Asked precisely no one, at least if the album comes from me. But nevertheless I think this might be the year when I’m going to put together enough new, original music to complete an entire album.
Since the beginning of 2020, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about synthesizers and sound design. I try to apply what I learn to new music I’m writing or composing in the studio. The result over the last few years is quite a hodgepodge of different material. Some industrial techno, some lo-fi soul… I even put did a couple cover tunes.
The music I seem to be gravitating to is mainly synthwave music. Simple definition is, this music is like a soundtrack to an action film film in 1984. More seriously though, there’s a whole set of subgenres to this music, depending on the mood you’re trying to set. Examples include vaporwave and chillwave.
The Weeknd, for example, in many ways is a synthwave artist — arguably vaporwave, which takes an ironic view of popular music, filtering it through synthwave idioms. I’m not saying my stuff is like The Weeknd, just that synthwave is a pretty broad tent encompassing a lot of music. Also, he really does lyric songs, whereas I have been sticking to instrumental music lately. I do love his stuff in any case.
I got into doing instrumental music — ironically — because of my love of lyric songs. When it comes to good songs, I think of myself as having a pretty good critical ear. And that makes it really hard for me to plow through the many, many horrible songs you’re supposed to write before you get good at it. Really, it’s just a self-defeating behavior. By shifting my target, I unlocked myself from the jail that behavior represented. I’ve found that doing instrumental music lets me concentrate on a few things to get better at. Things like sorting out sounds, programming, arranging, mixing — not all things at once. Changing gears helped me get unfrozen and back into making music.
Now I think it’s time for me to take the next step, which is to start organizing around a theme. I want to create a number of pieces with something in common, like a concept. That’s the challenge of doing an album, I believe. I’m trying to keep in mind that most songwriters write a lot more than they assemble into an album. There are usually outtakes, b-sides, and demos that they throw away to find that commonality.
So I’m prepared to keep going and then make cuts later. So I’ll have to try to keep up some sort of cadence to make an album work this year. But I’m going to stay fair with myself, too. If it ends up that I don’t make it this year, I still believe I can make it happen. But it’s good to have a goal, right?
Photo by Lewis Guapo on Unsplash.