…I don’t have any. At least, not any from this year I don’t know the exact reasons for why this year was my worst-ever in terms of making some attempt to keep up with (or even care about, really) new music, but it just didn’t happen. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I didn’t really have a properly working computer, and that I largely stopped illegally downloading music, both because of my busted equipment and due to lack of interest. I also got a new job that is not too intellectually challenging (I pick up boxes), but that leaves me fairly worn out, and with very little time to actually sit and listen to a lot of new stuff.
But that doesn’t really explain it, as much as I’d like to think it does. There were tons of releases this year I should have been really excited about—Lambchop, The Walkmen, Godspeed, Swans, Mount Eerie, Cloud Nothings, The Mountain Goats, Titus Andronicus, etc—but I just couldn’t muster up whatever it takes to actually care that much. It’s me getting old, I guess. I have never heard a song by Tame Impala, or The xx, or Frank Ocean, or Flying Lotus, and, apart from Frank Ocean, who I have some interest in, I doubt I ever will. Almost the only music that I heard this year that actually came out in 2012 were rap songs on the radio—I loved “Stupid Hoe” and “Beez In The Trap” by Nicki Minaj; Kanye West’s verse on “Clique” might be my favorite single thing I’ve heard from him. I really liked Juicy J’s “Bandz A Make Her Dance” with Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz. But with a few other exceptions—St Vincent’s “Krokodil”, a shredding, corrosive attack I’m hoping points to where Annie Clark is headed with her music; a live performance of “Harlem Roulette” by the Mountain Goats, as heartbreaking and beautiful as anything I’ve heard from John Darnielle; ZZ Top’s DJ DMD-biting “I Gotsta Get Paid”; fun singles by Carly Rae Jepsen and Taylor Swift; Ke$ha’s “Die Young” coming along just at the end of the year to remind me of what a titan she is—2012 and its music slid right by my window with almost no attempt on my part to grasp it.
This is not to say that I stopped caring about music—I just went into weird directions, listening to stuff that until just a few years ago I’d have ignored and probably made fun of. Not downloading music made me return to the thousand or so CDs I stll have lying around my house in increasingly dusty piles. This was not a bad thing, it turns out, because some 13 years after buying it, I was finally floored by Television’s Marquee Moon; I can’t say why it never hit me, but something about it reached its way down into me after all these years, and I’ve listened to it, on the old cd/cassette boombox that as we speak is sitting on the kitchen counter behind me, dozens of times this year. I bought Van Morrison’s His Band And Street Choir in a five-dollar bin at Wal-Mart, and that kicked off a pretty intense fascination with Morrison—Moondance, an album I’d somehow convinced myself was kind of weak, has re-blown my mind, and I spent weeks listening to nothing but Morrison’s first five albums.
But the big winner this year was my embrace of that special kind of late 70s/early80s smoothness that gets called yacht rock. I bought every Steely Dan album on vinyl (despite not having a turntable, because I am dumb), and it was through them that my eyes were basically opened. Their music is slick and silky and somebody trying to be cool—like a younger, dumber me—would probably say “soulless” or “corporate” or something stupid like that, when in fact, that’s sort of the point: hiding painful, bilious lyrics in smooth jazziness makes those lyrics hit all the harder—“a razor in the silk”, as that Califone song says. The title track of their Gaucho is one of the most devastating things I heard all year. This realization led me to weird stuff like Van Morrison’s Inarticulate Speech of the Heart and Tina Turner’s “Steel Claw”, a song from her Private Dancer album, about doing lines and watching embers of the burning world drift down into your swimming pool, and laughing at it all. I bought Trouble In Paradise by Randy Newman. I bought Smokey Robinson’s Quiet Storm and I Want You by Marvin Gaye. I listened to Keith Sweat’s radio show. I realized Slow Train Coming is so much better than Blood On The Tracks.