I’ve begun (again) to listen to all the music I have in my iTunes folders. Now, there are (many!) times I dislike iTunes, and other times I merely tolerate it. It is, however, the easiest programme to use with my phone, which, oddly, is where I tend to listen to the most music. Since I listen to roughly the same 1000 songs on my phone, though, I thought I would go back to the rest of the stuff I don’t listen to as often. So, I’ve started listening to all of my albums (except classical) alphabetically by title.
The biggest reason I’m not including my classical collection is that I tend to have a lot of the same composer, and they often come in big collections. So, whilst I like Haydn, I don’t necessarily want to listen to all five discs involved in the London Symphonies collection. Also, I keep getting new (legally free) music from Classical.com, which I then have as the album title, so ALL of that would be played back to back. Really, there’s only so much classical music I can listen to in a day (week? month?).
According to my iTunes, I have over 30 days of music to get through (for some of you, that’s a massive collection, for others, miniscule). I’m hoping I can finish this project by the end of the year; that’s my goal at least. It’s now nearing the end of March and I’m halfway through ‘D’, so it could be tough going. If I don’t finish, oh well, but that’s where I am in my mind, at least. It took me three full weeks to get through ‘C’, and that was listening anywhere between 4-8 hours a day, sometimes more. Theoretically everything I’ve listened to so far is about a week’s worth of music if I were to listen to it 24 hours a day. If I can keep up that pace for the rest of the year I should be able to get through everything. Should.
I’m listening to everything alphabetically by album because, much like with the classical stuff, I often have a lot from the same artist. So, whilst I love Emmylou Harris, for example, I don’t want to listen to her every album straight. Alphabetically by album, however, her stuff gets spread out. That’s the idea, at least. Some artists don’t necessarily adhere to this logic.
I’m not even talking about Dylan’s Bootleg albums, though they could fit as well. I’m talking about a band like the Airborne Toxic Event, who have four albums total (three studio and one live). Three of those not only begin with ‘A’, but are actually concurrent! Their All At Once album leads straight into All I Ever Wanted. Their eponymous debut is only separated by one album, so I’ve listened to almost all my Airborne (or TATE as they sometimes call themselves) already. I quite like this band, so that’s somewhat disappointing. At least I’ve got some stuff in my phone… Other groups aren’t as bad, but a similar thing has happened. Springsteen has Born In the USA and Born to Run though, thankfully, I have at least one non-Springsteen album in between those. Granted, those are two fantastic Springsteen albums, sure, but I want a little bit of Bruce through everything, not bunched up early or late! Same with the Avett Brothers, another personal favourite. Their Carolina Jubilee is followed by Carpenter. At least Bruce and the Avett Brothers have a lot of other music that isn’t next to each other like this, so I can still listen to them later in the project.
What I have found really interesting about listening to my music this way is that I’ve forgotten how much good stuff I have. I almost never listen to Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, but it is a really good album. Of course, I do have a number of clunkers in there, too. For all the greatness of Blood On the Tracks there’s also going to something like Soul Asylum’s Clam Dip and Other Delights. Sure, it’s representative of the time and place it was made, but it has not aged particularly well. Also, as odd as it will sound from a Sinatra fan, the Capitol release Classic Sinatra, is not nearly as good as some of this other ‘Best Of’ type albums; mostly because many of the others were released on his own Reprise label after he had re-recorded (and improved) many of his earlier standards. So sometimes you (or I) have to wade through the bad to make it back to the good.
Something else I’ve enjoyed is the sheer randomness of some of the styles. I’ve gone from Manu Chao’s Clandestino, a Latin/World-type album to the indie rock of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah to a country album to Sinatra. It’s great to hear such a mix of styles in such a few short albums. I can’t think of a single radio station that would provide that sort of mix. Even if I hit ‘shuffle’ on all of my various Pandora stations I wouldn’t come up with a combination quite like that.
I’m delighted to be rediscovering some old favourites, though somewhat saddened I’ve listened to them already. I’ve forgotten how much I really enjoyed the Kinks’ Arthur album, but since it was in ‘A’s, I’m long past it. Yet some things I don’t remember listening to at all, like the Beatles’ Abbey Road. I mean, I did, and of course it was fantastic, I just don’t remember it. Weird. I’ll keep plugging away at the rest of the list until I finish. I keep adding more music, which makes the project harder to accomplish, but I’m sure I’ll get there at some point. Currently my last album is 89/93: An Anthology from Uncle Tupelo, though there is a bit of random stuff (live recordings, demos, non-album tracks, etc.) at the end that was never part of an album. I think it’s fitting that I both started with and will end with Jeff Tweedy music, though, since he is a part my favourite recording group (no one will ever top the Beatles, how can they? But Wilco is my favourite band after them. Uncle Tupelo had Jay Farrar and Tweedy before they split to form Son Volt and Wilco, respectively, for those who don’t know). Lots to get through between what I’m on now and that, though, so back to the music. Maybe next time I’ll try it chronologically. Or, maybe not.