December 07, 2012

Stages of Listening to an Album

Stage 1: This is your first one or two listens of the album, in which you make your first impressions. This stage is important because in many cases, this is the way you will think of the album forever. Your first impressions can be affected by many (seemingly unrelated) factors: your listening environment, who/what shared the album with you, the time of year, your emotional state, the amount of attention you give to it, etc.

Stage 2: If the album really stood out to you in the first few listens, then you might enter this lovestruck stage. It is the period of time when you are not entirely familiar with the album, but you always want to listen to it. You are unable to recall how any particular song goes. You are just aware that the general flow or sound of the album was pleasant, and this makes you want to revisit it over and over again...

Stage 3: Unfortunately, your honeymoon period with the album will end. You will "get to know" the album—all its quirks, pauses, and highlights. You will be able to read it like a book while it is playing, remembering exactly how each part progresses. Sometimes, you might get a certain song stuck in your head, and you will even be able to put a name to it. The album does not become any less "good" at this stage, but its novelty wears off. The parts that first felt so magical and flawless are now less impressive, because you know exactly what to expect. You realize that the album will never sound as good to you as it did the first several times you heard it.

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Avalanches Since I Left You.jpg

In my personal experience, I only find a couple albums a year that I follow through all these stages. In each case, I overplay them to oblivion, until I reach that disappointing Stage 3. The most recent casualty has been The Avalanches' electronic classic, "Since I Left You," which still gets played by me at least once every other day. I've hit Stage 3 pretty hard with that one, which is regretful, but oh, well... there are other albums.

Posted by Anna at December 7, 2012 06:09 PM