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Year End: Jon Dale

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Year End: Jon Dale

Last year, I wrote, and subsequently junked, an end-of-year column for Dusted that focused on the everyday within music, arguing that true epiphanies arrive via quotidian experience and not overdetermined exegesis. I named it, in a pathetic attempt at cod-humor, ‘Return Of The Depressed’ - and yet that still resonates, though 2006 felt not so much like return - depression never really goes away, does it? It’s like some fucking irremovable stain - as recourse. There’s a certain comfort in depression, the knowledge that, well, things are this way and they’re not exactly likely to change.

2006 is probably going to be remembered by folks like me as The Year Scott Walker Came Back, and though The Drift easily slipped to the top of my annual lists for other publications, I’d stop short of saying it was the most affecting record I heard this year. It’s a staggering, monolithic document, but its use value is pretty low when you’re staring down a black tunnel (which, in an impressive Moebius loop effect, often comes to look like some synaesthesic representation of The Drift, anyway). But The Drift certainly came overdetermined, with each cross-reference meticulously planned. I remember Marcello Carlin writing about it and throwing a subtle barb to other writers about ‘not repeating the lyrics’ in his meta-review, which made me blush deeply.

I spent a lot of 2005 fighting through late-onset shock from the loss of my father in late 2004. When I look back through some of the pieces I wrote during that year - mostly in private, occasionally leaking out through various channels, like Worlds Of Possibility - I can sense a combination of musical and mental exhaustion, the equivalent of an already dim light burning out. I don’t know if things have been any better this year. It’s not really my place to say.

I guess music can get pretty vivid at times, can you remember when you heard so-and-so and all that; nothing as vivid as your father’s funeral though, particularly when the service was the first time you found out he had played music in his earlier years - I think it was some military-related jazz group. If that discovery helped make sense of my obsession-bordering-on-monomania with music - finally, an undeniable familial context - it subsequently gave a lot of music that I listened to an elegiac tone. When I look back at the music I’ve rated from the past two years, well, it’s not exactly a jolly bunch of records - for my year-end list for The Wire, Scott Walker won out; others included Richard Youngs’s beautifully baleful Summer Wanderer, the faded, nostalgic reveries of Charalambides’ A Vintage Burden, Andrew Chalk’s Goldfall and most importantly, Beach House’s self-titled debut - perhaps the record I listened to most in 2006.

I don’t really know where this is going, except to say that I returned from the funeral closed-off and unable to discuss the preceding events. My memories of it move between diamond-cut clarity and the supremely foggy. Little things come back: a family friend telling me that I even ‘walk like my father did’; me bursting out laughing when they played “When The Saints Go Marching In” as the closing piece of music (its energetic tenor felt almost sublimely ridiculous yet, strangely, completely apposite); being hugged by someone, hearing their voice and saying, ‘I remember your voice, but not your name - I’m sorry’; looking at the photo of my father on the service hand-out and finally realizing we’ll not speak again.

You already know more about it than most all of my friends do. I’m not entirely certain that makes for a voyeuristic experience, but if the best music transmutes private experience into public entreaty, then the only record this year that really shook me was Jason Lescalleet’s The Pilgrim, his coming-to-terms with the passing of his father from terminal cancer in 2005. I can’t think of any other record that moves through such deeply personal material with the same level of grace and dignity - though Alastair Galbraith’s “Gentlemen It’s Time” does spring to mind - offering up and working through frustration, anger and melancholy before reaching resolution at the end of the CD (the second part of the LP + CD set; it’s hugely important that you hear it last, after you’ve listened to Lescalleet’s petition for his father on the first side of the LP, and the excerpt from his last conversation with his father on the second side). There were hundreds of records I ‘enjoyed’ more this year, but none had such a deep and lasting effect.

2006 felt like another year spent working through 2004, and that colored my experience of the music therein. Next year, hopefully I’ll be able to be in the year sufficiently enough to talk about its music.

By Jon Dale

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