Three big years: Week 1

Most important: I wrote and worked well . . . not quite as well as I should have, but I rose early on six days (slept in once but made up for it) and hunkered down. I rode a bike three days, only 76 kms not 100 kms, but enjoyed every moment and consider my launch a fine one. Jogging was, for some reason, horribly tough, and I dropped short on Wednesday, but I forgive myself. I listened to music all 7 days – carving out the time was irksome but I’m already getting used to that – andsuddenly I’m humming stuff in my head! All up, an encouraging start and the tension I imposed upon myself will, I’m sure, ease over the next few weeks as I get used to a very different way of focusing time.

Rock Music Big Year: Do you enjoy writing album reviews?

I do. But this year isn’t the one for full reviews. Instead, I’m documenting the year’s daily regimen – an album a day, repeated three times – with what I’m calling a reviewlet, a playful, quick, rather rough encapsulation of my three-listens impression. A reviewlet comprises the artist; the album title; my rating out of 10; three hopefully apt words about the album; and a short judgemental sentence. You won’t be able to use my reviewlet for a buy-or-not decision, but my fleeting impressions might  prompt you to seek more fulsome reviews (or to shy away from that album altogether).

If I can stick to this Big Year, I’ll produce 122 reviewlets. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to post them all on this blog (the tedium!), but if occasionally you’re interested, I will be sticking them on a Pinterest board (go to


My Big Decade: Follow my progress?

In 2016 I obsessed, day on day, with writing and jogging. In 2017, writing becomes even more intense, but on top of a Writing Big Year, I’ll do a Fitness Big Year (cycle, jog and gym) and a Rock Music Big Year (listening!). You might find this quirky struggle of interest! If so, go ahead and click the Facebook button.

2017 Day 1

One of the paramount rules of a Big Year: start on January 1. Today’s mandatory three tasks:

  • Get up in the dark to write well
  • Cycle, jog, or lift a dumbbell
  • Listen through Teenage Fanclub’s album Here

Not so straightforward, for it’s New Year’s Day and a special person’s birthday. All going well, it will be a day of two halves.


2017 Rock Music Big Year: Hearing isn’t listening

These last few weeks, I’ve been practising. Here’s the drill: every day, listen to an album, either through home speakers or on-the-move bluetooth headphones; take some form of notes; after three listens, wrap up that album with what I call a “reviewlet,” a mini encapsulation of my experience in a form that’s meant to be swift and simple; every week buy an album (the rest come through via Spotify); keep searching for the best of new music to queue up for listening.

Here’s the rub: hearing isn’t the same as listening. When I was young, we soaked up music fully and effortlessly. Music was life itself. Music surrounded us. Asked for an opinion, we could rattle off song names, the guitar riffs, the lame tracks, the scorchers, the highly specific genre positioning, an album’s societal vibe . . . all this after what seemed like no time at all. Every key record lodged in our minds whole and replete. We LISTENED.

I’ve lost that. Last week was a typical, hopeless practice attempt. If I played an album through while writing, either the writing vanished or the music did. Walking to Bar Ristretto with Angel Olsen on headphones partly worked but I felt careless and unsafe. On spare evenings, ragged with tiredness, could I work through an album in its entirety? No, I could not. As a dress rehearsal for the first week of January 2017, last week came as a fat flop.

All this doubles my determination to carve an hour out of each pulsating day. Somehow. Somewhen. Have the courage, Andres, I whisper, to LISTEN and tap into the sublime.

2017 Rock Music Big Year: Seek out the young, I say

Angel Olsen turns 30 in January. The American singer-songwriter and guitarist put out My Woman this year and what a revelation! Practising for my Big Year, that album-a-day obsession, has been tough, but this is the reward, disappearing into the deep musicality of this younger woman’s torchy, reverberating, serious, tuneful indie rock. What beauty! What profundity! How catchy! We can soar!

Let me point out one aspect of Angel Olsen that is, for me, crucial. She is in her 20s! She’s not in her mid 50s (a great gig from Mancunians James in November), late 50s (that brilliant Robert Forster album or the umpteenth sporadic brilliance of Robert Pollard or Nick Cave’s sublime Skeleton Tree), 40s (Okkervil River), late 30s (Band of Horses), mid 30s (Conor Oberst’s magical latest) or 30s (Eluvium’s majestic take on electronica).

You get the picture? I’m celebrating the fact that one of this year’s best listening experiences comes from an artist who is in her late 20s! When I was young, any singer or group aged over 23 was immediately a no-no. We knew that music, fresh vital music, came from the boldness of youth. Why don’t I listen to teenagers?

One answer to that puzzling question: I don’t know any young bands or singers or musicians. My sources – the music press, key websites, newspaper reviews – live just as much in the past as I do.

Well, sod that! Anyone out there who knows a vibrant young band, holler!