Monday Mixtape: Talkin’ New Years Music Resolutions Blues

the circle of life

Today’s mixtape is going to be a little different. Up until now, Mondays have been for mixtapes and Tuesdays have been for new music reviews, but as we’re closing in on New Year’s Eve and I’ll be ringing it in with some good friends, I thought it would be fitting to combine the two by considering my top 5 new year’s resolutions in music.

By and large new year’s resolutions are hard to keep since they usually don’t have a great enough reward-per-task ratio. To set a new year’s resolution that can be kept all year long requires some ability to get some positive benefit from it. Music-centered new year’s resolutions therefore rate rather highly on that reward-per-task scale.

That said, here are my five resolutions for music exploration and discovery in the new year.

1. Listen to More Hip-Hop

2013 was a great year for Hip-Hop. 1993 was also a great year for Hip-Hop apparently, but between then and now my hip-hop taste buds have only rarely ventured far from the safe and comfortable rhythms and rhymes of the Beastie Boys. An artist and/or song here or there perhaps, but these flash-in-the-pan-type diversions do not a three-course meal of block rockin’ beats make.

It’s not that I’ve ever been cold towards or simply opposed to the genre as I have been with pop music (more on that below), it’s just never been top of mind either. I don’t want to simply listen to the music– I want to understand it too. Last week a friend formally introduced me to the work of Donald Glover (alias Childish Gambino) and suggested I review his most recent full-length LP because the internet for one of my upcoming new music reviews. After just one listen I was awestruck, but even as it captivated me with impressive lyrical breadth of referential sources, dizzying yet controlled speed and delivery, and sheer emotional intensity, I felt my tenuous knowledge of the hip-hop world would not do the album proper justice when reviewed (fully understanding the rich and deeply layered lyrics alone would require days of research). Not yet anyhow.

2. Listen and Appreciate Pop Music

Pop music will often dazzle and sparkle, rarely surprise you, and it will never go away. It’s cloyingly cute, maddeningly repetitive, terribly unoriginal, and yet I can’t honestly deny its catchy if not insipid charm. Since even the most banal and redundant of its offerings has some ounce of endearing quality to it, I resolve to keep an amused eye on the pop music grist mill this new year as opposed to writing it off completely. After all, if it truly is “popular music” and thus something of a zeitgeist of our generation, catering to the whims and preoccupations of the people, then at the very least there’s some value in tracking the socio-political implications and repercussions of the art form, right?

3. Learn to Salsa or Swing Dance

I like to listen to music, and I like to tap my feet to music, so I may as well learn to move with the music. Attempts to this end have been made before, all with mostly unsuccessful results or less-than-stellar outcomes. It turns out it’s one thing to move and sway with a stationary, inanimate object (like, say a guitar), and quite another thing to learn how move in tandem with another human being. Here’s to putting your best foot forward in the new year (and learning a few other steps in the process).

4. Learn to Play the Songs that I Love on Guitar

I’ve played guitar for many years, but recently I’ve found that the only songs I can seem to play all the way through are the same ones I learned in my first few years of playing. Gigging around town and reconnecting with fellow musician friends in the last year has helped me to  pick up new songs as well, but rarely are the songs learned well enough to be committed to muscle memory or even just more than chords and lyrics on a page. This year I want to update that repertoire and really get familiar with the songs I’ve grown attached to.

5. Get Back in Touch With the Music That I Listen To

Even with the consistent, healthy harvest of music passing through my headphones all year, I’ve felt a drought of the deeper connection with the experience. I’m quick to gush about how I love the harmonies on this track, or how enamored I am with the instrumental prowess on that one, but I’ve been slow to consider what the interest of a particular song or artist means about where I’m at during a particular year. Music is for me, as it is for many people, a full-on, three dimensional experience, that gives additional texture and weight to different points in life, reinforcing and recording these moments for all posterity. So now it’s time to return to being a fully active participant in the capturing and recording of those memories.

I’m ready to listen, ready to learn, and ready to reconnect to all of it. I’ve got a starter kit of artists and other helpful referential sources too, as well as a positive outlook. Here’s to 2014. May it be a filled with good times, good vibes, and great memories all around. Let’s rock.

*Artwork courtesy of HappyCreA

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