This may be the weirdest musical commentary you ever read, but basically I look for songs that exhibit assholicity. They are the Holy Grail of the musical world for me. I look for them not so much because they cut to the chase, but because they cut away from the chase. The chase, in this case, is everything and everyone that distracts you from an honest look in the mirror. The chase can be the pursuit of love, or just plain sex; money, power, greed, that ephemeral buzz that numbs reality or gives you a false sense of well-being. It can come from working too much, or shopping too much, or watching too much TV. Even listening to too much music. Ultimately, it's whatever pulls you away from the metaphorical mirror.
I think that's the reason I love Jason Isbell's album "Southeastern" so much. It's a case study in assholicity. It's a long, hard look at the wreckage of a life. I live for albums like that -- and books like that, films like that -- at least as long as they don't become ends in themselves. Because they remind me to look in the mirror.
In 12-step programs, the fourth step is deceptively simple: "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." That's it. It can take you a lifetime to get it right.
Here's Jason Isbell's musical take on Step 4: Drank way too much. Behaved like a jerk. Lost a wife.
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