Magazine article The Spectator

Recent Loves

Magazine article The Spectator

Recent Loves

Article excerpt

And so to the records of the year. I usually do this piece in December, but as all sensible shoppers know that's the worst month in the year to buy anything for yourself - particularly music, in what is very much a buyer's market.

Amazon's prices, normally comfortingly low, lurch up into realms of profitability during December, to catch out unwary parents and relatives who don't buy things there for £4.98 every day of the week.

In mid-December I wandered through a branch of Zavvi, the doomed rebrand of Virgin Megastores. I was there, and some tumbleweed, and a couple of sad teenagers in shabby Zavvi uniforms, who may have been making alternative career plans for the new year. If you can't flog CDs and computer games and DVDs in the fortnight before Christmas, you haven't a prayer. The heart seems to have gone out of the music business, but fortunately the music hasn't, which is all that need concern us here.

As is traditional in this column, I find that few of the records I have fallen in love with were released in the past year.

This is probably my failure rather than the music's, but I'm sure I'm not alone in buying the latest album everyone's talking about and then wishing I hadn't. This year's H.M. Bateman experience was the Fleet Foxes album, over which everyone swooned and even foamed with heartfelt appreciation. I just couldn't hear it. I tried, I really tried. But that's pop music for you: the endless joy of discovery is always offset by the dismay of realising that your tastes are utterly your own and everybody else's are often incomprehensible. Alexandra Burke's version of 'Hallelujah' is the fastest-selling single by a female singer of all time. To anyone who loves the original, this feels like a calculated insult, the musical equivalent of a gobful in the eye. But we can't take it so personally; indeed, to stay sane, we must turn the other cheek. (And look forward to the CD of Leonard Cohen's live shows, which I suspect may be a highlight of 2009. ) Whereas anyone who loves Alexandra Burke would grimace with disgust if confronted with James Yorkston, say. This croaky-voiced singer-songwriter from Fife, one of the least showbiz people who can ever have lived, releases quiet but intense albums of acoustic loveliness that creep into your subconsciousness and never leave. …

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