Like most people, I love listening to music. I love the comfort of a familiar tune that I can awkwardly sing along to, but I also love discovering new things. But the world is full of music: unless you are part of the music press, and probably not even then (Pitchfork, for example, posts over 20 reviews each week, which makes for over 1,000 albums each year that the site deems worthy – good or bad – of a deep dive), how do you decide what to give your time to?
I’ve always been keenly aware of the blanks in my listening history: Until recently, I had never played an album by The Who, Joni Mitchell or Steely Dan, among others, straight through. Early in 2021, I set out to change this. I had long had the notion to listen to great music of the past – things I had missed because I was too young, because I didn’t know about it, or because I made a different choice – but I didn’t want it to be random. I could go with a “greatest ever”-type list, but preferred an approach that would allow me to follow along as an artist developed. And I also knew I was going to write about it, and post those writings somewhere on social media, which would make me (1) give each record enough attention to allow me to formulate a hopefully coherent opinion and (2) have the discipline to stick with the project.
My solution to (1) was to start by following along with the old Pazz and Jop polls from the Village Voice, which were an institution to me and many others for years. They (sort of) started in 1971, and while they reflect a narrower offering than other lists with larger voting bases and the perspective of time, they also are a comment on what (some) people thought was good in the moment.
For (2), I turned to Facebook, where I hoped a few of my music-loving friends might read my posts and join my explorations by listening to the records I wrote about. I don’t know how successful that was – mostly, people seem to engage when I write about the things they already love – but a few have told me they enjoyed discovering something for themselves that I recommended, and that’s been quite satisfying.
Two years on the calendar and over 40 posts later, I’ve decided that I’m committed enough to this project to expand it. Hopefully, my Facebook friends will follow me here, and maybe some new people will discover this site. I’m no expert – I don’t read music or play an instrument, and while I can carry a tune, it isn’t always pretty. I don’t think I’m a critic, though I definitely offer opinions on the records I cover. What I am is a music lover who hopes he can help other music lovers, fatigued by playlists, find listening pleasure in records they never knew existed. Music is life, and it evokes memories and creates experiences, and those are also what I write about.
While this is the first post of PopNotes, I will soon be adding the Facebook posts from earlier this year if anyone stumbling onto this site wants to check out my journey so far. And if you’ve been following and still haven’t listened to Can or Big Star or Clube Da Esquina, then I grieve for you. What are you waiting for?