The year in review/s (2012)

I write reviews - gigs, albums, books - and I blog. Lots. I blog every day. I've been doing this a long time now and I do it to learn about myself and others; to flex and stretch the muscle (the writing muscle) and to call myself a writer. It's good to have some platform, some place to publish - you really do need that as a writer. I have that. And I'm grateful for that.

I work fulltime as well - well, it used to be fulltime but we'll get to that in a minute.

This is the penultimate post at Blog on the Tracks for 2012. So I thought I'd look at the year in review for me - and you can do the same. Yesterday I shared my albums of the year (and earlier in the week I told you about my No 1 album for 2012). But in writing this blog I've told you plenty about my life and you've told me plenty about your life - sometimes we do this, you and I, without even realising it.

There have been a lot of milestones for me this year; a lot of firsts - a lot of happenings. It's been a big year. An exciting year.

Blog on the Tracks turned five! That was something pretty big. We're up over 1400 posts now too (as of a couple of weeks ago).

I took the blog on the road - visiting America for the first time and seeing The Roots, and Kurt Vile too and meeting Sylvie Simmons. All very cool things.

And at the end of last year I became a father - so that means that I now have a one-year-old; well, 13-month-old even. I told you about some of Oscar's musical traits and interests when he reached 10 months. He's now becoming a competent and keen drummer. Good to finally have one of those in the house! And he is recognising favourite music; last night before bed as I scrolled to find him music to listen to before nodding off (him, not me), his legs darted about and he grinned as I held him while a snatch of Sail on Sailor escaped to briefly fill his room. He's been listening to a heap of Leonard Cohen lately. And Joni Mitchell and John Coltrane.

So, after we returned from our American trip in the middle of the year I said goodbye to fulltime work - I'm now in at the coalface three days a week and I'm a stay-at-home-dad the other two days. It's been a great change, given that I had a very busy end of last year and start of this year. And Oscar keeps me busy too.

A couple of months ago I had my first book published. I worked hard to get the book into shape across late 2011/early 2012 and did so while working fulltime, blogging, freelance writing, reviewing and learning how to be a parent. It was a hugely rewarding experience. And I've given you a few updates along the way as I've given interviews and talks and had the tables turned and been reviewed.

It's been amazing actually - I've had so much support, from the very fine team at Penguin, from my wife and my mother-in-law (both helping with Oscar-duties while I disappear to be interviewed). And support too from readers - many have dropped a line to say they've enjoyed On Song; heaps of people have arranged to have their book signed, either by getting me to send them a signed copy or by meeting up. And I will always do this if I can - if you want your book signed I will help you in making that happen.

Just recently Phantom Billstickers have been papering some of the cities with these amazing posters (see picture). You can scan the QR code to hear the full Q&A from my first author talk (at Unity Books).

Like I say, amazing support.

Around the time of the book's release we also launched my own website, Off the Tracks.

The idea there is to have everything else - the stuff that occurs off the tracks (and off Blog on the Tracks) all in the one place. So here you'll find reviews (short reviews of books, DVDs, albums) and guest-posts from musicians, DJs, writers and music-obsessives talking about five albums they're loving right now.

So it's been a big year. Lots of changes, lots of new things, lots of milestones. And lots of really great music - as I said yesterday, with a list of 50 of my favourite albums from the year...of course as soon as I hit publish on that particular post I instantly thought of other albums that could have been on the list, or were very close.

And then there's all the old albums that I hear again as if for the first time - that's always a big part of Blog on the Tracks - and also a huge part of my Vinyl Countdown reflections and recollections over at Off the Tracks.

Despite people telling me I'm out of touch, or too obscure and/or too mainstream, this blog continues for one simple reason - I write it. It absolutely requires you to read it too - and you do. And I'm ever-grateful. I really am. This blog spills over on to a Facebook page which continues to grow and a lot of fun is had there. And there's the Twitter account too. So I know I'm offering up my life to you - or some version/s of it. And I'm grateful for your interest and engagement.

But it's my blog and that's why I write about the things that interest me. New music and old music - the aim has always been to cover a broad range and I feel I do that. But it has to be things I'm interested in - that means interesting in covering, the music itself might be awful and that's definitely a reason to cover it. I don't believe reviewers that only rave about things; that only publish positive reviews. That's not honest. But I also don't want to be seen as a contrarian, a curmudgeon. So I try to rave about things as often as I rant in the other direction. I'm the one doing the writing, and the counting, and I know that I've gushed about more music this year than I have ranted and spleen-vented about rubbish like this!

Tomorrow is the last day for Blog on the Tracks for 2012. And I hope to be back in 2013 - refreshed and refocused. And not juggling quite as many things. It's been a blast of a year. But I am tired. Really, really tired. And it's time for a break.

So I'm going to have one. My biggest break, in fact, since I started Blog on the Tracks. I'll publish something tomorrow - the final post of the year. And that'll be it for close to a month. Usually I've just taken the stat-days off over Christmas and I've turned up here in between Christmas and New Year and in early January. Readership is down but I've battled on.

This year it's time for me to take an actual break.

Of course that means still updating Twitter and Facebook and posting a heap of catch-up reviews over at Off the Tracks.

But it also means reading books and hanging with my family and friends and going on (actual) holiday; as in away.

Hopefully I'll come back inspired with new stories, newly in love with some old music from my past, newly enthused about approaching the latest pop and rock and whatever else. I'm already excited about a bunch of gigs in January, February and March of next year, there's plenty to be enthused about there.

If you have a suggestion for something you want covered here please let me know. There are still so many topics to cover, so many bands and albums to get to.

I thought I'd post this a day early (today rather than tomorrow) so that I can open up one of the staples of the Facebook page to the wider blog community, the readers here at Stuff: What do you think tomorrow's blog-post, the final for the year, should be about? What do you want to read from me? What would you like me to write?

And after that, after tomorrow's post, that will be it for a while. I'll be back in the final week of January.

I look forward to my break. My son Oscar is hilarious - he's beautiful and funny and so full on (in the best possible way). My wife Katy has been amazing this year (as she is every year). Not only does she accept a husband typing late into the night, raging on into the dying (dimming) light, she is also my best friend and soul-mate and the very best mother for Oscar; a great example of what a parent should do and who a parent should be - I've learnt so much from her this year and last. And on top of all that she puts up with the anger and bile of people who have threatened our house this year; who have placed a hex on me, or at the least called me fat and ginger. As if both were handicaps - and things I didn't know.

The internet is such a strange place. But it can be magical too.

I enjoy my time here - most days. And when I don't I turn up anyway. Because my brother and father and mother are all hard workers and I never was so I'm trying to be. I'm trying my very best.

Have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year. We'll speak - in the way that we do - tomorrow but I wanted to roll out all the thanks and my explanation for the upcoming longer-than-usual absence of the blog.

You may hate me but I like you. I even like that you hate me (if you do) - it shows that you care. You are passionate and enthused and I like that. And besides, you don't really hate me. You just hate the work that I do. And that's okay too.

Now - apart from something short (and less rambling) what would you wish for in terms of something to read for your final Blog on the Tracks post tomorrow?

And how was 2012 in music for you? How was your year too? What happened? Anything new? Big changes? A good year? Or not so good? And are you enjoying a break soon too - will you be pushing the tables back and putting on some Junior Murvin, say? Or are you working on through?

And here's my new (old) favourite Christmas song; one of very few I can handle.

Be kind to each other and love the ones you're with.

You can keep up with Blog on the Tracks on Facebook and follow on Twitter. You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts...Off the Tracks is back on track.