Music of the Year (2)

Fergal listed his music of the year last week. As usual he takes in live shows, critical successes and wilful musical obscurities. He goes though the albums that struck a chord with him as well as those that left him cold.

In contrast, I don’t know albums from a hole in the ground. I only want to go to live gigs if they’ll have backing dancers. The only vinyl single I ever bought was Paul McCartney’s The Frog Chorus. I’m that uncool.

For all these handicaps I did build up a meaningful musical relationship this year- two of them, in fact. They weren’t with an artist or an album. They were with a radio programme and piece of software, respectively.

The music of 2006 was brought to me by The Blue of the Night on RTE’s Lyric FM and the magical streaming music elves of Last FM.

The Blue of the Night is what my radio plays when I plug it in as I get into bed. It runs from 10.30 to 1am every night (except Friday, when modern jazz drives me away). This year, I’ve come to know Paul Herriot as a member of my family. Admittedly, a family member who never responds when I talk to him, and whose soft cadences I mistook for a woman’s for a number of months, but a family member nonetheless.

Being on Lyric, the programme is a friend to classical music. But we’re far from the ‘Pop go the classics’ choices of the Breakfast show here. They wander out in the wilderness of the classical muso’s hinterland. A place, I can safely say, I’d have remained entirely unaware of without TBOTN’s guidance. (Abbreviation to prevent fatigue).

Take a look at an average playlist. You’ve got classical stuff, Gershwin, Irving Berlin as well as bushels of traditional songs and a shot of Lennon & McCartney. Good, late night, drifting off to sleep fare.

I should mention the programme idents here, as I say the word drift. “Drift… into the blue of the night??? is an inspired slogan in it own right. But together with the birdsong, harp music and other background noises used in the idents it’s nothing short of magic. Hearing one, it requires an effort to remember than I’m still awake.

My other musical companion this year was more portable. For me, The Blue of the Night is only ever on beside my bed, as I fall asleep. Last FM can go wherever I have a computer and Wi-Fi.

In practice this means I can listen to it in the kitchen doing the washing up.

If you haven’t seen Last FM yet, you ought to go over to its site take a look and download their application. You set up a profile and it starts playing you music- just like a radio station. So far, so ho-hum.

But it’s radio with three extra buttons.

Love. Ban. Skip.

Every song can be classed with those buttons as they’re playing. Love something and you get more from that artist (and others like them). Ban it and you never hear from them again. Or skip when you don’t want to hear something now, but might still want to hear them later.

Gradually you end up with the virtue of a playlist, in that it is tailored to your taste, but the surprises and musical discoveries of radio.

The only downside is that you have to be careful with your buttons. I once clicked love on a Brian Eno ambient piece of noodling and ended up with an endless supply of beeps, punctuated by Tour de France by Kraftwerk. It took a while to sort that out.

And if you’re ever bored with your own taste, you can tune into other people’s streams and sample them. Simon’s Stream is quite pop heavy, but with a touch of soul as well.

So there you go.
My music of the year?


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