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.