I’ll start this moan by addressing the instant hypocrisy in that headline. Yes, I want to listen to good music. Why would you wish for more bad music to be produced? That’d be idiotic. And that sort of idiocy is exactly the sort of idiocy I’m going to try and strive for today, imagining an ideal world where I have enough time to listen to every album that is a ‘must listen’.
I’m pretty current in my listening habits, there’s rarely a day that I don’t listen to a very recent album – whether it’s one I already know and love, or one that I’m going through for the first time. New Music Friday is the best time of the week, the thrill of adding all of those new albums to my very, very real music library that just happens to live inside my very, very digital phone’s memory.
Whether I actually manage to listen to any of it is another story.
The sort of albums I’m talking about here are the truly great ones. Not the unexpectedly ‘fine’ records from artists past their prime, or the endless bloated streaming ‘albums’ that spend two years on the charts due entirely to the hit singles buried beneath the 25 other tracks. I mean the ‘Must Listen’s to the ‘Will be in contention for Album of the Year’ to the ‘scored an 80 in Pitchfork’ to the ‘genre defining’ albums. In scientific terms that reduce the artistic merit of albums into standardised heartless numbers, albums that are scoring 4 or 5 stars across the board.
Is it that reviewers are getting more lenient in their scores and reviews? A pessimist like me would usually say yes, but it takes just one listen of something like RTJ4 by Run The Jewels to understand that it’s a pretty accurate score. That’s obviously an amazing album, but I’ve found I haven’t given it anywhere near as many listens as it probably deserves. Instead I’m here listening to objectively worse music repeatedly. I’m rinsing Lady Gaga’s fun, but slightly regressive Chromatica and I’ve listened to The 1975’s Notes On A Conditional Form far too many times for something so disappointingly messy.
So you might say I’m the problem here, but I’m way too much of an idiot to think like that, so it’s definitely the great music that’s the problem. There are too many albums I haven’t even had chance to go near that everyone else is raving about, such as Moses Sumney’s GRAE, or Set My Heart on Fire Immediately by Perfume Genius. I’ve listened to Fiona Apple’s outstandingly-reviewed album Fetch The Bolt Cutters once and haven’t had chance to go back again. I can barely keep up with the albums reviewed by Matt, Nick and Fran on the Picky B’s podcast, never mind stuff that’s getting great reviews elsewhere.
There’s Chloe x Halle’s unexpected joy of an album Ungodly Hour that I need to get back to, or even Norah Jones(!) who released her best album since her debut earlier this year. Fran will kill me, but I barely even listened to Phoebe Bridgers’s Punisher on release, so have to get back to that as well. Do I have time to give a new Bob Dylan album a listen? Yes, but, like I said earlier, I’m an idiot and I’m sat listening to Take That B-sides instead.
If I had an ounce of sense, I’d have set aside loads of time during this extended period of being stuck at home listening to records making my way through all of these essential albums, but I’m an idiot and I’ve just explained exactly why I am. It’s chronic ‘Fear of Missing Out’, that I just willingly ignore. It’s definitely the fault of the artists releasing such good music though and not me.
Words by Sam Atkins