A New Times Writer Fights "Aesthetic Atrophy" by Listening Only to New Music in 2010

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MC: Is there a record you now love that you're pretty sure you never would have listened to without the Nothing Not New project?

JB: I would say 90 percent of the stuff I really liked. Because, based on the whole aesthetic atrophy thing, I simply wasn't listening to new music. I used to buy a shitload of new music. It was a thing I used to do — every week, I'd go to the record store and buy one or two, maybe even three new records. But over the past 10 years or so, I stopped doing that, so if I hadn't done Nothing Not New, I probably wouldn't have bought much new stuff at all. If I were in L.A. or something and it was, like, "Let's go to a record store and drop $100," I'd probably buy a lot of reissues or some obscure thing from the '60s that I'd always wanted to hear. But most of the new stuff, while I would be aware it was out — I'd hear the names and read about it — I wouldn't actually ever hear it. In recent years, I've read more about new music than I actually listen to.

MC: What about Deerhunter's Halcyon Digest, your favorite record of the year?

JB: No chance. I would have said, "Deerhunter: Oh, another band with deer in the name." I would not have heard it. No Age is another one I wouldn't have listened to. Even Dead Weather — I wouldn't have even bothered with it. I might listen to one song on YouTube and think, "Oh, that's cool," but I wouldn't go drop $12 on the record, like I used to do.

MC: Is there anything from these bands where you know it's their second or third album — maybe like Deerhunter — that you love and it makes you want to go back and hear their early stuff? If I was in that position and I loved a new record from a band, I would ache to go back and hear their early stuff.

JB: No, not really. I can't say I'm dying to hear anything. Maybe something like Belle & Sebastian, where I liked the new record enough, and I know they have a huge back catalog. I didn't love it, but I liked it, and people say, "Well, you have to hear this record that they put out in 1995." So I guess I'd like to hear the quote-unquote "classic" albums from acts that put out an album in 2010 that I liked, but everyone says, "Oh, you've gotta hear this one."

MC: It seems you and your wife, Laura, ended up disagreeing on a few records, like the Girl Talk album you hated and she liked. Did others like that pop up? What did she think of this whole project?

JB: I didn't hate the Girl Talk record. I listened to it, and I couldn't help but be sucked in. That's its danger. This is a trite analogy, but it's like junk food. I could sit there and eat McRibs all day long and love it but know it's not good for me. Like drinking Bohemia at two in the afternoon on a workday.

But getting back to your question about Laura: Yeah, there were a lot of things where she asked what I listened to today and I was, like, "Hey, I kinda liked this," and more often than not, [from her] it'd be, "Naw, I'm not digging it."

MC: Was her aesthetic atrophy as advanced as yours?

JB: Yeah, if not more so. I think she's even more skeptical than I am — but it's not just her. A lot of people I know, they like what they like, and they don't seem that interested in new bands. They like what they like from that key moment in their lives when music was the most important thing in the whole world to them. After that period in your life, as your life changes, you're stuck at that apex. If it happens to be 1987 and you're a senior in high school and The Smiths is all you care about, then nothing is ever going to be as good as The Smiths.

MC: How did you pick what you were going to listen to throughout the year? What would pique your interest in a record?

JB: The great undefinable quality attached to the word "buzz" would definitely be one thing — buzz from people I know at work and socially and from taste-making websites like Pitchfork or The Onion's AV Club.

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Martin Cizmar
Contact: Martin Cizmar