The first two weeks.

Keeping an eye on how you do things will often lead you to alter them, and that's been the case with SLM. For example, as mentioned earlier, I used to downloading tracks off blogs willy-nilly, or from publicist links I've been sent via email. Those would go into a folder labeled "unassimilated," from which I would, when I had the inkling, go through, find singles and EPs, and put into a couple general iTunes folders ("2008 possibilities" for single tracks, "2008 A-B" for two-to-four-song singles/EPs) and then play through them when time permitted--sometimes for hours at a time. I plowed through a lot of stuff that way and discovered a good amount.

But SLM frowns upon such stuff, so what I've done instead is put likely emails into folders ("digital promos") and, with URLs that catch my eye and potentially my ear, simply keep them listed in bullet-point on a simple Word document so I can go back to them when I feel like it. I figured I'd wait a couple weeks to see how many there were. Now, on the 14th of the month, the exact two-week point, I counted. The number of URLs so far--some of which feature multiple MP3s, or DJ-mix sets, or in a couple cases full albums--is 72, an average of over five per day. I think that kind of says everything.

Something I wrote on an earlier post--"SLM isn't really about spending more time with less music"--raised a cocked eyebrow from Philip Sherburne, who found it "odd, because that seems to be precisely one of the pillars of [the] project." Part of the reason I said that was in response to a comment proselytizing for "getting off the grid," opting out of the more sports-like part of music listening, the what's-new-and-now aspect of it, in favor of just diving in wherever and taking what you find where you can. All wonderful things--and the commenter in question has a blog featuring some eloquent mixes. But even if I weren't writing about music for a living (for now, anyway), I'm still fascinated by music-as-sport--who's doing what, which albums are being talked about, the whole sweep of it. Those aren't the only exciting things about following music, but they're a part of it I quite enjoy. You don't have to be first on your block (I rarely am) for that to resonate.

What I've noticed about the project so far is that I've spent less time with music, period. Part of it is professional: without wanting to belabor this any further than I already have, this is a shitty time to try and make a living freelancing about music for money. It's a shitty time to do anything for money, period. So I have fewer assignments than I might have even a year ago, and as a result I've got fewer things I have to listen to. Hence, my listening becomes more scattered, less focused. It also relies less on things I feel I should be listening to, though inevitably some of that sneaks in, too, as with the new Animal Collective--a band I've never liked, whose moment in the sun compels me to pay attention. (The results so far have been mixed, but intriguingly so.)

I've also been cataloguing that listening differently than usual. In 2007 and '08, I put likely new songs in numbered iTunes folders in groups of 10, figuring that way I could make more time for the individual playlists to whittle down further. Instead, I ended up, at the end of the year, with 68 playlists--nearly 700 songs that I liked enough the first time through to investigate further, only I never got to re-investigate most of them because I was too busy adding to their ranks from the aforementioned "2008 possibilities" folders. It never ended--and though I liked a lot of music I heard as a result, often it could feel like make-work.

The major change I wanted to make via SLM was to not second-guess myself so much. If I hear a song or album with a little more clear space around it, chances are my opinion will sharpen; I won't be so inclined to hear things as part of a marathon-listening groove and correspondently let my ears slip a little. I definitely want to find more things I'll go back to--and given how much music is released in a year, and how much of it I hear (still a considerable amount even without grabbing everything in sight by habit), that number is likely to remain high. And I think it's helping me understand when those slippages are in fact helpful--when re-hearing something in context of other pieces of music buoys it, puts it in better focus, shows its facets off better. Not that this has been happening yet much; I realize two weeks in is awfully fucking early to doomsay, but I should say right now that on the evidence (stuff I've heard, stuff I know is coming) I am not gearing up for 2009 to be a great or even good year musically. Nevertheless, I'm enjoying paying attention to it, especially with that attention being a little more focused than usual.


  1. I hope I didn't come across as taking any digs in the comment you mention--in truth I really wouldn't try to prescribe my "off the grid" approach to anyone who, you know, actually still found themselves enjoying the "new-and-now" in real time. Taking my approach pretty much requires becoming totally frustrated with keeping up, which clearly isn't the impetus of your SLM, and I wouldn't wish it on you. There are exciting things about living in ones own time that I know I give up, and I wouldn't fault anyone who found them essential rather than secondary in experiencing music.

    Thinking about the "stocking-up-for-the-winter-ahead" mentality I've let justify my collecting, I realised I've been preparing for that winter for a decade and a half, and no matter how much or little I earn, I've barely ever slowed down to any significant degree. As yet, I don't regret it--looking over the 300 or so albums I bought last year, I regret almost none of them and have the feeling of barely having heard only a few of them. But you've planted the kernel in my mind of pondering trying to change my habits--instituting the "winter" myself. I recognise that at this point, I listen to full albums in order almost never; that I've become addicted to mix-like listening, and mix-making, more than ever. So maybe I need to find my own way of slowing down, too. (Of course, I'll still always have to grab those random reissues of albums sure to go OOP for years again. . .)

    Thanks for the mention, too. Keep up the experiment--I'll be following with keen interest to see where it leads.

  2. Whoops--I meant to say, I feel I've managed to fairly thoroughly appreciate most of the albums I bought; only a few feel unheard.

  3. I didn't feel slighted at all! I merely wanted to further clarify what I'm trying to do. And mix-like listening is a big part of my diet; I write a weekly singles column and want to get back into listening widely and voraciously to new stuff--that'll probably be my next post or the one after.