Rock Music Big Year: Ben Ratliff’s take on modern listening dilemmas

Where the heck is my music listening mojo? Even after listening to over a hundred albums this year, as assiduously as possible, the old magic hasn’t returned. Music critic Ben Ratliff has a fascinating book out about how music listening has been revolutionised by digitisation and streaming. His title says it all: Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty.

Classifying by genre has lost its organizational power, the unifying concept of the album is dead, and there’s no longer any point in being a completist and collecting your favorite artist’s output. We can listen to anything ever produced, any time, anywhere. Ratliff is a splendid writer and I found his twenty ideas, often radical, on how to find connections between one song and another, fascinating. If you’ve an abiding, serious interest in modern music, do check out Every Song Ever, you’ll sink into the read.

But you know what? None of the twenty nifty assists this floundering soul.

Day 308 of the Big Years

The end of 2017 approaches fast. I won’t mince words: the big years have kind of delivered the results I’d hoped for, but I’m not that pleased. Let’s gloss . . .

Fitness Big Year – brilliant! Largely injury free, I’m exercising completely regularly and feel better than ever.

Rock Music Big Year: I’ve listened to an album on each of the 308 days, 103 different recent albums. A big tick for dedication but guess what: there’s been no epiphany, no resurrection of my old love of music. Why? Not sure.

Writing Big Year: A flop. It was probably always badly conceived, has morphed several times, has spurred great work in some periods, but now I’ve had a big slump. Since this is the only one of the three big years to be vitally important, I’m not pleased. More reflection to follow.

Magical Aural Moment: “I’m Here for Now” by Kelley Stoltz

Upon a whim – where have I heard of him before? – I line up this Detroit singer-songwriter’s latest album Que Aura. Track #1 smashes into the room, a thundering classic bassline, droning fuzzy melodic guitar, spruced up by distant cheesy drums. “See me knocking on wood, lookin’ for some kind of meaning,” launches an ancient processed vocal, and before I can recover from my delight, the muddy chorus of “I’m here for now,” rounded off with synthesiser “oohs,” takes me back decades. At once bang up to date but tapping into . . . into what? Into my head jumps Roy Wood’s (yes, the co-founder of Electric Light Orchestra) weirdly garage-DIY solo album Boulders.

At the end of the track, I switch it to repeat. Magic, just magic.

Rock Music Big Year: No more a klutz

Hooray for regular listening, now I know something, okay? I’d lost touch with rock music’s emerging highlights, let alone music’s nooks and crannies, but I’m on my 97th recent release by now, and I’m no longer a klutz. For three days from January 19 (so long ago!), I listened to my 7th album for the year, the EP Snow Globe by ace Melbourne band Tiny Little Houses (check out my reviewlet). If not for this Big Year, I’d never have noticed them. Never.

Now I’m in the loop! Tiny Little Houses has a new single out, “Entitled Generation,” and it’s an oozing, spitting fireball, so accomplished and just what I need in my life. Check them out: @tinylittlehouses on Facebook. Their debut album hits the streets in January.