Two weeks have already lapsed in 2012, and here I am, just now getting to my list of New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps my first should be to make a stronger attempt at being punctual, but as far as I’m concerned this is right on time. If it’s still January, it’s still fair game, even if everyone else has already abandoned their once-optimistic plans of starting a gym membership, cutting down on their alcohol consumption, and abandoning those bad habits that always find a way to come back with a vengeance.
I, as well, have some resolutions, though not necessarily in a personal sense. I’m not perfect, and I’m perfectly fine with that. But as an editor and a critic, I know there are areas that might require a look under the hood, a little bit of tinkering, or perhaps a complete overhaul. And this is my attempt to put in writing those flaws, foibles and shortcomings that I’d like to address. Any other critics who’d like to join me (or take a few notes) are more than welcome.
I resolve to read more, though not necessarily more criticism. A writer who doesn’t read is sort of like a chef who doesn’t eat. You need that source of inspiration, and your own growth sort of depends on it. But you need to follow your own voice and see where it takes you. The problem with spending too much time reading other critics is that it can negatively affect your own writing, or worse yet, your opinions. I’m definitely guilty of second guessing something I’ve written after reading someone else’s take, which is human, but also kind of absurd. On the other hand, it can also make me want to start Twitter wars, which are usually counterproductive as far as dialogues go (even if I’m right, which I am).
I resolve to take the hype cycle with an even heavier grain of salt, or even a pinch. Following new music is probably the most fun part of this job, but every couple of years it also becomes the most tedious, and we all know what happens when that hype turns sour. Lana Del Rey hasn’t even put out her first album yet, and she’s already been handed a very public jeer from Brian Williams. Brian Williams! We don’t even need Christopher Weingarten to tell us what sucks anymore, NBC anchors are there to do it for us. But beyond the true trainwrecks, there are so many great bands out there making music without having won over some highly visible endorsements that sometimes what’s blowing up on the Hype Machine is really just a distraction from something more interesting. But I also highly enjoy those latest M83, Real Estate and tUnE-yArDs records, so don’t think I’m swearing off hype entirely. We’ll just call it a diet.
I resolve to spend more quality time with new albums. Every year, I listen to somewhere between 100 and 200 new albums, and it’s hard to form a close relationship with a record when there’s another new one just around the corner to demand your attention. The better you know an album, the more you have to say about it, and the deeper you begin to understand its intricacies, subtleties, and its many understated charms. Some albums don’t have many of these to speak of, and if I’m left cold after a second complete listen, then I’m more than happy to move on and cut my losses. But every album deserves a fair shake, even Skrillex. (Not really Skrillex.)
I resolve to give James Blake and Bon Iver a break from my scorn. Not that I feel bad about it, but there’s a Die Antwoord album coming out this year, so I have a feeling that I’m going to need to keep my wits sharp.
And, most important of all, I resolve to be an even more outspoken advocate for music that I truly enjoy. That’s why I started this website in the first place, and that’s why I continue to dig through overwhelming stacks of music to find those few dozen records that will stay with me for years to come. In fact, I’ll start by recommending the new Alcest album. It’s awesome. There’s no question that the sheer volume of music that’s released right now, and the many avenues through which to find it, can sometimes lead down some blind alleys, or through some mediocre detours. But finding that one amazing piece of music can be worth all the false starts and backfires. And you can be sure that when I find it, you’re going to hear about it.