An Album A Day: The Music Challenge
Since becoming a parent I’ve fallen into a huge Musical Rut. A rut constructed of only listening to the songs played on the radio, Spotify playlists, and music TV. For me, it’s a rut, okay. I used to spend hours seeking out new music – new artists, new albums, new EPs. I found most of the albums and songs that are my ultimate favourites in the years when I constantly looked for new newness. Why did I do it? I’m not quite sure, now, apart from the simple fact that prior to becoming a mother, music was my main interest. I even had a music blog for a while, and went to random gigs constantly. I just loved music.
And then that faded, what with epic tiredness and focusing on Work and Having A Home and A Marriage and A Child. I’ve tried to fix it, each year, but it just hasn’t happened. I don’t have those hours to spare anymore.
So, I set myself a challenge in April. Each day I’d listen to an album completely new to me. Not one I’d heard bits of before, or heard songs from already. Completely New. It wouldn’t matter about release date, as long as I’d never heard it before. I was looking for albums released any time, anywhere, from anyone.
I took recommendations from everywhere – close friends, relatives, people on Twitter. People were often stumped at first, wanting to recommend me something they thought I’d like. Instead, I pushed them to just recommend me something they loved. And so I compiled a fairly eclectic list of 30 albums to troll through in April.
I’m not going to list my thoughts of each album – that would be waaaaay too long and boring. But I am going to talk a little about what I loved, what I abso-bloody-lutely detested, and what I discovered along the way.
PS Don’t judge me for having never listened to that particular Interpol album, k.
PS PS I definitely enjoyed getting to pull my best CRAAAAIG DAAAVID pose
At The Drive-In – Relationship Of Command
Blind Melon – Blind Melon
Christine and the Queens – Chaleur Humaine
Ed Harcourt – Furnaces
Emmy The Great – First Love
Formation – Look at the Powerful People
Future Islands – Singles
Honeyblood – Babes Never Die
The Hunna – 100
Inna Modja – Motel Bamako
Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
Iyeoka – Say Yes
Jamaram – Heavy Heavy
Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala
Joel Alme – Waiting For The Bells
Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
Lindsey Stirling – Shatter Me
Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone
Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
Midlake – Antiphon
Quantic – Apricot Morning
Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard
Reptile Youth – Reptile Youth
Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
Spoon – They Want My Soul
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
The Waifs – The Waifs
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Wild Beasts – Boy King
Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too
I wasn’t going into this with the expectation that I’d discover new ultimate favourite music. I thought I’d probably just hear some new artists, some new styles. It Will Be Good For Me, I thought. It Will Get Me Back Into Listening To New Stuff Rather Than Old Safe Playlists.
And it did! Instead of just listening to repetitive Favourites playlists on Spotify, I barely listened to anything I already knew in April. Apart from on the radio, etc. Even when the music really wasn’t my type of thing, or I really didn’t enjoy it, I made myself listen to the whole album. And that was quite eye-opening, to be honest. How often does anyone listen to albums anymore? I know I don’t. I’d forgotten just how great it can be to sit down and just Play An Album. People put so much effort into the things, after all. Selecting the songs, constructing the playing order. I began to remember just why I used to love listening to a body of work unfold. Much like reading a book, listening to an album is being introduced to a whole clutch of new ideas and stories.
I didn’t manage to listen to one album each day. There were a couple of times where it just wasn’t possible – I had to contend with half-term, after all – so I would double or triple up on other days instead. And I found myself beginning to enjoy the regime, as well as the new music. Setting aside a parcel of time each day for one particular pastime is another thing that I often struggle to do. But, it being me, I stubbornly made sure that I’d finish all 30 albums by 30th April. I’m glad that I did.
So, yes. I wasn’t charging into this thinking that I’d find some new WOW I LOVE IT music. But, guess what? I did. Obviously I also listened to some albums that I really did not enjoy, but the EPIC LOVE ones are the headline here.
THE UTTER FAVOURITES
Nyomi from nomipalony was an absolute babe with this and recommended me albums out the wazoo. Future Islands’ Singles was RIGHT up my street, and I’m kind of annoyed that I’d never heard of them before. As soon as this album started, I just knew it was going to be a winner. Brilliant bass, snappy synth, voracious vocals. I literally cannot get enough of this band, this album, right now. Somehow, despite it going viral, I’d never seen this performance of theirs on Letterman, so you should watch it. Now.
Next is an album recommended by a lady I’ve gotten to know through the wonder of Instagram. She’s roswensian on there, and, well, follow her. Anyway, I could tell good things would happen when the first album she recommended was one of my already ultimate favourites, Cut Copy’s In Ghost Colours. She chose again, and gave me Quantic’s Apricot Morning.
Let me preface here by saying that I Am Not (Usually) A Fan Of Instrumental Music. I love a lyric, and even just a handful of carefully crafted lines to sing along to will do it for me. I think the only instrumentals I’ve ever enjoyed were the drone albums (e.g. Emeralds) that I used to put on in the background whilst doing my uni work. Most of the tracks on Quantic’s album are the total opposite to what I normally like (WORDS), and yet somehow they’re also not. The beats and the jazz-funk-soul atmospheres almost make it seem like there are words, there are emotional connections. And yet when there are tracks with vocals, they’re almost not as good as the ones without. It’s weird. It’s the perfect album for spending a Sunday afternoon in the kitchen, cooking and enjoying some wine and having a dance. I LOVE IT.
I have a friend who moved to Australia in 2011. She’s always been one of the major influences on my musical tastes, introducing ska and grunge and alt-rock at a time of my life when all I knew was S Club and Britney. And now she’s introduced me to Iyeoka Okoawo, who may now be my new favourite woman ever. Iyeoka’s Say Yes is another album that has joined my “Favourite Albums” playlist on Spotify and MAN is it good. The WORDS. Oh, the words. Iyeoka is a poet, and yet such a musician too – she celebrates her Nigerian heritage on the same album as stone cold electro-funk, deeply touching soul, and powerful spoken word. What a woman.
Finally, Nyomi came up trumps again with the recommendation for Reptile Youth by Reptile Youth. It’s an album so far up my street that it’s practically in my house. Damn good beats, angular guitar, and synth by the bucket. It feels weird that I didn’t hear this album until now.
THE ABSOLUTE WORST
Look, I don’t like to moan (who am I kidding, I LOVE to moan), but I HAVE to mention the albums I really, really hated. Because yes, I discovered some amazing albums that I’m going to love forever, but I also listened to some that I really hugely disliked and never EVER want to hear again.
I’ll start off with At The Drive-In’s Relationship Of Command, an album that my husband described as “THE BEST EVER”. Basically we’re now getting divorced, because all trust is now gone. GONE. I can’t believe how much I hated this album. Screamy, aggressive bullshit. It’s a good job I’m stubborn, as this was the first album I listened to back on April 1st and could well have put me off the whole idea.
Thankfully there was only one other album that I really and truly hated, and that was Lindsey Stirling’s Shatter Me. I feel bad about it, because the person who recommended it is SO lovely, but holy crap it is NOT my cup of tea. “DnB on a violin” was how I described it to someone, and, yeah. No no Nope.
It’s not hard to put 2+2 together and figure out all the others from the big list above, so I won’t go any further than this. They didn’t set my brain on fire. I’m so glad I listened to each and every one of them, I really am, but I was pretty “meh” about the rest.
However, I did really enjoy Spoon’s They Want My Soul, Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Christine and the Queens’ Chaleur Humaine, and Jens Lekman’s Night Falls Over Kortedala – I just probably won’t be replaying them over and over any time soon.
Ooh look, a conclusion. I haven’t used that as a header since 2007. Anyway, in conclusion: I’m so glad I did this. And not just because WOO, I found some new music that I really like. That’s obviously a brilliant outcome. Altogether though, the actual best thing that came out of this April Music Challenge was the realisation that…
IT’S OK THAT I’M IN MY 30S AND DON’T HAVE THE TIME TO CONSTANTLY SEEK OUT AND LISTEN TO NEW AND DIFFERENT MUSIC ANY MORE.
I know that seems so obvious.
I know I should have realised that waaaay before spending an entire month doing just those things.
But, I’m there now. Because April was great. It really was. I spent dedicated portions of time listening to music totally out of my current 31-year-old-parent comfort zone, and discovered some albums that I really love. But. But.
My life is so much different to how it was in 2009, 2010, 2011. So different to the days where I knew all the newest music, and used it to define my Being. Again, Obvious. I mean, back then I lived either with housemates or alone. My biggest worries were having enough money for alcohol and if I’d EVER find someone who might one day want to marry me. My main focus was Myself, and everything I did was for or because of or with Myself. And I wasn’t Happy. I really wasn’t. And not because I was alone – I was terribly miserable in a previous relationship too – but because I had zero life focus. So I tried to make music my focus.
These days, my main focus is my son. He literally is the only answer to certain questions, and the biggest factor in any decision. I don’t have the time to love and listen to and discover music in the way that I used to, but it’s entirely because of that fact. I’d rather introduce him to great music, or dance around the kitchen with him, than spend hours in front of the computer by myself. He already sees me in front of it enough!
So, yeah. Great idea. Great month. And, Great Realisation That I Don’t Care About My Musical Rut. I’m happy in it, as long as I make the effort to poke my head out every now and then.
Thank you so, so much to everyone who recommended me music for April! You’re all stars x