Picks Of The Year 1982 - 2017: The Video Playlists

Picks Of The Year 1993 - 2008 inclusive. There isn't enough image space on the page to include them all, sorry.[Updated 16/01/2018 to include the playlist for 2017.]

At least one of the links below tells you the full story, so I won't go through it all again. But in brief: since 1982, I've been producing an annual series of Pick Of The Year compilations, collating my favourite tracks from that year's music releases. From 1982 to 1989, they were gargantuan twin-tape affairs: between 1993 and 1997, they were single 90 minute cassettes: and since 1998, I've been burning them onto CDs. (I didn't make compilations at the time for 1990-1992, but two decades later I created some CD-length ones as a best-guess approximation with the benefit/hindrance of hindsight.)

1998 was the year that I started writing about these compilations on the interwub, as they were being produced. The years before then have been subsequently been documented on this site, with a lot of ironic pointing and laughing at the sort of junk I used to listen to. Put all that together, and you've got a hefty collection of tracks covering my musical interests from 1982 to the present day.

And thanks to YouTube, you can hear most of them right now. The playlists below aren't complete, inevitably: some artists are less happy than others about letting their product be heard for free. But the vast majority of the songs I've chosen are there in some form or other - from official record company videos, to slapdash fan-made tributes consisting of a single still image with the song playing over the top. (I guess my own Felix Project videos fall somewhere in between those two stools.)

Anyway, you've got a couple of days' worth of music here that I've liked at one time or another. And I'll be updating this page each time I produce a new POTY compilation. Enjoy.

(For those of you who don't want to look at videos, there are also Spotify playlists available for each year, although they all have at least one track missing. See the relevant pages covering the years 1982-1989, 1990-1999, 2000-2009 and 2010-2017.)

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Spotify Picks Of The Year: The Tenties

Loading: 80%...When historians look back at the deeply troubled period between 2010 and 2019, I suspect they'll say that one of its major problems was that we never really agreed what to call it.

Look at the decades we've covered in the rest of this series. The Eighties? The Nineties? Spectacularly uncontroversial: everybody calls them that. Things got a bit more uncertain at the turn of the millennium, but there was eventually an unspoken agreement that the cheeky double entendre of the Noughties would have to do. But what about now? We're four-fifths of the way through this garbage fire of a decade, and still nobody can come up with a name for it, other than the basic facepalm gesture. So I'm proposing the Tenties as the logical choice, even though it sounds bloody daft. Roll on 2020, when at least we're back into a pre-existing naming convention.

The fourth and final part of this feature will be structured in the same way as the other three, except that I'll need to return to it in two years to wrap up the decade. Once again, I've taken the Pick Of The Year CD compilations I've been creating every year, and attempted to recreate them as Spotify playlists. You'd assume that as Spotify's been running since 2008, pretty much every record released this decade would be on there, but you'd be wrong. The gaps on these last few playlists tend to fall into three categories: limited web-only releases via sites like Bandcamp, music from foreign parts (though Japan seems to have embraced international releasing for its bigger artists), and acts who've simply decided that streaming isn't something they want to do.

As always, I've noted the omissions for each year, and included links to the original discussions of the tracks. The more alert of you may have realised that the playlists for 2014-2016 have been around for a while, and were set up specifically for MostlyFilm's end-of-year roundups. The others, though, have been set up specifically for this page. Happy streaming, or whatever it is that the kids would say.

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His Sonic Experiments With Robert Fripp: Pick Of The Year 2017

True story: when I set up the Spotify playlist for this collection, it came up with the message 'To help us recommend songs, try a more descriptive name for your playlist'. It strikes me they could have found at least *one* person's work to recommend, surely?If we assume that my pal Lou has been the main inspiration behind my Pick Of The Year compilations for some time now, then this year's one - the 36th in total! - marks a couple of biggish anniversaries. Because it's the 25th compilation I've made for him since he started receiving them in 1993, and the 20th one to have been burned onto CD rather than copied onto a cassette.

The usual rules still apply, of course: this is a collection of the music released in 2017 that I liked the most, constrained by the medium it's collected onto, meaning a maximum of 80 minutes to play with. This year's batch is a right old mixture of album tracks, singles, and selections from EPs (one of the latter being primarily available on 7" vinyl, which hasn't happened around here for, um, decades). It's all been brought together on one CD (as well as playlists on YouTube and, soon, Spotify), and as usual there's a competition to win your own copy of the CD at the end of this page. Will Dave win it as usual? Let's find out...

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Spotify Picks Of The Year: The Noughties

Hard to believe, I know, but none of these covers was made using Photoshop.We're now past the halfway mark in this project to recreate all of my Pick Of The Year compilation CDs and cassettes as Spotify playlists - see also 1982-1989 and 1990-1999. And if there's one thing this exercise has taught me so far, it's that anyone who says streaming will eventually completely replace the physical ownership of music deserves a good slap. When all this is over, I will have 36 playlists comprised of records I liked a lot in the year of their release, and every single one of those playlists will be missing at least one song, if not more.

It's particularly noticeable here in the early years of the 21st century, largely thanks to my discovery of J-Pop in 2001. With a lot of Japanese music, it seems like nobody cares about granting the rights to stream it internationally. Things are starting to loosen up a little bit - Ringo Shiina has made all of her records globally available (with one maddening exception), and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has released everything worldwide from the moment Pon Pon Pon went viral. But all too often, you end up with bizarre situations like the new Vanilla Beans collection, VaniBest II, where the iTunes export version has been stripped back from 18 tracks to five, and the Spotify version restricted even further to two.

So there are a few Japanese songs on these compilations that I can't track down on Spotify. In addition to that, this was a decade when I picked up a lot of music in all sorts of contexts outside regular albums - downloads of mashups that were too copyright-infringing to go on regular sale, CDs only available at gigs, even one track given away with a book. None of those are available for streaming, as you can imagine. And most frustrating of all, it's impossible to predict when songs will be added to or removed from Spotify - there's at least one track here that wasn't available when I started assembling these playlists a month ago, but subsequently showed up because the album it came from had just got a tenth anniversary rerelease. (It's Glamur by Amiina, from 2007.)

So, in short: these playlists may have gaps in them, but I'll try to warn you here what's missing, and link to my original track-by-track discussions of the compilations as well.

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Spotify Picks Of The Year: The Nineties

New feature for this decade: sleeve art! Well, sleeve design. Okay, pictures on the sleeves.In the second of a four-part series - and it pulled me up short the other day when I realised that in a few years' time, this could become a five-part series - anyway, I'm continuing my decade-by-decade run through my Pick Of The Year compilations, this time presenting the ones from the 1990s as almost completeish Spotify playlists.

There's a major difference between these ten compilations and the previous set from the 1980s. Those earlier ones were purely made for my own benefit. The ones in the nineties, however, fall into three groups. The cassettes I made from 1993 to 1997 were specifically targeted at my mate Lou, following a session in a pub once where he grumbled that he couldn't find any decent new music any more. The CDs burned in 1998 and 1999 were also primarily made for him, but I now also had a website where I could tell the world about these favourite songs, so I was aware that I had an even wider audience. That also applies to the CDs for 1990-1992, the three years when I didn't make compilations at the time, eventually bashing them out nearly two decades after the fact to fill in the gap.

These selections may be a little more self-conscious as a result - not deliberately so, I think, but I'm sure there was some influence in my track selections because of that. There's still plenty of stuff on these lists that I can be embarrassed about now, though, so don't you worry about that. As before, some of the tracks aren't available on Spotify, so I've indicated that where appropriate and included links to the original pages discussing the compilations in full. In short: not so much the nineties, more the ja danketies! (One of my favourite gags of the period, there.)  

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Spotify Picks Of The Year: The Eighties

Just think, you could write this lot off completely with one big magnet.Some days, it terrifies me to realise just how anal I was as a teenager. But not today. Because it means I can tell you with absolute certainty that I spent December 14th-15th 1982 recording my first ever Pick Of The Year compilation. (It's written in biro on the cassette sleeves, along with the detail that it was recorded on an Amstrad 7090, the ghetto blaster that I'd bought earlier that year.)

Did I imagine at the time that THIRTY-FIVE YEARS later, I'd still be making these compilations? Probably not. Still, here we are. And with that 35th anniversary fast approaching, let's mark it by transferring all of my Picks Of The Year to date onto a new medium: streaming Spotify playlists. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting them up here, decade by decade.

Of course, in much the same style as their YouTube equivalents, these playlists aren't going to be complete: not every song in the world is available on Spotify. But I'll highlight what the missing tracks are for each year, and there'll be links to the full track listing and description as well. So with that caveat in mind, welcome to my favourite songs of the Eighties, with the other decades to follow shortly. Don't judge me.

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MOSTLYFILM: Mostly MIF 2017

<insert reference to shitty Neil LaBute remake of The Wicker Man here>There's an unspoken subtext to my latest MostlyFilm piece, a roundup of things I saw at the 2017 Manchester International Festival. Our visit took place nearly two months after the bombing at the Manchester Arena. It made me rather proud of the city of my birth, seeing the way people came together in reaction to the atrocity. And there are still signs of that all over the city today: the 'WE MCR' banners hanging off every vertical surface in town (as seen at the top of the MostlyFilm article), along with the frequent use of the city's bee symbol. (The example here has been on the floor of the town hall for countless years, but it's the best picture I have.)

We were only there for a weekend, catching six different MIF events (seven if you count the computer game), and spending any time we had in between them in many of our old favourite haunts. A couple of new ones were added to the list this time: breakfast at Evelyn's Cafe & Bar (which was Superstore when we visited it last), and dinner at Bundobust (having enjoyed the Leeds branch so much last Easter).

As for the shows, the MostlyFilm piece will tell you most of what you need to know, but I've also got some video trailers and clips here for those of you hungry for Red Button Bonus Content.

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MOSTLYFILM: We Are X

The odd thing is, Yoshiki doesn't even *play* the guitar.If you're reading this post on the day it goes up - i.e. Thursday March 2nd, 2017 - then this counts as a timely warning. Because TONIGHT, many cinemas around the UK will be holding a one-off screening of We Are X, a new documentary film about the hugely popular Japanese rock band X Japan. Never heard of them? That's why you need to see a documentary about them, I guess.

Still not convinced? Well, to be honest, the only reason I bring it up is because I've written a review for MostlyFilm of We Are X, which you can read right now. As you'll see, I think it's a fascinating film, but I wasn't particularly interested in X Japan's music. Maybe you'd like to take issue with me on that, or you'd like to hear some songs for yourself before buying tickets for their Wembley Arena gig this Saturday.

You know, this feels like exactly the sort of reason why Red Button Bonus Content was invented! So here comes a video playlist featuring one song from each of the five studio albums X Japan have released to date. (They've been promising a sixth for some time now, but still no word on that yet.)

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Täähä Menöö Hyvi! Pick Of The Year 2016

"It's like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black. Well, maybe a little bit more."It's a controversial opinion, but I'm going to say it anyway: as years go, 2016 was absolute dogshit. Massive upheavals throughout society, combined with the death of apparently every famous person ever - against a backdrop like that, any personal problems of your own seem magnified as they become part of the overall global catastrophe.

My pal Lou, who's effectively been the patron of these Pick Of The Year compilations since 1993, has always suggested that they provide an insight into what my mood was like each year. Looking at Täähä Menöö Hyvi!, my compilation for 2016, that mood would currently appear to be swinging wildly: downbeat or angry songs interspersed with bursts of unexpected joy.

So, are you ready for one of the most manic depressive collections of music I've put together since I started doing this in 1982? Let's hope so. Here, in a simultaneous broadcast with MostlyFilm (who are including this as part of their general end-of-year roundup), is a CD's worth of tracks that defined 2016 for me. And stick around to the end if you want the chance to win a copy of the CD for yourself (as long as you're reading this before the end of January 2017).

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The Lexica Of Love

Watch out, Young Martin Fry Surrogate! Actual Young Martin Fry's got a shooter!Back in 2006, I wrote a review of the first three Ultravox albums - the ones recorded in the John Foxx/Island Records/pre-fame period of their history. At the time, they'd just received a 30th anniversary re-release with bonus tracks added. This made me feel very old. Not as old, though, as when I discovered recently that later this month, they’re getting a 40th anniversary re-release as a box set called The Island Years. It’s virtually the same material, but with the bonus tracks shunted off to a separate disc and supplemented by a couple of previously unreleased BBC sessions (including the OGWT set mentioned in my review).

They won't get me this time, but only because they got me last time. Still, that’s how the music industry works these days – they find the stuff that hooked you as a teenager, and keep reselling it to you every few years. Last week saw another example of this, as ABC released an album of new songs called The Lexicon Of Love II, some 34 years after their world-conquering debut of almost the same name. From a distance, it seems like a grossly cynical attempt at prodding the nostalgia glands of people my age. Which is why we need to get in close.

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