Peanut butter and chocolate.


The mandate for this was originally eleven months--not too bad, right? The mandate was also one-in-one-out, which got trashed after a few times. And of course, it coincided with the slowest-moving time in my professional life--me and just about all of my fellow music-writing freelancers. Couldn't be too hard, right? Especially once I stopped feeling beholden to "keep up" anymore than I absolutely had to.

I knew the decade was ending; I hoped to do some fairly extensive writing about it for one outlet in particular, and talked with the editor about it at some length. After nine months of jumping through paperwork-related hoops and not getting very encouraging feedback on what I did pitch (meaning that most of the responses were about technical details I knew nothing about and couldn't relate to), I gave up that idea, and figured I wasn't going to be doing any. Not quite. I've done '00s pieces for The A.V. Club, eMusic, NPR, and one more to come. I'm planning something longish and listy for my other blog, too. (Speaking of lists, this interview with Umberto Eco says a lot of what I've been felt about them for years now.) This is all very gratifying, though it's eaten into my time more than I'd anticipated--a big project I'm working on has been on the back burner as a result, though it's definitely a good sign that the big project is the thing I'm really itching to get back to.

It's also occupied a lot of listening time I'd hoped to devote to catching up with the Unheard playlist--which as I type stands at 16 hours. That's better than I'd thought, mostly because I've been more assiduous about it the last couple days, but with October also largely a wash due to settling in, it's made me wonder what the hell I've been thinking all this time. Especially since one of the tenets of this project is to allow for deeper focus on what I do hear, and I'm not sure that's actually happened.

Writing about 2002 for eMusic, it was hard not to compare that year and this one. That was the first (and so far, only) year I've lived in New York beginning to end, January 1 to December 31; I remember that New Year's Eve distinctly because I was so horribly broke after returning from Christmas in Minneapolis (took Amtrak both ways) that I didn't go out. Nevertheless, I still recall 2002 as my favorite musical year of the decade, and being in NYC was a big part of why: it made everything seem even more vital. There were records coming out all the time that fed the urge for discussion, that helped to redraw what the moment might mean, coming from multiple directions.

In 2009 that seems less so. Obviously, that's perspective talking: I'm 34, stay in more than go out, yadda yadda yadda. Oh yeah: I'm also spoiled for choice. "Keeping up" with as much as I could was a full-time job in 2002--a thrilling one--and in '09 just keeping track of a handful of things is exhausting. I had more energy then, yes. But I'm still an enthusiastic listener, maybe to a fault. Things grab me all the time; I've already drafted Top 100 Tracks and Top 20 Albums lists (still being tweaked and not going public till at least Christmas, sorry) that recording-for-recording are full of superb music. But apart from '07, most of the decade from '05 forward has felt sluggish and water-treading. That will change with time; I'm betting the FACT crew would laugh at my sad-old-man moping, and the electronic list Andy Battaglia and I made (linked above) has gotten several comments along those lines too. I have no trouble copping to it, because I'd rather be honest about where I'm coming from than not. If my ears are lying, so be it. But they're the only ears I've got, and I'm not interested in trading them in--they've given me too much pleasure over the years, including this one.

All of which makes me wonder whether Slow Listening is worth the bother. Ultimately I think it is, and not just because I'm really stubborn, though stubbornness certainly plays a big part. But any idea I might have had that curbing my intake would stanch my appetite deserves a condescending pat on the head. My eyes have always been bigger than my ears and always will be. I'm no monk. And I trust myself enough to figure that if there's lots of stuff that sounds good enough to hold onto but only a few things that draw me toward them irresistibly, that's down to the music and not my own flightiness. Not to mention the ageless saw that lots of good records don't necessarily add up to a satisfying epoch.

But now that I've put myself back on the Unheard-playlist treadmill again I realize how much I enjoy the hunt for its own sake. It keeps me alert; even if what I'm ultimately drawn toward is reminiscent of what I already know I like--and in many cases it is--that stuff still has to fight it out with lots of other things. The key, I remind myself over and over again, is that if I don't like it I can stop listening anytime. "Be diligent" and "know your limits": the peanut butter and chocolate of plowing through acres of new music.


Hello, Brooklyn.

I'm in Brooklyn now, have been since the first of the month, enjoying being back a lot more than I'd expected to--I forgot how much of an improvement being around Angela all the time is. Well, not all the time--she's in Soho and I'm in Kensington, and while the F trip is only a half-hour, weekend subway construction doubles the commute Fri-Sun, not to mention that she'll likely move nearer to Columbia around the end of the year. But the accessibility makes a big difference, and differently than two months' cohabitation at her folks' place. There's no ticking clock overhanging anything. I'm happier overall than I have been in a while.

I haven't been listening to much music of late--I'm dreadfully behind. Moving is a lot of it. The last few days in Seattle disallowed much new-stuff playing time, and when I got here I was too preoccupied and/or restless to sit still for long. Not to mention that it wasn't till two days ago that I got online full-time at my apartment--Jason, who owns the place (or close enough), had to put my laptop specs into the web system, and he's gone a lot. Now that I'm in I've been playing catchup. There's a ton of it to do. I'll spare you the full list, which is just more data, to concentrate on what's in the Unheard playlist right this second: six mixes totaling four hours by Cinnaman, Jay Scarlett, Joy Orbison, Trillbass, DJ I.D., and Annie Mac.

All of these are at least a month old. Until a few minutes ago, they were joined by Untold's XLR8R mix, which is fabulous. The Annie Mac sounds nice, too, so far--and is, as it turns out, from way back in March. I forget how I acquired it--probably not through Nuum, which I'm pretty sure is the source of everything else here; definitely not via that Fader link, which I'd never seen until now. Too late to write about it, then--sort of the goal of all this listening through acquisitions, in some way, especially now that I've fallen behind on any number of other things.

This bothers me even though I should know better than to let it. What's left of the pop press--by which I mean music sections of papers and mags and websites as well as dedicated music pubs/sites--clutches onto "timeliness" more tightly than ever now that everyone figures it has to thanks to the Web's instantaneous qualities. This has had an insidious effect on music writing, I think, in that it's made what gets covered even more conservative than it's always been. The idea that rock that's rooted in '60s Beatles or '70s punk is somehow "timeless" is ridiculous on its face; so is the idea that something that no one was making even three years ago is untested and therefore negligible. But that's the way these things shake out--don't I know it.

Right now there are 67 items in the Unheard folder (as opposed to the Unheard playlist in iTunes), as well as a number of CDs I need to investigate sitting somewhere in my room--moving has meant I have fewer things in my immediate possession (95 percent of my stuff is in my friend Jen's basement in Seattle), but what's here isn't particularly well organized yet. (I need to get some shelving.) In the last few days, friends have asked what I think of Total 10 and the new Built to Spill, given that I'm a fan of both Kompakt and BTS. I haven't acquired either yet, and I won't for a while, because there's all that other stuff I need to get through. I haven't made matters any easier by downloading a bunch of things today--FACT mixes, a couple of albums I need to review, a few others I might or might not. Moreover, there's no professional impetus to hear either BTS or Total 10, because it's too late to write about either. As well, there are fewer places to write about them--for money, anyway, which merciless as it may sound is how I have to prioritize things. The people who asked are big fans of both discs, and I probably will be too once I get to them. But there's too much else to barrel through first.

That sounds counterintuitive to me, too. But I don't know--principle means a lot to me. I don't like living beyond my means on any level. Yet that's what I've been doing for the last two weeks: I'm owed a giant amount of money by one of my primary outlets, and they have yet to pay up. The money goes into my account, and from there I can forward whatever mail is left in Seattle--meaning in order to get paid for my other writing (all via check), I have to get paid by these guys, because moving here cleaned me out. For the first time in my life, I've been living off a credit card, the first I've ever had. (It's not even mine: it's a subsidiary card my mom put under my name last year. I took it this summer, after she'd offered it again.) It's a nightmare: I've literally had to do everything with it, meaning that instead of taking out cash from my bank account and exploring any number of places in my new neighborhood, I've had to stick to buying and eating in places that take Visa--meaning nearly every time that I've had to pay a $10 minimum in order to buy or eat something. It's more difficult, and more expensive, in every way, especially when you're living paycheck to paycheck. And it makes playing through what I've already acquired before getting to something I haven't seem even saner than usual.


Thanks, iTunes 9.

I just noticed something on iTunes' new upgrade. The podcast feature performs one function for me: I only subscribe to Resident Advisor's podcast. (The FACT Mixes I just get as I get them.) I'd always figured I'd kept up with them, though I knew in some sneaking way that I wasn't hearing them all, would start and then forget about them sometimes, occasionally not finishing them on purpose. Nevertheless, there's a visual function for podcasts now: a full circle if you haven't listened yet, which was always there, and a half-circle for the ones you started but didn't finish, which is new. Here's what I'm behind on:

Louderbach, RA.155: 11:46 played, 44:45 left
Seth Troxler, RA.156: 49:41 played, 23:44 left
Lawrence, RA.161: 15:55 played, 59:24 left
Drums of Death, RA.165: 51:27 played, 8:36 left
Peter Van Hoesen, RA.168: 1:09:01 played, 17:54 left

And the entire last two, by Still Going and now Modeselektor. Sigh.


Hearing now.

Just now I noticed something in my iTunes folders. There are two separate playlists for old songs--one for songs I discovered on blogs and online, one for songs off reissues. Together they barely exist. Part of it is that reissues aren't an easy sell for a reviewer at this point. There's a degree to which keeping up with reissues is as important as new releases, because the past is always getting rediscovered in interesting ways in pop music, and reissues are a big part of that. That's true this year, and yes, some of what I got in return for the many books and CDs I've been getting rid of (two weeks till I go to NYC) have been reissues: Feelies, Beatles. (Of course I succumbed to the Beatles reissues. They're completely my foundation. Everything stems from them for me. I still buy most of the key myths. It's never going to change, however much I make fun of Rolling Stone for the exact same thing. Who do you think instilled it? I may go nuts about it on the main blog one night. Beware.)

Nevertheless, SLM has made it more mandatory for me to hear new music instead of old. My habit is to look for new stuff online, which is where the bulk of my listening now comes from. There are fewer likely-looking/seeming reissues coming to my attention. Even the new stuff consisting of old stuff--the FACT Mixes by the Emperor Machine and Woebot spring to mind--seems more new than old, because in those cases it's DJs shaping the story rather than the artists themselves. That might be arbitrary, but I think it's key to how we perceive the works. Records sound differently when they're used differently--sometimes ordinary, sometimes better than you could hope to have imagined. However it works, this year I've paid almost no attention to that which came before--not in anywhere near systematically, and systematically is how I listen.

I hope it's clear by now that this is still an experiment. I do think, as I'd hoped, that it will be my modus operandi going out--it's not an eleven-month plan anymore, it's more or less permanent. It's like becoming a jogger or something; perhaps something more tangible and tactile will be the next area where I decisively cut down. (Well, I eat less than I used to as well, but that's been a gradual slowdown rather than a set of instructions.) But to get back to systems for a second, I think, in my arbitrary way, that '09 has been one of the worst pop years I've lived through, possibly the worst. I hear a lot of crap, we all do, but this year's feels like a nadir. Nevertheless, the past few months have shown me some things I wasn't expecting and am excited about: the dubstep-not-dubstep I've talked about before, and now jerkin' rap from L.A.

Between them, they've scattered crumbs all over the place, largely in the form of mixes in post-dubstep's case and with jerk, a windfall via Matthew Africa (and Rodney Greene): Digital Dripped. Read it and weep. I didn't need to get any further behind in my listening, but now I am.

D.D. is shamelessly a leak blog. Nothing but lists of new songs available for grabbing followed, often, by "(hot)" or "(very hot)" or "(jerkin song)" or "(hot jerkin song)" or "(very hot jerkin song)." That's all the editorial you get. And the effect it has is to make you want to hear everything. What the hell makes this a hot or very hot song? In my case, of course, the more Pavlovian effect is, "Oooh--another jerkin' song!" (Thanks again, Rodney.) Between it and FACT I'm kind of psyched to be living in the now.

Or maybe not. I'm working on a bunch of reviews for eMusic, mostly of Sony catalog, and it's been refreshing to dig into albums I like but didn't spend as much time with as I'd like to until I got the assignments. Aerosmith's Rocks and Lene Lovich's Stateless are the latest I've been puzzling over way past deadline. (Others done, more to come.) It's challenging to write about older stuff you don't know in your bones already, especially when they're not being presented in a new context.


The end of "Citizen Kane."

I've been back in Seattle for a little under a week now; I leave on Thursday for a weekend in Minneapolis for a friend's wedding. I just happened to turn on Citizen Kane, the last half-hour or so, and watched the ending again. There they are, the newspaper reporters in perpetual shadow, walking through the warehouse where all the thousands of artworks, many in crates, lay. Kane wanted them, had the money, had fallen victim to his own monomania. Then he died, and there it was, laying there, statue upon statue, the unfinishable life's work of an enthusiast who'd lost all sense of proportion.

Coming back has been frustrating. I won't be in contact with my girlfriend for a week, which is fairly depressing. I'd forgotten just how much stuff I need to go through and either sell, give away, or pack: a good friend has volunteered her basement to help me store things--a very good friend, like so many I have. I have an apartment waiting for me in Brooklyn, with another very good friend. I'm making some progress on a big project, though I should be making more; I've got steady work, which is more than I could have hoped for even a few months ago; I'm going to be OK. This is something I've worried about a lot this year, and it's a relief. I even have been thinking about what I might do beyond writing: nothing glamorous, nothing horrifying. Just a mountain of stuff to do, in a place that makes me want to do nothing at all, which I'll do anyway. It's a good way to end things here--it's long overdue.

Watching Kane, watching all that glittering crap in the warehouse, I obviously thought about SLM. The way that things accumulate and never get touched; the way the long-ago sense that you might want to explore everything curdles into acquiring everything and exploring nothing. I worry a lot that I've lost my inquisitiveness. I don't really think I have; two pieces I did for The Onion A.V. Club's New York edition were both enjoyable and encouraging--I'd allowed myself to forget I know how to write features, and not write them about music. But I worry. I didn't go out much in New York, and I don't go out much in Seattle, partly because I put myself in a work bubble years ago thinking it would strengthen my writing itself. It has. It hasn't done much for me socially, though, and as I get older the habits become more rigid. I use the excuse that I'm broke in order not to do things, but it's not good to stay in all the time. I grow paranoid; the weed I'm often smoking doesn't help. But having rid myself of a lot of CDs before leaving in July helps a great deal; it tells me I can do it. So, in a way, does SLM.

Part of me is really annoyed I'm doing anything at all. I love Seattle; I want to settle here. I had such a bad experience in New York three years ago that I never wanted to go there again. July and August were fraught in some ways; I don't have much money. But I really do belong there, albeit temporarily. The big project is one reason; Angela is another. But I've become inert here, dysfunctional. It's my fault insofar as I've succumbed to my own worries; having the person you love tell you it's going to be OK really does help a lot, even when you don't believe it at the time. I know that's not a chimera now. And the pace of New York is a draw too, even when it's aggravating. This time, though, I don't think it will be. Very different scenario, very different people involved. Under the circumstances, it should go very well, and I'm looking forward to it.

Back to the stuff in the Kane warehouse. Would any of it have brightened his life if he'd actually spent his days looking at it? My hunch is that it might. I have a higher than normal tolerance for the new and different; I like comfort-music too, but I'm just as happy, a lot of the time, hearing something I haven't before. Maybe that I won't ever hear again; lotta garbage out there, especially this year, especially contributing to The Singles Jukebox. But forcing yourself to make contact with the world, even if it's just through that world's works, gives you some kind of perspective on yourself. That's what you lose when you just start hoarding shit and just hoping that it sorts itself out in the end. It won't, though--you have to do the sorting.

When I started chucking CDs--even the hundreds I ripped for potential research purposes--I was, in a sense, eating crow. Of course I wasn't going to listen to all those Greensleeves Rhythm Albums I'd either been sent or picked up in cheapo bins. Of course a bunch of those techno comps were gonna hit the dirt. And what was I holding onto? Classically-structured rock albums. Old jazz. The basics. The classics. All the stuff I'm basically skeptical of in the present day, in part because it allows for a lot of work that's slack or worse, partly because I really do like hearing new stuff. Looking now at what's left--about 1,500 CDs, give or take--I realize how accurately what's left on-shelf reflects my interests. Part of it is that much of what I listen to in the present tense is on my laptop or EHD, not the CD shelves--I hope to remedy that as certain titles reveal themselves as classics. What's more important is that I've finally admitted to myself that I can't hear everything, and that I need to focus on what's important to me rather than what I think I ought to know about at some point. When that point comes, I'll dig into it. A lot of the nervous feeling that I might possibly--gasp! shock! horror!--miss out on something has been silly anyhow: clearly I've been missing plenty.

But so has everyone else. Crates and crates of art. A stove worth $2 and a statue worth $25,000. (In 1941 money, of course.) Throw the sled into the fireplace. All of this and nothing. That's the state of the music hoarder's hard drive in 2009: untold treasures, untold trash. The difference is that all of it is trash unless you make the effort to hear it. I write about music because I believe it's worth talking about; it is inherently interesting, and discussing it is a way of bonding with it. No amount of "here's the MP3, bye" blogging is going to change that.

I've listened to more podcasts and MP3 mixes this year than, I think, every other year before it combined. It's not hard to figure out why: you can just leave them on to play out, like an album, and it becomes an experience, also like an album. Of course--duh. I'm not the first to notice this. But I think between that and the increase of streaming-not-downloading among even teenagers, people are slowing down on their own. I think people want music to be an event again; something time-consuming, hence meaningful.

Unfailingly, almost every music writer I talk about SLM with says the same thing: Whoa, hey, good luck with that, because I could certainly never do it. I'd have said the same thing last year. Not to turn into Richard Simmons or anything, but you know, you can. It's not hard at all. It just requires some diligence. I'm currently 14 hours behind (again). I can make it twice that if I want to. But I'll catch up. That's the point. And once that goal is in mind it's pretty easy. Especially since if I don't like something, I zap it--or write something on it. I learn a lot more from doing that than avoiding it. Same with everything else, really. It's either that or letting it sit around in crates, gathering dust.


Immersion here and there.

Things have been moving in odd directions since I got to New York about four weeks ago. Aside from a brief housing scare I needn't detail here, the basic gist is that I've been having a great time, and after a couple weeks where writing anything was a struggle it's been fairly smooth sailing, not that I've gotten as much done on a big project as I'd like, though I plan to change that this week. But in terms of Slow Listening, the major change is also the most logical: last week I trashed my ongoing lists of URLs I'd been hoarding. Basically, I am no longer trying to keep up; instead I'm playing it by eye and ear and letting whatever happens happen.

"Keeping up," obviously, is a fictional conceit. There's no way to do it even if I/you keep my/your options narrow, which I clearly can't even when I try. And as with most things where my eyes are bigger than my stomach, it's taken me a change of scenery to realize that dipping back into the endless/needless list of stuff I might try and check out sometime isn't going to help me move forward any. So I jettisoned it, and boy does it feel good.

It's not just being in NYC that catalyzed this--not that "being in NYC" is the reason, per se; I'd have probably done the same thing if I were camped out in Montana or something. It's that shortly after arriving I realized that I missed the way I used to do things--getting interested in a particular area and stocking up, then evaluating that. Basically, I equated feeling unsatisfied with acquiring too much willy-nilly with a dissatisfaction with any other kind of willy-nilliness--clearly a mistake. Being a pop fan ("pop" being a deliberate fudge meaning anything that isn't jazz or classical) is in many ways about wandering in whatever direction seems likeliest. So in being deliberate about listening to what I acquire, I wanted to be deliberate about the acquisition as well. That's a perfectly valid operating procedure, especially since I listen professionally and want to be fair in doing so. Not even as in giving everything a shot, either--just as in giving a shot to the stuff I figure I'll like and/or have something to say about. If 2009 is going to sound so fucking rote, why shouldn't I approach it that way?

It doesn't anymore, though, largely because I said to hell with it and spent the last three weeks immersed in the last few months' worth of FACT Mixes. In a sense, this was ill-advised: no one, I figured, would want me to write about them. That's one reason I didn't dig into them sooner: better to concentrate on stuff I might have a chance to be paid for. Surely being away from home registered as "vacation," however much I planned to actually work (and have actually worked), freed me from this cockamamie notion, because I had more fun playing FACT Mix after FACT Mix than I have had all year with any particular bloc of concentrated listening. Not to mention the mixes' length forbade me from listening to much else besides stuff I was writing about for pay--and convinced me further that the post-dubstep/U.K. funky/wonky/whatever so heavily represented by the FACT Mixes (and other FACT-finds, such as these four live mixes from the FWD club) is the most fertile, exciting stuff around right now.

And what do you know: I actually did get to write about it. So much for the straight-and-narrow being the only path. Given how tough a year it's been for everyone in my field (and most others), that's encouraging.

In previous years I'd felt vaguely dissatisfied with the immersion-here-and-there path. Too dilettantish, I feared; too uncommitted. I don't know what I was thinking: trying to understand something you don't already know doesn't exactly bespeak a lack of commitment. I like music because it's the most obviously adventurous of the arts even when things seem stale, as so much of 2009 does. (The mid-'70s cultural malaise that always seemed overstated in retrospect now seems like a clear and present fact.) I seem to have forgotten how rewarding immersion-here-and-there has been for me in the past; it made 2008 seem like a better year than it actually was. I try to approach music with a sense of overview, however incomplete. But there is no "complete" at this point, if there ever was. Informed selectivity, I've relearned, comes in more ways than a simple checklist.

Of course, I have had a checklist: The Singles Jukebox. Grading records for it (here's a consistently updated list of my scores) has taken care of the overview aspect of my listening; praises be to Will Swygart for helping me do the dirty work, and the other participants (including the ones I disagree with all the time) for making that work feel like something other than simply shouting in the dark. Maybe we're just shouting to each other, but I'll take that over the lesser alternatives.

In short, I've simply enjoyed listening more than I have in a while, even if the music, per se, isn't all that exciting. A lot of it isn't. I make a lesser living doing so than I used to. But I'm still glad I get to, and now that listening to everything I acquire is ingrained, I do it with more discipline, and enjoy that too.

Finally, because this is a self-indulgent blog, and because I'm guessing a couple of you might care, here's what I just dumped into the "Unheard 2009-08" folder that I have yet to process. (I've gotten to about two dozen tracks while writing this.)

BBU, "Chi Don't Dance"
Blaq Poet ft. MC Eiht & Young Maylay, "Aint Nuttin Changed (Remix Dirty)"
Blue Roses, "I Am Leaving"
Cocadisco, FACT Mix 68
Codebreaker, "Follow Me (The Juan Maclean Remix)"
Crystal Fighters, "Xtatic Truth" remixes
Damn Arms, "Destination (Jaunt Remix)"
Dark Party, "Status"
Vladislav Delay, "Melankolia (Edit)"
Delsin 2.0 Compilation
Del the Funky Homosapien, "King of Fighters"
Dimitri From Paris Presents: Nightdubbin'
DJ Food ft. Natural Self, "The Illectrik Hoax"
DJ JS-1 (CL Smooth/Brother Ali/Sadat X), "Nuthin'"
DJ Kaos, "Love The Nite Away (Tiedye Mix)"
Dungen, "Samtidigt" (tour-only 12-inch version via MBV Music; pretty great)
FaltyDL, "And I Really Know..."
Free Energy, "Dream City"
Fortune, "Highway (James Pants Remix)"
Freeland, "Do You (Joker Remix)"
Gemma, FACT Mix 25
Glasser, "Apply (Lemonade Remix)"
Glimpse and Alex Jones, "Bad Monday"
Gold Panda, "Quitters Raga"
Hauntologists, "A1"
Holy Ghost, "I Will Come Back (DJ Mehdi Remix)"
Ikonika, "Phonelines VIP"
Insight & Nas, Dancehall Is Dead (ragga remixes of Nas's Hip-Hop Is Dead; my hopes aren't high but I was sufficiently intrigued to grab it off of eMusic)
Jaelin, "Vibrationz"
Jogger, "Nice Tights (Nosaj Thing Remix)"
Karotte, "All She Wants Is (Microdinamic Remix)"
Kid606, "Monsters (Doshy Remix)"
Keaver & Brause, "Airborn"
Lone, "Karen Loves Kate"
Antoni Maiovvi, "The Chase Part 1"
The Juan MacLean, "One Day (James Curd Remix)"
Major Lazer, "Hold the Line - NROTB Remix"
Maxwell, BLACKSummer'sNight
Michna, "Triple Chrome Dipped (Osborne Remix)"
Milky Disco II: Let's Go Freak Out
Minus 8, "Last Nite"
Move Merchants
Neon Indian, "Deadbeat Summer"
Ne-Yo ft. NatStar, "If You Want Me to Stay (Remix)"
Alexander Nut, Rinse 08
Oddz v Tempz, "Strung Up Hype (Oneman Blend)"
Polvo, "Beggars Bowl"
Quantic And His Combo Barbaro, "Arianita"
Raffertie, Do That/Boy Better Know EP (playing right now: cartoony, absurdist, the kind of thing that makes dance purists' teeth itch, so obviously I adore it)
Rainbow Bridge, "Big Wave Rider"
Ras G, "Stealth Mode"
The Revenge, RA Podcast 166
Scottie B & King Tutt, "African Chant (Top Billin' Remix)"
Serengeti, Dennehy (Christgau-beloved indie-rap; I find less common ground with Christgau's tastes every year, but he raved convincingly, so why not?)
Shit Robot, "Simple Things (Work It Out) (Serge Santiago Version)"
Smith Westerns, "Be My Girl"
Scottie B & King Tutt, "African Chant (Top Billin' Remix)"
Sally Shapiro, "Miracle (Bogdan Irkuk remix)"
Sally Shapiro, "Love In July" + remixes
Shit Robot, "Simple Things (Work It Out) (Serge Santiago Version)"
Shortstuff, Crazylegs 003 mix
Smith Westerns, "Be My Girl"
Spirit Catcher, "Sweet Deal"
Steffi, LWE Talking Shopcast 05
Stush, "Riddim Sirens - We Nuh Run"
John Talabot, "Sunshine"
TBD, "What Is This?"/"I Don't Know"
10-20, "Landforms Promo Mix"
Thunderheist, "Nothing 2 Step 2 (Idiotproof Remix)"
Uproot Andy, "Brooklyn Cumbia"
Curtis Vodka, Hook N Sling EP
Warlock, "20 Best Euro Mix for FACT"
Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm (6CD box)
The World Is Shaking: Cubanismo From The Congo, 1954-55 (amazing looking new Honest Jon's comp)
Yo La Tengo, "Here To Fall"


New York City?! Get a rope.

I've been here two weeks now. It's enjoyable if stressful ($$), and I've been stupid lazy about getting things done, but I'm starting to kick myself back into gear. I also downloaded some insane number of mixes from FACT and other places, and will be listening to that for, oh, a week at least. Anything to keep busy, right? Anyway, more forthcoming when it happens.


Go east.

I'm in Minneapolis, last night here; around 8 a.m. I board a train for New York, where I arrive in a day and a half and stay put for approximately six or seven weeks. My family is awesome and so was the weather, aside from some rain Saturday afternoon, and I'm especially looking forward to seeing my girlfriend for the first time in four-and-a-half months. I didn't power through all of my acquisitions, of course, but that will probably occur during the first week there. I hope.

Two MP3-blog items, then, as with the previous post--two separate URL culls this past week. The one before I left town was Lee Bannon's Me & Marvin EP, the one tonight by Lil Brod, titled either "Leather So Soft Freestyle" (as it says on the blog) or "Industry Freestyle ruff 1" (as it says playing on iTunes). I played the first twice and it made basically no impression; I played the second four times (it's short, 2:24) and ditto.


A slight wrinkle.

I just had an idea I'm going to implement and utilize here--the idea being to both jumpstart this space a bit and to cut down on all those damn URLs I've stockpiled. It's simple: each time I gather another batch of new songs/podcasts/mixtapes that seem intriguing enough to copy, I will download and listen to the likeliest looking item at that sitting. This way I'm playing one new thing every day, or every weekday, and it's not just something in the shuffle. And I get to do a little real-time crit here, updating as opinions, as they do invariably, shift. I'm picking a busy time to start it--in 36 hours I'm getting on a train to Minneapolis, where I'll spend the 4th with my family, and then on the 6th I board Amtrak for New York, where I'm going to stay with my girlfriend while her folks are in Nova Scotia. I'll be there most of July and August.

Today's batch yielded Woebot's FACT Mix 61, which consists of 54 minutes of circa-'94 ambient jungle and, 13 minutes into it as I type this, sounds wonderful. Matthew Ingram is one of the bloggers who utilizes the medium to its fullest, and he's also a genuinely generous thinker, as in his Ian Dury entry here: "Was Dury really a pub-rocker? I don't think so. Pub-rock is better represented by the R'n'B-flavoured work of Nick Lowe, Rockpile, Dr Feelgood, John Otway, Graham Parker and (yes, sorry) Elvis Costello. Pub-rock tends to be a) Americanised b) all about the Rock, as opposed to dance, dynamic. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just less interesting!"

The era he's mining on this mix is one I know pretty well, but there were so many jungle records made--so many rave records made--we'll be spending a lifetime tracking it all down, from original releases to original DJ cassette mixes to pirate radio to various CD issues. Obviously, plenty has been documented, but there's a lot that hasn't been yet. And I know ambient jungle less well than jump-up or the minimalist stuff. So this is educational as well as a reimmersion in something I cared about a lot at the time, and still do. I do know a handful of tracks already (Jodeci's "Feenin' (LTJ Bukem Remix)," Danny Breaks's "Rollin' (EZ Rollers Remix)," D'Cruze's "Lonely"), but I haven't gotten to those yet.

No, I haven't completely caught up on my backlog. It's about nine hours of stuff from the previous list: 8 Ball, Sunn O))), Freeway, Gucci Mane, Cooly G, some Basement Jaxx remix someone sent me, Cuba Rough Guide, Blank Dogs single and album, Andy Milne. Tomorrow, my last day before I leave, I'll power through them.


How about a li'l status update?

Here's what's in the hopper. It represents all the catch-up listening I have to do, too--got to all the recent Forced Exposure stuff, caught up with old unheard Singles Jukebox items (most sucked), and haven't purchased a physical CD in I can't remember how long. Much of this comes from eMusic.

Giles Smith, RA Podcast 160
Mos Def, The Ecstatic
Todd Snider, The Excitement Plan
The Intelligence, Fake Surfers
Crunc Telsa, "Fire Walk With Us" remixes
Gravious, Futurist EP
Tiye Phoenix, Half Woman Half Amazin'
Walter Jones, "I’ll Keep On Loving You"/"Living Without Your Love"
Syran Mbenza & Ensemble Rumba Kongo, Immortal Franco: Africa’s Unrivalled Guitar Legend
Pocahaunted, Island Diamonds
Jerkin with Jhawk Volume 1
Capracara, "King of the Witches"
8 Ball, Memphis All Stars
Sunn O))), Monoliths and Dimensions (no expectations at all w/this one, I don't care about drone-metal at all, but why not?)
Freeway, Month of Madness
Gucci Mane, Murder Was The Case
Cooly G, "Narst"/"Love Dub"
Basement Jaxx, "Raindrops (Joker & Ginz Remix)"
The Rough Guide To The Music Of Cuba (new edition)
Blank Dogs, "Slow Room"/"Anywhere" + Under and Under
Andy Milne, Where Is Pannonica?



I've pile-drived through a ton of stuff since last update, largely because I've started attacking the URL list in earnest. A lot of it I dumped within a minute. A good amount stuck around, though, and last night I listened through to some stuff I'd kept from a couple months ago--something I almost never do unless I'm replaying something that stuck with me from the beginning, which is always the easiest way to figure out I like it. And most of it hit the trash. One thing that didn't was a hip-hop mix by DJ Rodney Noble called Chispace3, 45 minutes of local Windy City stuff--I have no idea who's on it, haven't looked for a track list, but I like its energy a lot (and toward the end, some of the songs need it: who steals an entire Run-D.M.C. chorus?). Not perfect, but it sounds vital.

The other big listening expenditure has been a box set. I know exactly how extraneous Neil Young's Archives Vol. 1 is, and yes I skipped the two discs I'd already heard (and reviewed, in the case of Live at Massey Hall--also the 1968 show more recently issued as Sugar Mountain, which isn't part of the box, for some reason), and there is a lot of song repetition, but goddamn what riches. The Tugboat concert is you-are-there audience confrontation (the audience barely titters); the albums are heavily represented but reconfigured so thoroughly they take on exactly the kind of weird halcyon flow Young-the-compiler is obviously after, like someone rearranged the family photo album. Is Young rock's greatest melodist?

My previous Young bootleg experience was mostly limited to Rock & Roll Cowboy, a 4CD box from 1994 of live recordings I taped off someone; I went looking for a .rar or .zip and found instead an 8CD thing called Perfect Echo that uses a lot of what's on there already (and some of what's on Archives--five of the six tracks on the 1970 Fillmore East show that was the other previously-released) but goes up to 2001. As with R&RC, this is advantageous because Young is primarily a live musician--over dinner tonight with Robert and Jaq, we talked about how he's got his barn completely set up to record any time he feels like it, which is clearly often. But his sonic perfectionism has nothing to do with getting every note perfect, a la most of his peers, especially as cocaine took hold. He just wants it to sound right while he does whatever. He's committed to the moment, doesn't play stuff he's sick of (apart, I'd guess, from "Heart of Gold" a lot of the time), so a live show is always a good bet. Especially if, as he famously put it, "It's all one song."

Anyway, I'm only partway through Perfect Echo (and disc one of Vol. 4 was unavailable), but it's doing the job for sure. Weirdest moment yet: the flurry of cheers accompanying the beginning of, wait for it, "Ambulance Blues." At an arena. What a strange fucking time 1974 was.


Slight update.

Since that last email I bought another CD and listened to it and another one I didn't mention: Final Song #01 (Get Physical) and Jon Savage's new compilation based on his book Teenage (Trikont). Then I was doing my usual MP3-link grab and decided to see how many I had stockpiled. About 1,000. Gulp. I started downloading stuff, and had an idea. The "unheard" folder went into one iTunes playlist, in order by album to keep the sequencing right. Voila: 350 tracks, about three-dozen albums and countless single tracks. Over 24 hours' worth. That's what I'll be listening to when not working on stuff.

Welcome to the semi-annual how-far-behind post.

I spent last weekend in George, Washington, at the Gorge Amphitheatre for the Sasquatch! Festival, which I wrote up here. (I have lots more to say about Jane's Addiction in particular, but it can wait.) And I've been basically overdosing on Maxwell's "Pretty Wings" since I got back. So I'm far more behind than I should be. Here's the stack-up. I have plenty of time to remedy it.

Singles Jukebox tracks I haven't gotten to (most have already gone up):
Akon, “Be With You”
Alexander Rybak, “Fairytale”
Ciara, “Tell Me What Your Name Is”
Dananananaykroyd, “Infinity Milk”
David Guetta, “When Love Takes Over”
Eminem, “3 A.M.”
Empire Of The Sun, “We Are The People”5/16/09 4:44 AM
Friendly Fires, “Jump In The Pool”
JLS, “Beat Again”
Kanye West Feat. Kid Cudi, “Welcome To Heartbreak”
Kanye West Feat. Young Jeezy, “Amazing”
Kerli, “Walking On Air”
Kid Bass ft. Sincere, “Good Girls Love Rudeboys”
Regina Spektor, “Laughing With”
Royksopp, “The Girl And The Robot”
Sean Kingston, “Fire Burning”
Shinedown, “Second Chance”
Young Money Ft. Lil' Wayne, Drake, Jae Millz, Gudda Gudda & Mack Maine, “Every Girl”

Other downloads:
The Dead Weather, "Treat Me Like Your Mother"
7 x 7 Beat
Altair Nouveau, Dark Energy
Ben Watt, "Guinea Pig" remixes
Bishop Allen, Grrr . . .
Bobby Sanabria Conducting The Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Kenya Revisited Live!!!
Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, Making Love to the Dark Ages
Jarvis Cocker, Further Complications
Deerhunter, Rainwater Cassette Exchange
Harlem Shakes, Technicolor Health
Fred Hersch, Live at Jazz Standard
The Horrors, Primary Colours
Joe Gibbs, The Evolution of Dub, Vol. 1
Killah Priest, Exorcist
Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas II
The Love Language
Milky Disco 1.5
Panacea, The Re-Route (rap, not the German dude)
Pantha Du Prince, “Behind The Stars”/“Frozen Fog”
Passion Pit, Manners
QPE, The One True Constant
Marcus Roberts Trio, New Orleans Meets Harlem, Vol. 1
School of Seven Bells, “My Cabal” + remixes
Tanya Morgan, Brooklynati
Thee Oh Sees, The Masters Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In
Trama, Mr. T
White Rabbits, It’s Frightening


Rough Guide addendum.

By the way, I'm about halfway done with the new Rough Guide to Tango (Second Edition), one of four new RGs I finally got to downloading a while back. Two thoughts. One, I need to listen to more tango. I've liked the Piazzolla I've heard and this comp is appealing on its surface, in a way that makes me think it would be pretty durable, and it sounds more recent--so the classic albums are probably really scrumptious. Two: all these RGs have bonus discs with one artist on them, and each time so far I figured I'd just turn it off when I was done, and each time I've wound up liking the single-artist disc. With Afrobeat Revival it was Kokolo; with Blues Revival, Samba Touré; with Gypsy Music (Second Ed.), Bela Lakatos & the Gypsy Youth Project. It seems like a combo of the RG series with the Introducing series World Music Network also does. Works nicely.

Structured listening.

I am of course behind again. I will be for a while, and that's fine. Partly it's because the purge has been eating into listening time I'd normally reserve for catching up; partly because playing the saved-from-purge stuff has been its own kind of catching up. It's nice to re-inject semi- or barely-known quantities, that I'd been intrigued enough to buy/request/save all this time, into the new-grabs queue.

I start each month hopeful. Finally, I think, I'll sit down and decimate the endless Word doc and the email Digital Promos folders both at once. I will fully catch up, at last. I hope that happens in June, because it sure as hell isn't happening in May. For one thing, I've gone to more shows lately than I have in quite a while--including a day-long noise festival featuring all women performers (much of it rather good) and, this Saturday through Monday, the Sasquatch! Festival, which I'm covering for RollingStone.com. So that's four entire days where I won't get to play whatever I want, however nominal that want is. And I've been roaming more--not just the purge relistens, but jumping on things when I feel the urge, such as this wonderful survey of "After You've Gone" covering nearly a century and 30 performances, which I went for last night.

But I feel like Slow Listening has been a success. Not because the Unheard folder has 28 albums in it I'll be lucky to hear half of over the next week, or because I've paid more attention to the music I do have (that's why I think this year sucks: very little has stuck), but because it's made me more systematic. I've never had a gift for physical organization (or, often, mental organization), but keeping close tabs on my acquisition habits has been really good for me.

This year has been tough for basically everyone I know. You too, probably. Money's been tight even as I've come to realize I have to move to New York by the end of the year, and I'm about to start paying back taxes I should have, but didn't, take care of long ago, back when I could afford to better than now. That's my fault, and I can deal with it, but it's been a long time since I've had to live so frugally. And I can actually do it. I really didn't think I could. I think in a sense, SLM has been me trying to mentally prepare myself for the inevitable lean times coming to everyone, especially critics, especially about music.

Part of it too is wanting to simply focus on what matters. I'm 34 and this has been on my mind in every area. Part of it is recalling my early 20s, when my focus on music, always, always heavy, became something I could see as a life. (I mentioned working at Sebastian Joe's and First Avenue at the same time in an earlier post--1997-98.) The listening then was structured: album after album, CD after CD. That's something that's faded for me with iTunes: I can play singles and make mixes and flit about with impunity. "Making the time to sit and play one folder after the other so I can tick them off the damn list" is not a description filled with joy and longing, but doing it I feel like I'm getting something done, and that's a kind of satisfaction as well.

Which makes this the umpteenth time that I've realized that I really like it when I structure my listening in ways like this. I've also been keeping track of what I listen to, acquire, and receive as promo CDs every day this month. At the beginning I thought it might be fun to print here, but soon remembered that "fun" isn't a synonym for "turgid" or "unreadable," so I'll just mine it for data. Hope it's interesting.



On a ripping tear, getting work done too but a lot of time has been spent putting stuff through the 320kbps threshing machine and then out the door for meager, yet satisfying, wages. Meager in part because if I were getting rid of all the really good CDs I'd be making more money--a lot of nobodies and compilations all this shoveling through, some of it stuff that frankly nobody wants--including me, obviously, but at least I'm interested in an MP3 souvenir. What I've especially noticed, though, is that I've been holding onto a handful of discs--next to me is a "re-evaluate" pile that's become as important as the "sell," "rip then sell," "keep," and "unsaleable, deal with later" ones.

A lot of it is very heavily associated with The Wire magazine. I began today by playing all three discs of Stereolab's Oscillations From the Anti-Sun, a three-disc comp featuring some of the dullest sequencing I've ever sat through. It really buried their strengths; I've been wanting to start listening to their catalog in order, maybe even try some of the other comps, though the ever-enlarging number of them--I don't mean any Switched On--is making the smell slightly like the Who. It really was triggered by Geeta Dayal throwing me a YouTube URL that I've looked at/listened to a lot, of the groop playing on Jools Holland in 1996. It made me nostalgic for that time, when I was discovering those kinds of not-rock-historical things at the same time as a lot of others. Oscillations isn't a good place to start, really, and I was ready to let it go altogether when the very last song on disc three came up: "Soop Groove #1," from 1996, off the "Fluorescences" EP, 13 minutes of nonstop ectoplasm-funk that I could listen to for days. Decision made: the CD goes with me to Havana for the next few weeks.

I followed that up with King Tubby . . . At the Controls, Trojan, 1999, all Aggrovators stuff, if that makes any difference to you. It doesn't, really, to me, no matter how many reggae and dub reissues I bought or how many times I read The Rough Guide to Reggae beginning to end. At the Controls sounds terrific and I'm certainly going to keep it--the idea is to keep albums I like, will want to play, etc.--but it's not only good to hear in itself (as well as in-itself evoking my early 20s, a time I increasingly treasure), it's kind of freeing: I don't feel so boxed in by the self-made need to understand all this stuff on its own terms, and I can just listen to it again.

I'm three-quarters through disc one of Archives GRM, a five-CD box of French lab-coat electronic music studies, and it's a similar feeling: how many times have I passed this up because it was somehow forbidding, or because listening to albums beginning to end means you have to put a day aside for box sets and the like? I figured I'd just rip it all and leave it for another day. But as each disc went in, I grew curious--did I really want to give this up? Didn't you really like this kind of thing once, or at least convince yourself you did? And the truth is, I did. It's easy to forget that sometimes. I've tried a lot of things over the past decade, but when I got into experimental stuff it was partly because it seemed like a good area to write about: I was, as noted, a Wire reader and wanted to keep up with the mag, and also because there was stuff happening locally in Minneapolis and I could get paid to write about it. I moved away from that sort of thing over time, but hearing it again a lot of it sounds rather wonderful. Someday I'll even read the booklet.

Other stuff I'm keeping to re-evaluate: King Sunny Ade's Classics Volume 3 (I have I think the first half-dozen; no reason not to dive back in, especially with the weather nice again, finally); Burning Spear, Creation Rebel; One Day on Radio Mali; Bollywood Steel Guitar (replayed it already; probably the most enjoyable, approachable Sublime Frequencies title); DJ Language's Real Music for Real People (Jess Harvell reviewed it that year positively but put a different, promo-only Language mix in his Top 10 that year; all this time I've been hanging on to the wrong CD, though having listened to it now it's still pretty good); Various Artists, Decay Product (amazingly, the CD is not cracked).


I'm not even close to finished.

And yet the gradual haul-out of the never-weres or never-quites is really making a difference psychically. Just looking at a couple of small shelves is amazing compared to how it used to be. It's all just stuff I like! I can't remember the last time I looked at a shelf full of CDs and felt that way. I don't even feel this way about the Q1 Top 40 I posted on my other blog a while ago--those are good songs but almost none of them have earned any sentimental value, which is crucial. I am excited to see how it is when it's done--or as done as it can be with an ongoing inflow of stuff, however small.

The thing I think I feared most about pruning my collection like this is that it wouldn't seem representative enough. For a long time that would have meant "not enough genres" and to some degree it still does, because I have at least a surface attraction to a lot of genres. Now it also means representative of my tastes, at least as I can gauge them. But a weird thing has happened: this year my favorite genre, by far, has been indie rock. I don't doubt for a second that I'm playing safe; I've felt less inclined to venture afar musically this year than I think I ever have. I'm 34, which is certainly part of it. I've got a lot of other things to worry about, some of them I'm facing up to for the first time in years (mostly financial, great timing), and I'm a wonderful trifle like brakesbrakesbrakes' cover of "Ancient Mysteries" would have been lucky to make a first-quarter Top 30 and be fondly picked up every so often. But all of a sudden I really want to hear a lot of fast four beats and quarter-note bass. I want whiny intonation. I crave dissonant guitars and lyrics that alternate between wide-eyed and jaded. I find myself caring about bands my peers are actually interested in.

I don't think I've burned out on techno. I play a lot of it, like a bunch of records. I've already written too much about DJ Koze this year. (BUT HE'S SO FUCKING GOOD!) I'm getting ready to write about Kiki--like that one a bunch. Etc. But toward the end of '06 and then in '07 and '08 I'd fallen back in love with techno so much that I felt vaguely guilty when I kept reading what a lull it was in. Maybe it was--I never go out anymore, so whatever discourse surrounding it as it exists in clubs is pretty much beyond me. I just go by records, and I heard lots both years I liked. It's not always a comfortable position; I'm kind of amazed I get to write for RA, where I'm outmatched on every side in terms of on-scene knowledge. It's humbling to do sometimes--I work hard on it because I know it has to stand up to real scrutiny. I try to do that with everything, but RA is a special case.

But yes, indie rock. I like it. I made Angela a ziptape last night; while I knew I'd fill it up with indie because she loves the stuff, I was also primarily being honest about my own proclivities over the past few months of listening. Or really, the last month, because the first quarter felt pretty dire to me. (Obviously my listening was less rangy than usual, so take that with lots of salt, please.) But now it feels like that fallow beginning is being made up for.


Unloading the overload.

About five-and-a-half years ago, when I'd been working at Seattle Weekly a while, I decided to try to go all-digital. I began ripping my CDs and selling them off, sometimes on Half.com, sometimes at local stores, and I made a fair amount of money doing it--to the degree that I stopped keeping track of my bank balance altogether and spending as I liked, a decision that would eventually prove hard to shake and led to more than one money scare. Over time, I got out of the habit of ripping everything, partly because as I acquired more digitally I didn't need to, partly because it was so time-consuming and enervating I couldn't handle doing it anymore. Also, after leaving the Weekly for eMusic, I stopped getting so many promo CDs. When you stop drowning, you feel you can swim. So I kept many of them around, or at least I put them in places where I'd forget about them until I came across them again, and usually just shifted them around some more, a practice I've kept up until a few hours ago, when, restless, I realized the time had come to purge everything again--something I've been planning for about a year now, but have never had the gumption to actually do, for some reason.

Well, sure there's a reason: guilt. It's not just a matter of wanting to try and hear as much music as I can, to have as broad a knowledge as I can stomach; it's a matter of not wanting to look back at the sheer amount of money I've spent (and in the case of some of the promos, the wheedling I've done) and feel like I've wasted it. I'm not sure I'd call it that, but that's probably some stage of denial at work. A lot of the dance music I'm interested in is typically sneered at by people who like music I find equally trivial. (I've always wanted to do a compare-contrast of "good" indie rock that was supposed to "stand the test of time" vs. "bad" dance or pop music that wasn't; in my head it's basically always been a contest between Britney, who's still around, like her or not, and, say, K. McCarty's Dead Dog's Eyeball and its like. But that's a bone for another day's picking.) So it's doubly embarrassing when the stuff I've held onto but never, or almost never, played is the very type of stuff I've been mocked for caring about. Uncomfortable as it is sometimes to admit, pride plays a big role in our tastes; it's why people who really ought to know better still believe in that chimera known as the guilty pleasure.

But that's only a small part of it, if an important one. The other part is that with promos down to a trickle I never really worried about the amount of stuff I was keeping, so over the years it's piled up something precarious--or at least, precarious enough to worry about now that I'm really starting to run out of space, both physically and, more and more, mentally. Several months ago I realized that what I really want from a CD collection are albums I want to play more or less from beginning to end--a shelf full of reliable pleasures. But inertia is a strong beast. It's easy to be overwhelmed by volume--I'd guess I have around 3,000 CDs total, including friends' mixes, MP3 discs, CD-Rs, unsaleable promos, and other assorted junk. Going through everything in my bedroom--where less than a third of this stuff was located--took about two hours, and that was a very light dusting.

Everything went into four piles: keepers (back on the shelf), unsaleables (an unkempt pile, now in a box), saleables (into a box), and the discs I want to rip before selling. Here's where the shame pops up again: the last bunch is bigger than the other three combined. Happy as I am to lighten my burden and make a little cash, I have been sitting here for ten hours now ripping disc after disc. (Disc two of the first Source Lab comp is going at 7.0x as I type.) I'm beginning to remember just how much of a slog this is to do, and why I eventually stopped--it became all I did, every day, for months. I stopped going out, seeing friends, attending concerts, in part because I thought if I kept at it diligently enough, I'd eventually see bottom. Back then it was even foolhardier than now, because the promos weren't about to let up anytime soon; now it's only somewhat less so, but I feel good about it anyway, because my goal is a lot less amorphous.

Of course, I'm kidding myself by saying that. There will always be another record or ten that I have to just give one more chance, and much as I might watch how much music I take in at any given time, once you get the bug it's not something that goes away entirely, or by itself. Today, for example, before I started the trimming process, I splurged on volume six of James Brown's The Singles: 1969-1970, two discs of original A- and B-side mixes of many songs I already own. How many times am I gonna play that one? It's the completist in me, of course: yet I already sold the third volume for reasons Douglas Wolk makes clear in his Pitchfork review. A matched set is one thing, but even I, collector guy, have my limits.

One reason the rip-then-sell pile is so big is that I gave myself a great deal of latitude for it. Specifically, while a lot of the CDs in it are ones I never quite got around to and want to have the chance to even after they're gone, a lot of them are albums I do like to varying degrees but realize I will likely never play again. That includes everything from Clipse's Hell Hath No Fury (I like the Neptunes a lot but some of those tracks are just annoying, however great the wordplay may be; I still prefer, and will always prefer, Lord Willin', by a mile) to Simian Mobile Disco's FabricLive.41 (speaking of matched sets), which I reviewed positively, with reservations, for Resident Advisor

Just as important, psychically anyhow, are the albums I've held onto for years for no especially good reason. Henry Cow's Western Culture is a great example: picked it up used at a record store I forget the name of, on 44th and Nicollet in Minneapolis, when I worked across the street at the Sebastian Joe's ice cream commissary, where I made waffle cones Tuesday through Friday and vanilla ice cream all day Saturday. (Best non-writing job I ever had: I listened to music all day long and got a ton of reading done while waiting for the waffle irons or, on Saturdays, the ice cream maker to do their work, not to mention a ton of great free ice cream, in dozens of flavors.) That was a dozen years ago; I think I've played Western Culture five times total. Same with Prince Jazzbo's Mr. Funny on Pressure Sounds: picked it up on a big buy (something like a dozen CDs at once, my lord), and have probably heard it less than a half-dozen times. Somehow I never got around to ripping them while going digital in '03-'04. Now's the time.

I said this at the outset of this blog, but it's worth repeating: the reason I started watching my consumption of music now, as opposed to, say, when I worked at the Weekly, is because my position as a hoarder is no longer a rarefied one. It used to be that a surfeit of free music was a luxury; now it's widespread, commonplace. Some people think criticism doesn't have the same value it used to because of this. I feel the opposite--good writing is becoming harder to come by since everyone who can type thinks of themselves as a writer because they can publish themselves. (I've pushed this fallacy myself in the past, and I'm sorry, especially after seeing some of what's resulted.) And I think that that width and depth are advantages in criticism and life both; I like the stuff I do even more as a result of sitting through so much of what I don't like, or don't quite connect with.

That hoarding aspect is still with me even as I try to be less frivolous a buyer and/or downloader. (Most of the CDs I'm ripping are from, or were purchased in, 2004 and 2005, the years I made--by a long shot--the most money I ever have in my life.) Still, in some ways I'm getting better. Remember the two email folders I've alluded to where I keep digital promos? I finally waded through them last week. Cutting them down from somewhere around 500 items to about 135 took less than 20 minutes. A couple days after that I cut some more; then I went through the account whose folder was smaller, about 55 items; I wound up with about 35 tracks and/or albums; 14 albums still reside in the "unheard" folder." A lot of really negligible crap--it's not a coincidence that even months after being sent some of this stuff, I'd barely or never heard of the vast majority of it. (That's heard OF, not heard.)

Right now I'm listening to Andrew Weatherall's Hypercity mix of the Force Tracks catalogue. In 2001, when I was enamored of that label, I played this mix a lot. Hearing it again now, it still sounds pretty good. It also sounds like something I'm not likely to ever pull out again except for research. As soon as it's finished, it's getting ripped and put into the sell box. Sentiment can be wonderful, but right now, like way too much of this stuff, even the stuff I know is good, it mostly just gets in the way.


Catch-up, again.

Been busy--with work, even, how about that? Hope it continues. But it's been hell on catching up with my acquisitions, so I'll list them here to (a) help keep track and (b) help keep me honest. That's the reason this blog exists to begin with. I'm not counting purchases of CDs of stuff I had on MP3 (DJ Koze, the Juan Maclean) or downloads of stuff I used to own (the Fever's first EP).

Recently downloaded (most of them are mixtapes I grabbed off old URLs I began picking through a couple weeks ago):
Bangladesh, Passport Music (Hosted by Don Cannon)
Bob Dylan & the Band, Safety Tape (Basement Tapes bootleg, with allegedly astonishing sound quality)
DOOM, Born Like This
Tity Boi, Trap-a-velli

Recently purchased:
The Original Eight Mile--Westbound Records: 40th Anniversary (Westbound/Ace)
Marianne Faithfull, Easy Come Easy Go (Decca)
100% Dynamite! NYC (Soul Jazz)
Amadou & Mariam, Welcome to Mali (Nonesuch)
Dillanthology 1 (Rapster)
Ryan Leslie (Casablanca/Universal Motown)
Keri Hilson, In a Perfect World . . . (Interscope)
DJ /rupture, K-K-Kumbia (negrophonic.com)

Forced Exposure send-outs:
Utopia Daydream: New Rubble Volume 4 (Past & Present)
Liverpool, Por Favor Sucesso (Normal)
Detroit Grand Pubahs, The Detroit Connection Pt. 4 (Matrix)
Gala Drop (Gala Drop)
Monazite (Lantern)
Exercise One, In Cars We Rust (Wordandsound/Mobilee)

That isn't counting promos I want to get to. Finally, the year seems to have some shape.


Memory blocks.

Finally, a two week block stuffed with work, first time in months, and what am I doing? Blogging, not doing the work, ignoring the DVD I put on (part one of Ken Burns' Jazz--part of my program of ignoring culturally significant works for precisely a decade, like I did when I finally watched Fargo in 2006; laughed my goddamn ass off, too) in the other room, blah blah blah. All to bring up the reason my singles lists have looked so jumbled and scroungy of late.

If I see what I do as anything, it's constructing an ongoing narrative of pop music, or at least the parts of it that interest me. What interests me is pretty wide--not impossibly so, everything you see that seems like a novelty or token pick almost certainly is one, your tastes can adjust accordingly, but for me those things are like glints in the dark, leads not yet followed, maybe never will be, or else in the case of more obviously novel things I like a good laugh and tend to find things funny more than once. The sense of possibility in music is the thing I celebrate, and possibility comes in many forms: lyrical, vocal, rhythmic, tonal, in quality of sound or intensity of performance. So I try a lot and figure enough will stick to make it worth my while.

What I've been doing more of, especially since I began writing It's a Hit for The Stranger almost two years ago, is finding out about things in larger blocks of some kind of set-aside. New Forced Exposure package arrived? Listen to them all at least once over some part of a week, maybe all. Grabbed a bunch of random MP3s from various blogs? Throw 'em all onto a playlist and play Wordscraper all day while ferrying the goodies to another playlist and trashing the rest. Look at that--time to find as many records as I can that entered the Billboard Country Top 60 and the BBC Radio 1 Independent Singles Top 30 over the past month.

What had been a fairly catch-as-catch-can exercise in 2007 I made more rigid in 2008. All three examples above are how I mined a good amount of what ended up in my Top 100 Tracks list for the year, and forget about a narrative: that thing is a patchwork quilt. The Top 40 of Q1 '09 would be lucky to have even that sort of cohesion; my life doesn't have any right now either. But that's one reason I don't hear much of a narrative even within the stuff I like: the songs I like tend to have been discovered in weird clumps, so they become part of memory blocks that those handfuls of songs bring up.

I wonder how much people's fondness for songs has to do with the means of discovery. I'd have to guess a lot. Discussing records in terms of personal events whose universality may not be as inherent as you think is hazardous; I've certainly fallen prey to it many times. But it's really important. If you hear a record as profound and end up realizing it really isn't, that can really taint things. Judging them from a distance isn't always ideal. I can think of dozens of records that stopped me in my tracks--I talk about one here--and when I'm unallowed any first person (which is, and has always been, often), I try to convey that sense in what has been deemed the universal. But it is always personal.

Well, it is when it is. The rest of the time--eh. I finally went to town on a bunch of backed-up URLs from the Word doc, and I don't think I've ever sluiced out more dirt per square inch. The crustaceans are kinda scrawny, too, to be honest. I will re-hit the pile I grabbed and learn to like some of it, I'm sure, a good deal. I will re-hit the Word doc as well. All those folder-held promo emails will be dealt with too. The pickings may be thin but I do enjoy the hunt. But not till I get all this other work done.


Q1 Top 40.

I've been listening to the playlist of the Q1 Top 40 posted earlier, and suddenly things feel more in focus, musically, this year. That isn't to say they are, of course, though I'm proud to say I have only one full Lux & Ivy's Favorites volume to go before I'm completely caught up. (That Forced Exposure package should arrive any minute now, of course, punting me right back into the weeds.) It's sounding better and better, which I was hoping for. It's even sounding kind of coherent, though it's obviously not any kind of real overview. That probably has to do with my having already invested some time with them, their familiarity making more sense bunched together instead of scattered about. That's true any year, but what feels off about this one is that there hasn't really been anything that's made me re-listen obsessively for reasons other than trying to get a bead on it for the Stranger column. No. 1 is No. 1 because when I re-listened it hit me much harder than it had when I was getting familiar with it, and I liked it plenty then. It's got a formal perfection to it that I really admire. But in the Top 10, only No. 2 (The-Dream's "Kelly's 12 Play") and No. 8 (brakesbrakesbrakes' "Ancient Mysteries") are songs I repeat three or nine times, that I obsess over, and even then it's less obsession than re-pressing an enjoyable button ("Ancient Mysteries") or wanting to fill the room ("Kelly's 12 Play"). Admiration is as important to me as adoration; it keeps me afloat in thin times. But watching things crumble as they have been (the other day, Blender--yes, good writers galore, but having read nearly every issue cover to cover, many of its surface effects still put me off much of the time--tomorrow, who knows? And of course, that's merely one tiny corner of it), suddenly a sense of belief seems like the only reason to keep going. All the admiration in the world isn't producing it, not lately. [xpost w/the main blog]


A quick thing I forgot.

I should make clear that even as I re-listen to many of the tracks under consideration, I'm also realizing, not happily, that the song in the month-by-month folders that has made the biggest impact on me is, in fact, Asher Roth's. "I Love College" is the kind of record that gives me nightmares. I keep imagining something akin to an army of them sprouting in public squares; it's like G Love and Special Sauce's heathen spawn. So while 70 tracks decent enough to have made a dent, despite an on-purpose paucity of input, is nice, the fact that none of them seem to speak for the moment quite like Roth says a whole lot more.

Quarter-year list making.

Over at FACT (where I'm contributing a little), they've already put together a Top 20 Albums for 2009-to-date. I honestly hadn't thought about doing anything like that for 2009--odd, if you consider that quarter-year list (or mix) making is precisely what I've done the past two years. I think it's partly because being I'm using the kind of mindfulness that comes to the fore in endeavors such as list making and its like in a more everyday manner. And frankly the year has seemed so narrow even beyond my self-made parameters; I didn't figure I'd particularly want to assess it that way. But FACT waved the flag, and I, Ferdinand, cannot deny what I am. So I dumped three iTunes folders into one, ferreted out duplicates, mixes, extras, horrors ("I Love College"), and various dubiousness, and was stunned by what is most assuredly a penultimate number: 70 tracks.

Not 70 tracks I unabashedly love; not even 70 tracks I could hum at a second's notice. (Bet there's a dozen of those, and not just because I like music you can't hum.) But 70 tracks, each one (a) summing up and/or representing an album I liked well enough to pick a favorite from, (b) sufficiently hyped as a solo MP3 that I went ahead and grabbed instead of putting in a folder or onto a list to take care of later, (c) actual airplay hits I found for free on the Internet, or (d) singles I found on eMusic, usually courtesy of 17 Dots. To me, this is a shamefully narrow array of source material. I've barely touched the charts, which I spent '08 mining pretty consistently (the margin of interest was narrower than promos/word-of-mouth but I learned more); and of course there are the hundreds of links and emails I haven't gotten to.

So 70 is a large number, and I think listening more attentively is a lot of why. I had a mental-audio image of nearly everything I kept, and skipping through them all to see what I might cut, only two or three don't match up to my expectations. That's pretty good. Obviously there's still a lot to cut; 40 seems about right. But this is encouraging. And once I'm done with the six albums I have left from the prior post (stealth listening can be fun), I will start digging into those old emails and the list of links for real.

Update: final Top 40 is here.



Just tonight downloaded, what, 20 more selections from eMusic--just so I don't waste my freebies. I have to say, I don't mind it this time; I think I'll be able to barrel through most of them within the week, and still have time to listen for work and leisure. To a degree, making myself hear all this stuff is work, albeit unpaid work, and, you know, hopefully enriching; that's never been a problem. But time management is not my strong suit, as my editors can have told you for years; even when I get everything in on time it's done so late in the game it probably should be considered delinquent. (Most everything I ever did for the Voice was like that; all-nighters damn near all.) I was also pointed to a good-seeming dubstep-etc. mix by my friend Nate, so I went for that first; rather nice, will want to hear more.

One of the odd things I've done lately is get fairly heavily into Bruce Springsteen. Not because of his new album or the Super Bowl or anything; it's for a secret project. Actually only one album of his is completely germane to the project but I wanted to try to get a better sense of his career's arc leading to that album, and I have to say all of it has hit me really hard all of a sudden. I'd always liked Springsteen, sometimes a ton ("Rosalita," Born to Run, "Glory Days," "Brilliant Disguise"). But I was never especially interested in the myth or the persona; I liked several of the songs, saw and heard and understood what he was doing, admired it plenty, and despite occasionally paying tribute--I even liked 2007's Magic OK, but have little interest in the brand new one--I never really cared one way or the other.

Now I do, and I don't think I'm simply being cute when I say that it probably has to do with how bad my (and everyone else's) financial situation has gotten. Lemme tell ya: being broke changes and hardens your perspective, especially if you were never all that well off to begin with, from birth forward. Eric Wesibard once wrote about his decision to take a job at Spin rather than finish his degree at Berkeley simply because it paid better. That sounds like a bad joke now.

Anyway, Bruce: don't know why I slept so long. Well, I do know--it's stuff like "Drive All Night," which mars The River near the end; it should have been three minutes, not eight. A lot of that is on Darkness on the Edge of Town, which is the weakest of his albums between the two Borns; still, there's fantastic stuff on it, and it's interesting as a bridge between Run and The River.

The latter is the one that got me started (I'd picked it up used). It took about for plays to sink in fully, which makes sense: it's pretty dense with lyrics, which with Springsteen are usually the point. It's still got glaring flaws, mostly on the second disc, but it's still got a ton of energy that draws me back. I'd always figured "Hungry Heart" as very good, but hearing it again made me realize how absolutely perfect it is, affecting and tricky at the same time, and as my friend Robert pointed out the other day, side two is perfectly sequenced (disc 1, tracks 6-11, kids). And "The River" itself feels both intimate and massive, a perspectival trick Bruce does like nobody else. And Nebraska is one of the scariest fucking records ever made.

Here's what the "unheard" folder looks like right now.

Alva Nota, Xerrox Vol. 2
Chick Corea & Hiromi, Duet
Crystal Stilts, "Love Is a Wave"/"Sugarbaby" (7-inch on mp3)
Dorian Concept, When Planets Explode
Dred Scott Trio, Live At The Rockwood Music Hall
Duke Ellington And His Orchestra Featuring Paul Gonsalves
Here We Go Magic
Justin Townes Earle, Midnight at the Movies
Kurt Vile, God Is Saying This To You . . .
La Cherga (Oct. '08, Christgau A-minused it, why not?)
Loin Brothers, "Heavy Helmet"/"Heavy Helmet (Mock & Toof Remix)"
Mi Ami, Watersports
Neil Landstrumm, Lord For £39
Neon Walrus
New Villager, Rich Doors
That new double-CD best of Nick Lowe thing, looks awesome, can't wait
Reykjavik!, The Blood
Tenniscoats, Temporacha
Tim Hecker, An Imaginary Country
Tobias Oliver, "Winter"/"Summer"

A lot of it is stuff I have no recollection of from name-title alone, but something (usually 17 Dots editors' posts) led me to put it in my "2009" private folder, which I then took another look at earlier today (yesterday afternoon, I mean, good heavens) seemed to ring some alarm somewhere. Or to be perfectly frank about it, I picked the ones I knew right away, then I picked the singles and EPs, then I went by title and/or cover art, thumbnail though it might be. I guess, thanks to my system, I'll find out for sure, right?



I was wrong: Paul Ford did it again. Whoops. Via Idolator, which counts 182 five-starrers out of 1,302 tracks (35 more than the number I cited). Based on last year I'd extrapolated 118, so that's way better than I'd expected. And look--the stars link to the MP3s. Looks like I'll have to sample a few, huh? At the least, it's much more convenient than last year's edition; kudos.



There are few verbal tics in my field less savory than the contraction of "South by Southwest," the annual indie-rock wingding going on more or less right now in Austin, Texas, into "Southby," and I say this as someone who's said it a couple of times. It really is easier to say, if not to listen to, but I bring this up not to bitch (already did that here) but to point out something related to it that also relates to this blog. (No, I'm not going; only ever been once, in '05; had a great time, don't need to go back unless someone wants to foot the bill.) Two years ago, SXSW issued (or someone issued it for them) a torrent of free MP3s, one per participating artist; it featured 739 tracks. The 2008 edition contained 764 artists. Now, the 2009 edition features a tune each from 1,267 acts.

I snapped up both the 2007 and 2008 editions of the SXSW guide because I figured I would one day pull it out for reference purposes. The joke, of course, is that I never did. The 2007 seems to be lost in the mists of time: a year-plus's worth of MP3s and other data was stored on a 500GB EHD I received while working at eMusic. On January 2, 2008, right after emptying my entire hard drive onto it, after having done a Secure Empty Trash, I unplugged the EHD from my laptop a split second too fast and it never worked again. I toyed with bringing it to a shop for repair but was too busy/broke to bother. Shortly thereafter I bought the 1TB drive and have lived, so far, happily ever after.

The 2008 SXSW special I snapped up quickly as well. I put it on my EHD and figured I would dip into it any time I wanted to hear one of the likelies I'd inevitably read about. This was a false premise. For one thing, if I want to spot-listen to a band, I just Google and then stream from their MySpace or an embedded video. Just as likely, I'll Hype Machine them, download something, and then figure out if I care or not. Often I don't--easy come, easy go. The permanence of a giant file like the SXSW Torrent needs to be such that owning it means something in itself; not just that it's a buffet full of iffy treats, but that the buffet in itself is a treat. It says something that I haven't even bothered sorting out the good from the bad as per this great, outlandish compendium of six-word reviews by Paul Ford from The Daily News--surely that's what the piece was made for, right? Yet even then it would take, at a guess, five hours just to listen to Ford's 71 five-starrers, never mind the seven or so it would take for the 108 songs he gave four stars--and also not to mention that Ford's five-star earners include Martha Wainswright, WHY?, the Von Bondies, Pigeon John, the BoDeans, and Laura Barrett's "Robot Ponies," none of whom or which I have much fondness for.

So the compulsion I'd normally have to just download the new supersized torrent and stash it for an incredibly rainy day goes untended. Ah well. At this point I think a lot of that compulsive acquisition boils down to wanting a visual/tangible record of how ambitious I used to be. Not that I'm totally unambitious now--just that most of the places I'd like to be ambitious for have very little interest in utilizing it (or even more to the point, paying me to do it). But a mega-sized SXSW 2009 MP3 folder is the sort of thing, like a box set you've never taken the shrink wrap off, that you feel somewhat better about yourself whenever you run across it: Oh yeah, I need to really dip into that, I bet it's great. Except in this case I bet it isn't. If Ford's numbers were transposed we'd get 118 five-star songs and 179 four-stars. But something tells me Ford isn't gonna make this a yearly thing (I hope for his sake not, anyway), and something else tells me I shouldn't start.


I should have prepared something earlier.

I don't have a site counter (never want one, not for a personal site) but I'll guess a couple people have come this way via the Chicago Reader story, which not only gets points for "Only the occasional freak will adhere to Matos's regimen," which is not entirely unreasonable, it also paints me as someone who's actually keeping to my own regimen. I've been failing a lot. I'm 18 albums and a digital 7-inch (love that phrase) behind. I'm writing an eMusic Dozen and revisiting lots of things for that, and I'm getting some other stuff rolling that will cut down exploration time. So it'll take a while. I'm kind of anxious because I still have that new-product-eyeballing thing going on: It's been here a week and I haven't listened--take it away. Try three weeks. The three (of 11) volumes of Lux and Ivy's Favorites that I've played (2, 7, and 9, not in that order) are basically the same. It reminds me of how Sublime Frequencies' titles, for all their tape-collage renegade-ethnography steez, wound up kind of running into each other sonically. So my rule with L&IF is that I'll slot them in even after I run out of other titles, and that this is OK. You have to make exceptions to stay sane, and employed.

That's why I don't count promos as part of the regimen, as it were. Since the idea was to watch my consumption, keeping the focus on what I actually purchased, downloaded, or requested seems quite enough; the other stuff, when I play it, is out of professional obligation even if it occasionally turns to love. Listening to promos is my job; I wanted to make sure I was paying attention to that which I'm allegedly procuring for enjoyment. (And yes, that includes random MP3s, even when those are to help me keep up.) Not that my listening is anywhere near a normal ratio between random promos and "other," but you can see what I mean.

I've been thinking about a simpler analogy/explanation of what the idea here is: grocery shopping. Like most people, at the grocery store I buy what I can afford, can get home comfortably (two bags if walking, more if taking a cab), and what I will actually eat and not have sitting around going to spoil. Sometimes I go shopping two nights in a row, to fill in preparation gaps and/or round out areas I missed (breakfast, for instance), but the idea is that everything I buy I'll eat.

Now imagine if you kept going to the market and buying new boxes of cereal when you have three uneaten boxes sitting at home. Out of jelly? No, but here's some preserves. That's great but, uh, when am I gonna eat it all? Oh, right: I can invite friends over and cook for everybody. And you can't really do that with music: you don't play other people songs neither of you have ever heard, you play them the ones you like, the ones you've pruned down from hours of prospects.

I listen to lots of music and still do other things, but I also realize how squeezed for listening time I often find myself. I try not to crash-course too much on due dates; it's something every writer does a little, but I did a lot of it over the past couple years and I don't like its effects. Thus the stack suffers; and in the case of this one, it exists primarily because there was a lot of extra downloads on eMusic to be taken care of. So the question for me is whether I absolutely need to use all those free d/l's or not. The answer, it's becoming clearer, is starting to be no.



Right here. Thanks to Miles Raymer--and more comments TK.



The month changes over, and again I put the February 2009 MP3 folder onto the EHD and then deleted it from my laptop. It's nice to have that routine; I keep the iTunes playlists I make by month (the desktop folder is albums as well as individual tracks, so ridding myself of it creates plenty of space) and can monitor my listening in a general way. It only accounts for albums when I choose a song from one to represent it, also meaning they're under consideration for my Stranger column.

But what about the rest--the links unfollowed, the downloads yet to be right-clicked? There's a lot of them. The "MP3 Links for Later" Word doc currently stands at 303 links. I receive promotional email at two addresses, filling folders for digital promos on both. One address's folder contains 168; the other, 94. Even if you figure that most of them are for individual tracks--though there are at least 50 albums, maybe upward of 75 or more--and account for some inevitable duplicates, that's a scary number. Remember: this is all in two months. If I listened to all of this stuff, and nothing else, for the rest of the year, I'd be doing a creditable job of keeping up with music on numbers alone, because how could anyone say otherwise of somebody who listened to 565 recordings? What normal person does that? You'd kind of have to be a professional to even bother, especially now, because the inherent purpose of playing that much new music is to test it to see what sticks. Then you whittle it down to something more manageable--maybe not much more, but more. Even people who like music a lot aren't listening to that much. Even professionals; even me.

This is starting to sound like a lament, isn't it? I certainly didn't intend for it to; I drift too easily into melodrama. I bet there's at least 100 links in there that I should really get to immediately, and not just because a good number have probably already expired. If I were feeling more optimistic about the state of music right now I could say that even if 50 of them turn up something good, we're probably in a golden age, but I can't, because I've heard Asher Roth and Chris Cornell, and that is irrefutable proof that Pop 2009 sucks the big one.

This can't be a lament, though, because remember: more than half of my hold file is self-chosen, or at least as self-chosen as a bunch of stuff someone else put on pro-d/l blogs for me to be curious about. This is doubly good because I will likely toss a goodly number of looked-good-at-the-times and therefore waste less of my own time. I might be a month or two late, but that's only ever been essential when I had to pitch early. I still do, but fewer people can even use them, so keeping up a week-to-week sense means less. And I'll get to them. As soon as I've listened to, um, 21 more albums from two weeks ago. Oy.

By the way, I got paid earlier than I figured I would, and I picked up the three CDs mentioned in the prior post: Holy Mackerel!, The Soul of Spanish Harlem, and the new K'naan. Played the first two at a listening party with friends Saturday night; listened again to Holy Mackerel! yesterday (the screaming-est, hence most definitive, item here is Bunker Hill's "The Girl Can't Dance," on which the howl distorts everything else all to hell). I also have assignment listening--much of it older stuff I need to re-hear. I'm looking forward to all of it.