As I begin this endeavor, and jump face first into the world of music writing, I want my first post to be about something significant, something important, something personal. I want to engage in a discourse with those reading this, to express why you really do need to start giving that album another listen, and why you, along with me, should stop being so bias to your own music, and start exposing yourself to the endless amount of quality that is out there.
I write this to reiterate what I think I say to my friends and family everyday. “Give it another listen”. Why do I say this you ask? Because I, more than anybody, understand that people like the music they like, and that’s all. And yes, it does indeed create an interesting paradox, because after all, how do you like new music if you never listen to any?
Before I became my obsessive, and voracious self when it comes to listening to music, I was stuck in my own world. Below is a timeline of Fab’s music listening over the years.
0-14- Linkin Park, Simple Plan, Good Charlotte, Cute is what we aim for.
14-16- Blink-182 for three years straight, literally. Literally.
17-19-Assortments of Indie rock. Mostly radio friendly options given by 102.1 and Indie 88.
19- Discovered Vampire Weekend.
20- Open to the world.
I mean, am I really going to credit my willingness to listen to new music to Vampire Weekend? Why yes, yes, I am. Listening to them really was the eye opener for me. A chance “Shazam” in a Roots clothing store turned into a defining moment in my life, as my exposure to “White Sky” was ultimately what brought me to this very moment. “White Sky” is a song that will evoke a response from every single human on Earth. I’ve never played it without someone saying “Wtf are you listening to?”, and I’ve played it over 3100 times. I swear. Either you appreciate its strangeness, or you cringe at the falsetto as if it’s a crying Chihuahua. Regardless, Ezra Koenig got a response out of you.
This song led me to listening to Contra. An album, I really didn’t like after my first listen. Yet, as I kept with it, gems came bursting out. “Cousins” with its relentless tempo and dance evoking melody, and then “Giving up the Gun” and its wonderful bridge, and tremolo guitar solo decided to say “Hey”, “Oh Fab, you think we’re done there? Nope!”, “HORCHATA”, and its ability to paint a perfect picture with lyricism. Each listen I caught something new, a new hook, a new riff, a new melody, a new bass line. Each listen was rewarding, and so often is the case with music. I realized how much effort you really have to put in as a listener to get the ultimate reward.
Here’s the thing. Like most of our biases, our musical taste is further reinforced the more we stick to a certain genre. I love alternative and indie music, and so everyone I engage with on social media and follow, is reinforcing my love and bias for that genre. I understand this and so I make a conscious effort to not only expose myself to more musical genres, but to be more open to albums that I normally would have shunned.
I personally believe that there is a process to listening to an album front to back, and the first listen of an album should never be the final one. So rarely is an album good off of the first listen, as it is difficult to be an active participant with it, and that is ultimately the reason we love music. Who doesn’t love yelling at the top of their lungs, driving on a nice summer night? You want to be singing music you know…not some song Fab is making you listen to because he has an extra concert ticket that he is forcing you to go to. And so below, I’m going to try and break down how I approach the process of listening to an album.
1st listen: Should be, much like your first time doing anything, a taste of what you’re getting into. It’s a chance to associate yourself with the musician. More often than not you can determine if you like the general sound on a first listen, but seldom do you come out of it with any real knowledge worthy of a strong opinion.
Listens 2 and 3: These are done now with an understanding of the music. You can now begin to listen for riffs, or hooks that are exciting and catchy, and you can probably now begin to tell if you’ll like the piece and why.
Listens 3-5. For me, these listens are the bread and butter. You can be an active participant. You’re aware of what track will come next, you understand the main melodies of the song, and with each track playing, you can now determine if the song will stick with you. It’s in these listens, where I determine if the album is worthy of a full play through, or if it’s simply good for a few extracted songs for playlists.
Listen, I know there are tonnes of bands that release hit singles, and aren’t able to recreate that charm and magic on their album. But I’ve found that even on the albums I don’t like, I’m at least able to locate one track that I can take away from it; one track that I can put into a playlist. Each artist is deserving of a play through, and unless it is truly in a genre that you have a distaste for, I would urge a listen, and then another. Because there are few things in life as rewarding as music, and to be able to access and engage with a dynamic repertoire can be one of the most satisfying things in the world.
So, do it for me, do it for your mom, your dad, or for yourself. All I’m saying is, give that album another listen!