I’ve been using Last.fm to track my music plays for more than a decade. This week I hit the landmark of 200,00 tracks played. Last.fm doesn’t track all the music I listen to – I currently only have it scrobbling plays on my phone and on my work laptop, not on the stereo – over the years it’s formed an interesting picture of my music listening habits.
Here are my top ten tracks according to Last.fm, limited it to one song per artist. Songs by Aimee Mann, Gene Clark, and Can narrowly missed the cut.
(intro) by Tom Waits
from Nighthawks at the Diner (1975)
Nighthawks at the Diner was a live album of new material, designed to emphasise Waits’ jazzy side. There are six tracks named ‘(intro)’ on Nighthawks at the Diner, so every time I’ve listened to the album ‘(intro)’ was scrobbled six times. None of the ‘(intro)’ tracks feature my favourite Waits dialogue from Nighthawks, introducing his band:
They all come from good families, but over the years they justTom Waits
Kind of individually developed some ways about them that just aren’t right
Coincidentally, it’s Waits’ 70th birthday today (or yesterday, depending on what time zone you’re in). Happy birthday from Aphoristic Album Reviews!
Right Here by The Go-Betweens
from Tallulah (1987)
Tallulah was my first Go-Betweens record and I was obsessed with the Australian quintets’ hooky and literate pop songs. If I didn’t limit the list to one song per artist, the list would be overrun by Go-Betweens tracks, due to bootlegs. ‘Right Here’ isn’t one of my favourite Go-Betweens tracks, but it features some of Grant McLennan’s best lines:
It rains for days
So you stay inside and lock your door
Cryin’ all the time
Crying for, you don’t know what for
You say, you’re undone by his kissGrant McLennan
But don’t you think
That for once in your life
It should be like this?
Southtown Girls by The Hold Steady
from Boys and Girls in America (2005)
Boys and Girls in America was another album I obsessed with. The group perfectly straddled classic rock (Springsteen and Thin Lizzy are obvious influences), alternative rock (like The Replacements and Hüsker Dü, front-man Craig Finn came from the Twin Cities), and the rapid-fire lyrics of hip hop. The closer ‘Southtown Girls’ is a triumphant anthem, starting with a rough-hewn acapella chorus before the band kicks into overdrive.
Keep On Sailing by Ian Matthews
from Valley Hi (1973) and Some Days You Eat The Bear And Some Days The Bear Eats You (1974)
Ian Matthews started his career with English folk-rockers Fairport Convention, but his solo career explored American styles like country rock. He’s best known for his cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’ with Matthews Southern Comfort, but he made some nice country-rock albums in the early 1970s. For some reason, he included his pretty ‘Keep On Sailing’ on two consecutive studio records; the Michael Nesmith-produced Valley Hi in 1973 and Some Days You Eat The Bear And Some Days The Bear Eats You in 1974.
Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road by Robert Wyatt
from Rock Bottom (1974)
Robert Wyatt was the drummer and vocalist for art-rock bands Soft Machine and Matching Mole before a 1973 accident left him as a paraplegic. The stately and chaotic art-rock of Rock Bottom has enjoyed critical acclaim over the years. Wyatt’s name has become a verb; “Wyatting” is the practice of playing unusual tracks on a pub jukebox to annoy the other pub-goers.
Tonight The Sky by Sun Kil Moon
from April (2008)
Mark Kozelek’s work has devolved into tossed-off stream-of-consciousness pieces over the last few years, but he was once a great songwriter. Sun Kil Moon’s April is my favourite Kozelek project, and it was inspired by the premature death of his former muse; the same woman he wrote Red House Painters’ ‘Katy Song’ about. On ‘Tonight The Sky’ Kozelek goes into Neil Young mode for a lengthy and cathartic piece.
Some nights we roar like lionsMark Kozelek
some we coo like doves.
Bird Song by The Trees Community
from The Christ Tree (1975)
In 1975, the Christian collective The Trees Community recorded a single album that sank into obscurity, despite its fascinating nature. The group lived in a monastic community and played Christian freak-folk with an exotic array of world instruments.
In 2007, the record was released in a four-disc set, and was praised by Pitchfork in the wake of the freak-folk revival – they wrote “Our general understanding of modern Christian music is so far removed from what the Trees Community accomplished that this release comes as a startling revelation.”
Sweet Little Mystery by John Martyn
from Grace and Danger (1980)
English folkie John Martyn recorded his emotionally charged divorce album in 1980. Grace and Danger is different from the folk material that Martyn was best known for, but it’s gorgeous anyway. Martyn was accompanied by his friend Phil Collins on drums, who was busy recording his own divorce album, Face Value.
It’s not the letters that you just don’t writeJohn Martyn
It’s not the arms of some new friend
It’s not the crying in the depth of the night
That keeps me hanging on, just waiting for the end.
Appetite by Prefab Sprout
from Steve McQueen (1985)
More literate 1980s indie-pop, this time from the pen of Durham’s Paddy McAloon. After the hyper-busy pop of 1984’s Swoon, producer Thomas Dolby helped the band to refine their sound for their breakthrough second album, renamed Two Wheels Good in the US for legal reasons.
If your eyes are wanting all you seePaddy McAloon
Then I think I’ll name you after me
I think I’ll call you appetite
These Are Days by 10,000 Maniacs
from Our Time In Eden (1992)
I’ve already devoted an entire blog post to ‘These Are Days‘, a song from Natalie Merchant’s last album with 10,000 Maniacs. To summarise, for me it’s a song of springtime and of renewed hope, and it was fittingly played at Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration.
If anyone else out there is still using last.fm, please befriend me. My username is “troutfunk”.
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Nice work man, i am kind-of still using last.fm but most of the time it doesn’t work for me, only sometimes and gave-up trying to figure out why? I have just pressed the red plus to change to a green tick! actually that is my second last.fm profile because i delete the earlier one for some reason, i don’t know why? anyway since 2012 i have only at 128,100 plays right now as i type this. i remember numbering Tommy’s intros when changing it into mp3’s or whatever format it is?
Anyway if you wanna know? my top tracks is:
1. Eat Yr Heart by HTRK -110 scrobbles
2. Higgs Boson Blues by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds -108
3. I Don’t Ever Want To Change by The Drones -108
4. Strange Tourist by Gareth Liddiard -88
5. Ha by HTRK -88
6. Anthrocene by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds -88
7. Chinatown Style by HTRK -86
8. The Weeping Song by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds -81
9. Jezebel by The Drones -81
10. Nine Eyes by The Drones -81
LOL! it’s like the same three artists!
We are at 52% Your compatibility with troutfunk is High. You both listen to Angel Olsen, Phoebe Bridgers and Robert Forster.
I have to reinstall the scrobbler from time to time – maybe you need to do that?
I don’t like spending too much time fiddling with mp3s.
I think the top song where it’s not something weird like bootlegs/multiple tracks with the same name, is at 51 plays.
I guess 51% sounds about right? I think having Robert Forster is probably extra points, because he’s pretty niche in the scheme of things…
nope, i don’t think care that much to reinstall it now and yeah, i don’t think care about fiddling about with mp3s now but back then i was a big fusspot or something? 🙂
Nice to see Aimee Mann on the honourable mentions/just missed the top 10 – 50 years after the fair is among my favourite new-to-me tunes from the 1001 list!
I actually don’t know Whatever very well. My go-to Mann album (perhaps slightly oddly) is her last record with Til Tuesday, Everything’s Different Now.
I seem to say this on every other comment…again with this power pop search…I’ve learned more about The Go Betweens… Was There Anything I Could Do and Spring Rain. I like what I’ve heard.
Good variety of music.
I love the Go-Betweens – so many good songs if you don’t mind the semi-amateur guitar and vocals.
It doesn’t bother me…Sometimes simple is better. It’s all about the song.
Huh! I kinda sorta heard of this but realize I don’t know anything about it. I can’t imagine you’re using it just to have it tell you what you’re listening to. What else does this service provide for music lovers? Why would one use it?
It can give you recommendations, reports, and you can see what your last.fm friends have been listening to. It’s interesting, and I enjoy the reports.
Hmm, ok. Probably not for me. Main interest would be recommendations and I already find it just about impossible to keep up with the ones I already get.
Everything okay down there? For a small country you got a lot going on.
Yup it was mainly tourists affected. I’ve never been out to White Island.
Well, now you can go. Odds are it won’t happen again any time soon.
Wouldn’t be surprised if it shuts up shop, at least for a while.
I actually just got back to Last.fm this year. Forgot my details, so started a new profile. More out of interest to see the recommendations (I’m already listening to / explored a lot of them, so it’s been pretty accurate) and to see what I tend to listen to. Mostly it scrobbles from my phone, which I listen to a lot – commute to and from work, as well as in the office.
Anyhoo, there are a few things here for me to go investigate and some I need to spend some more time with, but I’m in total agreement with you about April and The Hold Steady. I’ve been obsessed with both albums at some point and still love to listen to Boys and Girls In America really loud.
As for my top 10, I’d imagine Lanegan, Perry Farrell, Earthless, Hunt Sales Memorial, Queens of the Stone Age, Stone Temple Pilots, and Flaming Lips feature quite high.
Your compatibility with VinylDaftDad is High.
You both listen to Joe Henry, Michael Kiwanuka and Charli XCX.
I think April and Hold Steady are two of the only tracks on the list that made it on the list while only having one version of the song. Lots of the others made it through a technicality, like Tom Waits having six tracks named “(intro)”.
Two songs that deserve repeated plays for sure.
I had a quick gander and my most played is Lanegan. I’ve been listening to his new album a lot.
I haven’t caught up with Lanegan’s new stuff at all. Field Songs is the one I know and love.
Field Songs is a great album. He’s fairly consistent, actually. Where did you drop off?
His recent stuff is a shift in direction (again)… it’s quite brilliant. It wasn’t instant, but it’s probably the album I’ve listened to most this year.
For a long time that’s the only one I had – I got it in a CD trade once. After being influenced by you, I’ve added a few more Lanegan albums to the listening queue – Whiskey for the Holy Ghost,
I’ll Take Care of You, and Bubblegum – but haven’t spent enough time with any of them yet.
They’re very good albums to jump into – I would also recommend Scraps at Midnight and Blues Funeral (one of my albums of the decade). Hopefully you find some time for them soon – I’d be interested in your thoughts.
Cool list. I’ve stolen a few off you and will continue to do so.I just got some kind of list from the thing I listen to. All over the map but jazz heavy.
Are you keeping your list on paper?
No. I don’t have enough ink.
Lots to explore here I’m not familiar with! I’ve heard Nighthawks at the Diner, I like how Waits combined stand-up comedy with music. I just watched Dolemite is my Name w/ Eddie Murphy on Netflix which is about Rudy Ray Moore who made transgressive comedy albums in the 1970s.
It is a bit of a weird blend of stuff that I had in high rotation in 2007, and genuine all-time favourites.
Listened to a few of them, especially liked the Martyn song
I’ve been watching the Netflix hip hop series – probably years behind everyone else. Currently on the Miami episode in series two, and not really digging the music in that one, but the 1970s-1980s ones were great.