(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Commentary: New Year's resolutions

New Year's resolutions suck. At least the normal ones do: start a diet, exercise more, take up yoga. It's bad enough that those are all boring, but it's worse because, despite all the vaguely good intentions, those habits are hard to form and we forget them by February. If these were really important to us, we wouldn't wait for January 1 to get started.

So, I want to focus on what's already important to me and remind myself (and all of you).

Listen to as much new music as possible
I started writing this blog to keep track of the music I encountered. As it's gotten bigger, I get piles of unsolicited tunes from bands and music PR groups. Maybe I'll take it for granted someday, but so far, it's like everyday is my birthday and people knew just what to get me. There's a magic where some band I've never heard of might become a new favorite, like Lee Baines III and the Glory Fires or Anywhere. Some people will say that trying new things keeps you young, but that's not it; trying new things keeps you alive.

Don't forget to listen to some old favorites
Sometimes I need to remind myself about this one. I'll wonder, "When did I last listen to Joan Armatrading or Yankee Hotel Foxtrot?" Going back refreshes my sonic palate and keeps the review hobby from becoming a chore. It's also cleansing in a way, providing a rewind to touchstone moments in my life that relate to the music. Plus, there are still nuances to pick up.

Appreciate live music
This fall, I slacked off a bit, but I've already got a couple of shows lined up (Reel Big Fish and El Ten Eleven). Just like fresh draft beer, live performance reminds me that there's a power in immediacy. It may not be as polished as the studio, but the spark of watching a tight band mesh together is a beautiful thing.

Remember the local music scene
I get excited to see national acts come through, but it's important to stay up on local bands. Sometimes, I find them as opening acts; other times our paths just happen to cross. From the Afro-beat jams of Atomga to the pop punk energy of Convalescents, Colorado offers countless great bands across all genres. I bet your scene has the same kind of diversity if you look. Supporting local music and arts is an important part of building your community. Plus, it's always cool to be able to say that you saw Big Head Todd, Pretty Lights, or the Flobots before anyone knew who they were.

Perform in public
I don't write as much about my own performances, but this is an incredibly important part of musical world. Whether I'm sharing a new song with a small crowd or pulling out my interpretation of "A Whiter Shade of Pale" for a packed barroom, I love the energy flow of playing for people. Solo sets are nice, but it's even better to connect with other musicians and see where the song leads. Now that my teen aged son has been sitting in with me, it's also a way to forge a deeper link that's based on mutual respect and communication.

Keep writingI started this blog four years ago and every review that I've written has made me better at communication. Forcing myself to think about the music I'm listening to adds to my depth of appreciation. This fall, I started writing for Spectrum Culture, which has been a challenge. It's been difficult to maintain Jester Jay Music while meeting the deadlines of writing for Spectrum Culture. Getting real editorial feedback, though, has been invaluable. Now, if I can figure out how to get paid...

Final thoughts
If I were going to indulge in resolutions for change, I can think of two things I ought to do. The first is to be more opinionated. My writing style has nurtured a more objective perspective, but I'd like to worry less about descriptions of how a band sounds and focus more on how they make me feel.

The other thing I'd like to do is get more of my music recorded and share it here. Whether it's home recorded solo demos or getting my band into the studio, it would be nice to get more songs out there.

Thanks for hanging with me. As always, I thrive on comments and feedback. Happy New Year.

- Jester

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