The first thing I learned from this project – the biggest thing – is that the Dunning-Kruger effect is real: the more you learn about a thing, the more you realise Previously Confident You didn’t know about it. I expected to come out of the end of this with a wider understanding of music, having discovered some new things, and hopefully feeling a bit more comfortable alongside things I’d previously thought weren’t for me. What I’ve mostly got a sense of is all the corners of music I haven’t even got near. I didn’t realise how Anglo-America-centric (Canada can come too) popular music is. I mean, I knew it was a thing, but it turns out it’s easy to miss the scale unless you’re keeping a spreadsheet of these things. Luckily for me I’ve taken advice everywhere I can get, I have a list as long as my arm, and I fully intend to work my way through it. It’s been fun finding out about the music other people listen to as well.
What I have got this year is a very strong sense of my own taste. There are a few albums that I’ve played over and over – Peatbog Fairies, Tegan and Sara, Shakira, Springsteen. There are a few that I hope never to darken my doorway again – Nirvana and Korn, mainly, which is probably indicative of something. I liked K-pop more than I was expecting to, and Marvin Gaye less so. Dolly Parton and The Smiths were both terribly anticlimactic, and you may keep them both. I can get tired of soul very easily, but storytelling is always great, and if you’ve got good strings then you’re alright by me. Speaking of good storytelling, not to be That Sort Of Person, but I don’t think I’ve listened to music on shuffle since May. Not deliberately. So there you go.
The other thing I learned this year is that Emily is far better at deadlines than I am. I see that you are less surprised at this than me.
And finally, five albums I’ve listened to this year that, for one reason or another, didn’t make it onto the 52A/52W project:
- Public Service Broadcasting, The Race for Space (saw live at the Edinburgh Science Festival, immediately bought album and sent it to my dad, great time had by all)
- Gloria Estefan, Cuts Both Ways (enjoyed, had nothing to say, switched to Shakira and danced around my kitchen)
- The Full English, The Full English (in no sense at all ever does this count as leaving my comfort zone)
- Steve Reich, Daniel Variations (I studied Reich during my A levels and couldn’t get my head round him. Got halfway through this and decided I still can’t)
- Aphex Twin, Selected Ambient Works, 85-92 (happened to listen to this the week after Sigur Ros. Nothing like a bit of variety; decided to review Girls Generation instead)
I really am not that great at deadlines. Don't get me wrong, this project has helped hugely in getting me to prioritise writing but all too often I felt like I posted something simply to get it ticked off my list rather than really give it the attention it deserved. There's a great article by Kim Liao, where the reasoning behind encouraging writers to aim for 100 rejections a year is neatly explained. Quantity can lead to quality in a way that preciously pouring all resources into quality alone does not often reach. You make mistakes. You practice. You bungle about the cave, following the sound of your own voice as it echoes back to you, sounding ever stranger but leading the way nonetheless.
My respect for music journalists who seem to be able to knock off beautiful curls of prose at the drop of a, well, drop, is sky-high at this point. As is my determination to swap out my barbed perfectionism for a considered focus instead. And, most importantly, to keep going. Not reviewing music, necessarily, but keeping myself honed, exploring things I previously thought as Definitely Not My Area to hopefully surprise and humble myself.
Fiona has put better than I can the disappointment at the true realisation of quite how Anglo-American-Antipodean-Canadian the majority of popular music is but it's an important realisation nonetheless and one that's prompted me to get myself in gear looking further.
Last but by no means least, I'd like to extend a huge thank you and congratulations from Fiona and myself to Patrick. I've not met him IRL but he's Fiona's pal and has joined us every step of the way. You can read his 52A/52W journey here. There's things to be said about doing a mad thing yourself but if you set any challenge for yourself in the year to come, absolutely do it with your pals, pals.