In August, I booked a release event for the intermittent self-publishing enterprise you might call a “zine” but which I stubbornly refer to as a “mag.” Degenerate, the thing’s called, once in homage to the Nervous Eaters’ “I’m a Degenerate” but now intended to evoke the word as a verb: Deterioration, regression – a revolt into childhood (with judicious coverage of indie-pop). Along with a newly flexible title, I broke my minimal promotion rule and screen-printed a bunch of posters depicting the release show line-up: Alex Cruse/ARC, Violence Creeps, and Michael Beach.
Michael Beach didn’t make a solo album this year (though he issued a fantastic album with his Australian outfit, Shovels), but 2013’s Golden Theft is an impeccable record. Erudite, thrilling, arrestingly beautiful – nothing I wrote about it at the time does justice to the emotive pull it continues to have on me. Beach’s solo set at the release event was gripping, but it also underscored the thing that pissed me off about 2014.
The musical climate is pretty inhospitable for songwriters whose principal instrument is a guitar. And it’s quite hospitable for folks who use, to cite the most obvious fashionable example, synthesizers.
Both instruments are versatile and put to amazing use by local artists, but the fact that most people are biased in favor of one over the other strikes me as a prevalent trend of the year. It’s a symptom of consumerism: We engage with music more than ever through its gear – analog, digital, acoustic, or what have you – and it’s inhibiting. Excuse the didactic year-end reflection, but next year let’s shed some of this gadgetry allegiance.
Sam Lefebvre is the music editor of the East Bay Express. His byline has appeared in publications such as Wondering Sound, Spin, SF Weekly, Impose, and Consequence of Sound. He has capitulated to Twitter.