I’ve come to a realization during this first part of 2019 regarding music: for the last several years I’ve been trying to take in as much quantity as possible, and maybe I’ve been missing out on digging in as deeply as I could into the highest quality of music available to me. Some of this, admittedly, is self-inflicted by the existence of Apple Music and the fact that paying for the account allows me to listen to pretty much anything I want without consequence. So Friday mornings throughout the last few years have included swiping through the New Music lists, picking out potential new listens based on genre, record labels or simply based on the album cover. Not exactly scientific, and the result of which left me with a mixed bag of discoveries. Sometimes I would listen to an album once, sigh a little “well, that was an album,” and move on; other times I wouldn’t even make it all the way through, but it always ended up in an adventure. And, from time to time, I’d listen to something that I didn’t know about before hand, hadn’t been anticipating or pining over for months, but ended up enjoying and returning to throughout the year.
But here’s the thing: the new stuff didn’t get the benefit of the doubt that a known artist would. So if, say, the new album from a band I’ve been following for years didn’t quite hit the first time, I was more likely to give it several more listens before bowing out and deciding it wasn’t working for me. Bands or artists I didn’t know previously didn’t get that same opportunity, at least not most of the time, and so were left either getting deleted from my library or sitting there, lost amongst more listened to albums. Sure, it didn’t cost me anything, other than time, to try to see if the records would prove to connect with me, but it also feels like a crapshoot I don’t really want to invest that time in.
All this lead up is to say that I’m trying to do this less for 2019, and likely moving forward. This isn’t to say that I won’t sift through the new music lists each week, it just means I’m a little more reluctant to give up the time to listen to something I’m not familiar with at this point than just to give that time to listen to an album I’m really loving for the 10th, 15th, 20th time. I think I’ve just grown disappointed with the depth of knowing I’ve had with my favorite records over the last few years. I can still sing all the lyrics to my favorite albums from my college years, and I don’t feel connected to some of my recent favorites at the same level. This, to me, is an unfortunate shame; so I’m willing to sacrifice the possibility of fewer new musical discoveries to really dig into and connect with more music this year and beyond.
With that in mind, 2019 thus far has been focused on three albums more than most: Pedro the Lion’s Phoenix, Copeland’s Blushing and American Football’s American Football (LP3). Yes, there have been other albums that have come out this year that I’ve enjoyed and will likely revisit throughout the year (Switchfoot’s Native Tongue, Swervedriver’s Future Ruins and Alameda’s Time Hasn’t Changed You are all quality in their own way), but these three records, those top three, have just plastered themselves in my brain. Whenever I find myself needing something to listen to, one of the songs from one of these albums pops into my head on cue. To me, that’s the mark of a great record, but it’s also what I’m looking for. I want those songs burning in my ears, I want the lyrics bounding around in my head, to feel like they’ve become a little part of me. It’s true that all of these albums came from bands I’ve followed for a long time, and it’s actually interesting that each shares the similar story of being a band that disappeared for a while (or in the case of PtL and American Football, a long while), only to come back and restart the band in earnest years later (although, in fairness, that last statement isn’t necessarily true of Pedro yet, while both Copeland and American Football are on the second post-return records). Maybe there’s something to that, or maybe it’s a coincidence, but here’s what I know for sure: they all made excellent albums that came out in the first few months of 2019.
I’m not saying that my new method is going to be a foolproof way to avoid listening to bad music (have you heard Weezer’s Black Album?) or that my longtime connection to a band will make certain a connection will be generated with more of the music I consume each year, but I do know that focusing on the quality over quantity will grant me fewer (or more, depending which side you mean) opportunities on either side. And since this is the point, that will count as a win for me. I’m looking forward to seeing how well these albums hold up, not just throughout the year, but in years to come as well.
A side note that is mostly unrelated to the above information. I’ve decided to get back into podcasting. It’s been a few years since my buddy Ryan and I stopped doing episodes of our Brew With A View Podcast, mostly because it took a lot of time and required a great deal of effort to make it happen, but recently I’ve been searching for more ways to express my creativity. The blog is good, and I’ve got more writing projects in the pipeline and continue to consider ways to write and record more music, but this podcast idea just sort of flowed out of me once I really dug into it, so I figured I owe it to myself to try it out. The plan is release episodes twice a week, with varied topics of interest each month, since I couldn’t decide on one idea that piqued my interest more than any other. So look for the appropriately named (according to my wife) Things That Matter (To Me) podcast in the coming weeks. Who knows, I may enlist the help of you, person who is reading this blog right now. Be ever ready.