2019, Autumn 5
What's that? Still autumn?
I'm afraid so. Much to the chagrin of many, I'm a staunch believer in the seasons aligning with the solstices and equinox's of our calendar, rather than the start's of the month. Winter, therefore, will start on the 22nd of December, as our wonderful earth's axes intended.
Regardless — 2019 is coming to a close. It hit me like a brick that the end of this year brought with it the end of a decade. I can't say why, but I had it in my head that we had still one year to go.
And what better way to celebrate the end of anything than the traditional list? A look back across the decade lends itself to lists of all kinds – the most pivotal political moments, biggest advances in technology, and the best art that defined an era.
Along with the realization that the decade is drawing to a close, I found myself immediately looking over all the music that's help soundtrack these last ten years.
It wasn't until 2012 that my interest in new music really cemented, and it's a hobby I've carried with me passionately ever since. So, while not entirely a decade, it's near as dammit.
From purely my own anecdotal experience, there's thin dialogue when it comes to new music. Big cinema releases get talked about to no end in all circles; the latest AAA video game will storm social media for weeks to come. Yet, music often comes and goes, the discussion housed within the existing fans of the artist.
And sure, music isn't alone. Theatre probably has it even worse, and you'd probably have to be in a very niche circle to be discussing the latest work of a prolific choreographer.
But why should music fall short to movies, games or novels? An album often doesn't take up even an hour of our time, and requires only the attention of your ears — you can cook, clean, craft, all whilst consuming music. Films can require two hours of your attention, games and books typically vast sums more, and undivided.
And then there's access. In today's age, access to the internet is all that's required to enjoy more recorded music that we could ever hear in our lifetimes. Even if you do pay extra for a music streaming service, all of the services offer 99% of the same libraries, so you're not forced into corners by exclusivity deals.
And yet, it's likely that this access is the very culprit. As you look over the late 20th century, each era would be defined by a series of releases that are looked back on as defining a generation. Today, when our exposure isn't limited to simply just what's broadcast on radio of television, we have the freedom to hear exactly the music we want, when we want.
Freedom can often be a curse disguised as a blessing, however, and such freedoms in exploring music can make it easier to become complacent with the music we already know we enjoy. Algorithms now recommend music it knows we've not heard, but knows is similar enough to what we've already heard to keep us comfortable.
Music is the most human of any art-form, because, at it's core, there isn't any pretence. In movies, we watch people pretend to be people that don't exist. In music, rhythms and patterns are created that, completely beyond our understanding, make our bodies and minds react in very different ways.
Perhaps this is why watching a bad movie is rarely any worse than being a waste of our time, whereas music we don't enjoy makes something deep inside us recoil — it goes against how we define ourselves.
But it doesn't need to. Watching 'The Wire' doesn't make me a wannabe gangster, nor should listening to Mobb Deep. Watching 'Saw' one time wouldn't define me as some kind of brutalist, neither should listening to Swans. Despite our tendency to listen to what suits the clothes we wear, the town we live in, the money we earn, music — just like movies — can let us into worlds and outlooks other than our own.
Which is all to say: listen to new music! I can think of nothing in this world that fills me with more joy. Rarely a week goes by where an album is released that isn't worth hearing. It doesn't matter whether or not it's music you would or wouldn't usually listen to — follow the dialogue, not your taste.
I have both friends that embrace new music and those that reject it. With almost ten years behind us, those of us that follow the latest releases now have fond memories of long drives, holidays and get-togethers, soundtracked by the music that dropped that year. We can look back at music from ten years ago, and remember exactly what we were doing, and who we were, when that music came out. I don't want to be 50 years old, with no stories to tell surrounding the classics that time will eventually canonize.
There's so much great music already behind us, all absolutely worth listening to, but new music is always an event that hasn't yet passed. It's exciting.
I used to do a little thing on my old blog I called 'The Jam Awards', where everyday, for the last 20 days of the year, I would feature a song from that year, all in ranked order. I won't quite be doing that this year. Instead, next week I'll be sharing my top 10 songs of 2019, all at once, and in no particularly order. Then, in a fortnight from now, I'll be sharing my top 10 albums of the last decade, again in no order.
I'm looking forward to collecting my thoughts, re-listening to some old favourites, and sharing it all.
I can think of no better way to see off these last ten years, and to welcome in the new decade, and the strange and wonderful sounds yet to be heard.