I started a music podcast this year.
I know, I know. But for a long time now, I’ve wanted a more consistent outlet for my love of music, and while me adding to my plate is probably something my therapist would be angry about if I ever went back, it’s been refreshing so far. I don’t feel a need to turn every passion into a work project, but it’s allowed me to express more about myself and engage more creatively than I get to by sticking to basketball. (I love my job, obviously. Variety is appreciated, though.)
Doing the project – Columbia House Party – with my friend Jake has the added wrinkle of exploring and appreciating a variety of music that we maybe don’t agree on. Music is subjective, and how you relate with it is often an ethereal, intangible experience. Jake and I have a lot of overlap in our musical tastes, sure. We also have very little annual overlap in the very tops of your year-ends or most-listened-tos. There’s some Venn Diagram to the show, to the shows we go to together, and with most of my friends I share tastes with.
Diving into albums from both of our pasts and exploring why those albums resonated with different people at different times has lent helpful perspective to this, one of my favorite annual exercises. Foremost – and this is something I realized in introducing The Phoebe Bridgers Corollary in 2018 – albums are timeless and it’s not always necessary to experience them immediately. If you’re going deep on one album and it means you listen to a little less new stuff for a while, live in that first album. The others aren’t going anywhere. (Consequently, I listened to 119 albums this year, down about 20 percent from 2018.)
Additionally, it’s lessened the pressure I feel to get the list “right.” There’s no such thing, and even people with similar taste can amicably split hairs on what albums hit them hardest. It’s a favorite albums list, not an objectively best albums list.
This stuff should be obvious. Sometimes it’s hard to separate a job where you’re evaluated on the accuracy of your analysis and a side-passion where you’re just allowed to feel. It’s a welcome balance. It also made the tougher decisions a little easier to lock in for a year that was defined more by the amount of good albums (my initial pass at a top-75 had 90-plus albums) than the amount of great ones.
Ironically, the side project also cut into the time I had to do this list, so it’s coming out later and with briefer blurbs than in the past.
What follows are the albums I enjoyed most in 2019.