Usually, and certainly of late, I find it a struggle to find that elusive interesting “in” to a record, that unique moment that allows me to begin a train of thought to wherever. The most difficult thing for me with this particular one is that it was all to easy to do and I remain unsure about if I want to go down that track. But here I am and there I go, and as nobody reads this anymore anyway I can relax a bit more and head off to wherever this is going to take me. It’s that sort of an album, and a fitting end to this brief jaunt around Pennsylvania’s gritty musical output.
Sometime during the last couple of months when the hinges fell of this blog (and myself), I made a bit of a discovery. I’m doing all of this wrong. What I should be doing by all accounts is to spend more time saying that I’ve written something (or, in many cases, copy/pasted a press release) rather than sitting down thinking of what to say. And if that’s the wrong way of going about things in the current climate of “look at me and give me traffic” music blogging, then I’m happy to be such a halfwit for not joining in. 6 Days From Tomorrow was never truly written in order to be read (I rarely read it myself, so I have no drive to make others do so. But thanks for reading anyway, you’re more than welcome here), it was done as what I thought would be a private thing to get my thoughts in order when other attempts failed, and it’s not doing a very good job of that either! That it’s become something else entirely from whatever I originally set out to so is a source of occasional pride, and that I’ve managed to gain such little victories without recourse to “You won’t believe what has done, it’ll blow your mind” clickbait shenanigans or paying neither Facebook nor for the privilege of spreading the word feels like quite an achievement in itself.
So, whenever I write something, I park it on the 6dft Facebook Page and the 6dft Twitter thing (although I have to say that this is a very underused feed and my personal one is much sillier), and I park it there once. I tried the “ICYMI” thing last week that everyone else does (which some proper sites do several times a day) and felt such an absolute wretched tart for doing so that this will never happen again. This doesn’t mean that I am averse to Likes, Shares, Favourites Retweets and other such word of mouth if someone gets to read any of this and feels strongly enough to do so, and in fact it remains a thrill to me whenever someone takes the time to do so, but I’m not doing any of this cobblers in order to be at all popular. I’m doing it to keep my own ducks in a row.
Last night I fell. I fell far, and I fell hard. Depression and the various things it brings with it is an awful thing to carry, as it never comes alone. It comes with shame and fear, and it can manifest itself both spiritually and physically. I will carry the scars of both the former and the latter for the rest of my life, but I can do this because I am so lucky to have friends who scrape me up and mend me every time this happens. It doesn’t happen as much as it used to, but it still hurts when it does. I daren’t think of how I could do this on my own.
Not everyone is so fortunate. It’s one of those things where people don’t wish to burden others, as it’s an illness that carries a malignant stigma that prevents sharing for fear of driving loved ones away. I know this all too well to my cost, as I lost a potential life because I simply didn’t know how to tell the person who has been closest to me in my life so far that I was struggling, and that I needed help.
Organisations such as Box Of Stars hope to bring this illness out into the open where it belongs, and to free those who suffer from the yoke of loneliness by providing support and a conversation. And this is where all this ties in. A tribute to Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous, entitled Last Box Of Sparklers is imminent, and it needs our help to get it finished and out there. A campaign has begun today to raise funds to complete the recording, manufacture and get the word out – and for whatever you decide to pitch in with, there’s plenty to look forward to receiving in return.
A bit of a confused bag this week, as it’s been a bit of a confused week all round. I seem to have amassed quite a collection of things during the past fortnight that I have yet to even listen to let alone consider writing about. Add to this ongoing internal arguments about technology (which I was hoping to externalise months ago but didn’t. Oops) and a general intellectual collapse when the sun came out, and I’m left with a convoluted excuse for not doing any work. Hopefully much to come over the next week or two, if I can just sit down and relax for long enough.
The three years in which this blog has existed has been something of a struggle for consistency, pretty much to the point where I have given up any notion or pretence of striving to achieve it. Then again, I set this up to be so personal to myself that nobody would ever read it (with partial success!), it would be a strange thing indeed to display any sort of constant direction of thought when that’s something I gave up on bothering with a long time ago.
With that said, it’s nice that during this time I’ve spent here that other people have been kind enough to be consistent with their own work so that I don’t have to be in my own. Matthew Ryan is one such artist who has featured in the upper echelons of my favourite records of both of the last two years, and he has just come up with another that will once more bother the single digits if I ever get round to organising the bloody thing.
Of all the new music I prattle on about here, almost all of them are written about while they are being played for after very few spins – usually I write during the second playthrough, sometimes it’s the first (the latter made obvious by mentioned tracks appearing in chronological order). The reason I do this is because I want to write about the new stuff as a polar opposite to the ones I write about from back in the day – where these older recordings have many emotional attachments (mine or other peoples’, it tends to vary), it’s fun to hack away at the brand new records completely unencumbered by anything. It’s something I enjoy doing (and hope it’s something that someone somewhere enjoys reading; although if not, ah well it kills an hour), even if it does mean that more often than not I tend to miss out on those hidden layers and depths that only repeated listenings can divulge. This is one such record, as I suspect that I completely got the whole idea behind it wrong. Then again, six months down the line, I may well have done this again. Anyway, my own ignorant interpretations haven’t gotten in the way of enjoying the emotional wringer of an album.
I’m trying to ease myself into this gently this year. Mostly because this is an even bigger pain to do than it was last year, which is a good thing, as it means that I’ve listened to more new stuff (and, more importantly, enjoyed it) than I did last year. Or, I’ve just been less picky.
I suppose that there’s huge advantages and disadvantages to doing this on my own as opposed to by the committees that decide these things for publications from larger blogs than this (almost all of them, then) right up to the posh glossies. On the plus side, I don’t have to argue with myself about what gets put in and in which order, and what gets left out. On the minus side, I end up arguing with myself about what gets put in and etc etc.
I have had to cut-off at 50 albums because any more than that would have been overkill, and this isn’t a list of Everything I Have Listened To This Year, it’s going to be a list of favourites. And any less would have been missing some stuff that I really wanted to include. And this year, I’ve not included any unique singles and EPs in that main countdown as it felt just as unfair to kick out an album to make room for, in some cases, two great songs. So instead, I’ve whittled down a bunch of great and short releases down to a Top 10 (sort of…), partly to get me into the habit of getting this whole hellish list thing going (and hopefully finished), and also to get me to go back over the year’s music with a fresh set of ears in order to reconnect and re-appreciate a daunting pile of records…
One of the plus sides to this new-fangled digital approach to music distribution is that artists or labels aren’t necessarily tied down to traditional release dates. That many still do is probably a nod to tradition and habit more than anything else, as chart-bothering doesn’t seem as exciting as it used to be; overhyped drivel from whatever was on the TV karaoke shows the day before to a market with the attention span of a ringtone being the one-hit order of the day.
So it’s nice that, in these uncertain and compressed times, that it’s possible for anyone nowadays to go “hello everyone, have a record” pretty much on a whim. Social media provides instant advertising to those already in the loop, who then pass it on and on. In theory, all this model really requires in order for it to succeed is for the artists and labels embracing it to put out stuff that is actually good. Which is sort of how I remember good music being promoted and passed around as well.
Thankfully, there’s a point to all of this. Texas-based musical co-operative My Jerusalem has today released 11 tracks of something that casts their communal net wider than ever, and evoking the spirit of a favourite album of mine from some time ago.
Well, everyone else has done one. I guess it’s the immediacy of the internet nowadays that lists simply can’t wait until the year end. I did try to do this properly, but trying to whittle down about 40 or so absolute corkers so far this year I soon realised that it’s all far too much work, especially as I’ll be doing it all again in December. So the following fifteen albums (no singles or EPs, will be saving those for year-end also) are in no order and their selection has been completely arbitrary in a daily mood-matching way. Some of those will be high up my (and most others’) list in the deep midwinter, some may well have dropped off a bit and others replaced by whatever is going to pop up between now and the end of the year. What I’m trying to say is that it’s all a bit random. As is the accompanying text; I copy/pasted it from my Facebook entries over the past fortnight and the tenses are all over the place.
On the whole, I’m not a huge fan of surprises. Normally, a surprise during the general course of my day is someone asking for money. And today is no exception.
In this case however, it’s a pleasure to pony up the cash when the money requested is for a new album by an artist whose work never fails to stir the emotions in directions various. Matthew Ryan announced that his new album was on the way rather recently, announced the title and release date a mere couple of days ago, and here it is already (in binary form for now, three-dimensional music fans’ll have to wait a wee while longer) in the form of the Twitter-worryingly widescreen-entitled I Recall Standing As Though Nothing Could Fall, a cinematic title for a very cinematic record indeed.