the old mixtapes as a potentially interesting photo project — the ones people gave me, the ones I made for myself. They’re so junky, but at the same time they have such personality. And of course each one brings back memories and so on, they’re often very attached to a time and place, and I guess even to a version of my identity/persona at the time they were made. So maybe I’ll get in on this.

Bonus links: 2006 Consumed about Kate Bingaman-Burt. PopMatters column argues “Why the nostalgia movement won’t touch the cassette.” Missing link: I found that PopMatters piece while trying to track down a Rob Horning meditation dealing in part with an a box of old cassettes, but I couldn’t find it so maybe I’m remembering wrong. I’ll update if I locate it.

In The New York Time Magazine: The Song Decoders

No Consumed this week. Instead I have a longer piece about Web radio service Pandora’s method of recommending songs and building music streams on the basis of music’s intrinsic acoustic information:

However things play out for Pandora as a business, its approach is worth understanding if you’re interested in the future of listening. It’s the “social” theories of music-liking that get most of the attention these days: systems that connect you with friends with similar tastes, or that rely on “collaborative filtering” strategies that cross-match your music-consumption habits with those of like-minded strangers. These popular approaches marginalize traditional gatekeepers; instead of trusting the talent scout, the radio programmer or the music critic, you trust your friends (actual or virtual), or maybe just “the crowd.”

Pandora’s approach more or less ignores the crowd. It is indifferent to the possibility that any given piece of music in its system might become a hit. The idea is to figure out what you like, not what a market might like. More interesting, the idea is that the taste of your cool friends, your peers, the traditional music critics, big-label talent scouts and the latest influential music blog are all equally irrelevant. That’s all cultural information, not musical information. And theoretically at least, Pandora’s approach distances music-liking from the cultural information that generally attaches to it.

Which raises interesting questions. Do you really love listening to the latest Jack White project? Do you really hate the sound of Britney Spears? Or are your music-consumption habits, in fact, not merely guided but partly shaped by the cultural information that Pandora largely screens out — like what’s considered awesome (or insufferable) by your peers, or by music tastemakers, or by anybody else? Is it really possible to separate musical taste from such social factors, online or off, and make it purely about the raw stuff of the music itself?

Read it in today’s issue of the Times Magazine, or here.

Will Kings of Leon be the Eagles of the Future?

John Seabrook’s interesting New Yorker story about the concert business (abstract here; no full text online I guess), included an assertion that I found hard to swallow. Seabrook at one point wonders to Irving Azoff about the prospects of the concert business when the current crop of aging mega acts  leaves the road.

Azoff: “Taylor Swift — and she’s not even my client! — or the Kings of Leon. These are career artists that are going to be around for a long time.”

Okay, but, Seabrook writes: “Would they fill stadiums and arenas forty years into their careers, as the Eagles do?”

Azoff: “Absolutely.”

Now, Azoff has obvious bias on this matter, so maybe I shouldn’t even be thinking about it. But I find the assertion dubious. What do you think?

Unconsumption & music

Over on the Unconsumption Tumblr, contributor Tom Hosford has started a series of posts on music. Go here to check out what he’s added so far: The first post is a video featuring a band whose motto is “find something in the trash…plug it in.” Second a video of a drummer whose home-made (trash-heavy) kit is said to astound crowds on SF’s Embarcadero. And most recently, an interesting and somewhat mysterious set of pix called Trash Can Music.

And if you’ve yet to explore the Unconsumption Tumblr, now’s as good a time as any — lots of fun stuff gets added pretty much every day. Check it out.

If you like the music, maybe you’d like to buy the … knife?


The relevance of the CD as a physical object connected to or expressive of music fandom is, obviously, on the wane.

But: Fans who no longer need to buy an object containing music (since music can be obtained in other ways) might still be willing, even anxious, to buy T-shirts, posters, and assorted object-packages that might or might not include a vinyl record, a book, garments, a compact disc (maybe even a blank one) and/or other collateral materials.

Earlier I noted Of Montreal’s effort to extend this notion to include such lifestyle products as a lamp.

More recently, special adviser to Cousin Lymon drew my attention to this: Khanate, in connection with its new release Clean Hands Go Foul, is selling things like CDs and DVDs and T-shirts and mugs. But also: knives. Here are some details on this $50 item:

8.75″ long hunting knife features a 4.5″ rubber grip handle and 4.25″ engraved stainless steel blade. Each knife comes with a ballistic nylon sheath and is boxed.

Are you Khanate fan? Then perhaps you buy an engraved hunting knife to prove it.