Click the link for a Spotify playlist of my albums of 2012. I tried to reflect what I actually kept returning to this year against albums I admired but rarely listened to. Whenever I look at previous lists I’m always surprised by the ones which endure in my affections. There is no strict order here but it’s safe to say that the first 10 dominated my year. I’m particularly pleased to have ‘discovered’ Akala and Sharon Van Etten. Further down, however, albums from Admiral Fallow and The Magnetic North are the kinds of subtle pleasures which pop into your mind on some idle afternoon and cause you to fall in love with them all over again. I don’t think efforts from Taylor Swift, Alanis Morissette and Garbage were their strongest work but they had enough knock-out songs for me to keep returning.
MDNA – Madonna
Old Ideas – Leonard Cohen
Wrecking Ball – Bruce Springsteen
Knowledge is Power Vol.1 – Akala
iLL Manors – Plan B
The North – Stars
Tramp – Sharon Van Etten
Lotus – Christina Aguilera
Mid Air – Paul Buchanan
Red – Taylor Swift
The Idler Wheel… – Fiona Apple
Tree Bursts in Snow – Admiral Fallow
The Spirit Indestructible – Nelly Furtado
Not Your Kind of People – Garbage
Out of the Game – Rufus Wainwright
Play for Today – Ultrasound
Orkney: Symphony of The Magnetic North – The Magnetic North
Havoc & Bright Lights – Alanis Morissette
Misty Eye – Aiden Grimshaw
Piramida – Efterklang
Musically, this year is shaping up to be my life’s equivalent of Season 7 on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ – lots of old faces, a heap of nostalgia and a harking back to my teenage years. Lady Gaga can be the pesky uber-vamp, obviously. There really is a remarkable parallel between much of the music I’ve been listening to this year and that of the mid-late 90s: Marilyn Manson, Madonna, Fiona Apple, Smashing Pumpkins, Bruce Springsteen, The Cranberries, Spiritualized, Sigur Ros. Bands like Linkin Park, The Dandy Warhols and The Offspring have all returned, while I’m eagerly awaiting new albums from Green Day, Tori Amos, No Doubt and Skunk Anansie. A few weeks ago I saw Garbage live for the first time in 14 years and this week I bought tickets to see Tori Amos in October (it’ll be my first time!) Last night, I saw Alanis Morissette.
I can still remember the exact day when I bought Jagged Little Pill. I was 15 and visited the Olympia shopping centre in East Kilbride with my mum. I have a very vivid memory of standing in the music section of John Menzies holding the cd. I had really started getting into music that year, investigating a bit further than Michael Jackson and Madonna. It quickly became an obsession and music meant everything. Jagged Little Pill was one of the first cds I bought and if last.fm had existed back then, I don’t think any other album even now would be close to the number of listens I gave to it. I wasn’t alone in that, obviously – the album sold around 35 million copies – but in that maddening and brilliant teenage way, it felt like she was singing to me. I was one of those adolescents who’d sit in his room on a Saturday night, listening to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and writing truly awful poetry.
A diversion – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Jagged Little Pill were released in the same year, 1995. Also released this year was: Maxinquaye by Tricky; To Bring You My Love by PJ Harvey; Pieces of You by Jewel; The Bends by Radiohead; Elastica by Elastica; I Should Coco by Supergrass; Grand Prix by Teenage Fanclub; Post by Bjork; HIStory by Michael Jackson; Foo Fighters by Foo Fighters; Garbage by Garbage; Southpaw Grammar by Morrissey; Paranoid and Sunburnt by Skunk Anansie; 1. Outside by David Bowie; (What’s the Story?) Morning Glory by Oasis; Daydream by Mariah Carey; It’s Great When You’re Straight…Yeah by Black Grape; Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt; Smells Like Children by Marilyn Manson; Different Class by Pulp; Something to Remember by Madonna; The Beatles Anthology by The Beatles; The Ghost of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen.
I realise I was 15 and all but isn’t that FUCKING AMAZING?!
Anyway, yes, I was pretty hung up on Alanis Morissette back in the day. I bought her singles, her videos. I was sick with excitement for weeks before ‘Thank U’ debuted and purchased Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie on the morning of release. I can still remember the giddiness I felt when I found Under Rug Swept on sale in Glasgow’s Missing Records on the Friday before it was due to be released. In those pre-leak days, that felt like the biggest discovery in the world.
The last (and only other) time I saw Alanis live I was 16 and she was playing T in the Park (back when it was in Hamilton, where I lived), just before Radiohead on the bill. I can’t remember much about that gig except that I absolutely loved it and would recall it as my favourite gig for some years afterwards. Last night I finally remembered why. I went along to Brixton Academy expecting some songs I loved, some nostalgia for my teens. I got that and a whole lot more. She was bold enough to both start and end her main set with new songs (which sounded brilliant) – this was no limp exercise in recalling past glories. Nonetheless, the Jagged Little Pill songs of course received the biggest reaction. At times the entire place was united in song, the kind of transcendent moment which you’re fortunate to experience once, let alone repeatedly. My boyfriend was amazed by how charismatic and warm Alanis was, stating his amazement at her ‘massive smile’ several times. She was an irresistible performer, clearly loving every minute with an infectious joy. I expected to be entertained but in two hours Alanis reminded me why her music had once been my world and, indeed, why music generally moves me in a way no other art form can ever match.
All together now: “I want you to know…”