Listening Trend 2016: More Listening
Late in January, I purchased a pair of Mrice E300 earbud headphones. In my years post-iPod death, during which I spent my walks listening to the outside or conducting rambling phone calls with anyone I could get to stay on the line, my deep-storage earbuds had aged to the point that their foam casing began the disintegration common to cheap headphone foam (which, I imagine, cannot be explained by science).
My new buds came recommended by website testimony and at a cost sub-$20. I cushioned the purchase with a plug-in Tylt ENERGI 5k phone battery to extend my lifeline for travel and heavier use. I often used my new headphones to listen to podcasts, which I’d started to download with a freshly-added phone app damningly titled Podcast Addict. The precious media-free time which I had theretofore enjoyed between the majorities of days spent scrolling the internet or listening to music—the time on the bus, or on walks, or while washing dishes—had been the final frontier. My headphones got me there.
These small, coiled wires fit in my jacket pockets with the loot I take everywhere. Phone, keys, wallet, headphones. I quickly stepped past the podcasts I was already familiar with and incrementally piled up subscriptions over the course of passing months. I currently follow about 75 active feeds. My immersion has been absolute; I now rarely listen to nothing.
In melting winter I found that my music streaming service allows on-device downloads for offline playback. I began gathering new releases to poke light through the haze of podcast din and I used my malleable collection of phone-hosted albums to attempt to stay current with full-length releases, something I had up to that point entirely forgone for Another Round and the like.
When I quit my job in July, preparing to move and in the process radically rearranging my on-computer habits, I relied increasingly heavily on this function of my phone.
I made a folder of my favorite songs and only my favorite songs. When I listen to it, I put it on random and every new track gives me a rush. I call it my Impossible Playlist.
My red headphones are red like my red bike. I do not use them at the same time; it would be too much, anyway.
I moved to Chicago and I walked around a lot. It’s free to walk around, and either good or bad for the body depending on your choice of footwear. One don’t have to make plans to walk around. You can walk around with yourself, and you probably should, at least some of the time. I walked for miles to every place that I could and I always listened to podcasts or my Impossible Playlist or Carly Rae Jepsen or things that propelled me with their accompaniment.
A quiet loud walk is a good time to listen to something new, when you want to give more thought or attention.
I pulled my headphones from my jacket pocket once to find that the silicone cover had detached from one of the earbuds. From then on I proceeded to walk one-ear-in, which I am told is a safer way to listen when in the busy world of cars and strangers: Mono recordings become stereo with slosh footsteps and conversation.
I again held the slight tangle of cords later to see that the second cover had departed for greener pastures and I went to the internet to bring me more.
2016 and Convention: The Slackening, It’s Happening
I am a list-maker and I love having the opportunity to sort and arrange. Pieces of art are inherently individualistic, which makes any sorting methods inexact and subject to rationalization. With this acknowledged, we tend to organize media by its vessel; here are books of similar shapes, there are the 12”s, those are the radio singles.
As the internet siphons from its competition, adherence to such formal distinctions continues to slacken. A Netflix series reboot of a program formerly native to cable has duller incentive to maintain uniformity in episode length, just as we’ve seen in Radio’s scheduled programming’s sublimation to flexible podcast freespace. One minute from Blonde might as well be examined alongside an eleven-minute ambient piece; it’s thrilling to get to debate whether to place Nonagon Infinity in a category of Songs or Albums.
The most important break with convention in 2016 was the rollout of Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. As albums traditionally hit store shelves (to border on anachronism) they present fluid works frozen as the perfected/selected Official Documents of their songs. “True Love Waits” is an obvious exhibit no. 1 for ’16. Any variance of live performance is excused. Listeners now know How a song Goes.
When Team West continued to tamper with Pablo after its release and stepped around the commitment of a physical document, they subverted the status quo formerly inherent to the album release model and set a new precedent for self-revision. The album versions have been largely similar, but neglect the potential for a definitive standard in the way a DIY act might by individually dubbing imperfect cassettes.
Furthermore, West and company did themselves one better by (almost inarguably) releasing a worse Pablo than they could have. It’s weighted with a strange preponderance of subpar tracks, eschewing the tautness and substance which knocked Yeezus into my #1 spot in 2013. I doubt this was their intention, but I find that the latest release of Pablo begs for further user-level revision. I play the album in a reordered, more concise playlist based on the leaked Waves track list per the recommendation of Andrew Brandt.
To the Lists
Because I loved so many things this year—including you, dear reader—I expanded my Favorite 10 Song/Album lists to Favorite 20s. Narrowed from a very long list of contenders, I forced myself to stick with 10 picks for the podcasts I listened to this year. Thank you!
20 Favorite Songs
20. Carly Rae Jepsen - Store
19. André 3000 - Solo (Reprise)
18. A Giant Dog - Too Much Makeup
17. Blood Orange - Best to You
16. Kevin Gates - 2 Phones
15. Empress Of - Woman Is a Word
14. Dirty Projectors - Keep Your Name
13. Young Thug - Kanye West (feat. Wyclef Jean)
12. Frank Ocean - Nikes
11. ANOHNI - Drone Bomb Me
10. A Giant Dog - Creep
9. Told Slant - Low Hymnal
8. Crying - Revive
7. Car Seat Headrest - Vincent
6. Beyoncé - All Night
5. Kero Kero Bonito - Lipslap
4. Mitski - Your Best American Girl
3. Danny L Harle - Super Natural (feat. Carly Rae Jepsen)
2. Beyoncé - Formation
20 Favorite Albums
20. Battle Trance - Blade of Love
19. Thee Oh Sees - A Weird Exits
18. Porches - Pool
17. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - EARS
16. Bon Iver - 22, A Million
15. Kaytranada - 99.9%
14. Frankie Cosmos - Next Thing
13. Anderson .Paak - Malibu
11. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Nonagon Infinity
10. Carly Rae Jepsen - E•MO•TION: Side B
9. Blood Orange - Freetown Sound
8. The Body - No One Deserves Happiness
6. Mitski - Puberty 2
5. Frank Ocean - Blonde
4. Crying - Beyond the Fleeting Gales
3. Kero Kero Bonito - Bonito Generation
2. A Giant Dog - Pile
1. Beyoncé - Lemonade
10 Favorite Podcasts in 2016
10. Handsome Rambler
8. Reply All
7. Code Switch
6. Bodega Boys
4. The Heart
Positive Detritus (Disorganized)
Moving to Chicago
CRASHprez on Pitchfork Radio
Erik Kramer’s definitive list of when the day’s meals are
Friends' newsletters (more, please!)
Friends' podcasts (makes me feel less alone!)
Traveling to DC
SXSW Year 6
Biking in Madison
Biking in Chicago
Get out the Vote campaigning with K Stocks
Returning to Twitter (positivity debatable)
High School Chorus Reunion
Doors Open Madison
Open House Chicago
Projected time Backstreet Boys-era pop production style will return to the airwaves:
Fall 2018 (for the preceding underground bubble, Summer 2017)