Sunday, October 4, 2015

ROCKTOBER: 28 Days Later: The Musical

How many listens does it take to know how much you love an album? How many listens does it take to know whether it's "good" or "great" or "decent"?

I think we can all agree that "terrible" is, generally speaking, quickly identified, but the degrees of greatness to which an album can ascend -- or fail to -- is rarely so simple.

One of the injustices of our world is that music critics are expected to, within a couple of listens, expected to pass a final say on the quality and value of an album.

In my own experience, I think it takes a full lunar cycle to know just how good an album is and just how much you really love it. If it takes 28 days for a zombie apocalypse to end the world as we know it, it should take about that long to know how deeply a CD of songs has attached itself to your limbic system. As the trailer says, it takes one day for exposure, three days for infection, and eight days for an epidemic. 

Most of us real music lovers, when we buy an album, listen to it on some level of heavy rotation for the first week or so, faithfully giving it our time if not our undivided attention. We want to like it, and we want to give it every chance to impress us.

Some albums, like Chvrches' new "Every Open Eye," immediately grabs our attention, tugs at the right heartstrings and the right sonic canals, and we know we like it. What we don't know is what we'll think of it in five years. Will we remember one song? Two? Will we recall half the CD and still be able to sing along with at least the chorus?

Others, like Kacey Musgraves' "Pageant Material," is an instant sugar rush of tightly-produced country. But 28 days later, you wonder if you'll ever go back to it. It was cotton candy. It was a funnel cake. It was the state fair you are glad only comes around once a year so you don't realize how underwhelming it actually is to ride that sketchy Tilt-A-Whirl or the Ferris Wheel that didn't go nearly as high as you remembered.

And then there's albums like the Brandon Flowers solo project, "That Desired Effect," which survived that first week thanks to the mostly positive critical reviews and my true appreciation for 3/4 of The Killers' song collection. But 28 days later, I knew there wasn't a dang song on that album I'd ever pull back up on my iPod, not a single ditty that would make its way into a mix CD or a playlist.

Most college football fans worth their salt hate the AP rankings for the first month or so. Most of us wish they'd hold off on ranking teams until at least now, because voters rely on name recognition and hype. There's nothing else to go on until the teams have been on the field and played some real competition. If those rankings started just now, most of the SEC wouldn't even be on the list.

Isn't most music the same way? Doesn't it deserve to get to play around in our heads for a few weeks before we start ranking it?

1 comment:

Bob said...

If not days, then # of listens works for me. But what's the difference between something not standing the test of time and a modern listener just getting tired of it?