(A) Touch Sensitive to Cry Me A River Williamsburg Sleeve Tattoo Blues

TIME for a catch-up.

For those who have forgotten in the year it has been away and anyone who may have stumbled across it via the Trans Africa blog which has superseded it during that time, welcome to the A-Z iPod Challenge.

The whole point sounds pretty simple, listen to the contents of my iPod in alphabetical order – from A Day In The Life to < (OK, it’s A-Z and beyond).

And, along the way, this blog reveals any number of tales which spring to mind on hearing those songs. Or any random ramblings which seem worth sharing.

There are rules.

  • My iPod decides the order – It’s in-built alphabetising system determines the running order. Some of the alphabetising is a bit weird, especially with definite and indefinite articles.
  • No skipping – To count, the song must register as having been played in my iTunes library, which means playing it until the end. Long silences at the end of songs test patience.
  • Tracks count, not songs – Multiple versions of the same song all have to be listened to. The most found so far is five – one cover and four of the original in various different guises. That’s five tracks to be listened to all the way through.
  • No revisionism – There’s some rubbish on there, no hiding away from the fact. But nobody put it on there but me (even if the reason is lost in the mists of time), so there’s nobody to blame. It has to be listened to before moving on.
  • Breaks are allowed – Let’s be honest, two years or more without any new music or being able to choose exactly what to listen to is not really an option. This is a challenge to be paused and picked up again from where it was left off.
  • New additions count – This remains an evolving collection, so when something is added and drops into the list before the current point, at some point there will be a catch-up session. Plan is to do this at the end of each letter by running through the last played details on iTunes and find out what is missing or out of sync.

And, having finished off the Cs, that last one is where we are, wrapping up the long list of ABC tracks which have been added amid the big musical catch-up since returning from Africa.

Initially, the plan was to continue the A-Z alongside the missives from the trip, but the technicalities (particularly the little playlists which sit at the bottom of each entry) and purely keeping track of it on the road and keeping up with it amid intermittent wi-fi meant that plan never survived until Morocco.

When this musical journey started, it was 11,235 songs long, it is now 12,107. The song which, in the last entry, was the 2,000th (Cry Baby Cry by The Beatles) is now the 2,049th – the 2,00th landmark now falls to Crawl by The Wedding Present.

The influx of new material comes from a list drawn-up while away, sprinkled with advice and obsessions from my brother-in-law (a sort of spirit guide for this while process), carrying us on a trip of 75 songs from (A) Touch Sensitive from Super Furry Animals (a band my brother-in-law rediscovered in my absence) to Cry Me A River Williamsburg Sleeve Tattoo Blues by Sun Kil Moon, an obsession all of mine over the past year.

Most entries came from Ryan Adams – now the biggest contributor to this whole idea – courtesy of me and my completist tendencies falling for his whole deluxe multi-CD Live At Carnegie Hall thing (although have so far resisted his Taylor Swift covers).

New versions (yep, occasionally multiple on the same purchase) of Heartbreaker classics Amy, Call Me On The Way Back Home and the truly wonderful Come Pick Me Up, plus an excellent cover of Bob Mould’s Black Sheers of Rain and more snippets from his bulging back catalogue – complete with his between-song ramblings which sometimes pushed the listening to the whole track rule to the limits.

There were more old favourites, notably The Decemberists, Jason Isbell and John Grant, all of them producing new albums to follow previous outings which were on heavy rotation for the whole journey around Africa, plus Sufjan Stevens, Mercury Rev, Wilco and New Order, all fairly regular points along the route.

Throw in new(ish) discoveries like Courtney Barnett, Waxahatchee and Hooton Tennis Club and a few that are still in the worth investigating but not totally sold on category – Beach House, Young Fathers, looking at you – and we are fully up to date.

We’ve learned our ABCs, just D-Z (and beyond) to go.

We might be a while.

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