Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Jan-Febs of Music

At my place of work, we have a phrase that's become a sort of Voldemort of bad vibes, a phrase we don't utter and don't like others uttering because we believe it becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy:

"The Jan-Febs."

The Jan-Febs means those miserable winter days, cold, often wet, dark from before dinner until well after breakfast. It means feeling trapped in your house, or just indoors. It means the death of football season, which in the South is the death of all sports, basically. It means no vacations and no great holidays (unless you count Valentine's Day, and no one but engaged couples or the newly-dating much likes it).

The world of music also has a Jan-Febs, and it just so happens to arrive in January and leave in late February. It's the time of year where new music trickles out like a leaky faucet rather than gushing.
As proof of this music drought, go check out Metacritic. They list more reviewed albums for November 4 than for all of December and this first week of January.

So all those happy teens and adults with all those happy iTunes gift cards from Christmas are forced to look back, back, back over the months and years in order to spend their presents, or they must wait patiently for Thumper and Bambi to show up in the slowly-greening back yard. The Jan-Febs becomes "catch-up" time. Time to get that stuff you'd postponed, or stuff from decades past that you realized you needed to round out your collection.

Having cancelled my eMusic subscription, a.k.a. "Billy's financial guarantee of spending $13/month on music," 2015 seems destined to be the year I purchased less music than anytime since the birth of Bottom of the Glass back in 2008.

The Jan-Febs come after you acknowledge what was great about last year's music, so you can't help but go up further, beyond a single year, to think about the trajectory of music. Some of my 20,000-foot thoughts, in no particular order:
  • Rock is not dead. It will not die. It is simply no longer mainstream. It will never again be mainstream. People will increasingly talk about rock like we now talk about blues and jazz, as an artform that some still enjoy and engage in, but ultimately a relic of a previous age and a building block for current popular music.
  • Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 is a pretty darn ambitious and excellent pop album and reminds me that she was in many ways more ambitious than, if not ultimately as talented as, her brother.
  • The '90s might ultimately become The Forgotten Decade in the annals of music history. It might have contained plenty of great albums and bands, but if you really pay attention to what the kids today listen to, to what the radio stations play, to what you hear in public settings, or on commercials, music from the '90s is nowhere near as frequently played as '70s or '80s music. It makes me sad, 'cuz I loves me some '90s music, but that doesn't make it less true.
  • I miss rap. Not as a main act, but as that third ring of the circus that was always a nice and fun distraction while they were setting things up for the tigers or the elephants. I miss rap with sampled rock riffs and beats. I miss Adam Yauch. I miss Public Enemy. I miss someone reminding me, musically, why there's plenty to be angry about in our messed-up world. Not just bothered, mind you, but ragin' pissed off. And not like no dern Charlton Heston, neither.
  • The Commitments soundtrack is probably my favorite single collection of cover songs, ever.


troutking said...

I don't believe in the Jan Febs. I change January to Jamuary and February to Funbruary and enjoy two months of the Jam-Funs. It rocks!

Robert Berman said...

70s-80s arena rock will not return, just as 50s rock-n-roll has not returned except as a niche for effect. Unclear yet whether some other guitar-centric style will claim the title of "nu-rock" or something.

Children of the 70s and 80s are in cultural ascendancy right now, as evidenced by the "Guardians of the Galaxy" soundtrack for instance. We'll know over the next 20 years what history thinks of 90s music.

Bob said...

Try using Zite or Flipboard (which owns Zite and is sadly phasing it out) and just read music articles. You'll likely get the sense that there is a lot of cool stuff coming out.

Billy said...

@Bob - The limited amount of the new almost forces a time of reflection and appreciating the too-many songs I already own, so it's not all bad. And yeah, I seek out more music-related articles in these droughts.

@trout - There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

@Robert - I don't entirely disagree, but if you recall our high school years, Led Zeppelin and the Stones are almost as well-respected amongst certain segments of WASP adolescents today as back then. I'm not sure Guns 'n' Roses and Nirvana (or anyone else) have maintained anything like same volume or intensity of undying loyalty. Then again, the Kanye/Paul McCartney meme suggests I might have no idea what I'm talking about.

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