One Year of Rediscoverings!

It’s been a whole year since the first Rediscovering got posted. I started the Rediscovering series because I realized I needed another CD rack. No really! Rather than buying another, I decided to start trying to make space and toss a few that I owned but never listened to. Instead, I decided to let you all in on it and turn it into more of a project than yet another half-assed attempt to listen to some more music, maybe, sometime.

The Rediscovering pile as it sits today
This is what’s left in the pile at the moment. It’s not a pile anymore because I heard that’s a bad way to store your CDs, and I can see why. Also some water flavor things and a plushie germ, because this is just a corner of my desk.

I wish I had something fancier to commemorate the anniversary (like, say, a new one), but I don’t. Still, here’s some thoughts on how things have gone so far and what I’m looking forward to.

Progress!

We’re at seven tosses and eleven keeps, so eighteen discs total. That actually splits out a bit more positive than I always feel it does–I’m just so used to trashing stuff that I’m pretty conscious of it these days, and I try to minimize it when I can. Still, that means I’ve got a bit more room to be a total dick to some future Rediscovering album and break even, so we’re good. We’re currently up to M in the alphabet–Make Yourself having been the last one and the next one being on the first Ramones compilation CD, Mania. We’ve got eleven left.

I actually still really like doing Rediscoverings, even if they don’t get posted as regularly. I had a long period of this year where I just didn’t particularly feel like listening to music, so it feels really nice and natural to be back on being curious and exploring, trying what I have around that I’ve yet to listen to. Even if that’s not my physical CDs all the time, I am regularly working through something I’ve had around, usually digital files. There’s been a folder in my Downloads for ages now called “Albums to Listen To”, which once totaled almost 15GB and is currently down to 2.19GB.

So yes, slowly but surely, we will get through the entire pile. If I can do it before the year’s out, that’ll be extra tits.

Retrospective thoughts

As far as how I feel about the ones we’ve already gone though, I feel like there’s a few albums in the toss pile that I would like if I gave them a third shot, and at the end of the series, I might do a little redemption round of sorts. In particular, Fever to Tell and Live Through This, which are fittingly both rough-and-ready female-fronted punk records, wowed me with a few really good songs and then left me middling on the rest of them, and that becomes the immortal conflict of a Rediscovering: what truly makes an album I would want to keep in the collection?

At this point, my rule of thumb is that if I don’t genuinely really like at least half the songs on the album, it’s not worth keeping. In the case of Live Through This, I really loved “Asking for It” and “Doll Parts”, and a few tracks (like “Jennifer’s Body” and “Violet”) came close to lesser likes, but even if all four were my favorite songs this year, there’s twelve total on the album. That’s a third. That’s less “I love Live Through This” and more “I love these four songs from it”. That doesn’t sound like a pass to me.

In the case of The Heart is a Monster, the album would’ve failed if I calculated the track totals straight up: eighteen songs, seven of which I really liked. Counting the Segues out of the album though, that’s only twelve actual songs, and that would pass by the rule of thumb. Given that most of the Segues could be cut without a trace of them ever being there (as some act as intros and outros to real music and others are simply interludes that go nowhere), I think that’s fair.

Some CDs, I keep more for their historical value than the music. Ideally, you want both. The Fold Compilation was a look into the old world underground and could be cut down to a single disc of one banger after another. It’s a really lovely listen, even with the weak tracks it has. The other CD in the pile to fit this mold, No Alternative (which is a classic AIDS benefit record from a ton of 90s alt-rock artists and what comes after Mania), definitely has that to live up to. Even if I dislike it though, as something of a Nirvana completist, No Alternative would have its spot in my collection just for the hidden Nirvana track.

It’s those kinds of tradeoffs that occasionally mark the CD era. Your hope is to get it on a single if the album itself sucks. Failing that, you keep the CD.

All that said, I’m definitely looking forward to going and giving some of the keepers in the pile a more dedicated listen after all is said and done. I had Contra on my mind the other day, one of the most baffling discs I’ve ever listened to, oddly enough, but one I came away liking after I broke the rule and gave it a third listen. Some albums were just straight up great surprises: Enema of the State, Lex Hives, and Make Yourself were all records I wasn’t sure at all I’d be keeping, but I like them all! And that’s what makes the Rediscoverings worth it.

Another mindset shift

Another little benefit to doing Rediscoverings is that I’m actually better equipped to listen to new music now that I have a routine with it. Listening to a new album seems like less of an event now that I’ve gone through twenty of them just on CD alone. On the contrary, I’ve actually been developing a certain glee towards listening to everything I’ve got in my possession. Every single time I snipe one out of the air, either finding a keeper or getting rid of it with extreme prejudice, I’m satisfied in the same way as you would be deep cleaning the whole house. Or at least, getting at that weird bit on the wall with a Magic Eraser.

I find when I’m doing more casual listening, if I play a game I’m super familiar with while I have it going (lately, it’s been Half-Life 2: Deathmatch with bots), it gives me a reason to park in place and focus on the music more than the game. For Rediscoverings, it’s mostly a matter of making plans to actually sit down and listen to something with as much of my attention as possible. Of course, easier said than done some evenings. This means some albums actually get more than two listens, but given that that’s when 2-3 weeks have gone by between listens and I’ve forgotten what it even sounds like, I consider it fair to try again.

No rush for Rediscovering

Rediscovering is a chance for one individual album to make its case to me uninterrupted. Every Rediscovering happens on my big stereo with as few pauses as I can help it. I can spare the 45 minutes to sit and listen to something new, even if I come to absolutely hate it. The focus on CDs really helps keep Rediscovering offline and uninterrupted, especially given that I think a lot of the detached, defocused listening that goes on nowadays is thanks to phones and computers being noisemakers and notification machines that consistently take you out of your music.

As I was telling Caby last night, over the years, I’ve noticed this bizarre compulsion to constantly be looking for new music from friends, former friends, Discord acquaintances–like the focus should be on how many artists you can recognize and how many genres you can listen to. I’ve unironically heard the term “post-genre” being thrown around, the idea being that because everyone’s just such a big, unique salad bowl of thoughts and tastes and cultures, we should just mix them all together all the time. All genres do is constrict us! All labels do is put us into little boxes! We like everything!

I used to feel ridiculously slow in how little new (to me) music I listened to–but then I realized that every album I own, I have a genuine attachment to. I can tell you about music scenes and who played with which bands. I dig through the liner notes and read the oral histories of the recordings of albums I adore, how they got specific sounds, why they wrote specific songs. Conversely, I’ve been around people whose way of discovering music is through playlists or random songs they hear, and they tend to be middling, detached listeners. They couldn’t tell you a single thing about these songs. They know two tracks per band.

Obviously, not being too familiar with a band is no big deal. These are the ones I call “on my radar”–I’m aware of their existence, I like a song or two from them, and sure, I’ll give it a shot if I ever find one of their albums in a record shop. But when that’s every single band sans a few, that reads less like they have a cool, vibrant, exploratory playlist going on and more like a buffet, or skimming the surface.

Think of it like this. A song is, what, 3-5 minutes, generally? Okay, so you get a running playlist of ones you like going. Suddenly, that playlist is four hours and comprises 60 different artists–and you know one song from each of them. If you consider that bands generally have 2-6 albums to their name, one song out of a back catalog that comprises 80-100 songs is genuinely miserable. There’s no attachment there. It reinforces a hoarder mindset. We need to listen to as much as possible. There’s so much music flying around, and you don’t wanna get left behind, do you? You don’t wanna be caught out not knowing who everyone’s preferred meme band of the month is, do you?

And at this point, my answer is a resounding “yes”. If I want to listen to only one genre, that’s my prerogative. If someone wants to listen to the same song over and over for a week straight, that’s just fine and dandy, really. Familiarity is how you breed attachment, and we don’t really like as much music as we think we do. “I listen to everything” has long been mocked, given that the people who say that are certainly not familiar with African tribal music, showtunes, contemporary bluegrass, or Romantic-era sonatas, but if you did listen to everything, would you really be a better listener than someone who’s just here for 2000s mope rock? I’m not saying yes to that. I don’t think variety and diversity are necessarily good things if the listener doesn’t find them appealing.

Another marimix?

Back when all the stuff about mix CDs was going on with the group, I had the neat idea to go back through the keepers, pick a really good song out of each, and make a mix CD out of the whole project. We’re still a bit off from that happening, of course, but I’d still really like to do it. Something else to look forward to.

The goal is to not make Rediscovering take two years, but I’m still here and enjoying them, even if it’s been slower goings than before. This pile absolutely will get depleted someday, and Cammy’s backlog, for the first time in his life, will be dead. I still have vinyl and cassettes after that, but I’m thinking those will be a bit more like my casual “Albums to Listen To” listening and less like Rediscovering. Not to say you won’t still hear about them, possibly, but these do take a bit of time to put together, write, and edit. Think it’d belabor the point if I continued it for every other medium.

Anyway! If I could do another two this month, I’ll be happy, but we’ll see what happens. You absolutely will see Mania though, all else fails. In any event, happy birthday, Rediscovering! Looking forward to finally reorganizing my CD racks to plug up the holes where the albums on trial used to sit…

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