I’ve noticed a small change in my personality over the past year. It wouldn’t seem like a big deal, really — not to most people, anyway. What’s happened is that I’ve sort of stopped caring about music.
Let me clarify: I still listen, of course, though not as intensely or as obsessively frequently as I once did, and I would certainly still rank music as one of the most vital and most important aspects of my daily life. See, my deterioration isn’t as drastic as it might sound: A while back — months, even years ago — I was always searching for The Next Big Thing. My quest wasn’t to find the latest reimagining of a superior bygone era or to snag all the import discs from the most bleeding edge U.K. group; I just wanted another band to love. I’d scan Pitchfork for favorable comparisons, side projects of favorite artists, mentions of tours and collaborations and boxed sets, but I didn’t just want to be up to date on music news to compete with my friends and associates. I was looking for another album to be obsessed with, another tour stop to anticipate for months, another T-shirt I could proudly, happily wear on the day after.
I was a sort of addict about music, discovering new bands and listening to their albums every morning for weeks — only to drop them after about a month for something new that still gave me the calm, joyous feeling that only a record I loved could give me. I was more of an aficionado than a fan, a habitual secret admirer in a community of near-professional amateurs.
But at least a year ago I was open to new ideas. Instead of chucking Franz Ferdinand’s self-titled before completing a full listen the way I did with the Bloc Party LP, I trotted around campus for a week with its soulless punk-disco as my soundtrack — only to decide that, ultimately, things just weren’t going to work out between us. In October, a friend who worked at a college radio station in Pennsylvania let me burn a stack of recently lauded promos, but to this day, I haven’t listened to any of them. Sorry, Devendra and PJ: For some reason, I just can’t be bothered.
It’s not that I’m picky, either. In the past, I’ve spent dozens of dollars on albums of classical, noise, alt-country, hip hop, roots music, indie pop. I’ve devoured albums from Love’s Forever Changes to Deerhoof’s Milk Man to Clara Rockmore’s Art of the Theremin. So what, then, is my problem – and why does it concern me at all?
The trouble lies, in fact, within my own record collection. Ever since the fateful purchase of The Beatles’ Anthology 1 in sixth grade, I’ve been a complete and utter fan. My walls were practically papered with posters and pictures I printed off the Internet; I owned at least a dozen Beatles shirts; I became a vegetarian partly because I found out that Paul and Linda were. I listened to nothing but Beatles for two years — that is, until I discovered Bob Dylan at the age of 14 and pretty much the same thing happened.
Eventually, of course, I branched out and started liking other stuff, too. (The Velvet Underground provided a current to more contemporary music.) But here’s the catch: It’s hard for young contemporary bands — hell, most bands ever — to live up to legends. As much as I love A.C. Newman, The Decemberists or Songs: Ohia (and believe me, I do), they’ll never be able to achieve the status in my mind of the artists that started my rabid interest in pop music in the first place.
But here’s the reason I’m concerned about my recent disinterest not just in The Next Big Thing, but in my own Next Big Thing: If I’m not looking, or at least caring, I might miss out on an album or a band that I could really, really love. A brand-new, breakthrough album might not be the next Bringing It All Back Home or Revolver, and nobody will ever be the next Bob Dylan or John Lennon, but I’ve come to miss the feeling I used to get when I listened to The New Pornographers’ Electric Version or “New Slang” by The Shins — that comfortable, hopeful feeling that music can make everything seem right and new.
Alexandra really hopes that the next big thing isn’t a band like Bowling For Soup. If you disagree, let her know. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.