Man, it’s been a year, huh? I know I haven’t posted since the end of 2019, but I’ve been writing and keeping busy. I still throw in the occasional review or massive three-part, 10,000 word end-of-year wrap-up for metal, and I’ve also been writing and recording a monthly podcast for my friend Jon’s film blog Cinema Dual. But if I’m being honest, it’s been getting harder and harder to focus when life, the universe, and everything turns into a dumpster fire of global pandemics, racial injustice, and a government that seems hellbent on tearing down the entire country for its own selfish gains.
Makes it hard to write about the latest Ben Folds Five album, you know?
So the question remains: how did I consume media in 2020? In massive, comfortable chunks. On the music perceptive, much of my listening was relegated to older favorites that provided a level of brain-ease, allowing me to tune out and relax. My vinyl collection probably doubled in 2020, and I’ll admit I probably haven’t given all of it the attention it deserves. I upgraded my living area system, getting a new amplifier and CD player, wiring additional speakers to play in other rooms so my wife (who has to a certain degree joined me in the vinyl addiction) can play records throughout the house. in fact, if I were to pinpoint my favorite moments listening to music in 2020, it would be those late evenings curled up on the couch in the den with her, picking and playing albums, sipping scotch, and reading books about music.
If there was an album of the year, it would be the sublime Room 41 by Paul Cauthen, which despite coming out in 2019 I didn’t know about until my friend Erik Highter’s excellent write-up in his own end of year piece. There’s a deep soulful mourn to Cauthen’s voice, very reminiscent of Johnny Cash, but the music lives and breathes with a pulse that taps into all sorts of genres. Opener “Holy Ghost Fire” feels as if it were produced by the RZA, and elsewhere there are shades of funk and even disco. I’ve never been a huge country fan but Cauthen, as well as Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson brought our family firmly into a new genre we’re still wading through.
Beyond Cauthen, like I said: it’s been a lot of older, comforting music. Right now I’m writing this to Thank Christ For the Bomb by The Groundhogs, and that merging highway of 70s rock and prog has been my sweet spot for a while now. And while metal is still very much a part of my life, I’ve finally come around to the conclusion that the appetite for new extreme metal, in other words the bread and butter of what I do for Nine Circles, is coming to a close. I just don’t identify as a “metalhead” anymore, and listening to a lot of new metal simply leaves me exhausted or bored. There are of course plenty of exceptions – that massive end-of year list was no bullshit, but I don’t have the drive to consume every album anymore. There are thousands of gems out there already to discover, so if I miss that thing everyone and their leather-clad brother is talking about, so be it. I’m still going to write for the site, but I need to think through how I can serve my own musical travels and their core base. We’ll see.
So where does that leave this site? I’ve been thinking about that, and I want to get back to it, talking about what I’m listening to, why I listen to it, and the love that comes from holding a piece of history in your hands, whether it’s a vinyl record of the inner sleeve from a CD…hell, even a cassette. I don’t think I want to adhere to the alphabetical order of the my discography…there are benefits to taking in an artist’s work as a whole, but ion a year where I think keeping sane is going to be my base goal, I want the freedom to explore wherever my ears and heart take me. So there might be some overlap: I can tell you last week I was knee deep in Joy Divison as I wrapped up Jon Savage’s oral history of the band This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else. This week it’s been a cornucopia of terrific music anchored by Iggy Pop and David Bowie as I pour through the second volume of Henry Rollins’s Stay Fanatic! series.
But I want to keep it loose. So mo promises of daily content, no firm structures or formats. Hell, there may not even be any revising or proofreading. I just want a place I can relax and write about the music that’s been keeping me sane, and hopefully learn more about myself in the process. I hope if you’re still around you join me, and let me know what’s been keeping your head in the game.
In the meantime, stay safe.