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Last thoughts on 2011

This is traditionally the point that I realise I've missed something amazing off the year's compilation or lists. Twelve months ago I somehow failed to recall that Gil Scott-Heron's gorgeous valedictory album I'm New Here had been released in 2010 - consider it recommended now, if it is not yet a part of your life...

Touching wood with crossed fingers, I'm not conscious of any comparable omission this time. But one December release is worth mentioning: Kösmonaut I, a beautifully packaged slab of limited release kosmiche music from deep in the heart of Texas. This is the first release from Deep Distance - a new label from Dom at the estimable Great Pop Supplement, which seems set to be just as collectible as its parent. If you're not completely put off by my description you can listen to some Kösmonaut here. Had the album come out earlier in the year it would have been slugging it out with Eat Lights Become Lights for the coveted krautrock slot on my compilation - and the best random umlaut since the Blue Öyster Cult might just have swung the fight.

End of year round-ups tend to focus on the new music that's been released, but of course most people spend a lot of time buying and listening to old stuff too. This has also been a year when I've acquired the back catalogue of The Decemberists and filled key vinyl gaps by the likes of Henry Cow, Slapp Happy, the Incredible String Band and John Mayall, amongst a fair few others. Bargain of the year was a pristine US copy of From Elvis In Memphis for all of £1.50. The subject of extravagance of the year is, as usual, best avoided...

My current archaeological obsession is Michael Chapman. I've somehow failed to hear very much of his music over the forty odd years he's been making records. He played the first Clitheroe pop festival in 1970, the only one I didn't go to... Getting tickets for a gig in Brighton in February has been the trigger for some serious digging. And initial excavations enable me to give Light In The Attic Records the award for best reissue of 2011: a lovingly beautiful heavy cardboard gatefold reproduction of Michael's amazing second album, Fully Qualified Survivor. It's a glorious mixture of styles from solo fingerpicking to flat-out rock, with Mick Ronson in tow, to Paul Buckmaster-led strings.

Other tickets already in the rack for 2012 include The Coal Porters, Civil Wars, Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen. I suspect it's going to be a fine year for music - but then they all are, one way or another.

One final, entirely nepotism-free, recommendation: watch out for GUM. You can hear some music here. I'm quite often reminded of The Jesus And Mary Chain, but there's a lot more going on too, of a fuzzy, shoe-gazey sort... Gigs and vinyl imminent, I hear. And you heard it here first.

Happy New Year!

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