My 2013 in Music and Everything Else
I don’t know about you, but for me New Years Day serves as a time of contemplation, a bit of relaxation from the holiday hubbub spent simultaneously looking back and anticipating the future. Unlike many recent years in which my life seemed to be in a holding pattern, I had an eventful 2013 filled with some letdowns (getting sick in February and being dogged with vaguely flu-ish feelings for the next eight months), a dose of the same-old same-old, and lots of delights. Here’s some of the accomplishments:
- Debuted three new designs at LitKids – Little Bo Peep, Winne the Pooh, and Sherlock Holmes. Also, I’m starting to see signs that this LitKids thing might become something other than a wallet-draining labor of love.
- Related to the above, in August I addressed a roomful of Etsy users about the ins and outs of selling there (conquering public speaking fears = very healing).
- Opened Pishtosh, Bullwash & Wimple, an outlet for selling quality vintage designs and kitsch. Unlike LitKids, this enterprise has turned into a quick, modest profit.
- Read Pride and Prejudice and biographies of Pauline Kael, Flo Ziegfeld, Vincente Minnelli, and Willy Wonka actress Julie Dawn Cole.
- Designed about a dozen manga books for Viz, another ten-odd books for various individual authors (including my spouse), a t-shirt, a personal branding logo, six theatrical playbills, and four or five projects that never came to fruition for various reason.
- Hit ten years as a freelancer with all the ambivalent feelings about my profession intact (only now the competition is even younger!). I still haven’t designed or illustrated a Little Golden Book, Criterion Collection release, New Yorker cover, Taschen book, hip record album cover, or indie film poster, damn it.
- Filed 90 reviews at DVD Talk. Best one: The Big City. Worst: Twisted Romance.
- Watched five films in a theater, and 181 films (including documentaries) at home.
- Listened to a lot of Cilla Black, Everything But The Girl and Margaret Whiting (the top three artists of 2013, according to my Last.fm stats).
Believe it or not, I also listened to a lot of current music over the past year. The stuff that caught my attention has been assembled into MRH 2013, a bloated marathon of melodic pop and retro-music of all types (videogame music, disco, psychedelic, soul, even a ’20s jazz cover from Bryan Ferry). After at least a decade of being indifferent to most new music, it came as a pleasant surprise that there was so much refreshing, unique stuff gaining popularity in 2013 – I mean, you wouldn’t find something like “Thrift Shop” hitting #1 in the immediate past, would you? When relatively tame, mainstream singers like Celine Dion come up with weird-ass tunes like “Loved Me Back to Life,” you know you’re in for an interesting year. Part of it comes from the fact that genre lines in music are blurring into each other – yet, instead of being a boring, awkward mishmash, the resulting music is kind of invigorating. This Grantland article by Steven Hyden uses the latest album by teen heartthrobs One Direction to delve into that, articulating the phenomenon far better than I could (the 1D song singled out by the author, “Little Black Dress,” truly is a fantastic blast of power pop, by the way).
Anyhow, the playlist. While some of my favorite artists are represented multiple times (Haim, Camera Obscura, Quadron), most of it is limited to one or two tracks per player. I kinda wish it was more concise, but at the very least it’s arranged by mood and feel – there’s a mini-suite of tracks produced by Greg Kurstin, for instance. Enjoy.