A few years ago, I stopped trying to keep up with new music. This is because it was making me crazy. I was not listening to albums I loved in favor of albums I hadn’t heard but wouldn’t like as much, just for the sake of having heard them.
This is stupid. Music should make us more sane, not less. (Unless you are some kind of virtuoso, then I am willing to sacrifice your mental health on the altar of my enjoyment.)
There has never been a greater abundance of tremendous music than now, so much that it became a chore to listen to all the stuff reviewed by Pitchfork even once. What with having a job and eating a few meals per day.
Now, I listen to as many things as I have time to absorb and enjoy, no more.
2010 has seen some great albums (among my favorites: Gorillaz, Janelle Monae, Big Boi, Broken Social Scene), but for a few weeks now, my favorite musical thing has been Beck’s Record Club. (This isn’t new by any means; it’s been going on for well over a year now.) For me, Beck’s Record Club shows the potential of what music, or any art, could be—a completely authentic and creative multimedia collaboration among many different people, free from competition. I think it also speaks to Beck as an artist that he would have even come up with this idea, given the time and logistics, and lack of money, involved. Listening and watching Record Club sessions is really inspiring to me, even though I’m not a musician. It makes me want to find my own art-for-art’s-sake cooperative project.
The point of the Record Club is to bring various musicians together and cover an entire album in a day. This is a noncommercial project, so fun seems to be the main objective. (It is music after all, not neurosurgery or politics.) But out of this nonperfectionist model, amazing thing emerge, things like Feist and Nels Cline on a soulful version of “Weighted Down” off Skip Spence’s Oar (which he wrote during a stay in the psych ward of Bellevue Hospital).
I like seeing Beck and Feist fidget in their various ways while they are singing.
The Record Club has also covered The Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen and, currently, Yanni Live at the Acropolis. But my favorite is INXS’s Kick. Here is Annie Clark, one of my rock idols, singing “Never Tear Us Apart.”