One of the great things about where I live, and there are many similar locations across the country, is the proximity to a local park/nature trail. The one in my neck of woods surrounds a municipally owned golf course, which has a path covered in mulch on the outer extremities of the property. The majority of the course rests upon a large and rocky hilltop and has a creek that runs underneath it, ultimately forming into a pond in the centre of the north side. Of course, there are plenty of ducks happily reside there, safe in the knowledge that the people who walk through the area will leave them be, or drop breadcrumbs for them to squabble over. I’ve witnessed the odd feeding, and it is not for the faint of heart.
Usually, my strolls through this trail are not done solo. The pleasant atmosphere makes it ideal for nice sixty-minute walk with a partner. I actually had my first unaccompanied journey around the golf course this week. When walking by myself, like many, my ears are caressed with music delivered from headphones or earbuds. Knowing a situation like would eventually arise, I previously curated my phone with a bunch of artists that I have enjoyed listening over my four decades of life. Some are guilty pleasures, and some I believe to be true musical artists who are honest to their craft. What I am slowly trying to say is, don’t judge me with what is about to be transcribed to the permanence of TheInterwebz™.
I was approaching the second bend of the trail when a song from Sum 41 came on. It might have been from their release from a couple months ago, I can’t remember. What the song was does not really matter, but what it did do was remind me of events of my past when a song of theirs might have played. Nostalgia was triggered in the way that only music can do. How many times have we heard songs that we loved when we were growing up being used a modern television program, commercial, a movie, only to have it inspire us to buy a product or at the very least listen to the song or entire album? Of course listening to this throwaway song from Sum 41 did not just trigger said nostalgia, but it lead me along a different path than what was before my eyes in the park. I began to take stock in the music that I’ve been listening to or have purchased over the past couple of years. More importantly, I thought about my usual process of finding new music to listen to. Sadly, it goes something like the following: First, on Friday mornings, I log into my Apple Music account and navigate to the new music prompt. Second, I scan for artists I recognize. Third, if there is an artist I know, I will listen to the album and purchase where appropriate. Fourth, I navigate to the Just for You new music section and go through a similar process. Sometimes, just sometimes, I’ll listen to the entire new music playlist that Apple generates for me, and maybe 10% of the time I find something or someone new that I enjoy and will investigate further. The thought of this process yielded some conclusions that disappoint me and sparked further questions.
Eight short years ago (I remember when eight years seemed like a long time), I began my twenty episode podcast journey which explored new music and celebrated music from my past. Since then, I’ve experimented with Nerdcore Hip-hop, EDM, but my roots still remain, which lean towards the rock, ska, SoCal punk, and 90s alternative (not the god awful stuff that counts as alternative these days), with bands and performers like Incubus, The Offspring, Foo Fighters (of course), Ben Folds, Gorillaz, Mad Caddies, Tegan and Sara, and yes, the aforementioned Sum 41. While I still find new artists I enjoy, like Halsy, CHVRCHES, Tove Lo, and Dorothy, my scope modern music that I enjoy grows increasingly narrow. I am getting perilously close to the point that most adults eventually reach. That point where you believe all new music is crap, with music from our generation being infinitely better than what is currently being produced.
It began to dawn on me that perhaps this musical evolution is an indicator that the listener has completed the “growing-up” process. A sign of full adulthood. At first, this made sense. I felt that even through my early thirties, I still had yet to completely grow up. I quickly called bullshit on this, as there are people who have yet to really grow up and are listening to eighties hair bands. While I called BS, the train of thought had merit. The ability to enjoy new music as an adult could also be an indicator of ones ability to continue evolving. There comes the point when a person becomes a full-on zebra. This idea, I think, has more merit. When I reflect on how much personal change I have gone through over the past few years, I know I am still evolving. At the same time, I still occasionally find new music that I fall in love with. I know I have not stopped my personal evolution. In some aspects, I think my evolution is just beginning. When I think honestly, I remember a period back in the doughnuts when I realized how much popular music is churned out like butter. It is my hope that it’s not my evolution that has stuttered, but that I have become more of a wine taster. I know what is good, and what I like. Part of the role of a taster is also to experiment and try new things—which I still do. It is with that in mind I find myself having a positive outlook on what is yet to come. This journey that I am on, I believe, is far from being over.
People evolve and it’s important to not stop evolving just because you’ve reached ‘adulthood.’
-J. K. Simmons