Thursday 23 December 2021

end of year ramble (bye 2021!)

So 2021 is coming to a close… simultaneously far too quickly and not soon enough, if I’m honest. It’s been a tough one, but we’re almost there, hey? Mostly with the help (for me, at least) of a lot of brilliant music - new and old. At the start of 2021 I did an ‘end-of-year reflections’ post and felt inclined to do the same now. Much like last year, this page and the community of friends I’ve forged around it on social media have offered solace to me this year.

In the post back in Jan I wrote this (and love & still feel it wholeheartedly, so I’m reproducing it here) - 

This blog has been a glorious escape for me this year. I really love this site. And I love the community of people that I've managed to grow around it. Things have escalated a bit this year. I've been forced into having more time for it, and while I couldn't get to shows and interact with fans and artists in person, I feel like I've connected with more people through the blog than ever before. Running the blog at some points this year has felt like a full time job in itself. I feel privileged to have an audience of sorts, though. As we pass into the new year, I feel inspired and determined to keep up with the blog, to keep it growing, and to find new and exciting opportunities within the industry.

When I’m not rambling about music for fun, I work in a bookstore, and I’m writing this in the midst of the last shopping week before Christmas. I started this post a couple of weeks ago, but time feels a little blurry at the moment, as it has for much of the past two years. As such, my AOTY list is a work in progress too… I’ve been listening back to albums I’ve enjoyed this year to try and figure out my favourites. No spoilers there, but it’s been a pretty joyous year for new music. 

A new record from The Vaccines, a gorgeous collaborative album from Johnny Flynn & Robert Macfarlane, that stunning Arlo Parks record from the very start of the year, the return of LUMP & the debut record from my pals Low Island. Growing obsessions with the likes of Melin Melyn, Banji, Francis of Delirium & Bess Atwell… I could go on, and I do… if you want to know what I’m listening to, the blog is of course as great a place to start as any. Or tweet me! I’m always desperate to share new discoveries.

I’ve been listening a lot (Spotify tells me *almost* as much as last year, which I spent most of at home on furlough) but have been posting a little less this year. Losing my nan a few months ago was the catalyst for a little break from writing, and while I expected to return to the site as “normal” after a few weeks, that hasn’t been the case. Five posts a week has turned into two or three most weeks…

A little of the magic was lost for a while this year. I didn’t want to force myself back into the rhythm of how things were (this is all meant to be for fun after all…) but I’m sad that I lost a lot of the momentum that I had last year when things really seemed to be growing. Despite that, and my tendency to be a blogger who doesn’t blog all that much, people have stuck by the site, and continued to interact with my posts, and with my rambles on social media. I genuinely believe that coping with my loss was made less difficult through talking to people who I’m friends with because of this blogging lark, and that meant more than I can articulate here. The internet proves itself yet again to be a wild and beautiful place - this corner of it, at least.

Another thing that has brought me a lot of solace this year is nature. I’ve always been curious about the nature around me, but that love has found new depths this year… particularly when it comes to birds. Time that might have usually been spent indoors replying to emails or procrastinating over a blog post has been spent birdwatching, wandering nature reserves, taking photos and gardening. While right now I feel quite exhausted from the onslaught of working in retail at Christmas, I also feel energised… excited to continue to work out the balance of enjoying time outdoors (and time spent staring through my kitchen window at the drama breaking out on the bird feeders) and working on the blog, getting back to more regular posting. This is after all a hobby, and there’s room in my life for more than one - and I feel so much happier for it. Birds are truly the best.

Despite my posting less and being less active online, while things have slowed down a little, the blog has still managed to grow this year. More submissions, more followers - the Instagram following has doubled to over a thousand, which is completely wild and impossible to wrap my head around. It’s lovely to know that there are people out there who are interested in what I’m doing here, on whatever level.

One of this year’s highlights, by far, is that I only went and improved on my total of two gigs in 2020 (Bear’s Den and The Hoosiers, squeezed in *just* before all of this) with a grand total of THREE this year. With nothing much happening locally to me, back in October I made my grand return to a gig, 19 months, give or take, since the previous one. In a completely spontaneous turn of events we ventured to Nottingham and saw my most listened to artist of the year, The Staves, in the midst of their UK tour.

In November, I saw the White Tail Falls album launch show (for an album which was released in the first half of 2020, and a gig which had been rescheduled 3 times) in London’s St Pancras Old Church. A beautiful evening seeing my favourite album of 2020 brought to life on the stage. With the gig bug threatening to return, I hopped on a train for another last minute (for me) gig a week later: Bess Atwell in Cambridge. With things getting progressively worse at the moment in terms of case numbers and restrictions, if that was to be my last gig for a while, again, I’m glad it was such a special one.

Another cause for less frequent posting might have been the very exciting months that I spent interning for Chalk Press Agency. They’re truly one of my favourite music companies with a dream roster, so despite all the chaos of the year, getting to work with them for a few months was a joy. I’m crossing my fingers to get started in another music role once Christmas is out of the way…

So, what am I looking forward to in 2022? Musically, more gigs, I hope. Crossing my fingers that the world holds itself together just enough to not cancel the Johnny Flynn & Robert Macfarlane shows at The Globe Theatre in February. Please! On the site, more posts? Maybe. But if not, that’s cool too. More interviews as those seem to have taken a break this year too, but they’re always fun to pull together. And a whole lot of brilliant upcoming music… a new album from my favourite band (you know who it is), new MICHELLE, new gang of youths, the debut from Wet Leg. It’s all happening, and I’m here for it.

Whatever happens I plan to continue to ramble, here and on Twitter, about my favourite artists and my favourite music. That’s what I’m here for. Happy reading, listening, and scrolling. It’s a joy to have your company.

Merry Christmas, pals. X

p.s. Albums of the year post incoming just as soon as I figure out what my albums of the year are, and write it. Worth the wait. Maybe. Probably not.

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