But in the name of combating the scourge of aesthetic atrophy, I'm obligated to traverse this course of deprivation. I'm hoping you're along for the ride and that you, too, reassess your own musical diet and, more important, your musical appetite.

What have I learned six weeks into Nothing Not New? In broad terms, I don't always need what I can get. And I'm guessing you don't, either. Recently, I noticed The Rolling Stones' Beggars Banquet beckoning me from my CD collection. But I know that record backward and forward. So, what could I possibly get out of it at this point?

In discussing the project with a younger friend recently, he told me his 50-year-old dad is always willing to listen to the new music his son gives him, but, invariably, Dad says, "It's okay . . . But it's not as good as ____, who did it better in 1978." Aesthetic atrophy has seemingly doomed the dude's dad.

You still may be a couple of decades away from 50, yet you've probably said something similar. Fine. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Just because you think there will never be another Beatles or Beach Boys or Ramones or R.E.M. or Joan Jett or Jimi Hendrix doesn't mean the current artists influenced by those greats are any less, um . . . good. (You, a fan, are no more qualified to make that judgment than I, a listener, am.)

This is my lesson, six weeks in: All we can do is continue to absorb new music in a concerted effort to reflect on what it is we appreciate and don't appreciate. To reflect on our taste, or lack thereof.

It's intellectually dishonest to disavow the music created by new artists. But I do it and you do it. Hopefully, with Nothing Not New, I do it a lot less. But I've re-learned that music I can appreciate (no, like) is being created as you read this, and released every single Tuesday of the year. Are you willing to accept that fact, too? You almost have to accept it, as discomfiting as it may seem to those of us with the same 200 songs shuffling around on our iPod.

So, my challenge to you: Fight the imminent onset of aesthetic atrophy. You don't have to listen to 260 new releases this year. I'll do that for you. Instead, take those 10 tired CDs out of your car or create a new playlist on your iPod or ask your hipster friend to burn some new discs for you. I and other New Times readers want to hear what you have to say about the music you'd probably never listen to otherwise. Seriously, it's for your own good.

As they say, everyone's a critic. So don't be a critic. And you know what? Don't be a fan, either.

Just be a listener.


Adjusting the Curve

I've been grading new releases based on what I've heard this year, not on what I've adored for the past 20-plus years (because what can compete with The Stooges' Fun House, the Elvis Presley Sun sessions, or The Beatles' Revolver?). Here's how the 2010 releases stack up. You can read about each of them at www.nothingnotnew.com):

The Soft Pack: The Soft Pack (A)
Charlotte Gainsbourg: IRM (A-)
Pierced Arrows: Descending Shadows (A-)
Los Campesinos!: Romance Is Boring (B+)
Surfer Blood: Astro Coast (B+)
Eels: End Times (B+)
Priestess: Prior to the Fire (B+)
Hot Chip: One Life Stand (B+)
Juliana Hatfield: Peace & Love (B+)
Scanners: Submarine (B)
Spoon: Transference (B)
Laura Veirs: July Flame (B)
Allison Moorer: Crows (B)
You Say Party! We Say Die!: XXXX (B)
The Hot Rats: Turn Ons (B)
The Magnetic Fields: Realism (B)
Cold War Kids: Behave Yourself EP (B-)
Polysics: Absolute Polysics (C+)
Texas Tornados: Está Bueno (C+)
Joe Pug: Messengers (C)
The Brunettes: Paper Dolls (C)
Beach House: Teen Dream (C)
OK Go: Of the Colour of the Blue Sky (C)
The Watson Twins: Talking to You, Talking to Me (C)
Basia Bulat: Heart of My Own (C)
Massive Attack: Heligoland (C-)
Delphic: Acolyte (C-)
Yeasayer: Odd Blood (C-)
Vampire Weekend: Contra (D+)
Four Tet: There Is Love in You (D)
Editors: In This Light and On This Evening (D)
Midlake: The Courage of Others (F)
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3 comments
robert c
robert c

I feel sorry for Jay Bennett here, being persuaded to participate in a project with a seriously flawed premise.

The concept of "aesthetic atrophy" as defined by Martin Cizmar is very tunnel-visioned. Avoiding this kind of "atrophy" has everything to do with how life, art, music, literature is approached...and pretty much nothing to do with only listening to new music. Is it "good" simply because it's new. Naah.

I think "aesthetic atrophy" is avoided by an open-minded approach to all things experienced and not-yet-experienced. "New" can also mean, say, music I've never heard before. That's new to me. Listening only to music that's new can be just just as atrophying as someone who's addicted to the classic rock of various decades. It's about limiting your vision.

I listened to plenty of crap in my 20s and 30s, much of it I'll never listen to again, and no loss. Real art keeps up a continuing dialogue with the listener over time, and so do musicians who are artists. What's pathetic is someone -- no matter the age -- who's focused mainly on what's hip/hot etc etc. That's what I call pathetic. I know quite a few people slip-sliding into middle-age (or firmly in it), who are way more open to a variety of music than they ever were as 20-somethings...but thumbs up to open-minded listeners of all ages.

So...I think the task that Martin Cizmar has put Jay Bennett to is a very limiting one, as likely to induce atrophy as any Classic Rock Hot 100 list. Jay -- throw off those chains, free yourself and listen to and review anything you damn well please...

Jay Bennett
Jay Bennett

I agree that Surfer Blood is one of the better CDs I've heard this year.

Of course this project's pretentious. It's high-concept, so it can't avoid some pretension.

Eric
Eric

Doing something and then saying you're not doing it just makes you even more of a pretentious a-hole with no real talent.

Surfer Blood is the best thing released this year. I'll take being called a critic in saying that.

 
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