The Music Writers' Exercise is over tomorrow, and here's a thing I've learned: listening to one album every day - like, really listening - is hard. As a reminder, the idea behind Twitter-inspired #MWE was this: one album every day, with a one-sentence (ish) review to follow. There were some days when I felt like doing anything else but this, partly because my attention span is virtually nonexistent, and mostly because some days I felt like I truly didn't have time. I don't have a long commute, and a couple of times I was trying to fit in an album at 11 pm (it's hard enough for me to stay awake then, let alone write out thoughts). A couple of times I had my finger hovered over On the Impossible Past (I told you this would happen), and I had to talk myself out of it for the sake of just fucking finishing a project for once.
But, for the most part, I did it. And I learned a couple other things too.
I make a lot of snap judgments about bands based on pretty much nothing. For example, I thought All Get Out was strictly a pop-punk band along the lines of State Champs and other things I don't much care for. I was super-duper wrong. I was just looking at an album cover going, "Oh, that shadowy ferris-wheel silouhette? How pop-punk of them." Turns out that All Get Out is a million times more complex than I gave them credit for. Will there still be bands I neglect because I'm under the assumption they won't fit my tastes? Sure, probably. But I'll try to look back on this project as an example of how nothing but putting on your headphones and listening will tell you what a band truly sounds like - not their band name, not their album art, and definitely not the fact that it's in your Discover Weekly suggestions on Spotify.
Writing a one-sentence review requires a different analytical perspective than I'm used to. For one, I usually need about ten listens of an album to get my thoughts aligned, and even after that there are always nuances that reveal themselves to me with time. MWE-style critiques aren't well suited to growers, to particularly complex content, or to albums that are really long. They're more based on visceral reactions (or the lack thereof, which might mean you need to write something off the cuff and file that album away for later). I also didn't have much space to contextualize, where usually I delve into how I found an album, what the band has meant to me so far, etcetera. The result, I think, is that I tightened up my writing and was more thoughtful about what aspects of an album should be highlighted for people who haven't checked it out.
This month in music has been weird/cool/tricky/fun. I didn't have as much time as I normally do to throw on my comfort-food albums, and that's left me feeling a little disoriented. The weather turned from winter to summer and back again a few times, so my cold-weather-inspired MWE picks didn't serve my mood as well as I'd planned. I found a handful of albums I don't think I'll ever pick up again (Colleen Green's I Want to Grow Up, The National's Trouble Will Find Me), but I can now safely contribute to conversations about them, which is important to me. I also discovered a bunch of albums I REALLY enjoyed, and a few of them needed more time than I could give during February (but they'll get it soon). As for my feelings on #MWE as a whole? I'd do it again.
I've got another fun project on the way, and a few guest contributors (okay, fine, just my friends) I'm pretty excited about. We'll be looking at our Top 15 Albums of the Last 15 Years, bouncing off of a similar idea from the Encore podcast (http://chorus.fm/encore; they did Top 10 in Last 15, but that seemed uneven and restrictive to me, so I changed the parameters a bit). Wish me luck in whittling down a list of more than double that number.
Graduate student taking a break from grants and manuscripts to wax poetic on music.