My recollections are somewhat complicated by the changing nature of recorded music, which affected my year more than I had originally realized. It used to be that I would purchase some music at a store, bring home the shiny plastic artifact, and have a physical object that I could see, feel, and variously fetishize. Now, although I still buy CDs (around a hundred last year, I think), I also initiate an exchange of some data on my bank's computer for some data on some server somewhere, with no physical artifacts in sight. Until the end of the year, I wasn't tracking download purchases, so I have to reconstruct these purchases using fields in the iTunes database.
In addition (ahem), not all of the downloads were what the RIAA would necessarily recognize as completely legal transactions. While I make a genuine effort not to download releases that are readily available, I do like to find various out of print albums, often from vinyl albums that I used to own. And occasionally I will read about a group or album, feel a bit nervous about buying something that I really know nothing about, and will download something instead of purchasing it. In these cases, I generally end up either buying the album or deleting it after one listen. But anyway, I have a hard drive littered with lots of music files, many of unknown provenance. So one resolution is to perform better tracking of new music that comes in the door.
But beyond provenance, there's the question of value here. How much of my listening time (of which there isn't as much as I'd like) should I spend with a free bootleg, and how much should I spend listening to something I have purchased? or for which I have a shiny plastic artifact? How about something downloaded legally and freely from a netlabel? I've made the distinction this year between CDs and legal downloads — all of the new music I've reviewed this year was from CD, except for one album where the artist supplied the download rather than sending me the disc — but I'm not sure this distinction is valid any more, except to the extent that the artist often puts considerable effort into the packaging, and a review should acknowledge this effort.
Anyway, I've spent some of the time off during the holidays to clean up my digital library, deleting music that doesn't need to be heard more than once, putting titles on my wish list, etc. Here are some of the albums I enjoyed a lot during the last year, more or less in the order in which they were acquired. Links are to reviews on this blog.
- Bernard Parmegiani - Plain-temps
- Henri Pousseur - Paysages Planetaires
- Gunnar Pedersen - A Sound Year
- Angelo Petronella - Sintesi de un diario
- Nik Bartsch - Ronin
- David Torn - Prezens
- Fennesz and Sakamoto - Cendre
- Fovea Hex - Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent
- Keith Rowe - The Room
- Eliane Radigue - Jetsun Mila
- David Sylvian - When Loud Weather Buffeted Naoshima
- Frode Haltli - Passing Images
- Francisco Lopez - Wind [Patagonia]
- Valentin Silvestrov - Bagatellen und Serenaden
- Michael Prime - Borneo
- Frances White - Centre Bridge
- Aloof Proof - Piano Text