Monday, December 21, 2009

2009: Thirteen Albums I'm Glad I Bought

Change is in the air. It's actually been there awhile, but I've been trying to ignore it.

Please allow me a slightly awkward extended metaphor. Let's say instead of a music blogger/obsessive I was a professional sports star. Instead of ERA, rebounds, or touchdowns, my statistical categories are CDs bought, CDs reviewed, and number of times posted on the blog.

In my early career I was a phenom, putting up gaudy numbers. Witness:

2003 - 2006
I posted on the blog 155 times, at an average of 4.1 posts per month.
I wrote 135 reviews, 115 of which were of new (at the time) CDs. That's 85%.
87% of my posts were album reviews.
I bought between 80 and 100 new release CDs PER YEAR.

Big numbers, right? That's a stat line anyone can be proud of. But let's look at what happened in the last three years. It's a slightly smaller sample, but only by 2 months (In 2003 I only wrote in November and December).

2007 - 2009
I posted on the blog 167 times, at an average of 4.6 posts per month.
I wrote 112 reviews, 40 of which were of new (at the time) CDs. That's 36%.
70% of my posts were album reviews.
I bought between 30 - 50 new release CDs per year.

Inevitably sports stars' skills erode. As their physical gifts fade they rely more on their experience and knowledge of the game. They become less about overpowering you and more about outsmarting you. This can lead to the illusion that they're still performing at a high level (often they even fool themselves). As you can see from the numbers that's what happened to me. I kept up my output, even increased it, but that hid the fact that my grasp of new music had loosened considerably.

This was a subtle shift, but in retrospect, not a surprising one. In 2007 I moved in with my future wife. In 2008 we got married and bought a house. In 2009 we discovered that Baby Boy Allen is due on his way (February 2010). In other words, my life changed. A lot. In yet other words, my music obsession suddenly had very strong competitor. My love for music didn't diminish, but the time I was willing and able to devote to seeking out new music did.

I tried to ignore this, to write it off as a lull. I didn't even know fully what was happening. In 2007 I wrote about how it was a down year for music and about feeling uninspired. In 2008 I rededicated myself to the blog. I wrote more than ever, but that key stat above, that 64% of reviews being of older albums, really came into play. And along with the notion that the way I consumed music had changed dramatically, I even had the revelation that songs have become more important to me than albums.

Going into this year, I half expected a renaissance, a return to my old ways, to get my finger back on the pulse of the pop world. It didn't happen. I continued to move the blog toward an oldies format. Don't get me wrong. I'm proud of all of my work this year, and especially of my non-review pieces (like the interview with Hot Action Cop singer/songwriter Rob Werthner, a statistical analysis of radio station Cities 97, and the very tongue-in-cheek So You Wanna Be a Rock 'N Roll Critic series), but it's very clear to me know that things aren't like they used to be, and they won't be in the forseeable future. And maybe that's okay. I have no plans to walk away from the game, but I may need to switch to the senior's tour.

So as I sat down to make my annual top ten list I realized three things. 1) I actually had a top thirteen, 2) I had no interest in ranking them, and 3) Since I've started caring more about individual songs, five standout songs on an album seems to be my gold standard. So rather than waxing poetic about the albums themselves, I'm listing my favorite songs.

Without any further ado (there's been too much already), here are twelve albums I'm glad I bought this year (they're listed alphabetically to dispel any notions of hierarchy).


Flight of the Conchords: I Told You I Was Freaky

Check out:
Hurt Feelings, Too Many Dicks (On the Dancefloor), Sugalumps, We're Both In Love With a Sexy Lady, I Told You I Was Freaky, Carol Brown








Green Day: 21st Century Breakdown

Read the review.

Check out:
Last Night On Earth, Peacemaker, Murder City, Horseshoes and Handgrenades, The Static Age, 21 Guns, American Eulogy







Harlem Shakes: Technicolor Health

Check out:
Nothing But Change Part II, Strictly Game, Unhurried Hearts (Prosaic Pastoral), Natural Man, Technicolor Health








The Hopefuls: Now Playing at the One-Seat Theatre

Read the review.

Check out:
Edge of Medicine, Idaho, Red Stain, Miss You, One-Seat Theatre, Virgin Wood, Stacey, Hold Your Own






Kings of Convenience: Declaration of Dependence

Check out:
24-25, Mrs.Cold, Me In You, Boat Behind, Rule My World, Riot on an Empty Street









Owl City: Ocean Eyes

Read the review.

Check out:
Cave In, Fireflies, The Saltwater Room, The Tip of the Iceberg, Tidal Wave, Umbrella Beach







Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Check out:
Lisztomania, Lasso, 1901, Girlfriend, Fences









P.O.S.: Never Better

Check out: Let It Rattle, Savion Glover, Graves (We Wrote the Book), Goodbye, Low Light Low Life, Optimist (We Are Not For Them)









Tinted Windows: Tinted Windows

Read the review.

Check out:
Kind of a Girl, Nothing To Me, We Got Something, Cha Cha, New Cassette







Weezer: Raditude

Read the review.

Check out:
If You're Wondering If I Want You To (I Want You To), Can't Stop Partying, Girl Got Hot, I'm Your Daddy, Put Me Back Together, Don't Wanna Let You Go






Wilco: Wilco (the Album)

Read the review.

Check out:
Wilco (the Song), You Never Know, You and I, One Wing, Sonny Feeling







Robbie Williams: Reality Killed the Video Star

Check out:
Morning Sun, You Know Me, Bodies, The Last Days of Disco, Do You Mind, Difficult For Weirdos, Won't Do That, Arizona

1 comment:

halfhearteddude said...

I thought thiswas your signing-off message until I came to "I have no plans to walk away from the game, but I may need to switch to the senior's tour."

Phew.