2011 was quite a year. It was my first full year as a music blogger and personally, I made some big life changes. Here's an overview of some highlights in case you missed anything.
I will always remember 2011 as the year I made the biggest decision of my life thus far. I grew up in Erie, PA. Left in 2003 for college and then found myself back there a few months after completing grad school in 2009. It wasn't my plan, but within a month of my return, I surprisingly had a job and was quickly re-entrenched. As much as I love my hometown, it never felt quite right. I always wanted to try living in a big city and I knew there weren't a lot of opportunities for me where I was, both professionally and personally. In May of this year, a friend offered me the chance to move to New York City as a roommate and I took him up on it; quit my job and moved in early July, making 2011 a "tale of two halves," as the first part of the year was almost completely different than the second. It was tough to leave and it's been tough to restart (there's a lot I am still figuring out, almost six months later!), but I have no doubt I am where I belong. Music has always been my constant and this year was no different. It's great to have a blog for a lot of reasons, and right now, I'm pretty into the fact that when I look back over my posts, I have a fair representation of my year in listening and living. Some were even about me, like when Kyle put me under the microscope for a Digster edition of Blogger Lowdown.
Here are some cool new things to Those Who Dig in 2011:
- In February, we began what is probably our most successful feature, Weekly Roundup. Over the course of 32 installments, we got to share hundreds of great new bands' songs and music videos. I know my iTunes library has grown exponentially because of this one! We are excited for how it will continue to evolve in 2012.
- In March, I started Label Year, the goal of which was to purchase every release by the record label Arts & Crafts in 2011 and write about it. There have been 15 installments so far and a few more to come. It's been a lot of fun hearing some bands I knew, more I didn't, and getting a wide variety of releases, ranging from albums to 7 inches to digital formats.
- I completed a month long immersion into the catalog of the Velvet Underground in August. This involved reviewing their 4 classic studio albums, examining the connections to present day music, looking at the use of their music in film and live performances, ranking their songs, and other things like a post on Andy Warhol's influence, or a breakdown of the epic Sister Ray. This was a maybe excessive but definitely fun exercise, exploring a band in depth.
- In November, I launched This Book Is A Song, which looks at the connections between music and books, two things I love. There have been only two posts so far, but you should expect many more to come.
- We were part of the Paper Crane Collective for its brightly but quickly burning life. Our contribution was All Time Top 5 lists, and my offering was Top 5 Jukebox Jams.
- We also had the chance to offer an album preview in advance of its release (for Icarus Himself Career Culture) and give away some vinyl for free (for Saint Motel's 7"1). I hope this won't be the last we do either of these things.
Of course, there were plenty of new installments of features we launched in 2010, like:
- Music Video Throwbacks on the Strokes, the Foo Fighters, and Blink 182 by me, plus the Chemical Brothers and Blur by Kyle, and Evan Dando by Dave
- Scenes & Songs was nothing if not epic. I wrote about the Social Network & the White Stripes, the three Christopher Guest musical mockumentaries (A Mighty Wind, Waiting For Guffman, and This is Spinal Tap), and Pulp Fiction & the Wu Tang Clan (one of my favorite posts of the year). Dave threw down on Beetle Juice & Harry Belafonte and the Tom Schroeder-Dave King Bike pieces, plus he and Kyle collaborated on an awesome look at the music of The Wire. This last piece and my Wu-Pulp essay made The Shrine as well.
- Speaking of that, we didn't do anything with The Shrine as extensive as last year's week-long commemoration of Pavement, but I did induct Emergency & I by the Dismemberment Plan (another of my favorite posts), as well as This Book Is Broken during Label Year and "Fistful of Love" by Antony & the Johnsons, loosely tied to VU Month. Kyle inducted Mason Jennings' "Ulysses", Ben Folds, Elvis Costello's "No Action" as his favorite Side 1, Track 1, and the documentary Still Bill. Dave inducted Son House.
- We unveiled a few more Collaborative Playlists, including your favorite tracks of 2010, Songs of Spring, and one about songs for a spaceship, our first to use Spotify, which will make sharing these much easier in the future.
That last collaborative playlist was made by submissions from New Zealand bands that performed at the CMJ showcase. I got to interview all of them and that was something I asked each. It really was a great year for interviews, some of these are definitely among my favorites posts of 2011. Thanks to all the bands that we were able to talk to and the publicists that set most of them up. Here's the list:
- Sleeping in the Aviary
- Cairo Knife Fight [part of NZ @ CMJ]
- Street Chant [NZ @ CMJ]
- Popstrangers [NZ @ CMJ]
- Pikachunes [NZ @ CMJ]
- The Golden Awesome [NZ @ CMJ]
- Andrew Keoghan [NZ @ CMJ]
- Princess Chelsea [NZ @ CMJ]
- White Arrows
- Mostar Records co-founder Luke Manning
- Clap Your Hands Say Yeah [archival that I did in 2005 but shared here in conjunction with their new album release]
- Sharon Van Etten [Kyle started our year off impressively!]
Like any year, a lot of bands came into our lives and some left. Though neither were huge favorites of mine, they did figure prominently into my life, so I wrote about LCD Soundsystem and REM upon each of their breakups.
Another one of my favorite posts of the year was sharing my experience of my Uncle Dave playing DJ. I definitely hope to do more of this in 2012.
Obviously as a music blog, we did a lot of posts on songs and albums. I will link to a lot of those in my forthcoming 2011 favorites list as necessary, so that doesn't seem relevant here. Those lists are coming in just a few days, by the way. Get excited!
Another music blog staple is live previews & reviews. I was happy to promote some great shows in both Erie and NYC, Dave let us know a lot about what is going on in Baltimore, and Kyle made a few journeys to Cleveland. I enjoyed all of the shows I covered (my best recap is probably this one on Broken Social Scene), but not every show I saw made it onto the blog. Here were the other highlights:
- Ted Leo performing Tyranny of Distance for its tenth anniversary at South Street Seaport
- Ted Leo playing solo at Brooklyn Bowl
- EMA at Glasslands
- The National & Wye Oak at Beacon Theater
The National was probably the last show I'll see in 2011 and it had an incredible ending: an unplugged, sing along with the audience of "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks." One of the best live moments I've experienced in a while. So I'm going to end this post with that, but before I do, I just want to say it's been great to have this blog as an outlet to share music of all kinds here and I am incredibly thankful for all the readers we've had and fellow bloggers we've interacted with, all the opportunities that have come up to see shows and meet musicians, and all the great music that has been sent to us and all that has been celebrated here by me, Kyle, and Dave. We're really grateful for everything and we hope you'll join us as we continue to love music and write about it in 2012!
The National – Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks