End of Year Musical Panic Attack

2018 is ending, and, like countless years before it, all of my favorite websites are starting to put out their Best Albums of the Year lists. And, as happens every year, I find myself reading these lists and thinking to myself, “Holy shit, I consider myself a music lover, but I haven’t listened to damn near any of these, and I haven’t even heard of a good plenty of them, either.

And so begins the End of Year Musical Panic Attack, the period of horrific realization that, despite my best efforts, I have no idea what’s going on in pop music these days.

One of the many ways in which I lie to myself is my way of telling myself that now that I’m in my 30s, I’ve purged myself of the Fear of Missing Out that defined most of my existence from my teens until my late 20s. The End of Year Musical Panic Attack functions as a stark annual reminder of the limits of my pseudo-enlightenment. I’ve missed everything, and the revelation is terrifying. I should have been checking out the new Pusha T album or the new Travis Scott album or this Kacey Musgraves joint I’ve heard so many good things about instead of spinning Number of the Beast for the bajillionth time while I’m chilling on the bus.

And this, I think, is the key to how I got to this position in the first place. When I was still a kid, the driving force of my FOMO was the insecurity, the nagging belief that while I was stuck doing nothing at home, all of my friends were out partying and having fun without me, perhaps (probably, even) because I wasn’t around to be a depressive wet blanket. This is the fear I’ve mostly gotten rid of. I’ll head out if I feel like it.

But back in the day, I wasn’t at all concerned with missing out on new music. In my mind’s eye, worrying about missing out on new music wasn’t punk rock, and in those dark times, before I achieved meaningful self-awareness and could only perceive my identity as an ill-formed mass of unexamined socioeconomic privileges and the opinions those privileges gave rise to, concern with being punk rock was of the utmost. I may not have had any understanding of how my existence or actions fit into any larger picture of society, but if I could be punk rock I could rest easy, knowing that I have done what is good, because doing what is punk rock is what is good in itself.

But as I grew older, I came to a series of realizations that eventually got me to rethink this whole approach. The most important of these, and the one from which all the others flowed, was that there is no internal or external reward for shrinking any aspect of one’s worldview. No one , on either an individual or societal level, is going to thank you for choosing to be ignorant, unless they have also made that choice for themselves. Neither will you thank yourself, because a shrunken world is a concession to depression itself, a way of making yourself OK with not even trying to deal with your problems at all the times that mentality is the opposite of what you need.

And, more importantly, new music is good! Fantastic fucking music is being made all the time by everybody and you should listen to it. The moment of discovery, the pulsing warmth of unending possibility that surges through you when you open yourself to new experiences can be yours every time you put on a new album (or mixtape, or single, or whatever the kids may choose to call it in the future. It’s all music, regardless of the packaging nomenclature).

And so it was that I decided to make it a point to check out the new shit. But since so many of my listening habits were calcified at a time when I wasn’t even trying to keep up with anything new, remembering to seek out cool, intriguing shit is something I have to remind myself to do, and then once I’ve gotten a list in my head of music I wanna check out, I have to keep it in my head until the next time I’m able to sit down and listen.

The end result is the End of Year Musical Panic Attack. Presented below is a list of every album that I’ve been seeing on end of year best-of lists that I’ve listened to more than once:

-Vince Staples, FM!

Snail Mail, Lush

Cardi B, Invasion of Privacy

Beach House, 7

Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Wasteland

That’s it. That’s the whole list, I think. Hard to keep track, honestly. (There’s also the new CHVRCHES album I guess, and it was OK I guess, but ‘OK I guess’ is a huge disappointment compared to CHVRCHES’ established standard.) Holy shit, what was I doing this whole time? Now I have to strap myself down in a gurney and shotgun through like, 80,000,000 albums and mixtapes from this year, Clockwork Orange-style if necessary. It’s gonna take me into January for sure, and probably February and March as well, and by then I’m already gonna be impossibly behind on 2019.

This happens every year. December comes around and I find myself buried under an avalanche of my own ignorance, a cataclysmic signifier of past and present failures to engage with not only new music but with society as a whole, of my privileged insularity against the ravages of time – there’s horrible shit happening every day; mass shootings and institutional racism and sexism and interpersonal racism and sexism and the widening wealth gap and the mounting evidence that the Earth will soon shut down the systems that biological life requires to function – and of the fact that another year has come and gone, another year in which I haven’t done anything to make the world a meaningfully better place.

And that’s the End of Year Musical Panic Attack. I need to calm down. Time for a third cup of coffee.

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