I've written fairly regularly about the consequences of the pandemic for musicians and other music industry professionals - most recently in connection with the December issue of Nightshift. But what about those on the other side of the fence, so to speak: music consumers, with whom I can most closely identify?
In an article for the Quietus, regular contributor Daniel Dylan Wray gives an insight into - and attempts to make sense of - COVID-19's impact on his listening habits. "If anyone else has had a strange, strained and discombobulated relationship with one of the things you hold most dear to you during this tumultuous turd of a year", he says, "then fret not, you're not alone." An avowed obsessive, he admits that music has largely failed to fulfil its usual role as a source of sustenance and comfort, leaving him feeling jaded rather than energised.
Thankfully, though, he's gradually learned not to feel guilty at the unfamiliar disinclination to have new music on constant rotation and instead started to enjoy the silence: "This sense of letting go and embracing the disconnect, and subsequent void, allowed a gentle reset to take place."
I can't say that this particularly struck a chord personally - I'm not a 24/7 music listener at the best of times, and music has continued to be a reliable pick-me-up - but the principal reason that Wray posits to explain his own experience did ring true. He points out that the means by which to discover new music are normally legion, as are the physical spaces in which this discovery takes place. In 2020, however, "that process has been hacked down to nothing more than sitting in front of a computer screen at home. Reducing it to an utterly interchangeable and homogenised experience with everything else we do sat at home in front of a computer screen: emails, admin, meetings, online banking, Zoom quizzes, shopping etc."
We weren't far into lockdown when it dawned on me that I make the vast amount of my discoveries through going to gigs - which didn't bode well. And like Wray, I have had little enthusiasm for spending even more time online than I already do in pursuit of new sounds - not least because I often find the fact that there is so much instantly at my fingertips daunting rather than liberating, not knowing where to start. Add to that not being a habitual radio listener and trying to fit a dramatically increased workload around homeschooling and you have a recipe for hearing very little new.
My one saving grace has been a steady stream of review commissions for Buzz (courtesy of Wray's fellow Quietus contributor Noel Gardner), which has introduced me to a bunch of great albums, some of which I almost certainly wouldn't have come across otherwise (Fuzz, Late Night Final, Daniel Blumberg, Meilir, Young Knives, Uniform, The Lemon Twigs, Anna von Hausswolff, Gwenifer Raymond) and one that really had to be heard to be believed (William Shatner). Without that lifeline, 2020 would have undoubtedly been even bleaker.