Saturday, December 31, 2016

Once More, With Feeling: A Farewell to the Blog



This is a long time in coming, and in some ways it’s already happened. After 10 years of posting in various forums, I’ve decided to stop pretending that I’m writing a music blog any more. This blog hasn’t existed in the same form for all these years. For those of you who have stuck by for the last decade, you’ve seen it morph from Facebook notes and Xanga to blogspot and even my own URL, which my wife bought me as a gift. But here we are, at the end of 2016. I have a newborn son. Life has taken me everywhere and to many places I never dreamed I’d go. And all the while, blogging has become harder and more like a chore. The internet is saturated with blogs too, and any designs I ever had on becoming a high traffic site suffered under the reality that I never knew quite how to make that happen. But every time I thought about stopping, I pushed on, driven by the kindest comment or a single individual who was opened up to a new band or a new favorite song because of me and The Past and the Pending.

If you’ll entertain me and you have time to read, I want to write some thoughts down. And if no one ever reads it, that’s okay too. I always knew the blog was more for myself than anyone else. It was a way for me to organize and diary something very meaningful to my life. And I love having a written record.

I don’t exactly know when this all happened. Growing up I listened to almost all Christian music, plus my dad’s Elton John album, a greatest hits collection played live in Australia. As a kid I think my favorite song was “Place in this World” by Michael W. Smith. My first “secular” love was “Black Balloon” by The Goo Goo Dolls. Like many my age, I had a distinct Linkin Park phase in high school. Things change. Some things do not.

Nickel Creek, The Shins, Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens, Band of Horses, Jimmy Eat World, The Hold Steady, Spoon, The National, Bon Iver, The Killers, Something Corporate/Jack’s Mannequin and everything Andrew McMahon touched. These are the artists that shaped me. These are the albums I’ll play my son. Someday maybe The Hold Steady’s “Separation Sunday” will become my son’s version of my dad’s live Elton John album. I can only hope.

Nothing can top that early thrill. I was not exposed to much music growing up. Discovering entire discographies at once is overwhelming and exhilarating. I got to discover Radiohead all at once. To me their first new album was “In Rainbows”. I still remember going into Best Buy and buying three albums all at once: Interpol’s “Antics”, Keane’s “Hopes and Fears”, and Snow Patrol’s “Final Straw”…on the same day! And that meant I hadn’t even heard Interpol’s masterpiece “Untitled” yet. I got two burned copies of The Shins’ two first albums at the same time and fell in love. And yes, I was one of those people who fawned over Garden State. Natalie Portman and “The Shins will change your life” and all that jazz.

In 2007, for some reason I decided to write a Top 50 songs of the year. I didn’t know then that I’d do 10 of them. Or that anyone would actually care. The first #1 song was “Australia” by none other than The Shins. It should have been my #7 song that year, “Detlef Schrempf” by Band of Horses, a song that is deeply meaningful to me. 

“So take it as a song or a lesson to learn/And sometime soon be better than you were/If you say you're gonna go, then be careful/And watch how you treat every living soul”.

At some point the blog stopped being fun. And while you might think it’s because so few people read (that's undeniably a factor, admittedly), that wasn't the main driver or I couldn’t have kept it up for a decade. In reality, my perspective on music criticism has changed. I used to review albums, positively or negatively. I used to have best and worst songs. I used to make fun of bad lyrics, and eviscerated the likes of Owl City, Nickelback, etc. I was part of the online hipster hater club. I stopped that a while ago, focusing purely on recommendations. I now believe you can like whatever you like, and viewed the blog as a way to say to my readers “hey, if you’re looking for something new, try this”. So I stopped doing pure reviews. If the album wasn’t good, I just didn’t talk about it. That left me less to write about. Second, online music blogs have changed too. There’s so much noise. My favorite blogs are touting EDM and indie hip-hop more and more. Free mp3’s aren’t as readily available. My peers are 30+ and have kids and don’t want new music as much, and the younger consumers of online content mostly like things that I do not. And sharing a blog post on your facebook news feed? Just clutter. More noise and clutter among a noisy and cluttered world of social media. I know it and you know it.

I want to thank you. Some of you have been reading here and commenting for a long time. You stopped me from quitting dozens of times. All I needed to know was that I helped you find a new favorite band or song. In the last ten years if I’ve helped you find that, that would make me very happy. Thanks for the love and support and requests and comments. It has always meant a lot. And if you still want recommendations I’m still here. I’m not giving up my love of music, and I'll still do a top 50 in some forum simply because I still like that part alone, but I’m giving up feeling like I need to write about music. So farewell, my friends, and thanks for reading. 

4 comments:

  1. Well, I will be sad to see you go, but I do understand. I have blogged less & less as time goes by as the kids get older & are home less often to say crazy things. Maybe you could switch to movie reviews on here! :)

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  2. Derek,
    I love reading your writing and I hope that, in some form, you keep that up. You have a great voice and even if it isn't talking about music, hopefully it will take on another life. I'll admit, and hopefully this isn't taken too harshly, the music posts weren't my favorite, mostly because music isn't a huge part of my life anymore. And, like you said, kids our age aren't as interested as we used to be in finding new and interesting music. At the same time, I have immensely enjoyed your travel writing and I think your photography skills are blossoming. Perhaps an online memoir for Clark? :) Anyway, I'll be excited to see where your new projects take you.

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    1. I have known for a long time how much more traffic my travel blog posts get. I actually joke about it many of my travel blogs if I remember right. Just has always been a reality that what I most like writing about is not what most people like reading about, and in fact the more thoughtful the music post was the less traffic it received. I once worked quite a while on a long Beach Boys post that went essentially ignored, and it was a catalyst to pause before spending anything more than fleeting moments on music writing. In the end if it was music it had to basically be a list.

      I'm not necessarily done writing altogether. I plan on reverting back to the free blog, so I'll stop paying for the custom URL. And as Clark grows and we start travelling again, I definitely may write about it, because there's no doubt that people seem to enjoy those more, plus it gives me a fun thing to look back on that catalogs Holly and I's adventures better than facebook statuses and albums.

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  3. "It is the quality of one's convictions that determines success, not the number of followers" (to quote from Harry Potter I've been watching lately)

    You've opened my eyes to a number of new songs over the years. Most recently Bear's Den which will (soon) appear in my top 100 thanks to you. I'll be sure to link back to your year-end post.
    Thanks for blogging.

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