When the calendar flips from December to January, people hoping to better themselves make lists and check them twice—not of gifts to return, but of resolutions, those seemingly impossible-to-attain goals that allow for a light to flicker at the end of a 52-week-long tunnel. In the spirit of the season, I’ve come up with a few ideas to make my musical life a happier one in 2012; feel free to co-opt them for your own usage.
Get off the Internet
The first, and probably most important, resolution involves taking a breather from the always-on Internet and its pressure to keep up. When I interviewed musician and composer Gabriel Kahane last year, a large chunk of our conversation focused on the online realm; among his many projects is a piece about Alcoholics Anonymous, and he noted the similarities between Googling and Twitter-searching for something—a life-changing song, a ridiculously witty comment, a band that has yet to be discovered by the blogs—and gambling. “It’s like a selective high,” he told me. “If you check your e-mail, you don’t know that you’re going to get high because you might not get an e-mail, which makes it even more insidious. . . . You don’t know whether or not you’re going to get the result that you want.” This might explain why so many anonymous commenters have pH levels rivaling that of hydrochloric acid; quests that are both aimless and fruitless are the most soul-killing kind, and my nights spent aimlessly surfing for a new thing to obsess over can attest to that. In 2012, it’s time to close the laptop, put the phone on airplane mode, and maybe do some searching via the tried-and-true method of getting out of the house, whether for crate-digging purposes or taking a chance on a bottom-of-the-bill band at 285 Kent. (As a bonus, the people I run into won’t be nearly as nasty in real life as they might be on Brooklyn Vegan.)
Exit the cloud
A corollary of the first resolution, though with a slightly different spin. The online music-listening service Spotify is great on its surface—millions of songs just waiting to be played, a seemingly endless library that can have its targets zeroed in on faster than you can say “Tower Records.” But there’s a certain illusion of completeness provided by Spotify and its streaming-music ilk that comes crashing down when searching out, say, Caramel’s “My Tailor Is Rich,” a song that appeared on a 7-inch put out by the microlabel Harriet Records in 1996. It is nowhere to be found on Spotify or eMusic, so according to the Internet, it doesn’t exist; quite a few artifacts of the recent past are similarly lost to the digital dustbin, which doesn’t store lost items inside for later treasure-hunting as much as it obliterates them. And this problem doesn’t just exist for musicians from the old days; there are bands now that are holding their music back from the cloud as well, for reasons ranging from the crappy payouts these services offer to their being staunchly anti-digital. While I probably won’t give up Spotify as my primary digital-music player—I really love the way it melds the cloud with my existent digital-music collection—being mindful that there are artists and songs existing (and thriving) beyond its search function is important.
The earlier note about artifacts digitally going out of print doesn’t do much to deter people (well, me) from riding the cloud deep into the past, whether through crafting a playlist of bands spotted during the last half-hour of old Headbanger’s Ball episodes or spinning through the entire collected works of the Canadian blooze-rock outfit Babe Ruth. But all that rearview-mirror watching means missing new and exciting developments that might shock the system in even more satisfying ways; if nothing else, 36 is way too young to get all Vaseline-lensed about The Way Things Were. (I hope that 72 will be, too.)
Throw out the one-sheets and skip to the songs
How often does the way a piece of music is described by someone else—whether journalist, PR person, blogger, or pal—affect the way that music gets consumed? The endless, wearying debate about Lana Del Rey is probably the best example of this, though so many other subjects of debate in 2011 (Lulu, Kreayshawn, Tyler) can just as easily be swapped in. In 2012, even though it’s hard to do in the era of endless commentary, I’m simply going to listen to the music that comes across my transom as if it had landed on my desk like a brick from the sky, saving the context-making and debate-stoking and comment-rubbernecking until after the first (if not the 10th) spin.
Try to say something nice about Katy Perry, even if it’s just a compliment about her hair or her outfits or her choice of collaborators
A list of resolutions wouldn’t be complete without that one brass-ring goal—the impossible dream that, if achieved, will prove that the person who set out to better herself in this matter succeeded in such a way as to become one of the most impeccable human beings in existence. To that end, I’m going to temper my ire toward the burlesque-lite antics of Katy Perry, the Christian pop singer turned girl-kisser turned perpetual presence atop the Billboard Hot 100 who has served as a thorn in my pop-loving side for nearly four years. All bets are off, though, if she tries to hit No. 1 by releasing a rhinestone-spangled cover of “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” with a tamed Yelawolf in the role of George Michael.