Putting It Out There
My Plans for Year 13

Well, hello there. How have you been? Oh, me? New year, same cough.

I’ve basically been sick since the last time we spoke. Coughing, sneezing, sniffling, stuffy head, very little rest, despite the medicine and the days I’ve spent in bed. I’m on week four of this disease now, and it’s simply not going away. I’d feel worse about it if virtually everyone I know weren’t also sick. I spoke to a woman the other day at work – she’s been coughing for six weeks. Six. Weeks.

But enough about me, he said, sneezing into his arm. Let’s talk about 2013, the glorious new year we now find ourselves in. My mother’s lucky number is 13. Yes, that’s weird. No, don’t ask. But this is the only “13” year she will see. We’re hoping for good things.

That’s kind of been the theme of these early January posts for a while now. It’s become a tradition of sorts for me to fill the first column of a new year with all the reasons this will be the Best Year Ever. But after my 2012 batting average, I think we’re going to put that idea to rest. Why, you ask? Well, let’s take a look at the scoreboard, and see just how many of my 12 predictions of greatness last year panned out, shall we?

I expected great things from the Guided By Voices reunion, and so far (three albums and counting), it’s been… OK. Ani Difranco’s Which Side Are You On was decent, if unremarkable. I can’t even remember Field Music’s Plumb, and my affection for the Magnetic Fields’ Love at the Bottom of the Sea waned quickly. The new Choir album was underwhelming, the Early November reunion merely pretty good. Perennial sure things Aimee Mann and the Shins released mediocre records. And The Hobbit movie was too long and too padded to soar, although I enjoyed it.

That’s nine of the 12 breathless anticipations falling short. The only ones who came through were Marillion, Nada Surf and my friend Andrea Dawn. Even though I liked all of those records a great deal, that’s a 25 percent success rate. That’s a failing grade in any school.

So yeah, 2012 didn’t quite cooperate with me. And even though there are already plenty of records I’m looking forward to in 2013 –including new things from Bad Religion, Camper Van Beethoven, the Joy Formidable, Local Natives, Tegan and Sara, Eels, Frightened Rabbit, Richard Thompson, Foals, Steven Wilson and Cloud Cult – I’m happy not to give this year the same chance to let me down.

Instead, I thought I’d give myself a chance to let you all down by sharing some of my resolutions for this site – nay, this multimedia empire – in the new year. It’s a pretty ambitious list, and I’m hoping I can stick with it. I’ve been writing TM3AM for 12 years now, and I feel like I’ve never tapped into its full potential. This is the year I hope to do that, and here are some of the ways I’d like to try.

1. Kickstart my blog. You may have noticed that at the end of every column, I invite readers to check out my blog, where I post music news, first-listen reviews, and other ancillary pieces that don’t make it into the weekly column. You also may have noticed that I haven’t updated the damn thing in just about a year and a half.

This was not intentional – I took a job that required every waking hour I had, and I just lost track of it. So this year, I’d like to claim it back. I have a few ideas about how to do that, but most importantly, I now have a job that allows me some regular working hours, and a full night’s sleep every day. I don’t want to get into the same situation I found myself in at the end of 2012, with about 60 albums sitting unreviewed, and in many cases, unheard. That’s not acceptable, and I hope a reborn TM3AM blog will fix that.

2. Revive my Twitter account. Once again, I’ve been asking readers to follow my tweets every week, and I haven’t actually tweeted in more than half a year. In this case, the reason is a little more prosaic: I just don’t like Twitter. But I see its purpose, and I know I have to use it, so I’m gonna. One thing I’d like to return to is my live first-listen Twitter reviews. It’s sort of my version of a song-and-dance show – instant impressions of a new record, in quick bites, as they occur to me. People seemed to like these reviews, and I enjoyed doing them, so I’d like to bring them back.

3. Start podcasting. This is more of a wish list item, but I’d like to make it happen. I would love to find a roundtable group of music fans, and produce a regular podcast in which we dissect new music. I’ve participated in a few of these, and they’re great fun. The only thing keeping me from podcasting in the past has been a reluctance to talk to myself in an empty room. But with a group of critics, it would be immensely enjoyable, for me and for you, I think. So I’m putting it on the resolutions list. By my June 5 birthday, there will be a TM3AM podcast.

4. Actually write my Frank Zappa Buyer’s Guide. Longtime readers may remember this project, which never saw the light of day. I regretted not writing it then, but in retrospect, now is the perfect time. Sixty of Frank’s albums have just been remastered and re-released, joining the roughly 30 and counting posthumous documents issued by the Zappa Family Trust. It’s a massive catalog, and now it sounds better than it ever has. It’s a difficult body of work to navigate, but I’ve had years to hone my responses to it, and I’m ready to share. With so much attention being paid to Zappa’s musical genius these days, I feel it is my duty.

5. Try more new bands, and write about them. I’m a curmudgeon. This should come as no surprise. I prefer artists with longer catalogs and proven track records to flash-in-the-pan newbies with a single and an armload of hype. Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to take chances on more new bands, and while it hasn’t always worked out, I’ve discovered some winners. (My number one pick of 2012, for instance.) This year, I will try to remember that every veteran band was once a fledgling unit peddling their first effort, and I’ll endeavor to hear more of those first efforts.

6. Stay positive. I know it will come as a shock to those of you who criticize TM3AM for its relentless sunny outlook, but after 2012, remaining optimistic is quite a bit more difficult. But I will try. Music is such an important part of my life that a misfire year can wreak havoc on my attitude. I just have to keep on remembering what a wise man – the aforementioned Frank Zappa, in fact – once said: music is the best. And it really, truly is.

So there you have it. Here’s hoping I can do all of the above. Thanks, as always, to everyone who has followed along for these last dozen years. Year Thirteen is going to be (dare I say it?) the Best Year Ever. Come on back in seven days when we begin in earnest. Leave a comment on my blog at tm3am.blogspot.com. Follow my infrequent twitterings at www.twitter.com/tm3am.

See you in line Tuesday morning.