1. It started with burning out on everyone's end of year/end of decade lists, which began in August and are still going strong in some corners of my RSS reader. All that Radiohead, all that Animal Collective! Never mind the Arcade Fire and the LCD Soundsystem and the Dirty Projectors and the Grizzly Bear. God, even the stuff I liked in the first place I was beginning to dislike. It brought home in an acute way both how much and how little my tastes align with Pitchfork. It doubly brought home how redundant most blogs I read are—how much they echo Pitchfork, how much they hold their noses at Pitchfork, how much they watch Pitchfork like its ratings were horses rounding the track on Derby Day. That's partly how it started.
2. It started with that Bear in Heaven album, Beast Rest Forth Mouth, which is not a bad record but is also just frustrating enough to not be a great record, either. I knew nothing about Bear in Heaven before hearing one of their songs in a Cargo Culte mix and being knocked out by it. Then ten minutes later I came across another song by them—someone I follow on tumblr posted it, I can't remember who. Anyway I liked it and I was itchy for something new so I downloaded the album. First impression was a good one. I thought, "this guy who is clearly a solo artist making a rad record in his bedroom is doing some cool shit and has a lot of promise." But then I read that they're not a solo bedroom project but a full band, which made me revise my thought to "dude, these guys need to tell their singer he doesn't always need to be front and center. He could stand to take a piss break here and there and let the music stretch out a little." That doesn't exactly lessen the bottom line—Bear in Heaven has promise, yes—but nevertheless the more I listened to BRFM the more critical I became and the less imaginative it felt. The reverb'd vocals, the electroni-rock vibe, the moodiness of the whole thing. Bear in Heaven have some great tracks like "Deafening Love" and "You Do You," but they don't do enough to rise above their genre. Whatever genre that is; I didn't listen to anything in 2009, I don't think, that fell under this tag "glo-fi" or "chillwave" or whatever. I mean, I don't think I did. Did I? Listening to Bear in Heaven I started to think maybe I'd officially heard something in that genre but I can't be sure. You tell me.
- Bear in Heaven: You Do You
3. It started when I was trying to make my own end of year list and couldn't come up with more than two albums from 2009 that I felt were worthy of shouting from the rooftops. It occurred to me that it couldn't be 2009's fault, or music's fault; it had to be mine.
4. It started with the For Carnation's 2000 self-titled album, which I've been listening to a lot in the last year. Though the album features an ex-Slint guy, and I did start listening to it again because of the book I'm writing, the For Carnation and its records factor into my book exactly not at all. I just started craving it. It's such a minimally played album—as in, the musicians play simple things, slowly and simply; not that it's under-heard and under-appreciated, though that's true too. The patience on display on that record, the restraint, is quite lovely. I used to get off on bands that did this kind of thing all the time, and in fact a band like the For Carnation was a real gateway drug for me; in the late 90s I segued pretty naturally from slowcore and post-rock acts to space rock and ambient artists—basically everything Kranky records put out, more or less. But somewhere a few years ago I stopped pursuing new bands or artists that were trading in that kind of music; and my turntable broke so a lot of those artists I loved became inaccessible. It's shameful, I know, that the turntable is still broken. But I digress: the point is, I had this epiphany: remember ambient? remember drone? remember space rock?
- The For Carnation: Moonbeams
5. It started with a couple end of year lists I read after all the genre fatigue had set in. Specifically, the lists at Coke Machine Glow and Swan Fungus. For some reason I paused at CMG's rundown on Mountains' album, Choral (released this year on Thrill Jockey—another label I once devoured but have not diligently kept track of for years). And Swan Fungus—well, that dude's list basically kept me buzzing for a whole afternoon.
- Mountains: Choral
So that's how it all started. What happened was, I've spent the last month basically turning my back on indie rock and a lot of blogs I'd previously kept an eye on (not all of them, and probably not yours) in exchange for immersing myself in ambient, drone, electronica, etc.—both new and old. I say this with full awareness of the fact that I played the crap out of the new Vampire Weekend last week and I look forward to hearing the new Spoon posthaste. But to my head these are feeling like the exceptions and not the rules. My listening habits have been diverted lately. Whether it's just a phase or not, I don't know. More on this subject soon.