In following music or almost anything in the media (like news, sports, politics, etc.), there is tendency to ask, "Where have you been?" whenever someone appears to be behind the curve. I honestly don't believe people are being mean when they ask this, but I get the feeling that people expect everyone who's usually up on this stuff to be on the same page at the same time as everyone else. Well, that's not how life is.
For example, if someone were to hear Sufjan Stevens' Illinois today and discuss the album with somebody else, chances are good that the question will be posed. The album was a big hit with the indie crowd (especially a large number of MP3 bloggers) last year, topping many people's lists as their favorite album of the year. So, if someone were to realize how great it is now, posted his/her thoughts and feelings on a message board or conveyed them to a friend, the kind of feedback would not be the most open.
In my case, I've been really digging Sleater-Kinney's The Woods as of late. The album leaked onto the Internet early last year and it was released in stores last May. Since I'm still really skeptical of downloading leaked albums via peer-to-peer networks (oftentimes it's a poor-sounding copy and there is a threat of viruses being attached to the files), I hold off for a bit. I kept meaning to hear it last year due to a number of close friends and respected music critics speaking highly of it and liking the small bits I heard of it, but I didn't get the whole album until last month. While I know a number of people that understand my listening pace and interests, if I were to casually bring this up to someone I didn't really know, chances are good I'd be asked, "Where have you been?" My response would be along the lines of, "I've been busy listening to other stuff and I just never got around to listening to it when it first came out."
Why do we expect people to be on the ball at all times? Not everybody "gets" a record all at once, so why do we assume that we do otherwise? Oftentimes, we're too busy digging something else to realize how good it is.
Another case in point for me: as of yesterday, I have a new band to rave about. They're not new (they started out in the late-'80s and broke up a few years ago) and most of their albums can be found for cheap in used stores, but they are incredible. They're called the Afghan Whigs. Yes, I'm way behind the curve on grooving to these guys, but I have many reasons why. Back when their critically-acclaimed Gentlemen was getting a lot of attention in 1993, I was listening to Metallica, Dream Theater, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. I wasn't flushed with CD-spending money, didn't have the Internet nor did I have friends that were "in the know" with music. So, I was aware of who the Whigs were and what they kind of sounded like, but it wasn't until now that I've gotten them.
Now listening to the Whigs' last two albums, '96's Black Love and '98's 1965, I fully-realize that this band is incredible. Sure, they rocked like a lot of '90s alternarock bands did, but they brought a lot of other stuff to the table. Fusing rock with throaty R&B and soul and sexually frank lyrics, I understand how different these guys were back in their day. They had some great chances to be huge on a mainstream level, but they never got to that point. Thankfully their records on Sub Pop, Elektra and Columbia are still in print and can be found in almost any used CD store.
With the kind of music the Whigs did, I seriously doubt I could get into a band like this when I was in the shallow end of the pool. Nirvana and Metallica were perfect for me in 1992, but I probably would've dismissed the Whigs' '92 album Congregation because I didn't know any better. In '96, I was so enthralled in the world of Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and face to face's Big Choice to fully understand Black Love. Now in 2006, I realize that I have a number of albums to devour by the Whigs (six proper albums and a whole slew of non-LP material) and a desire to catch up. But you know what? I'll go at my own pace and dig whatever I can and however I can. That's where I've been and that's where I am.