So this is Christmas and what have I done? In short, this year, I’ve written a ton. I sit at my desk most weekend mornings, tap-tap-tapping away about new releases, old favorites and related ephemera on my eight-year-old MacBook Pro’s keyboard, always hoping to have something to say beyond “it’s great.” Sometimes, the results work as intended. More often, however, I stammer and stutter in print, with stilted grammar, fluttery rhythms and forced rhymes punctuating my prose. Either/or, however, I hope my sense of whimsy flows through and, too, that folks get a sense of the subjects from my words—and, more importantly, appreciate my insights and observations.
My favorite pieces to write are those that focus on Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, as it’s easy to gain and share insights when someone’s music has long been ingrained in one’s DNA. A few of my other pieces worked well, too. As I do every year about this time, I thought I’d share the ones I’m most proud of. They’re arranged in chronological order.
- The Fogelberg Files: An Introduction (1/9/21). It’s probably cheating to single out an ongoing series—10 entries, thus far—so I’ll just spotlight the intro. But I’m proud of most of the posts, as I weave in not just my insights, but the contemporaneous thoughts of critics. (And, too, I embed some cool newspaper adverts!)
- First Read: Old Monarch by Courtney Marie Andrews (4/9/21). I worked on this piece not just for a morning, but for a week, writing much of it in the Notes app on my iPhone. It’s not often that I get to celebrate poetry, after all, and I wanted to do both the art form and Ms. Andrews justice. (That said, I’m still sad that I couldn’t work in the words of wisdom my old poetry prof, John Haag, often shared with the class: “Don’t state. Create!”)
- First Read: Duran Duran’s Rio by Annie Zaleski (5/16/21). I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Duran Duran fan, yet this slim tome proved a delight to read and write about. It made for a perfect launchpad for explaining my approach to music criticism.
- The Essentials: Sleeps With Angels by Neil Young & Crazy Horse (7/11/21). SWA is an oft-overlooked entry in Neil Young’s canon, but one that shouldn’t be. Because of that, although I spotlighted him a few other times this year, this is the Neil-related post I’m most proud of.
- First Impressions: Mind Gardens (40th Anniversary Edition) by the Salvation Army. I wrote about the Three O’Clock early in the year, when I celebrated Arrive Without Travelling, but spotlighting the forerunner to that group proved way cooler to me, as the EP’s four songs encapsulate everything I loved and still love about the Paisley Underground.
And, with that, the annual navel-gazing exercise that I dub “Remember December” has come to an end for 2021. Tomorrow, I’ll share my New Year’s resolutions…and then get back to the raison d’être for this blog: Music new and old.