My early morning epiphanies are typically inaccurate and unreliable, but this morning I was pondering why I’ve been struggling to come up with a candidate for ‘best new album for 2008’ when I had an epiphany of sorts.Â The selection of an album of the year isn’t in itself important, but I think it speaks to how I’m feeling about things.Â In times of happiness I consume a lot of new music, and bond with it strongly. When things are more stressful I turn to old favorites, preferring music that has comforted me in the past.
When I look back at what I have been listening to during 2008 it’s mostly been old favorites and soothing sounds: albums like Joe Lovano’s All for You, Sufjan Stevens’ Greetings from Illinois, and Crosby, Stills, & Nash’s Greatest Hits.Â Most recently I’ve been playing Van Morrison’s Moondance over and over – it would probably be my album of the year if I had to choose one.
And that made me think: why?Â Why old favorites and soothing sounds?Â I think the answer is this: while 2008 has overwhelmingly been my most successful year in professional terms, full of some wonderful things happening (the stunning surprise of the Hugo nomination, winning the Locus Award, my first job promotion in years, some terrific books published etc etc), I’ve not been very happy.Â 2008 was supposed to be a year of rest and recuperation. I had more than four months off from the day job to relax. I had two trips to the United States to see people.Â It was a year free of disasters.Â And yet, looking back, I spent a heck of a lot of the year stressed and unhappy.Â Or at least that’s how it seems, as I sit here with the Christmas coming and the end of the year weeks away. It’s made me think about what I need to change to make 2009 a better year.