I like to do monthly challenges. My favourites have included Newpodanuary (listening to a new podcast every day of January), Waste-freebruary (collecting all non-recyclable waste I used in February in a tiny jar), and Maysicals (I just watched a whole bunch of musical in May). I noticed a trend though, which is that I was doing things that… weren’t that difficult. Maybe difficult is the wrong word. Waste-freebruary was certainly difficult. But these challenges weren’t out-of-character. I already listened to a lot of podcasts, I was just trying new ones I’d been meaning to get to. I already was interested in and had taken some steps into reducing my personal waste output (hello bamboo toothbrush). Maysicals was when it really hit me that my so-called “challenges” were a joke because the number of musicals I watched that month ended up being a fairly average statistic for the rest of my year. I was doing things I enjoyed and knew I would enjoy. I wanted to try a real challenge. Something I might hate.
Enter A(lbum)pril/April(bum). I never quite figured out which portmanteau was less terrible. As mentioned earlier, I listen to a lot of podcasts – up to around 25 hours per week. Putting my earphones in is the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I do before I go to sleep at night. As you may imagine, this leaves very limited free-ear time for music. Because of this, I found myself just… not knowing anything about it. I didn’t know what different genres really meant, or who Dua Lipa was. I knew I wanted to use albums as the format because I liked the idea of a discreet unit of music that I could check off. Just one new song per day felt too easy, and I already had the problem of only knowing one or two well-known singles by any artist. But I didn’t know where to start. So I asked around. It turns out, everybody listens to music and they all have a lot of opinions. Who knew? I’m sorry in advance if I write mean things about anything you recommended to me, it in no way reflects upon you as an individual, just know I think your taste in music is truly abhorrent.
Even people who do listen to music don’t listen to albums much these days. And it’s no wonder with how difficult it is. I used to put CDs in, but I don’t have anything that can read discs now. Then I used to buy albums on Google Play Music, but its successor YouTube Music is subscription/streaming only. I can’t even play an album in order on Spotify – for real, try the free version of Spotify and decide for yourself whether it’s a “premium” or fundamentally necessary feature to be able to, for example, type in the name of a song and then click play and then listen to that song (seriously the mobile app does not let you do that without paying).
All this to say, I ended up listening to the albums on YouTube, either as a compilation video or a playlist. This was fine, but it meant I wasn’t able to listen to them in the way I do podcasts because I had to be on my phone with an internet connection and an awake screen in order for them to play. This was terrible for me because it meant there were very few hours in the day where I could get my challenge done and not much I could be doing in the meantime. But it was probably good for the challenge because it made the listening more purposeful – I paid more attention and I even took notes.
This series will be published twice weekly, on Thursdays and Sundays, so watch this space.
Next edition’s reviews: one album not about goats and one that GLEE considered one of the best break-up albums of all time.