Continuing the catch-ups on the other media front: it’s been a decent summer of listening. Recently, I read an article about whether thirty- and forty-somethings are moving away from listening to music (it was shared by Modern Mrs. Darcy if you’d like to go look – in her weekly links roundup). The article definitely held true for me; I’ve certainly moved more towards podcasts and some audiobooks, and really only listen to new music when the Decemberists drop a new album.
So, on the subject of the Decemberists, definitely my highlight of summer listening was their concert at Wolf Trap last week. These days, there are not very many bands that I would bend over backwards to see live – in fact, they’re probably it. I’ve seen them twice now: in the spring of 2018, at the Anthem in Washington, D.C., and last week at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia. They were supposed to visit Wolf Trap on tour in 2020, but that tour was cancelled – for obvious reasons, like everything else in 2020. This tour, appropriately called the “Arise from the Bunkers Tour,” was the replacement. And it was worth the wait! Since they’re not promoting a new album this time, they played selections from all across their back catalogue, and it was incredible. I pregamed by listening to the old albums for a few days leading up to the concert, and then got the joy of hearing so many favorites from over the years. They opened their set with “The Infanta,” which was actually the first Decemberists song I ever heard – back in 2003, when I first heard about them. I still remember pressing play on that track and then listening, enthralled, thinking: this is like nothing I’ve ever heard before, who ARE these guys? I was captivated from the first, and hearing the opening riff and then the lines “Here she comes in her palanquin // on the back of an elephant” live was a thrill. And then they moved directly into my absolute favorite, “Calamity Song,” from their 2011 album “The King is Dead.” There were more favorites to come – namely “Rusalka, Rusalka/Wild Rushes” and the tour closer, “Sons and Daughters” – but even just the first two songs would have made the evening for me. It was a perfect night.
That’s pretty much it on the music front. I listened to R.E.M. a little bit, because I always do, and went through my summer playlist a few times (including playing Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” on my parents’ boat because why not), but most of the summer was devoted to podcasts and audiobooks, like every season. Especially podcasts. I’m on my way to being finally current, after purging my queue of episodes and shows that just weren’t doing anything for me. I’m now down to just the podcasts that I still enjoy regularly listening to, and I’ve worked my way through almost my entire backlist.
The strategy has been this: I’ll listen through the “latest episodes” section in my podcatcher, and when that’s cleared out, I go into one show and listen episode by episode until I’ve either completely cleaned it out, or cleared everything except for episodes that I am holding for some reason or another. Basically I treat it like an audiobook – and every so often I’ll sprinkle an audiobook in, too, instead of listening to the back catalogue of a show. And then I go back into the “latest episodes” section – which will have restocked by then – and start the whole process over. With this method I’ve made it through the following audio content this summer:
- The Mom Hour – My favorite parenting podcast. I had over sixty unplayed episodes this spring and am now down to just eight, all of which are seasonal (Halloween, fall, and holiday-themed). I’m saving those to listen to around the holidays they discuss.
- Read-Aloud Revival – I’ve been listening to this podcast about reading aloud and cultivating a love of books in kids since I first started listening to podcasts back in 2015. I think my days of listening to this might be drawing to a close, but in the meantime I’m down to two unplayed episodes, both of which are Christmas themed – so I’m saving them, like I’m saving the holiday episodes of The Mom Hour. (Worth noting: I don’t play every episode of every podcast; if I know I’m not interested in an episode – like the Read-Aloud Revival episodes on homeschooling, since I don’t homeschool – I mark it as played so it will disappear from my queue.)
- Tea or Books? – I’m usually fairly close to current on this bookish podcast, because I love it and always listen to new episodes close to when they drop. I had about four stacked up, though, so I listened to those over a few delightful neighborhood walks.
- The 46 of 46 Podcast – Somehow I had piled up a big stack of unplayed episodes. I usually only listen to about half of these, and that’s about where I landed this time around. I’m completely current now.
- A Caribbean Mystery, by Agatha Christie – I took a break from my “listen to podcasts like audiobooks” scheme to listen to an actual audiobook while on my way to Roatan in July. Finished it up while overlooking the actual Caribbean, which felt very apropos.
- Shedunnit – This might be my favorite podcast in my library. I had a big stack of episodes thanks to a habit I have of saving up treats long past the point by which I should have enjoyed them. In this case, that was okay, though – post-vacation errands and commuting were much more fun with several hours’ worth of Shedunnit to keep me company. I’m now down to just the episodes that contain spoilers for books I’ve not yet read (but intend to read soon).
- Going Solo, by Roald Dahl – With only one podcast left to clear out back episodes (The Slightly Foxed Podcast, unpictured above) I decided to treat myself to another audiobook. I’d initially planned to listen to Mr Mulliner Speaking, by P.G. Wodehouse, but couldn’t get the file to play. But Going Solo was a very satisfying substitute, especially because Dan Stevens – who played the wonderful and perfect Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey – reads it. I usually listen to audiobooks on 1.1 speed, but I slowed this one down to 1.0 to have more Dan Stevens time. Don’t hate, appreciate.
So overall, I think, a pretty productive season on the listening front! My clutter-hating brain is very stoked about a clean podcatcher – almost there. It’s the little things, right?
What’s in your earbuds this summer?