Eight Hundred
On the Virtues of Having No Plan

This is my 800th Tuesday Morning 3 A.M. column, and I have nothing special planned.

That’s kind of fitting, though, I think. When I started this silly music column back in November of 2000, I didn’t even think I’d still be doing it six months later, let alone nearly 16 years. I’ve never had a life plan, never really thought things out too far beyond the year I’m in. There are certainly flaws in that philosophy. I could be saving more for retirement than I am, for instance. But having no plan has led me on a fascinating journey so far, culminating in my current job as part of the communication team at the country’s biggest and best particle physics laboratory. Be honest, those of you who knew me when: could you ever have predicted that? Me neither.

In fact, the area of my life for which I do the most advance planning is music. I have a cultural calendar that stretches out a couple years, full of albums and concerts I’m anticipating. I started keeping track as a way to stave off depression – “Look! Tori Amos will have a new album in September! Don’t be sad!” While it still somewhat serves this purpose (though I don’t need it to nearly as much as I used to), now it’s a series of milestones I look forward to. (There are other non-musical things on there as well. Doctor Who returns in December, for example.)

In the absence of any other plan for this column, I figured I’d take a look at that cultural calendar and point out some things still to come this year that I’m excited about. For me, that’s what this is still about – staying excited about music. I promised some time ago that I would never turn into one of those old people who only listens to the music that made him feel good at 17. Granted, I still do listen to a lot of that, but I’ve kept my vow to try new things, to stay as close to the curve as I can, to listen without prejudice.

And yet, the records I am most looking forward to before the end of the year are mainly longtime favorites making long-awaited returns. That’s just the way the calendar has shaken out. Here are six upcoming albums that have me doubled over in anticipation, counting the days until I can hear them. Here are six upcoming albums that I hope will be good enough to make it to my list in December. Here are six upcoming reasons to love life.

De La Soul, And the Anonymous Nobody, Aug. 26

You can keep your Drakes and your Kanyes. The hip-hop album I am most looking forward to this year heralds the return of the daisy age. Posdnous, Mase and Dave are always worth hearing – even their most fallow records, like AOI: Bionix, sport some strong rhymes and some creative production. This new one, though, promises to be something special. Funded through Kickstarter, this album represents a new lease on life for the trio, and the songs I’ve heard are remarkably weird, jazzy and interesting. When they’re at their best, De La is unstoppable. Here’s hoping And the Anonymous Nobody finds them at their best.

The Dear Hunter, Act V: Hymns for the Devil in Confessional, Sept. 9

I love surprises. The fact that Casey Crescenzo recorded the fifth act of his six-act story at the same time as the fourth, and didn’t tell anyone, only heightens my anticipation for this thing. If you’re not familiar with the Dear Hunter, mastermind Crescenzo has been telling a long and complex story over multiple albums full of riveting, intricate, lushly orchestrated music. At this point, the story has such a narrative force that I’m almost more excited to hear what happens next than to hear what new melodic wonders are in store. Luckily, Crescenzo has delivered both, if the first two singles are any indication. There’s nothing like the Dear Hunter, and I’m thrilled that we get a new chapter so quickly.

Marillion, Fuck Everyone and Run, Sept. 23

Probably my most anticipated album of the year. Marillion never sits still, and never makes the same music twice. As you can tell from the album title, they’re also pretty fearless, and from all accounts they’ve made a strongly political piece of work here. This album’s five songs stretch to 70 minutes, with multiple movements and sections, and I’m expecting a difficult and bold effort, one that will probably take me several listens to appreciate. (I supported this on PledgeMusic, and the band has already let backers hear the 16:45 “The New Kings.” It’s about the one percent, and it’s definitely taken many listens to really dig into.) Marillion is one of my very favorite bands, and they seem proud of this one, both for the music and for what it says. Very much looking forward to seeing the band in Chicago in October as well.

Bon Iver, 22, A Million, Sept. 30

Speaking of never sitting still, is there another musician harder to get a handle on than Justin Vernon? He started out as a backwoods folkie, tore that image apart with his self-titled album, made a bunch of unlikely guest appearances (he’s on two Kanye West albums), then disappeared for a few years. Now he’s back with the oddly titled 22, A Million (with its even odder tracklist), and the two songs he’s let slip from this project are unlike anything he’s done. Bizarre in an almost off-putting way, yet somehow exactly right, these new songs are barely there, held together by threads. That they’re the first two songs on the record only makes me more curious. I never know what to expect, and that’s thrilling for me.

S U R V I V E, RR7349, Sept. 30

This is a brand new discovery, and I’m not alone, I’m sure. If you watched Netflix’s Stranger Things, you’ve heard S U R V I V E. Their distinctly ‘80s synth score is one of the most important elements of that show, and naturally I’m salivating to hear a full album of this stuff from them. The sounds this band conjures up take me right back to my youth. Like the show, I predict this album will be the surprise hit of my year.

Tom Chaplin, The Wave, Oct. 14

I spoke last week about things I never expected to hear, and this solo album from Keane’s golden-voiced frontman is one of them. Since leaving the band, Chaplin has been drowning in addiction, and after getting clean, he wrote this record to tell the tale. I’ve heard a couple songs, and while they don’t scale the same melodic heights as Keane, they’re dark and memorable pop tunes. Most of all, I missed Tom Chaplin’s voice, and I’m glad he’s righted his ship and given me this chance to hear it again. I expect an emotional trip.

There’s more, of course – I am planning to buy sixty-some new records before the end of the year, and I hope many of them will surprise me. (New things by Suzanne Vega, Devin Townsend, Flock of Dimes and that collaboration between Rostam and Hamilton Leithauser lead the second tier.) There’s always more music, always more hope.

When I started TM3AM, I intended it as a travelogue, a recounting of the journey of an obsessive music fan. I began writing it for me, and I still do. I have a nice comfortable readership, but I don’t do any promotion, and I expect the people who are reading now are the same ones who have been reading for years. I’m immensely grateful for all of you, and for the friendships I have made through writing this thing. While I still think of this as my musical diary, it’s not a closed system, and I wouldn’t have made it through 800 of these things without you. So thank you.

Next week, number 801. True to form, I have no plan. Follow Tuesday Morning 3 A.M. on Facebook here.

See you in line Tuesday morning.