1st January 2021. It seems like an awfully long time ago. Much has happened, and equally much has not happened. I remember distinctly where I was on January 1st – standing in my kitchen, washing up and listening to Beauty Pill’s amazing album Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are. I resolved, there and then, to listen to a different album a day during January, in part as a way of broadening my horizons and in part to have a project. I am keen on a project, as demonstrated by 2020’s recreation of various popular hits on some of my mini synth collection.
Somehow, during January, this mutated in not just the month but the entire year. I told everyone that I’d see how long this lasted, and I wasn’t going to beat myself up if I didn’t manage to complete this.
Reader, I can report that I followed through with this resolution. I listened to a different album for every day of 2021. I had very few rules to this – just listen to an album, new or old, known or unknown to me. Of course, part of this was to broaden my listening, so I racked up 315 albums (86%) which were new to me. Some astounding stuff, some instantly forgettable or downright irritating. The point of this was not to publish reviews, so I didn’t bother with a star rating or anything of the like. Just a challenge to myself.
How to find out about these albums? I had a few reliable sources that I kept going to:
- I’ve been a subscriber to The Wire for a while, so I’d rake through the reviews every month, looking for likely candidates.
- The Album Of The Year website hosts listings of new releases. They also publish an excellent aggregate of many end of year lists, which was useful for catching up with stuff I missed.
- The Adventures In New Music podcast, co-hosted by my mate Andy. It was fun to listen along with them, and we had some great back-channel WhatsApp chats with recommendations.
- Various Twitter accounts, including Tims Twitter Listening Party and Running Punks also provided a wealth of recommendations.
In all honesty, as soon as I started being aware of looking out for albums to listen to, I was suddenly noticing them everywhere.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t always listen to the album on the day. There are also some that I drifted off to sleep to, although in this case I usually tried to give them a proper airing the following day. Sometimes I would just stick on an album I knew well just to tick off another day. This points out the biggest drawback of this whole project: I listened to a lot of music, but not much deeply. A single day is just not long enough to get to really known a piece of work.
On balance, I think it was a worthwhile endeavour, and there’s certainly some music that I would never have otherwise uncovered. Certainly the ones that stuck out have stayed with me, and got repeated listens. There were moments that I regretted my rash resolution, but I feel a sense of achievement having completed my mission. It’s also helped me to be a bit more thoughtful about my self-applied commitments. People asked me if I was going to be reviewing all albums. I quickly ruled this out. Keep it pure!
As an example of this minimalistic tendency, I made a searchable list of the albums I had listened to. It was meant to be a bit fancier, but it works as it is, and it felt like a busman’s holiday to make it nicer. This may happen at some point, but for now, it is just the list.
That said, I’m going to write a short post of the top (new) albums of the year. Watch this space!
In the meantime, if you fancy a listen, here is my pick of songs from the albums:
There’s also a version of this on Spotify.