As a rule, around this time of the year I find myself laboring intensely over lists, specifically as they relate to cultural intake: best photos, favorite shows, albums that changed my life. This year, though, it was a bit more of a tangible experience than years previous -- I had a series of experiences in the forefront, through which I found myself assembling a soundtrack, as opposed to the soundtrack dictating the series of experiences. It sounds like one and the same, sort of. But for me, they're pretty different.
Almost ten years ago, when a friend first turned me on to KEXP, I discovered a soundtrack that not only narrated my life, but also caused actual motion -- I'd listen obsessively, make mixes, find bands that I loved and bands that those bands loved, spend hours poring over new releases at the record store, and drive great distances on weeknights for can't-miss kinds of shows, meeting scores of people along the way. The music, via KEXP, dictated the paths I chose and pulled me around into countless adventures that shaped the person I am today.
In a bit of a plot twist, for this year at least, the music in my life started to serve as more of an undercurrent than a motion-inducer, as 2014 saw me in the midst of major changes: I came into the year on the heels of a few explosions on my interpersonal landscape, got yanked out of my self-care cocoon by a trip to Maui, experienced reunion, changed my relationship status and moved in with my partner, abandoned a whole cache of personal 'rules' I'd set up for myself, took a big break from social media, and shifted the terms of my dayjob to allow for more (and a new variation on) freelance work. 2014 has been exhausting, exhilarating, unbearably sad, utterly joyful, scary and amazing -- all at once. It pushed me and pulled me and even now, in the waning dusk of the year these last few days bring, continues to refine almost every facet of my being.
The songs that went with these shifts are vast in their range, almost as vast as the experiences themselves, from playful to sorrowful and everything in-between. I'm in the midst of making both new music mixes and new-to-me mixes that cap it all off, but it's worth noting somewhere in the blog world that the only two records I actually wrote about at length (aside from the work I did for Barry's project) were Damien Jurado's Brothers and Sisters and Chad Van Gaalen's Shrink Dust. In a gentle blender, they touch most of what happened to me in the last twelve months, and served as the A- and B-sides to all those changes, embracings and abandonments.
Plenty of other things dot the landscape as well: favorite singalongs from that cover band I never started, old Todd Rundgren releases, Derby, UMO, revisiting the Anthology and taking on Living In the Material World, and old Richard Swift tracks. As soon as the mixes surface I'll post them here, as the goal is to have all of this tackled in the coming days, an effort to leave the year behind with as clean of a slate as possible.
Bon courage, last twelve months. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Update! Best of 2014's new releases playlist here, and best of new-to-me (non-2014 releases) playlist here. Happy listening!