Wednesday, 9 December 2009

2009 Part 1: Introduction

There's many an account of the year that has been 2009 (with relation to music) elsewhere, so it is nothing that I need to go into here; suffice to say that in my view the state of the album charts (if not the corresponding singles one) has nicely summed up the direction that music has taken in this much wrapped up decade.

The most significant aspect for me to cover here, in my view, is concepts of how my listening patterns have changed across the past twelve months and how this has affected what I have been listening to. In this case the first half of the year was unremarkable in all but the fact that I spent it unemployed and therefore listening to more music than I have done in the past, whilst conversely being able to afford to buy less. Still, thanks to Spotify I was able to source out what it was that I actually wanted to be buying and conversely what was mostly hype or that could wait a few months. This extra time also meant that I was investigating more and more records that were released in the previous year and that had appeared on many 'Best of 2008' lists, and spending less time proportionally on current releases. (As a side note: had I known them when making last years list TV On The Radio, Friendly Fires, Johnny Foreigner and The Gaslight Anthem would have all made appearances).

Come the middle of 2009, I moved into a new flat with just the missus and started working. This has meant that I have much less time to listen to music than I previously was used to (both because of working and partly because of having less personal space) whilst simultaneously placing me near many a decent charity shop where I've been able to buy a massive amount of older music. It's been a combination of all of these factors that has meant that my short-list this year of my favourite records of the past 12 months has been much smaller than it was in 2008. Still, that's not to say that it's been a Bad Year For Music, on the contrary, there's many albums that I'm currently wanting to investigate but being limited in what I can by both time and money.

Through having less time, since moving, to listen to music I decided during the summer to invest in an MP3 player that could store my entire collection (having long overfilled my beloved 20BG Creative Zen Touch). This has meant not only my buying a 160GB iPod and therefore re-evaluating my principles regarding this (and following that many other music related issues) but converting my extensive library into MP3 (from WMA) through using different media software (Media Monkey as opposed to WMP). Further changes have occurred in that I once again own a record player (a Birthday present) giving me the chance to invest in more vinyl, both from the aforementioned charity shops and new 7”s.

The fact that my mind is now more open than ever to most types of music has had consequences. Namely, the most pressing issue on my mind the past five(ish) months has been my relationship with music and how it is altering as I age. Unsurprisingly, the recession coupled with the ever shifting and unpredictable nature of the music industry means that I am not the only one grappling with this. Further and better dissections of the tumultuous dialogue between fan and material can be found here.

What is funny is that in the middle of all of this I am contemplating on writing about how happy I am that the current UK album charts are showcasing such a variety of artists from all different eras and styles whilst I'm bombarded by all of them and wondering when I'm going to get the time to listen to all that I have purchased. I currently have, sat on my shelves La Roux's début album along with R.E.M.'s classics Out Of Time and Automatic For The People, none of which have been properly listened to but all of which I'm sure I'd love given the chance. Even more amusing is that I'm fighting off the itch to buy Paramore's Riot!, and contemplating if I can really put Beyoncé's cracking single 'Sweet Dreams' in my end of year list when I've no intention of ever actually buying it legally, be it on her album or as a paid-for download.

There's no real solution to any of these conundrums, especially the question of how I'm going to find time to listen to everything I want to whilst forming close relationships with all of the records that I know deserve it. And that for me is 2009. Fraught with paradoxes and overshadowed by the fact there's just too much music out there. Therefore the following lists (which will be put up across the next couple of weeks) are anything but comprehensive, contradictory amongst themselves, and my opinion only.

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