As I’ve been poring over my Facebook news feed lately, I’ve gotten lost once again in lists. “Top 13 GIFs of 2013,” “Our favorite Internet-sensation dogs of 2013,” “17 Reasons 2013 was the Best Year Everrrrrr,” etc. While I’ve managed to steer clear of most of those, I do find myself caught up in the self-aggrandizing “Best-Of” lists—the ones from sources which, supposedly, are the absolutely best-equipped to present all the media you missed in 2013 and make you feel guilty about it.
For instance, NPR Music’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2013 was guaranteed to make me wallow in self-resentment. I hadn’t even heard of half of those artists, let alone all the albums. I used to be so ahead of the curve. For every overrated album on a Top 10 list I saw, I could name three more that were underrated or unheard.
But now? I read through the list with confusion. The occasional raised eyebrow and understanding nod—“oh, yes, I suppose they’re good and they probably put out something great this year.” The acquiescent feeling of resignation. The flushed shame when I thought I saw Bonobo twice, and then realized one was actually Bombino, and then there was Bibio… what a mess.
That’s mostly rhetorical, but I will say that life changes a lot. Suddenly you’re immersed in responsibilities you’ve never dealt with before, or you have a plethora of opportunities that are more socially engaging than researching new music in front of a computer screen, or you are simply more interested in taking comfort in the familiar than in spending energy on the unfamiliar—especially when other aspects of life are so new.
All of those are reasons for not exploring new music, and all have applied to me in the past year. Plus, unlike the editors of NPR Music’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2013, I have a job that does not call for daily research on musical trends, icons, artists, and critiques—though I will confess to occasionally making it a part of my workday, and I might not turn down the opportunity, if it came along.
While I realize I am in no way obligated to defend to any readers my ignorance of the music of 2013 (much of which I do know was terrible anyway), I am aware that I have not been consistent with my own goals for this blog. That’s not to say that I haven’t been listening to music, or even that I haven’t been listening to music that’s new *to me.*
And let me just say that as someone who was getting intimately acquainted or reacquainted with grunge during 2013, Lorde bears little to no resemblance to Kurt Cobain or Nirvana. NPR, you were wrong about that one. Lorde has catchy music and deserves some chart time, definitely. Those harmonies are almost classically choral (chorally classic?). Good lyrics, too. But she’s not about to upend Kurt Cobain’s role in music or culture.
Fueled by learning what others have been listening to for the past 12 months, while I’ve been revisiting the roots of American rock ‘n’ roll and developing an appreciation for the distinctly aboveground, I have been seeking out some new material. Soon I’ll be developing my own lists with (hopefully) some commentary.
In the meantime, feel free to comment with artists or albums you’ve heard in the past year that I should be ashamed to miss. Overlooked acid jazz EPs? Metalcore gems? Glitch-hop revivalist obsessions? Let me know.