I’ve had such a blast with this project, listening to an unfamiliar album or two every day, for a full year. 500 of them! Across ages, genres, prejudices and assumptions, challenging myself to listen with ‘mindfulness’ and attention.

50 or albums have been discoveries that will always stay with me. Eye openers. Heart warmers. Spirit soothers! Then, 30 or so albums I viscerally detested! Maybe another time I’ll make a playlist of tracks from my faves. But this journey has partly been an Anti-Spotify project – a rejection of the casually consumed, of the background soundtrack that is heard and then dispensed with, as if it was only there to illustrate our lives.

It’s been hugely enjoyable to immerse myself in unfamiliar stuff. True, most of my innate preferences and prejudices remain. But there have been great challenges and discoveries – nu soul for example, but also reminders of what I’ve inexplicably let go – specifically, acoustic music played on things that are struck, plucked, strummed, blown and bowed. And the unsurpassable beauty and emotion of the human voice.

This final month showed me how much more there is yet to listen to. New finds on guitar like Tony McManus and Andy McKee – nether of whom I’d ever even heard of. And why have I never listened to Leo Kottke? Some ridiculous, unfounded prejudices.

The outrageous Andy McKee. Do not try this at home!


Some British folk I had resisted – Gryphon and more my cup of tea, Home Service, with the frightening but wonderful folkie writer, John Tams. I so remember The Mystery Plays decades ago in the round at the National, and was delighted to find it was Home Service that had provided the music.

In brand new work, I loved the trumpet of Ambrose Akinmusire in a simple trio including my fave guitarist, Bill Frisell, who has popped up as a sideman on many albums this year. I also loved the classic timeless melodies in a fabulous album by the Lemon Twigs.


My new favourite band! The Lemon Twigs cross Karen Carpenter with every pop band you used to love


For the human voice, for ages I’ve followed Julie Fowlis on social media, but realised I’ve never actually listened to her music properly. This month, it’s her voice that stood out for me.


Julie Fowlis, with a Gaelic voice that grabs my heart

One album in December encapsulates the whole project for me. My guilty secret is serial or minimal music, ever since I first heard Terry Riley’s In C in the 70s. Performed around the world by differing groups, it balances the written with the improvisational. It is notated, but not as we know it. Each musician in an ensemble plays through motifs and instructions, negotiating progress in the moment at a time and pace which suits them and the collective. In C can say 30 minutes through to 2 hours, depending on the ‘band’. 

I saw Terry Riley in his 80s lead some London players through it at the Barbican in London: it’s mesmeric, timeless, uplifting. I listened to a version I’d never heard by Africa Express… and to that list of adjectives, add heart-warming, joyous, fun, irreverent! All told, everything music should be. And what’s more, 90% of people who hear it won’t like it!

The whole point of the project has been to explore and extend what I ‘like’, to ask myself ‘why?’, to listen more closely, listen more carefully, and to respect what each artist does, whether it’s my ‘taste’ or not. Hey, what’dya mean, it’s not for you?!!!! Isn’t life wonderful!!!

Thank you if you've been watching, reading or just seeing what a weird mix of music I listened to in 2023. My hope is I can listen differently now, but also get back to what I love even more - making music!


The perfect record, the perfect music film! Well, anyway, I love it!


  1. Manu Katche - Neighbourhood
  2. Harp - Albion
  3. Mike Oldfield - Hergest Ridge
  4. Africa Express - Africa Express Presents… Terry Riley's In C Mali
  5. Stanley Clarke Trio - Jazz In The Garden
  6. The Everly Brothers - It's Everly Time
  7. The Tannahill Weavers - The Tannahill Weavers IV
  8. Charlie Haden, Jan Garbarek, Egberto Gismonti - Folk Songs
  9. Toto - Toto IV
  10. The Blasters - The Blasters
  11. Carl Perkins - The Dance Album
  12. Julien Baker - Little Oblivions
  13. Woo - It's Cosy Inside
  14. Lemon Twigs - Everything Harmony
  15. Al Green - Call Me
  16. Gryphon - Get Out Of My Father's Car!
  17. Julie Fowlis - Mar a Tha Mo Chridhe (As My Heart Is)
  18. Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Gospel Train
  19. Tony McManus - The Maker's Mark
  20. Leo Kottke - Peculiaroso
  21. Pepppino D'Agostino, Stef Burns - Bayshore Road
  22. Catherine McGrath - The Acoustics
  23. Rodrigo y Gabriela - Rodrigo y Gabriela
  24. Andy McKee - Art of Motion
  25. Home Service - Alright Jack
  26. Ambrose Akinmusire - Owl Song
  27. Julian Lage - View With A Room
  28. Chic - C’est Chic

Total: 500

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