I was looking at my album stats last night for the year, and even nearing the end of May -- basically 40% into the year -- I have listened to an album from beginning to end, so far in 2018, all of 121 times. At this rate, the total number of times I have listened to an album the entire year will be, by some distance, a record low since I started keeping track in 1995.
Last year was not quite a record low, but it was close -- I don't recall the number, but it was under 600. The record low, prior to this year, was 2014, which had an album listened to, in full, 557 times. (Record high was 2002, at 2,372. My theory of the reasoning there is that it was the year I started working for PCC and I I took my CD discman to work and listened to albums constantly as I worked -- and this was many years before podcasts.) The 121 so far this year, though? If that rate stays constant, and I am 40% into the year, then 121 is 40% of . . . about 302.
And this time, much like last year, it's clear to me it's due to two major factors. First and foremost is, as has been the trend the past few years, podcasts. I still spend hours at work on headphones, but I am listening to a rotating list of around ten podcasts that I never miss, and that eats up a hell of a lot of time I would be listening to music if podcasts did not exist. On a semi-regular basis I still listen to music, if I am working on something that requires too much focus to be able to truly pay attention to whatever is being said on a podcast, but probably at least half of the tasks I do here are tedious enough not to need that much brainpower.
The other factor is just that there haven't been a lot of new albums this year. Here it is May, and I have literally only purchased two new albums: The Cranberries' acoustic album Something Else (actually released last year; I purchased it January 15) and Justin Timberlake's Man of the Woods, purchased February 2. None of my favorite artists have released any new music since then, and these days it takes getting a new album for me to spend a lot of time listening to music. I had a spike in music listening in 2016, but that's because it was a banner year for great artists releasing great new music: Rihanna's ANTI; Sia's This Is Acting; Gwen Stefani's This Is What the Truth Feels Like; Pet Shop Boys' Super; Beyoncé's Lemonade; Garbage's Strange Little Birds; Heart's truly underrated Beautiful Broken; Lady Gaga's Joanne. Five of those albums were released before May, as were other albums by Prince, La Santa Cecelia (a great Latina band I discovered at the first Independence Day celebration I went to at Grand Park in L.A.), and Rufus Wainwright; others were released that year by Paul Simon (another case of his best album in many years) and Suzanne Vega.
I suppose a third factor is just that I'm getting old. I just don't pay attention to new music anymore; the most "current" singer I listen to now is Kesha, who put out a spectacular album last year that got otherwise largely ignored. In any case, my music tastes are pretty confined to singers I was listening two ten or twenty or thirty years ago. The thing is, that still covers a huge amount of music, with most of those bands and singers still regularly releasing new albums. It's just a question of how many of them are releasing new material in a given year. 2016 was a great year; last year saw only Kesha as a truly notable new release -- there were also new albums by Sheryl Crow and Bjork, but in both those cases they were minor disappointments. Sia did release a Christmas album that I liked a great deal, but otherwise, out of 14 albums I got last year (five of them by this time of year), only 9 of them were actually new releases. Tori Amos did release an album called Native Invader that I was sort of slow to warm to but quite like a lot now, and have listened to again several times lately, a rarity to come back to an album the year after it was released.
Anyway, amidst all of that, I listen to lots of podcasts: the old mainstays WTF with Marc Maron (the first podcast I ever truly got into), Doug Loves Movies, My Favorite Murder, Savage Lovecast, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me; current favorites with spotty release schedules like Do You Need a Ride?, Hound Tall Discussion Series with Moshe Kasher, and Dining with Doug and Karen; and never favorites like Nancy, Homophelia and Keep It (all three of these being either gay themed or, as in the case of Keep It, "gay interest," given the gayness of two of its hosts).
I'm not even remembering all the ones I listen to regularly, although that should cover most of them; the above paragraph lists 11. And I have a new favorite, which will almost certainly go onto the top-10 podcasts list I share at the end of the year: it's called Threedom, and is much more fun than its description might suggest: it's podcast mainstay Paul F. Tompkins, Scott Aukerman, and Lauren Lapkus, each week doing little more than shoot the shit with each other. But, because they are all friends (Lapkus being from a much younger generation lending an interesting an unique dynamic), and are all apparently regulars on other podcasts where they do a lot of improv stuff with each other already, listening to their banter is delightful. They also take turns each week offering a "feature," and they just make up some random game for them all to play.
The weird thing about it is that Threedom is not available on Apple podcasts, and is available on Stitcher, which is a premium, paid podcast service that I do not pay for. I've been listening to it on the Howl app, which I used to use for WTF with Marc Maron, just to support him and have access to all his back catalog; he only offers his most recent 50 shows for free. This was a carry-over from when I had a subscription directly through his website, but then he moved his subscription service over to Howl, and I just went ahead and carried mine over there. But after a while, I realized I had listened to all the back episodes I wanted to, and Maron has become successful enough otherwise that I didn't feel it was really necessary anymore. I stopped paying for the Howl subscription.
I still have the app, though, and was a little annoyed when Paul F. Tompkins promoted Threedom on Twitter and could not find it on my iPhone's podcast app. So, I looked for it on Howl, and there it was. Here's the curious thing: they keep saying "We'll be back after this," as though leaving for a commercial break -- but when I listen, it just has a brief music interlude and they come right back. I have never once had to hear commercials on this show, which is fantastic, sure, but also sort of mystifying. Having the commercials cut out is the sort of thing that happens when you're actually paying for the service -- which I am not doing. (And there are no charges on my credit card that I'm missing; this is something I meticulously track.) I keep wondering if I am still getting the benefits of a Howl subscription through the app I still have on my phone, even though I stopped paying for it. It's nice, in any case, and will continue to be as long as it lasts.
Anyway, they release Threedom everyone Wednesday night and I always really enjoy listening to it.
I wonder how many people read through all of this and could possibly give half a shit about it? I mean, whatever.
I finally got around to watching a Netflix DVD I've had at home for months last night. I had two Coen Brothers films I wanted to watch again: Blood Simple and A Serious Man. The former was their debut film, featuring a stunningly young-looking Frances McDormand in her mid-twenties, in 1984. The Coen Brothers have long been among my favorite filmmakers, and I have seen several of their movies a bunch of times (Raising Arizona, my favorite; The Big Lebowski, of course; O Brother, Where Art Thou?, maybe my second favorite; Fargo), and others I have truly loved but just haven't watched a bunch. Blood Simple is one I had seen the least -- as far as I know, I had only seen it once, maybe twice before. Long before SIFF took it over and it was a Landmark Theatre, maybe fifteen years ago or so, they did a Coen Brothers Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre, and I went to see every one of them I could -- including Blood Simple. It was so long ago, though, watching it last night might as well have been the first time, for all I could remember of it.
And I was incredibly impressed with it, especially for a film debut. The first twenty minutes or so seem sort of lacking in depth, not the greatest dialogue; I thought Shobhit might get bored. He was pretty glued to it from beginning to end, though, even though at the beginning he was complaining about stupid mistakes characters were making and thinking that meant "This movie is kind of stupid." But by the end, the plot comes together with such precision, you just can't help but to be impressed. I also thought a lot about the cinematography -- Coen Brothers have long been characterized in my mind by great cinematography, and it would appear that has been the case from the very beginning. Blood Simple is very well shot.
Once that was over I went back to the bedroom to finish the new Tig Notaro Netflix comedy special. Not her best, to be perfectly honest, but still very well put together.
It continues to amuse me the degree to which merely not-sunny weather deters people at work from going out on the patio. It was 60° and cloudy, and I was still totally comfortable eating my macaroni and cheese out there -- all by myself.
To be fair, a good number of people are still out of the office and down at the new Burien store, which just opened yesterday. But, the people still at the office seem still to be sticking to the tables in the dining room. I find it much more pleasant to be outside -- especially when it's not super-warm or blindingly sunny. Even with the clouds it was bright enough that I wore my sunglasses.
Tonight I drive down to Tacoma for the perennial Star Wars opening night viewing with Gabriel and Tess. I'm going to leave work early so I can inch through traffic and hopefully get down to Point Ruston at least by 6:30, if not earlier. Which means I really need to wrap this up and get back to getting some work done.
[posted 12:22 pm]