Photo by Maarten Hornstra

I wasn’t going to do a ‘best of’ list this year. I really haven’t been paying enough attention. Of course, I’ve come across some great music, and can recommend you check some stuff out – but the attention required to put them in some sort of order is beyond me right now – and, of course, most of the music I’ve listened to in 2010 is not from 2010.

So I thought just for the sake of it, I’d dig through my Last.fm profile and make a list of the artists that I’ve listened to most this year. It looks like this – in descending order of most-played.

50 artists that Last.fm has noticed me listening to in 2010:
Sola Rosa
SJD
Humphreys & Keen
Fat Freddy’s Drop
Tom Waits
Steely Dan
The Veils
Dimmer
KMFDM
The Nextmen
Joni Mitchell
DangerDoom
Laberinto
Shriekback
Gil Scott-Heron
The Herbaliser
Fennesz Sakamoto
Tim Hecker
Chase & Status
Four Tet
Sufjan Stevens
Beck
Nine Inch Nails
Talk Talk
Medeski, Martin and Wood
Girl Talk
The Cinematic Orchestra
Brian Eno
Radiohead
Stefan Pasborg
Fever Ray
Hauschka
Scritti Politti
The Prodigy
Esbjörn Svensson Trio
Gui Boratto
The Phantom Band
Steve Reich
Jake Dubber
Miles Davis
Bohren & der Club of Gore
Novos Baianos
SoundSci
Glenn Gould
The Universal Quartet
Nettle
The Fall
4hero
Grant Lee Buffalo
Groundation

There’s a problem with this list. It doesn’t count vinyl – and apart from anything else, I suspect I’ve probably heard more Rickie-Lee Jones than Joni Mitchell over the past 12 months, but that’s only because I’ve been thrashing The Magazine and the self-titled album on my turntable. I’ve also spent more time this year listening to records than ever before – and in fact, it might even start to challenge my iTunes/iPod listening at this rate.

I don’t own a television, but I do own a record player. This is probably significant.

But what’s far more interesting is the Long Tail effect my listening has demonstrated this year. I have heard more artists in 2010 than I think I’ve ever come across before in my life. The sum of all of the things that I’ve only listened to a few times this year vastly outweighs the sum total of the things that appear on the list above. That is, I have spent significantly more time listening to the things that are not on that list than the things that are.

And that’s not just to say that I’ve checked out a whole of new stuff and only listened to it once or twice – I’ve also been going back over all of the music I own and love and bringing it out for a fresh spin. I’ve been particularly checking out some of the more angular, experimental and introspective corners of my jazz library. This has been an uncharacteristically ECM-intensive time – though I did start work on a European jazz research project this year.

All of which means that this was a year of diverse musical experiences. May there be many more like it. In the meantime, if you’re looking for music to try – I can recommend every single one of the artists listed above, all for different reasons, but they certainly all bear repeated listening. I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll like.