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.