A thrill to get a band tee in the mail. I don it and amp up The Wilderness, the latest album from Explosions in the Sky. Bliss!
From a universe of 123 albums (view all of them at https://www.pinterest.com.au/bigdecade/rock-music-big-year-reviewlets/), here is the cream:
- Destroyer – Ken. Obtuse but brilliant.
- My Friend The Chocolate Cake – The Revival Meeting. Buoyant musicality aligned with David Bridie’s searing lyrics.
- Conor Oberst – Salutations. Today’s singer-poet backed by terrific musicians.
- The National – Sleep Well Beast. Sophisticated, propulsive, yet dreamy.
- Teleman – Fünf. In search of the perfect pop toon, plus five different producers.
- Robert Plant – Carry Fire. Still the supreme voice, now controlled and allied to a rattling, eclectic band.
- Grandaddy – Last Place. Back to his hypnotic catchy best.
- Angel Olsen – Phases. Outtakes and offcuts showcase the heir to Dusty Springfield in arresting form.
- The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding. Songs of yearning buried in that wall of sound.
- Fischer-Z – Building Bridges. After so long, mighty and distinctive, sounding 18 years old.
- Mountain Goats – Goths. Guitar-less masterpiece from another poet of modernity.
- Eluvium – False Readings On. Elegaic even when fuzzy, ambient electronics at its peak.
- Kelley Stoltz – Que Aura. Brilliantly written garage pop classics.
- Tiny Little Houses – Snow Globe. Australia’s best band, a spitting, sneering showpiece.
- Tobin Sprout – The Universe and Me. Lo-fi gems penned with genius.
- Elbow – Little Fictions. Another stately, chugging set filled with grand homely stories.
- Beach Baby – No Mind No Money. Fizzing classy example of Brit-rock.
- Arcade Fire – Everything Now. Singalong yet oblique, repetitive, varied songs that don’t let go.
- Slowdive – Self-titled. Original shoegazers produce career-best triumph of burning, melodic distortion.
- The Shins – Heartworm. Exploding joy, melodious and bouncy as all heck.
In 2017 I used the Big Year concept to attempt to resurrect a love of music. Oh, I used to adore a stew of rock music permeating my being from head to toe, but in my fifties, this passion vanished. Why? Could I do something about this parlous state of affairs?
So I forced myself to listen right through an album on each and every one of the 365 days of the year. Sometimes I listened on the home Sonos speakers, more often I downloaded the songs onto my iPhone on the Spotify app and enjoyed them on blue Jabra headphones. I conquered each album three times, then wrote them up quickly and irreverently on a Pinterest board (https://www.pinterest.com.au/bigdecade/rock-music-big-year-reviewlets/)
8/10 as a rating might be described as “wonderful,” and 40 albums (i.e. a third of them) were rated 8/10 or 9/10, so, hey, you say, it must have been a damned good listening year. The average rating was 6½. Half my listening diet was rated 7/10 or higher!
But the reality was far more beige than the numbers indicate. Even when my intellect judged a suite of music as terrific, most often the listening experience was numbed, flat. Almost none of the 123 received a fourth sampling. Quite frankly, the year has left me cold. That wondrous passion for melody, rhythm, and lyric, stayed away. I felt old and spent.
I’m reporting the same mixed bag as a few weeks ago:
- Writing Big Year: how disappointing can it be? I’ll never set up a “conquer the world” humongous Big Year again – only by pure luck will it work as planned. All that said, I’m inching forward with the book and without the pressure this Big Year has put on me, I wouldn’t be where I am. Smile, Andres!
- Fitness Big Year: I called it “fitness” and I’m markedly fitter. The discipline is, so weirdly, joyous!
- Rock Music Big Year: I’ve listened each and every day, and have conquered 110 albums. But I can report no epiphany, no new anchor in my life. Is music dead to me?