The Even More Embarrassing Present:
I see that Nutboy’s getting worn down. My strategy is working.
Whenever I’m asked a potentially embarrassing question, I find that a long-winded answer ( not your typical long-winded; Jaybee long-winded - I’m a professional) usually lulls the questioner into a state of passive acceptance. Sort of summed up as “Whatever, just shut the f*ck up.” I even used it on myself once.
By the mid nineties I was married with two young children. And despite my best efforts, I was feeling more than a little out of touch with music. As the years went by, the Pazz and Jop winners were becoming less and less familiar to me. There was some information out there but the web hadn’t really kicked in yet. At least, not for me with my land line and 56k modem.
By 1997, that list I was carrying around - virtually unreadable and ripping at the folds - now contained just those hard-core-impossible-to-find-anyway records. And new records were coming out, and the yearly Pazz and Jop results were piling up.
So during a week when I was in between jobs (note to self: quit jobs more often) I had a day or two to mess around, and I decided to transfer my written list to a spreadsheet. Then, when I should have stopped to rent some porn, I instead pulled out all of the old dusty Pazz and Jop articles I kept, and compile them into the spreadsheet, too.
At first, I didn’t enter everything – I couldn’t type that fast. But I did take the high vote-getters. I also added Christgau’s list, using his skepticism to counterbalance the other critics.
Then, whenever a special poll came out (Rolling Stone’s Best of the Decade, Elvis Costello’s 500 Albums You Should Hear etc.) I’d add them, too, but even more importantly, I’d track the number of mentions each record got.
And suddenly, names stated to jump out at me: Belle and Sebastian, Moby, Stereolab, Air.
Their records would appear over and over again, and now I could see it.
Other polls came out:
Local Americana station’s Best of the Century
Paste Best of the Decade
Metacritic’s Best of the Year
And I kept adding them.
Now I had a list all right! A list on steroids! And the rest, as they (don’t) say, is history.
And now that this stuff is published on line, it’s a lot easier to cut and paste, so the level of effort has dropped to below CNO (Complete Nerd Obsessive) levels.
I also broke out two other lists for jazz and classical.
And it goes on.
Now this all may seem a bit silly. It does smack of a phrase I heard in Richard Linklater’s Slacker - "premeditated fun".
But damn! I still want magic. And magic, as we know, is inherently unpredictable. But that isn’t going to stop me from squeezing as much of it as possible out of what is left of my life.
What I’m saying is that it works for me.
So when I’m in the mood for new music, I can look over my spreadsheet and see which records did great in year-end polls, which ones keep popping up in the All Time of Best of Decade polls and consider getting them.
And ordering on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or iTunes is frighteningly easy. Those hard to find records just aren’t anymore. They can be delivered to my doorstop in a week or two.
Mind you, browsing in a record store is a completely different thing. Not being able to carry around a laptop in the store, my reflexive reactions kick in, and I sometimes get things whose poll placement means nothing to me.
I guess the next step is to bring an ipad with me, but then I’ll look like I work there. And I get enough of that at Costco.