2019 In Numbers

Yes, yes, I know that I've already written a full overview of the year that was, but what can I say: I like data! The end of the year is the time when every single service (no matter how banal) decides to give you a breakdown of all the things they learned about you, normally in the format of a "blank in Review!" email or microsite[1]. That means this the best time to analyse yourself and find out about habits, ideas, hobbies etc. In other words, it's an excuse for statistics and list make - hooray!

Music

Let's start with the most analysed dataset of any year and the service which really popularised the entire concept: Spotify. They even put together a decade version of their popular "Wrapped" end of year roundup, which was great. That said, they also managed to screw up my personal algorithm by failing to group an album correctly. Normally, your top tracks of the year are a little varied, picking top tracks from several albums, but not for me in 2019. Instead, 13 of my top 15 songs are from the same album: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. For clarity, that isn't the actual film soundtrack, but the truly excellent companion album that was released feature all the songs that were created by the album from the likes of Post Malone, Ty Dolla $ign, XXXTENTACION, Vince Staples, Jaden Smith, Swavay, Swae Lee, Nicki Minah and many more. Weirdly, though, Spotify didn't rank it as my album of the year, despite how it definitely was just by looking at how far ahead all of these tracks are individually.

Instead, the honour of album of the year goes to Cee-Roo's River, continuing my tradition of falling completely for an album which is already several years old, out of print, and barely anyone has heard of. *sigh* Incidentally, Tell Me from that album somehow just crept into my top 10 songs of 2019, although I'm not really too sure why as I don't feel like it's my most played track on that album. Other notable breakout tracks were A-Kil's Unstoppable (probably my favourite single song of the last year) and somehow still Lone Digger by Caravan Palace. All of the others were "first track on the album" top 20 songs, which brings in some of the other big albums of the year: Shikantaza by Chinese Man, North by Blazin' Fiddles, and Hope & Sorrow by Wax Tailor. Consistent favourites like Goldfish, Emancipator, Too Many Zooz (which spiked for obvious reasons) and Mantaraybryn all made strong headway on my top 100 songs.

From the decade's perspective, though, two artists really stormed ahead: Watsky and Lazy Habits. Weirdly, depending on whether you loaded their Decade Wrapped microsite from mobile or desktop resulted in a different one of those two coming out on top, but I feel like Lazy Habits almost certainly deserves to edge the victory, considering how many additional plays they've had on CDs in the car and vinyl in the flat.

Of course, music is a rare data set with two unique sources, and last.fm continue to provide excellent analytics of their own at the end of a year. The general trends are the same: Cee-Roo was my top artist; Into the Spider-Verse was my top album (last.fm correctly categorising it as such); and What's Up Danger being my top track. Interestingly, my music listening habits varied massively, with a gigantic spike in January[2] (largely due to Into the Spider-Verse[3]) and an equally large dip in August and September. Peaks in February and May correlate nicely with gigs for Blazin' Fiddles and Too Many Zooz respectively, but I'm not sure why the period around the Sidmouth Folk Festival saw such a large slump except that we were possibly listening to analogue forms like CD more during that period. As that last sentence probably highlights, I'm still not great at remembering to scrobble analogue music, something I hope to get better at over 2020.

Still, I comfortably beat my previous record for scrobbles, hitting a total of 3,633 tracks listened to (again, not counting CDs and LPs, which likely account for about a third of my listening time over a year) which equals a whopping 8 whole days and 20 further hours of time! I'm pretty happy with that. I'm less happy with my music discovery stats, which show that I listened to less new artists and albums then ever before and seem to have become heavily constrained to the "trip-hop", "hip-hop", "electronic" and "folk" genres. Further breakdowns of music habits showed two albums that are rapidly rising and which may well feature heavily in 2020: The Moustache Mozart Affaire by Steaming Satellites and Beautiful Sadness by FIL BO RIVA.

I'm really happy with the 50% increase in music listened to since 2018. If you'd asked me if that was likely a month or so ago I'd definitely have said not. Shows what I know!

Speaking of which, both albums have recently taken on permanence in the only way that seems applicable these days: I bought them on vinyl (yes, I'm still one of those). For a second, then, lets consider my year in music from an analogue perspective. Whilst both of those purchases were firmly in 2020, the previous 12 months have included several of their own. Most recently I managed to pick up Caravan Palace's debut, alongside Camp by Childish Gambino, both on re-release[4]. These join Jamie T's Kings & Queens as my standard shop purchases (I believe all three came from Fopp in fact), but I also received Awolnation's Megalithic Symphony and, unsurprisingly given all of the above, Into the Spider-Verse for Christmas.

I also bought the recording of a live experimental piece that we went to see earlier in the year by The Matthew Herbert United Kingdom and Gibraltar European Union Membership Referendum Big Band, called The State Between Us. The live show, which was the culmination of the bands tour (and probably their existence as a band) was on the night that the UK was meant to leave the EU[5] and - if you hadn't already guessed - the record was inspired by (and largely in opposition to the ideology of) Brexit. Weirdly the evening was actually suggested by our friend James, who ended up unable to make it after becoming stranded somewhere in East Africa for the better part of three days. There's a certain amount of irony at not being able to make a gig centred around the issues of tightening borders due to immigration hiccoughs...

James also played a minor role in the other "record purchase with a story" of the year: No More Idols by Chase & Status, one of the defining soundtracks of my university years. For such a seminal album that many consider the de facto example of mid 00's British dubstep, it might seem odd that it was only released on vinyl for a single day, Record Store Day UK 2019. Then again, the band are rumoured to hate it and the mainstream success that it held, so maybe that's an explanation. Or, possibly, it isn't as well thought of as my specific age group would think, considering that almost no participating stores were selling it. Having got up early to try my hardest to get a copy, I ended up queuing for several hours and no less than four of London's largest record stores before I finally found someone with one left. It only took another hour in that queue to buy it... in the pouring rain. How does James fit him? He was with a group of friends who, slightly more sensibly, strolled down at midday to Soho, having missed both queues and rain, and silently judged me for spending so much effort on a pop album almost a decade old. Personally, I regret nothing *wub wubs intensify*.

Of course, CDs also still live a healthy lifestyle, and for a lot of the folk and indie artists that I listen to are the only way to buy their music. In fact all of this year's CDs were picked up at gigs and included The Way and the Return by Gentlemen of Few; Strangers by The Young 'Uns; Young Waters' self-titled debut (though I'm really looking forward to their second, based on their live performance it could be something special!); The Key by Blazin' Fiddles (irritatingly yet to come to Spotify making it one of their least listened to albums of the year for me); Night Avenue by Coco & The Butterfields; Hannah Rarity's Neath the Gloaming Star[6]; and both Truth and Fiction and Monkey Suit by The Undercover Hippy, who was excellent. So, in total, I count 8 CDs and 7 records. Not bad, but minor spoiler: next year's roundup will undoubtedly include more. How can I be so sure? I've already bought that many records in 2020 and have plans on purchasing at least a couple others in March... and we don't even know what's coming for Record Store Day this year!

Travel

I'm not sure if Google Maps have ever done an end of year review email before, but if they have I've ignored it. Not so in 2019, as I found the data pretty fun. It's interesting to know that, even in a year when we stayed within the UK, I still travelled a third of the way around the world (7,840 miles to be precise), visited 28 cities, and 120 distinct "places" (though quite what counts as a place is unsure).

I'm actually a little impressed at how accurate the overall picture here is. Yup, that's definitely where I went this year!

It's also just a nice dataset to read through and remember fun times, including a lot of exploring places that were brand new (88 to be "precise", though it's definitely missing some). Amongst those new locations were York for a stag do; Shaftesbury to meet up with Alison's parents; Margate with uni friends (and a lot of walking, so also Broadstairs and a long stretch of the SE coast); the Chilterns a couple of times for a family birthday, trip to see another friend, and to visit ZSL Whipsnade; a great day's break away from the city at Frensham Ponds where we had a fantastic sighting of a roe deer; and a huge amount of Wales, particularly the south coast which I've never been to before. Even in London, Google reminded me that I finally made it to Greenwich thanks to an excellent present from Alison that included the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, lunch at a local market where we discovered the joys of Korean fried chicken, and ended with a visit to the Royal Observatory to watch Gattaca projected onto the star dome - what a day!

Roe in the Woods by Murray Adcock on 500px.com
A beautiful and quite magical moment in the woods by Frensham Ponds. Spotting a roe would have been good enough, particularly this close to the path, but having it stand perfectly still and watch us back long enough to get a few shots off was wonderful.

Of course, we also made it to plenty of familiar places, including trips to see our respective parents in Budleigh Salterton and Carlisle, plus the yearly nostalgia-fest that is visiting friends in Durham (well, near Durham, I guess, these days). I'm happy to report that the Golden Pearl remains excellent and Hill Island Brewery is still bubbling away. 🤤

Really, the only negative to getting to review my year's adventures is that I'm left disappointed by how little of it I managed to record as blog posts or photographs. Definitely a major consideration for 2020.

Media

It looks like 2019 has been a bad year for media-based data collection (except for music, of course). I still haven't found a decent "scrobble" option for TV and film, despite watching pretty much everything via a PS4 now, which itself clearly captures viewing data from Netlify, Prime etc. Instead I'm stuck relying on my own ability to review and record what I'm watching, reading and playing, which means actual data is pretty sparse. I mentioned in my full review of the year that I have returned to video games, so I can happily say that over the past 12 months I've played 5 video games... and completed 1. Not awful, not great.

Worse still were books. I'm not completely certain, but I don't think I actually finished a single one this year. 😱 I technically finished the first three books of the Earthsea series, but as I was given the first four as a single volume I don't consider it properly done just yet. FYI I absolutely loved them, but I still found it hard to read anything outside of holidays and, as a fairly thick book, it often got left behind. Similarly I started (but haven't finished) both Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution and McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery Around Ireland. Both books are great for very different reasons: the first is a well written deep dive into an area of biological and geological history that most people have some knowledge of but rarely truly dissect; the second is a quirky and funny travel journal that offers a surprising look into the culture of the 90s entirely by accident.

TV and film were definitely more consistent but my ability to track watch history leaves much to be desired. 2019 was a fairly big year in terms of big franchises, so I can definitely count Captain Marvel, Avengers: End Game and Spider-Man: Far From Home on the comic book side, as well as Toy Story 4 and How To Train Your Dragon 3 (both fun if not entirely clear on their purpose), but we didn't get to Rise of Skywalker until early January 2020. We also definitely saw The Lion King remake, The Hustle, and Yesterday at the cinema, which were meh, awful and amazing respectively; Vice and The Favourite were also both great, and apparently we kicked the year off by going to see the better-than-expected and pretty fun Mary Poppins Returns; more disappointing was Detective Pikachu which just felt confused, despite some fun performances and a quirky concept (oh, plus Gattaca as mentioned above). That makes 13 by my count, though it's very possible that I've missed some; still just over one a month is a decent effort.

Weirdly, neither Netflix nor Amazon Prime bothered to give me an end of year roundup; maybe they're worried that knowing how much time is spent in front of a TV might turn people off their services? At any rate, my personal watchlist is (as normal) dominated by cartoons, though I've also been making my way slowly through the quirky British sitcom Fresh Meat - who knew Jack Whitehall could be this endearing and funny! - and really liked where Netflix are taking Star Trek: Discovery after a topsy turvy first season. Back to cartoons, I've just finished an entire second run-through of Rick and Morty; very much enjoyed the second season of Final Space; was let down by the second season of Disenchantment; didn't click at all with Tuca & Bertie and actually bailed on it quarter of the way through; and Big Mouth's Valentines special which was spot on!

Films that I watched alone (😔) included Baywatch, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, Kong: Skull Island, Tag, Justice League: Gods & Monsters, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and Oblivion. These were funny but pointless; just fine; quite fun but needed more depth; don't remember at all but rated as "average"; has Chris Pratt in, so not entirely bad; and so bad that I've accidentally watched it twice now, forgot it entirely and only realised halfway through that I'd seen it before when the things annoying me about the film triggered some kind of flashback, respectively. And no, I didn't technically finish Oblivion on rewatch but eurgh, who would?

With Alison our slow-burn picks have been Arrested Development and (still) The Man in the High Castle, both of which we're now onto season 3 of respectively. We just finished off the entirety of Avatar: The Last Airbender, which was just excellent, and continued watching Lucifer (now on season four) which I'm just so happy about being saved from cancellation, not least of all because it keeps getting better. Other comic-based shows of the year included Daredevil season three, which of course turned out to be the last, which is disappointing as it felt like it was finally getting back to its roots, as well as Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D season five which we missed finishing on Prime but were really enjoying. Whether Love, Death & Robots really counts as TV or a film is hard to say, but we enjoyed it quite a lot and several of the shorts are still vivid in my memory, which speaks volumes. Comedies had a strong year, beginning with me rewatching the entirety of Brooklyn 99 with Alison, who'd missed it first time around due to the move, whilst we both got to discover the utterly sensational The Good Place together.

Then there was the big cultural event of the year: the end of Game of Thrones. We were several seasons behind at this point (Alison having never watched it at all before), but the spoilers were becoming unbearable. With a bit of a slow period (and some opportune bank holidays) right before the start of the final season, I made a pretty daring call. We took out a trial of Now TV and just went for it; I watched episodes on the tube, over lunch at work, after dinner. For a week we pretty much ate, slept and breathed Westeros, but it let me catch up to the live episodes of season eight and hooked Alison. I wrote an entire article on the experience if you're interested, but the tl;dr is that I enjoyed it and am glad to have gone on the ride.

We also fell far into a hole with Glee, a show that Alison started watching alone but quickly roped me in with the promise of a Neil Patrick Harris guest episode... and I never looked back. The show definitely jumped a bit of a shark around season three and I'm personally convinced that the school shooting was real, Brittany was killed (or at least shot) and everything from that episode on is just her imaginings as she either dies or slips into a coma. At any rate, the appeal wore off once we left the school behind and whilst I respect the showrunners for trying to switch things up, we've ultimately just drifted away from it in season four and I'm not sure we'll go back.

On the movie front, The Hitman's Bodyguard was always going to be fun but ended up way funnier and far more interesting then it had any right to be, whilst Swimming With Men (an indie Brit flick) was just as endearing and grin-worthy as expected. 21 Jump Street (the remake) was somehow a lot more nuanced then I had anticipated and whilst the humour was hit or miss it, too, exceeded expectations, whilst Ocean's 8 was fine but felt a little too intent on comparing itself to the original trilogy and may have been better unconnected to the Oceans franchise entirely. We also rewatched Mr & Mrs Smith, which held up surprisingly well, as did Iron Man, both Kingsman films (no surprise there) and Rogue One.

We also watched Tim Minchin's So F**king Rock, which was great but not too memorable in hindsight. Turns out that's the only non-fiction I watched all year, which maybe isn't that great, particularly with some excellent documentaries coming out. I guess I watched a little of the new season of Queer Eye but I wouldn't say I "watched it" watched it; I think it's a great show but it doesn't keep me captivated or leave me wanting to watch any more.

It's worth mentioning that we did definitely watch some other films on DVD and Sky, but I have no way of knowing what at this point. *shrug* Oh well, I guess. That means I can say categorically that I watched 32 seasons of TV (ignoring Tuca & Bertie), 2 specials (Tim Minchin and Big Mouth), and 16 films via streaming packages. Not too bad at all!

Photography

I have a bad feeling about this, but here we go anyway. I definitely didn't do as much photography in 2019 as I would normally have liked, but I still took quite a few photos, particularly at London Zoo (had to make the most of the membership while it lasted, though I definitely failed at my personal mission to get one shot of every species; I was still discovering new areas on my last visit that I'd not been to before!). Still, I took a total of 4,728 photos in 2019 (ignoring some that have been deleted already), of which 3,256 were taken at either ZSL London Zoo or ZSL Whipsnade... I guess I need to get editing!

Beer

One area of photography which hasn't slowed down is my beer journal, @theadhopracy. That also means I can say with a fair degree of accuracy how many new beers I tried in 2019! It's also probably my most immediate dataset, given that it starts with this cracker about three minutes into the year 😂:

The first beer logged in 2019 slap bang in the middle of a New Years party. Yes, that's Tom. Yes, it's a fairly good summation of my review of the beer. #good

Overall, I logged 126 entries over the past 12 months, though 2 of those were cocktails (of which one still partially counts, as it contained beer syrup), 1 was a whisky, and 1 was an alcoholic G&T ice cream.

An old fashioned with an ale twist: bourbon, pilsner, and beer syrup. #great!

Still, 122 new beers is... well, actually, that's a bit terrifying. Let me double check my maths.... yep, 122 new beers in 365 days. Considering we don't often drink at home, and that's only the new beers I've tried, not repeats, maybe this is the one area I should try to cut back on in 2020. Then again... maybe not 🍻[7]

Writing

Finally, what about over here at theAdhocracy? What are my numbers like for blogging? (Hint: it ain't too great). Let's start with the obvious stuff: I published 11 articles in 2019 on this site. I also published a fair few for work, but I won't count those. I did, however, also "publish" two split up MiMs and begin writing another 3 articles that reached an "almost complete" stage. Ultimately I'm not sure whether those will see the light of day, though 2 are so close to being publishable it seems a shame not to[8], but I'm at least happier with me completion rate; most of the things I set out to write are finished, which is nice. I guess you could say that articles on Wales and Margate could be added to that list, but neither even made it past my notes app so I think they can be considered dead in the water.

However, I did continue writing at least some reviews (though as you can tell from the Media section above, a lot slipped through the cracks). In total 11 reviews are "done" i.e. if there actually was a public review part of this website you'd be able to read them. I've also got some rough outlines for another 6 drafts, one of which contains multiple seasons, so is actually 4 reviews in one. Obviously that's no where near the number there should be; it doesn't even cater for films we saw in the cinema, let alone TV shows, other movies, games etc. But it's better than nothing!

So there it is, a year summed up in numbers (well, at least some parts of the year and some of the numbers). It took a lot longer to write this than I had anticipated (where have I heard that before...) but I really enjoyed it. Hope you do to 😊

Update 28/01

I somehow completely forgot to include Game of Thrones in the Media section. That has now been rectified!

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