Chasing all that is new

I was going through some backlogged articles recently on NPR’s All Songs Considered when I came across this one, entitled The Good Listener: Is There Too Much Music? by Stephen Thompson. In it, a reader/listener asks:

How much is too much? I am a firm believer in quality over quantity, but I lose sleep at night fearing that I’m going to miss something. But am I really missing something bigger by not spending more time with less music?”

The gist of that question resonates with me because I used to be the person who routinely gobbled up bag-fulls of new music in the never-ending search for that next song or album that blows the mind. During the second half of the last decade, however, the frequency with which I purchased new albums generally declined – and over the past few years, what had slowed to a trickle has basically come to a halt.

* * *

My current hiatus from buying new music is largely due to lack of financial wherewithal. I was unemployed for a while (but have been back on the job for well over a year, thankfully), and as such, close to 100% of the music I’ve bought since then has been via iTunes, using credit that I had from some gift cards. Of course, I’ve been able to check out tracks on YouTube and other streaming services from time to time, but the last physical CD I picked up was Megadeth’s Endgame, and the last full album I “purchased” on iTunes was Lulu, which is unfortunate in some ways…

That doesn’t mean that I’ve been completely oblivious to new music. However, my attention to new sounds definitely waned as the money for new music dried up. As I struggled to find a new job, and met with loads of failure along that path, I withdrew on a personal level and battled depression for a long time, which didn’t help much with the discovery of new things. I stayed plugged into certain scenes, but over the past few years I’ve definitely become the type of person who mostly looks forward to new music from artists that he already enjoys.

Before I go down that road, though let’s look at my “path to middle-age” a little more directly…

  1. As a young adult, the desire for new and better sounds was insatiable. I acquired new music whenever I could. I also worked at a music retailer, which both fueled that desire and put the actual product right in front of me every day.
  2. After I left for a different niche in the retail world, I lost the “right in front of me” part. I still consumed music and looked for new sounds, but a little less voraciously so.
  3. A change in relationship (and, consequently, of the majority of my life environment), along with an increasing interest in video games, took some of that “more new music” space, both within me and with regard to my time budget.
  4. Once I had no job, the pocket money began to run out, and so, as I found myself less willing to spend money on music, I was also getting out of the habit of actively searching for it, in all the ways that that entails.
  5. As I became more depressed about my situation – feeling worthless and discouraged, and whatnot – that former eternal hunger for new music became more like a dying flame, in danger of flickering out.
  6. While I’m now employed again – and, consequently, in a much better place – I still don’t have the discretionary purchasing power to spend money on music – although I certainly would like to.

So that’s the look at what brought me to my current relationship with new music, on a micro/self level.

In the meantime, the music business/climate has changed immensely over the past several years – and so has the music itself. Several trends and styles have come and gone, and I’ve completely missed most of them. I’m generally fine with that.

There was a shift in my relationship with the new music that was being made – a lull, if you will – even before I stopped having money and time to spend on records. There was simply less music coming out that interested me. As the hipster thing (and I use that term very, very broadly) became more and more prevalent, I grew less and less interested in music being played/written about/talked about on WXPN (my local indie station) and other media. It seemed like, in the second half of the last decade, it became more difficult over time to find gems among the mass of music that was coming out. And so I began to unplug from most music and information outlets – not consciously or with purpose; it’s more like I just fell out of the habit of looking.

* * *

Over the past year or so, I’ve begun to more keenly feel the effects of getting older as well as all that I discussed above.

What am I looking forward to, when I do finally find myself with a little extra pocket change to use for some music? Well, I want to pick up the new Sebadoh album, Defend Yourself (“I Will” in the above video comes from that album). Down – Down IV – The Purple EP. Newsted – Heavy Metal Music. The latest albums by Queens Of The Stone Age, Testament, and Soundgarden. And that’s just a small sample of all of the rock/metal albums I’d like to acquire, without going into other genres. I could name so many more, but I won’t.

Anyway, Down and QOTSA were born in the early 1990s; Jason Newsted is the former Metallica/Voivod bassist; Testament, Soundgarden, and Sebadoh all started in the 1980s. Do you see a trend there? All artists that I’ve been listening to forever. New music, but not new artists.

Part of me wonders if that is wholly a bad thing – I think it isn’t. In particular, Newsted is something of an outlier, because even though he’s been around for almost 30 years, his new band/album represents his first real full-on push to make his own music readily available to any and every fan. Regardless, something binds each of these groups together: an established track record of quality, authenticity, and creativity.

Nevertheless, there is a big part of me – now that I am healthy again – that pines for those old days where I consumed new and diverse music like a hungry lion. Looking back at my former self, one of the things that I miss is that old hunger.

I can’t necessarily define why my formerly insatiable hunger for new and different has subsided to a point. Perhaps I’ve come to accept that it’s common sense that I won’t get to experience everything. I do know that in some ways, I enjoy looking for nuances more in the music I’ve listened to for a while, while in other ways I’ve come to enjoy the worthiness of a song for the song’s sake more than I used to.

Of course, not having the money to expand my collection has certainly put some walls around the extent of my reach. Whatever the reasons – changing as a person, being restricted financially, the changing of the musical and business climates over the years – my love of music isn’t diminished; it simply continues to evolve.

* * *

Thanks for reading this post by Russ at Dischordant Forms. Follow me on Twitter at @DischordantRuss. Comments are welcome!


3 Comments on “Chasing all that is new”

  1. wwalker says:

    In addition to age, there’s also the notion that rock is dead, sir. It’s been said before, and wrongly, but could it finally be true? Having lived through rock’s best years, sometimes we turn to new material from not-new artists, or dive into our collection for something not-listened to in years — which can be the next best thing to new. Success for today’s bands is not recording a great album, but selling a song to a tv spot. Hard to get terribly excited about that.

  2. tresbienq says:

    It looks to me like you need some fresh energy and inspiration. And even more, ideas about how to get that! I just started a blog about motivation and self-help. Have a look! It might help more than you think! 🙂
    I really hope it does! That’s why I’m writing it!

  3. noisynoodle says:

    I felt like that at one point in the last decade as it seemed as if no one was releasing anything groundbreaking. I think it is the combination of a lack of attention to rock in both mainstream and alternative streams of music, and less new artists being bank rolled by record labels. However, the more time I spent hunting high and low the more great music I could still find to get excited about, but it still seems a shame that those artists don’t receive the recognition they deserve. That’s kinda the reason I continue to blog about music as it seems more important than ever to share the great stuff.

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