Happy March, everybody. This month rounds out the first quarter of 2012, and boy oh boy, do we have a lot to talk about in terms of music.
Wait, no we don’t.
That’s actually a problem. I know that the “Album Reviews” column under the site is looking pretty neglected, and part of that is because I’ve been annoyingly busy for most of the year (my apologies), but at the same time…there’s been very little that commanded reviewing. As far as new releases go, I’d like to think I’m pretty plugged in: this list is under my favorites, Metacritic is one of my most viewed sites, Pitchfork gets checked most mornings for big names, and I check around review sites on Tuesdays. If there’s something to be found, odds are I’m going to find it.
And that just hasn’t been the case this year. Typically, January has a limited release schedule, but things normally pick up in February, and that didn’t really happen. Think of it like this: by this point in 2010, we’d seen big releases by: Owen Pallet, Vampire Weekend, Beach House, Yaesayer, Johanna Newsome, and Spoon. Last year, we were listening to: The Decemberists, Destroyer, Iron & Wine, Bright Eyes, PJ Harvey, and Radiohead by this point. This year we have Sleigh Bells, Lana Del Rey, and Sharon Van Etten?
And pop doesn’t fair any better. In 2010, we had Ke$ha, Lady Antebellum, Lil Wayne, and Sade in January and February. Last year, Ricky Martin, Justin Beiber, Jessie J, and Adele all had albums before March came rolling around. Meanwhile, I’m seeing almost nothing for this year yet, not even any C-listers. That’s reflected in the charts, too: aside from Van Halen, of all people, the only 2012 releases in the Billboard 200 top 20 are albums that debuted this week, which have a tendency to drop as the weeks go on.
Metacritic shows a dearth of not just big releases, but big, quality releases. Looking down this list of new releases by metascore, everything above, say Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas is either a rerelease of a classic (DSotM, for example), or has less than 10 professional reviews (by comparison, Lana Del Rey’s hype-killer Born to Die has 37). It makes for a somewhat disheartening start to the year.
It could just be that there’s a cyclical nature to music and releases. Artists take 3ish years on average to release a new album, so some years, it feels like almost everyone’s releasing something big (2011), and then other years, it takes awhile to get the ball rolling. And it felt like 2011’s fourth quarter was stuffed; maybe it just feels like it’s taking longer to pick back up after such an explosive time. And besides, March and April look decent already, and May is solidifying (new Garbage!), so things are looking up. Maybe music’s just hibernating longer than usual.