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"