Wednesday 15 September 2010

Listen again, and again

This is not a radically new thought, but it's one that really struck home whilst on holiday this summer, with no net access. It's about how unlimited music availability might have an unusual downside.

Given that we can access pretty much any music we want, free, immediately, the temptation is to keep trying new music rather than revisiting something we've already heard before. Ten years ago, before Spotify and iPods etc, there was less possibility to keep moving on which means you were more likely to find an album or artist you found interesting, then keep listening to it. Going way back, say 20 years, I would always listen to any new CD I bought at least 5 or 6 times in full within a couple of weeks of purchase.

Think about it... when was the last time you listened to a new album in full 5 or 6 times within two weeks of it's release?

So, back to my holiday. I filled my iPod with all the latest albums I'd downloaded, then being away from home and the normal broadband connection, found myself coming back time and time again to three of them. Worth saying that on first listen I hadn't been particuarly keen on any of them. They were too dense to enjoy initially. They sounded samey. I didn't hear the melodies or understand the lyrics. Normally, that might be as far as I'd get, because I'd move on to something else new. This time I didn't, I stuck with them, and I was reminded of how great it is to really fall in love with an album after repeated listens.

My conclusion? Instant access to a massive library of music is truly great, but it might be changing the way we listen - from deep to broad. And that isn't necessarily a good thing for music that requires more than a cursory listen.

Oh, the albums? Nothing exotic or particularly difficult. But all really brilliant:

Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
The National - High Violet
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Naturally, I recommend them all.