Music at Mars Hill is a weekly column by Luke Larsen that seeks to find God amidst the newest trends in both mainstream music and independent music.

Christmas is over, and it’s that time of the year when we start looking forward to another year and the dreadful idea of considering New Year’s resolutions once again. This is what’s on my mind heading into another year of music-listening . . . feel free to add some of these to your own resolution list.

Don’t let genres or stereotypes hold you back from experiencing different kinds of music.

It’s easy to fall into very specific music circles — reading certain publications, visiting the same blogs, and following the same artists. I can totally understand that, after all, we like what we like. But a year ago, I was at a point where I was turned off by anything that fell into the category of “Christian music” or “CCM,” feeling that it was too easy to pander to my faith to sell CDs. While that might still be true in some respects, several artists have released albums this year (like Switchfoot, John Mark McMillan, and Derek Webb) that have shown me how expanding the possibilities of subgenres like Christian rock can sometimes happen from within. Similarly, albums like Florence + The Machine’s Ceremonials and Beyonce’s 4 have helped me open up to mainstream pop in a new way.

Monitor your listening habits.

There are seemingly endless ways to do this these days. Whether it’s or Spotify, it’s now easier than ever to access music and see what you have been listening to throughout the year. However, beyond that, in this next year, I am going to attempt to pay more attention to how much time I spend with albums and in what setting I do that. There’s no question the ever-changing digital audio scene is changing what music is and what it means, but we will never know the positive or negative effects of the changes unless we are aware of how they are affecting us as music-listeners.

See more live music and buy more vinyl.

As much as going out to see bands or going down to a record store seems irrelevant, rarely have I ever regretted doing such things. Often times seeing a band perform live or even putting on a record with friends can totally change how the music hits us. Next year, I want to spend less time listening to music while staring at my computer screen with headphones on and more time experiencing music in more physical, tangible ways (see fellow CaPC writer Jason Morehead’s excellent article “Music Made Physical” for more on this). In a sort-of related side note, I am also going to attempt to see more films next year even just for the point of hearing more soundtracks (because I can’t get enough of them!).

Give every album you encounter a chance.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve been caught off guard by a number of albums in the past year. One of the biggest examples for me was M83’s new album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. You can read my reflections on the album in a previous post, but I will say that it was only when I allowed myself to dive into the album without any preconceptions that was I able to experience it for all it was worth. It’s important to remember that not every kind of music is meant to hit you on the first listen. While first impressions on important, I’m afraid it’s become far too easy to pass off an album based on a 30-second iTunes preview. After all, we’ve been taught not too judge books by their cover or people based on Facebook profiles (or did I just make that up?) — why wouldn’t we do the same with music?

Those are my New Year’s resolutions for music in 2012, and I hope they gave you something to think about and look forward to in 2012. If you have any of your own, feel free to share below!

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