At 8:07 A.M. on the morning of January 19, 2018, I will have been on this Earth for exactly 40 years. (Time spent in the womb notwithstanding.) I decided to spend the 40 days leading up to it focusing on a specific year of my life per day, as viewed through the lens of a song that somehow influenced me at around that time. (I’ve been posting these to my Facebook page since that 40-day period started, and I’m compiling those posts here on my blog for those who missed any of the earlier posts and/or aren’t connected with me on social media.) This was challenging for two reasons:
One, because I don’t have clear memories of the very earliest years of my life, and thus I had to cheat and pick songs which either my parents played for me deliberately or that were iconic in popular culture at the time, that left enough of a mark for me to remember them from some later point in my childhood.
And two, because once I really started to deliberately seek out new music to listen to in my teenage years instead of just absorbing whatever was around me by happenstance, it opened up the floodgates to the point where it’s hard to pick a single representative song for a lot of the later years of my life.
But it’s been a fun challenge nonetheless, because I think it really gets at the nuts and bolts of what sparked my initial interest in music, how it might have been shaped by early events in my life, and how that all contributed to the sense of identity I’d wind up with after four decades of existence.
So we’ll start where it all began, in the year I was born…
As always, I’m closing the year out with a summary of my favorite records from the year gone by. The only qualifying factors to make this list are that they must be full-length albums consisting of new material (I have a separate section for EPs and collections of previously released material), with a release date in 2014. Everything I really enjoyed this year that falls outside of those boundaries still gets a mention, just not a ranking.
It was really hard to pick a clear #1 this year. I love the top four albums on this list just about equally. Two are more “baroque” pop records that lean toward the electronic and experimental, and two are more in-your-face rock records. They’re the only “A grades” that I gave out this year. Which one is my favorite among them changes based on my mood, so I basically gave the #1 slot to the one I’ve enjoyed for the largest chunk of the year. I can’t imagine very many other people who would ever actually listen to all four of them, let alone like them all, but they all come with my highest recommendations for anyone into the types of music these individual artists are making.
It’s that time of year again, when I arbitrarily sort through the list of songs I’ve been obsessed with over the past 12 months, and try to whittle it down to a semi-reasonable list of 100 favorites. A lot of these were released in 2013, and a few even in 2012, but as usual, I was late to the party.
Music videos and some live performances are embedded for most of the Top 30. I didn’t want to go too far beyond that, for fear of crashing your browser. I’ve also created a Spotify playlist that explores a number of these favorites, more or less chronologically in the order that I discovered them.
Artist: Weird Al Yankovic Album: Mandatory Fun Year: 2014 Grade: B-
In Brief: A slight improvement over Alpocalypse, but Weird Al is definitely at his best when he can get his parodies out the door in a timely manner. Since this is the last album on his contract, perhaps having to wait 2-3 years to release a parody of something current will no longer be an issue.
Right at the tail end of 2008, and into early 2009, I was feeling a pretty strong dose of the economic anxiety that I think a lot of Americans were feeling at that point. Part of it was due to Christine being in transition – knowing she didn’t want to work in daycare any more, but not feeling another calling to a type of job that was both exciting and feasible to pursue. So we were living off of just one income for the time being, and it was hard not to worry about our future plans getting stalled out as a result of this. Fortunately she knew what to do to help get my mind off of the worries, and a pair of trips that we ended up taking along the central California coast in January and February did quite a bit to lighten the mood in that difficult transitional phase of our life together.
In with the New: Animal Collective Fiction Family Josh Ritter A. C. Newman Blitzen Trapper Joseph Arthur & the Lonely Astronauts