It’s been an odd old year. And yes I know we’ve not quite finished it yet but let’s face it, it’s over isn’t it? The End Of Year lists are out in all the media outlets – the monthly magazines, the newspapers, the websites – you can’t open a webpage or look at Twitter or read a newspaper without someone telling you what they think is the best album / book / film of the year. And why not? Everyone is doing it, aren’t they? It’s a great easy option to end the year – can’t be arsed to write anything new, let’s just do a list, write a capsule paragraph or two about each item and Bob’s your uncle – an Albums Of The Year list. Then there’s always a comments box to argue the toss about the merits or otherwise of the list.
Well I’m not going to do a list. What value is there in my little opinion anyway? Does my opinion make any difference? Not really. I’ve been reading Robert Christgau’s “Consumer Guide Albums of the 70s” again this week, in particular the introduction essays and how his attitude was “this isn’t perfect, this isn’t definitive, this is just more data for you to make decisions with”. And to be fair that’s a fine viewpoint – it’s just that there’s a lot more data sources to process now than there was back then. Is there any point in adding to that data? And does anyone care anyway – I have a small readership and I’m very happy to have you all and thanks for your support but… You’ve made your own minds up about what is your album of the year and I’m not going to convince anyone with my feeble argument of “I liked it because…”
(This is typical ASD by the way, low self esteem and lack of confidence in my own abilities. And you know, I’m actually kind of glad about the publicity that Susan Boyle has received after being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome because it may well highlight what it’s like to have it, to live with the anxieties and the fears, the lack of confidence, the lack of social graces which makes people appear rude. And that’s just brushing the surface of the problems. It will raise awareness of the condition, and maybe help people to recognise it in others rather than stigmatise them as “Not normal”. And who’s setting the goalposts for normal anyway? But that’s another minefield I’m not stepping near. But for now, Susan – well done, and good luck to you. And please don’t let Simon Cowell exploit the diagnosis.)
Another reason I don’t want to make a list is because…quite frankly I don’t think I’ve listened to enough new music this year to make a valid list. I’ve not had such a voracious appetite for new music this year, and there’s been a few reasons for that. Firstly I’ve not been been truly excited by much new music. There have been albums I’ve anticipated highly which have been let downs, and there have been albums which have surprised me or crept up on me and won me over. But there’s been no big WOW factor about anything new this year. Not many songs going on repeat because I can’t get enough of them. There have been a few along the way, but not many. No new band or artist has knocked me off my feet this year. I’ll read what the monthlies and the NME and people I trust and respect have to say and give artists a fair hearing but nothing has really excited me. Yes there’s been songs that seemed to always be around and soundtrack parts of my life, but they weren’t any different to the songs you heard or he heard or she heard. My son’s immersion in the music channels on TV and radio meant I’ve ended up appreciating a lot more chart music than normal – and it’s lucky it had quite a purple patch through the spring and summer. So I can’t be definitive about anything because I’ve heard only a tiny fraction of the music that’s out there. I could happily list the twenty or so new albums I’ve heard from best to worst but there’s not much point in that.
But I can tell you the worst album I heard was Tom O’Dell’s.
Another thing about this year is that my listening habits have changed. Until April I had no access to any kind of streaming media, and while I did have access to Youtube it was such a painful experience that I couldn’t be bothered with it. Gaining a new phone in April opened up new possibilities – not least starting a blog which is why I’m writing this now – and streaming music, first with Rdio and then Spotify (because I prefer the functionality of their app more, and their search engine is more powerful which is why when I search “Suite:Judy Blue Eyes” I end up listening to Liberace’s cover version). And that in itself is half of the problem with this year. With nothing much new to excite me I’ve been delving into the past – within this blog again – or exploring music I always fancied hearing and never had the time or money to explore. I’m quite happy to admit that the surfeit of possibilities has overwhelmed me and it’s been to the detriment of my desire to hear music from 2013. The advantage of this attitude is that I can now look over everyone else’s lists and think to myself “That looks interesting, let’s give it a go”. So maybe my list of 2013 will appear in six months time. Hindsight is a marvellous thing.
Of course the subliminal question is this : is my blog and / or Spotify killing my love for new music? I don’t think so. I think the problem for me is that I am finding new music and / or new artists less exciting thus forcing me back to the past or to discover new (to me) old music. It doesn’t help that there is such a whiff of PR and hype around so many new artists, that their image and music is a cut and paste of their influences without the effort of creating some new amalgam, something different, something outstanding. All these tips for the top who turn out to be damp squibs, Brit School babies, more of the same bandwagon jumpers – take your pick. Maybe I’m not listening hard enough, maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but should it be a struggle to look for good new music? Or maybe I’m just getting old and don’t have the enthusiasm I had when I was younger. I’d love to hear something that thrills and excites me like some of the records I’ve written about, and I hope that I will keep discovering music, but 2013 feels like a wash-out.
So no, I won’t be doing an Albums Of The Year list for 2013. What I will do is the Albums Of The Year from 1984, according to my diary entry on 31st December of that year.
1 – “Junk Culture” – OMD
2 – “Sparkle in the rain” – Simple Minds
3 – “Treasure” – Cocteau Twins
4 – “Step Forward” – Portion Control
5 – “Fried” – Julian Cope
See, a list based on a limited selection is ridiculous and looks totally stupid in hindsight. So I won’t bother for this year. But I’ll happily read other lists and other thinkpieces on lists – it is all food for thought. Again, thank you to everyone for reading and commenting and passing on my blog – you know who you are and I do too, and I thank you all so much.
Next time – It’s nothing personal, just a useless memory…