In deciding what I should write here, I first thought about writing an easy Best of 2020 music list, but after looking over my list, I noticed something interesting and I’m curious if the wild year of 2020 has any impact on my choices this year.
Here’s my question…since everyone has been stuck at home in 2020, including working from home, does that change what type of music we listen to? Do we find ourselves listening to a different genre of music when stuck at home all day long? Or, am I just getting older and my tastes are starting to change?
First, here is a short list of my favorite albums of 2020 with the genre in parenthesis next to it.
Looking over the list, I noticed an increase in listening to jazz in 2020. And this list only includes what was released in 2020. It doesn’t include the large amounts of classic jazz albums I’ve bought and or listened to this year.
Am I just turning into an old guy who likes jazz?
I don’t think so.
I’ve been working from home since March and as of today, I know I’ll be home until at least March 2021, if not longer. When we were first sent home to work, I was elated. No commute! I get to hang out with my dog all day and take walks around the block. I will be surrounded by my record collection and listen to anything I want!
Please note, I have a turntable in my office at work. It’s a simple little set up and I can bring records into the office to play. So being able to listen to records while I work isn’t a new thing, it’s just that I take a small amount each day to play instead of being surrounded by my entire collection.
What I noticed is that while I’m working at home, I prefer to listen to jazz or ambient music, even laid back hip hop beat tapes. When my energy level drops in the afternoon, I sometimes toss on a classic hip hop or rock record to get me motivated, but the majority of my listening stays with jazz.
Now, here is where I think environment plays a part. When I drive into the office every day, usually a 45 minute to hour commute each way, I prefer to listen to rock music. Bands above like Coriky, HUM, Idles, X, etc., would have been played a lot more if that commute existed in 2020. Jazz is not something I prefer to listen to while stuck in Nashville traffic! I prefer something with a little more umph to drive to.
Here’s another interesting thing I noticed…of all the records above that I purchased, ten were through Bandcamp. I’ve written before about Bandcamp Fridays during the pandemic, but their platform was an essential medium for my music consumption in 2020. And guess what? I believe modern jazz releases are served best by Bandcamp more than any other platform. If you’re a jazz artist releasing a new record, where do you promote it in today’s marketplace? Okay, maybe you get lucky and get a review on Pitchfork, NPR or maybe Aquarium Drunkard, but after that? To me, Bandcamp has done a wonderful job of keeping the jazz scene healthy by highlighting new releases in their weekly radio programming. Their platform also does a great job of letting me know directly about new releases. For instance, I buy Jeff Parker’s new record via International Anthem’s Bandcamp page and that signs me up to be notified of future label releases which I often enjoy as well. If you’re a jazz fan and you’re on Bandcamp, you know what great stuff is coming out. I can’t tell you where else I would easily find the same information, especially during a pandemic where it’s hard to walk into your favorite record store and ask for recommendations.
Maybe we can chalk this all up to age. Maybe the older I get the less I want to listen to rock music while I work. That’s possible but I think there is more at play here…
In the past five or six years, I’ve spent considerable time building and repairing vintage stereo gear to provide myself with a better listening environment. I believe that has trained my ear to listen better, more intently. I now pay much more attention to lyrics when listening that I ever did before. This means when I’m listening to a new album with lyrics while working, I can’t focus on my work because I’m actively listening to what’s being said in the music. If you google what type of music is best to work to, most articles will suggest classical or ambient, anything without lyrics really. The idea is to let the music drift to the background and not distract you from your work. Lyrics distract me now! I can put a jazz record on and appreciate the music being played but not get distracted with someone singing.
What’s the point in analyzing all of this anyway?
My wife and I remodeled our living room over the holiday break as our Christmas gift to each other. We threw some fresh paint on the walls, mounted the TV and relocated the record shelves to hold my components on top rather than have them hidden in an hold entertainment console we had been using. The good new is, it looks great, the not so good news is that I realized I have too many records to file back in those shelves. I have three boxes full, probably 150 or more, that just won’t fit!
This leads me to look over my collection and wonder what I’m really listening to. For instance, do I really need all of these Queen records? I don’t recall every playing one last year. Do I really need the first Boston album on vinyl? Actually that’s a tough call but it’s just one record rather than an entire discography so I’ll consider it more later. I have a lot of records that I’m not listening to because my tastes have evolved and I’m going to have to start letting them go to make room for the news one I buy. If I have an itch to listen to Queen, I can pull it up on Tidal and listen there.
All of this to say that I’m building a Discogs store to help move records I either no longer need or others left over from a collection that I bought last summer. Most of the records listed now are from the collection I bought so it’s a lot of random classic rock. I have a neighbor who brought me two crates of records recently that I’m also listing. If you’re a fan of 45s, I’ve listed a bunch the past week. I don’t know if it makes sense to list 45s at $1.50 and hope they sell, but someone came in and bought 11 yesterday so maybe it’s not the worst idea. Right now that store has over 700 listings, 90 of which I added yesterday. 90! Once I make it through this collection, I’ll start listing some from my personal collection that I no longer need. Several of you on this newsletter list have bought records and I greatly appreciate it.
We’re using the money from the record sales to pay off debt. We’ve worked hard the past few years to get our debt in line and we paid off the last credit card in 2020 which felt great. Now we just have to knock out a home repair loan and some student loan debt and we’ll be in the black by mid-2022, just in time for our kids to start college!
I’ve also put myself on a record diet for the month of January. My original goal was to not buy any records this month but I knew there would be one that I’d have to preorder if it came available, Madlib’s Sound Ancestors, the new album arranged and mixed by Keiran of Four Tet fame. But for any other purchases I’m going to hold out until February when hopefully I’ve freed up some more space for incoming jams.
Thanks for reading!