One of the many ways I can tell I am a shitty critic – besides barely writing anything at all, or practicing criticism, or really having any thought I feel strongly enough about to put into words – is that I am very easily led into believing the “latest” version of a thing is the “best” version of a thing. This happens to me all the time: with television shows created by people whose work I have followed (every Tina Fey show is the best one for at least a few weeks), by authors who have written books I have connected with (see recent confessions of dreck re: David Mitchell), to albums by artists I have connected with.
This thought comes to me courtesy of my three-year-old, who picked Deafheaven’s 2012 metal-gaze worldbeater Sunbather off the shelf for dinnertime today (we made it less than five minutes in). I’m listening to it right now, as I type this (“The Pecan Tree,” which scared the shit out of my cat when it kicked in, I am pleased to report, god I hate that cat). A decade later (and probably my first time listening to it since at least 2016), it’s still the band’s seminal work, it’s most important and worthwhile product.
…Except, if you had asked me this question a week ago, I would have said the band’s most recent album, Infinite Granite, was the most import and worthwhile one. This, of course, is the one that completes the band’s albums-long transformation from “metal band with sunny, strummy guitars and blast beats” into “Ceremony,” the one that has been somewhat coolly received by the heavy music and non-heavy music world. I listened to that album – and that album only – for about two weeks this past summer and was convinced it was their best one.
…Except, as I turn off Sunbather and put on Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, the band’s last moment of metal expression in 2018, I am convinced THIS is the best one.
You see where I am going here. There are some outfits, some groups, some artists, whose work acts as a memory eraser for me. When confronted with their stuff, I am convinced whatever is in front of me is the best one. This makes for pleasant, happy, fulfilling listening, even if it makes me something of a cultural goldfish. Blub blub, I guess. There’s not even really a problem here, since I am beholden to no one but myself. I guess it’s time to be happy forever.