Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Year Without Albums

Sort of. 
I can never get to sleep on Sunday nights. It's like a bad joke -- maybe the one night of the week when I'd really prefer to be unconscious by 10 p.m. and well-rested by 7 a.m., I am, without fail, wide awake hours after I've turned off my light. 

Part of this bad joke is that I always get a little caught up in some topic that seems more important at midnight than it really is. 

Last Sunday, what kept me up was the realization that in the past 11 and half months, I'd failed to really love any one album. 

I dug the Spoon album. I spent a few weeks with The Both. But out of everything that came out this year from St. Vincent to Jack White, nothing aggressively demanded my attention. At the risk of sounding dramatic, this was a crushing thought. 

So, was it me? Or was it them?

In October, the big story was that no albums went platinum in 2014. Of course, T. Swift put an end to that just a few weeks later, but that was no big surprise. 

Also not a big surprise is how disparate all the year-end lists are. Rolling Stone's album of the year was Songs of Innocence by U2. (Boy, finger on the pulse, over there.) Consequence of Sound went with The War on Drugs' Lost in the Dream. If you're seeking guidance from the critical consensus, these lists will leave you as lost as when you started. 

2014 saw neither monster releases, nor the earnest championing of much-loved, borderline lost causes. 

I'm going to say it was them.

What's still unclear is if this year was merely weird, or if it was indicative of a world where there really is so much out there, it's impossible to rally more than a few people around anything. Maybe music eventually peters out when the tail gets too long. 


As I'm writing this, I'm also working on The Musically Inclined's Top 10 Finds of 2014. What I realize is that even if albums didn't do much for me this year, there were so many songs that did. 

And many of those songs came to me from the radio. 

In March I moved to Louisville, KY and was fortunate enough to fall right into the arms of WFPK, the local public radio station with an alternative-ish format. It's a place where you're just as likely to hear the Chuck Berry and the Talking Heads as you are to hear Hozier and Sylvan Esso. Most of the time, it feels like you're rattling around in the brain of whoever is on the air instead of trapped inside a strict playlist. (Which is fitting because most mornings, I'm like GET OUT OF MY HEAD DUKE MEYER) For WFPK, I'm endlessly grateful, and constantly wishing there were a Shazam button built into the steering wheel of my car. 

When the Top Finds list publishes later in the week, know that it exists in no small part due to what I heard on the radio this year. 

That doesn't mean I'm not still thrashing around for one last shot at really loving an album in 2014, but I'm not quite as bothered by absence of that album. Also, the irony of drifting away from a "dying" format toward one that is already "dead" isn't lost on me. 

I think that also means anything could happen in 2015. What exactly that means will undoubtedly be a topic for next Sunday night. 

No comments: