Feb 192014

A review of the new Beck album in The New Yorker by Sasha Frere-Jones says:

After listening to “Morning Phase” almost fifty times, I can’t find a single thing wrong with it.

The new album, which is streaming free on NPR right now, may be great, but I have streamed it only four times. I guess I’m blown away that the reviewer gave it 50 spins. I like to give new albums a good shot, but I usually throw it in the towel after five spins, if I’m not getting it. A recent exception is Bowie’s The Next Day. It took me a bit to warm up to it, it but I really like it now. But, I don’t need 50 plays to figure out if I’m going to like the new Springsteen odds & sods collection, or an Americana release, like Lydia Loveless.

My questions are: How many spins do you typically give a new album before making a judgement? And have you ever listened to any record 50 times in a short period of time?

I look forward to your responses.


  19 Responses to “Senses Working Overtime?”

  1. misterioso

    Sasha Frere-Jones calls to mind George’s line in A Hard Day’s Night–“Oh, you mean that posh bird who gets everything wrong?” ‘Cept that Frere-Jones is a man.

  2. 2000 Man

    I like to buy two or three records at a time, and then give them a month or so where I listen to them more than anything else. Lydia Loveless’ Indestructible Machine I loved so much that whatever else I bought probably just got put on the shelf after a listen or two, which is how I found out about ten years after I bought it that I liked The Replacements (I bought like six albums that day and something pushed it aside). That happens sometimes. I listen to everything I have, but sometimes something eclipses everything else and I miss out. I usually don’t put a record on the shelf until I’ve played it ten times or so, though.

    My store’s distro totally miscalculated on Lydia’s new record so mine isn’t here yet. They’ll call when it’s in, but I was really hoping to get it Tuesday. I love her, and I could probably play one of her albums fifty times, but I wouldn’t because I wouldn’t want to get sick of it.

  3. Giving an album 10 chances is strong and I salute you. I will do that if I’ve liked something that the band had done before . . . or if somebody recommends something. In the early 90s, I had some involuntary marathon listening sessions. I had a broken tape deck in the car and it played nothing but a Waterboys EP for a few months, finally I got it out and then Liz Phair’s Exile got jammed in there. I still like both of those albums! My first college roommate played “Wish You Were Here” constantly, and I still have a soft sport for that album.

    I like the new Lydia album – she’s got a sneering cowpunk voice that I am into — I’ve been streaming it on Beats and will probably buy it.

  4. BigSteve

    I know there are albums I’ve listened to 50 times over the years, but never in a short space of time, even when I have a lot fewer albums in my collections. I may return to an album over and over again now, as I did with the Bowie album last year, but always with other stuff in between. I would say that listening to an album even twice in a row is rare. If I were a critic for the New Yorker, and I had the beck album before anybody else, and I was going to interview him, I’d probably listen to that album a lot too.

    I’m looking forward to the new Beck album. I admire him a lot. The new Damon Albarn album is on the horizon too. Those mighty get 20 listens.

  5. diskojoe

    The closest that I’ve done listening to something a lot in a short span was a few years ago when my friend Barrence gave me a CD of outtakes from his 1st album (which ended up as bonus tracks when it was reissued a couple of years ago) & I listened to it every single day for a month. Otherwise, if something really hits me, I’ll listen to it again the same day, but not 50 times.

  6. Yeah, with Beck you would have to your ducks in a row before the interview. When I was a young journo, I interviewed Paul Westerberg on the “Pleased to Meet Me” tour and I said “The new album sounds a bit different from Let It Be.”

    Westerberg (after taking a long draw from a can of Foster’s): “Nah, not really.”

  7. Here is the other extreme — from Salon this week:

    “Most Messed Up” is the title of the new Old 97′s album, arriving on April 29, and first listen marks it an instant classic


  8. I think I start out by listening for songs, so even at first “spin” (whether it’s an actual vinyl album or a download) I often hit SKIP as soon as I hear the first song with a long, pointless intro or the first folky ballad. Then I go back and start listening again, knowing that there’s good stuff to come, even after I get through the song with the long, folky intro. Sometimes that song ends up taking an unexpected turn and surprising me. Then I try to listen to the new record in the car and at work for the next week. After 7 to 10 spins, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I like and whether I want to keep it in the rotation for the immediate future.

    Sometimes I don’t like an album at first, then come back to it a year or a few years later and end up liking it. Elvis Costello’s King of America mostly pissed me off for the first few years I owned it. Once day I tried it again, and it sounded good, even great in enough parts. It’s still not among my Top Whatever EC albums, but it’s rock solid.

    Sometimes I hate an album so much that I trade it in or even throw it away within a week of buying it. I’ve traded in 2 or 3 Matthew Sweet albums and thrown 1 away. I didn’t want the stench of that album, Blue Sky on Mars (or some title like that) anywhere near me. It’s a wonder I bought yet another Matthew Sweet album after the handful I dumped.

    In the digital age, I often keep the 2 or 3 favorite songs from an otherwise OK album on my iPod. I like when those songs pop up in shuffle mode.

    I can’t recall the last time I listened to a new album, say, 2 dozen times in the first week I owned it. It may have been one of the Nick Lowe solo albums from his phase of mellow albums over the last dozen years. (I’m not including albums by the Donuts, Nixon’s Head, the Knife & Fork Band, the Trolleyvox, Dave Ragsdale, the Anderson Council, and the like, of course – albums by friends that I have had some personal and direct business interest in from the start.)

    Many moons ago I’m sure I listened to new albums by Costello, the Clash, X, XTC, et al 50 times in a short period of time. Those records were my bread and butter, and I didn’t have much else going on in my life at the time!

  9. Since I haven’t bought a physical CD in a while (except used for a buck or 2 and usually they I things I already know), the new album goes into the Newly Added playlist on my iPod. I try to listen through it at least twice (more for songs that catch my ear) before putting in the 1-5 star rating and trying to slot the new stuff into my mental rotation.

    The last new thing I bought (Frank Turner, Tape Deck Heart http://promo.interscope.com/frankturner/) sounded great at 1st but is not aging particularly well except for a few tunes.

  10. Agreed on Tape Deck Heart – I really liked Recovery the first time I heard it, but now not so much.

  11. ladymisskirroyale

    Hmmm, 50 times? I’ve played pieces that I’m choreographing to over and over but even then, I don’t think it’s been 50 times, and that’s for one song, certainly not a whole album. I’ve probably heard selected parts of the Nutcracker about 500 times (and still don’t totally hate it).

    My typical thing is to listen to a new album once through for the “gestalt,” another time through to start really paying attention, and then another time or two or three to listen to lyrics and really think about it. Then it gets a rest. When I resurrect albums, I’ll often times listen to them a few times before putting them back in the stacks. I’m on listen #2 of Belly’s “Star” right now (hey, it just was re-released on vinyl. Great album, but whatever, what’s the point?)

    I’ve listened to parts of the new MIA probably 10-15 times since buying it about a month ago. I still haven’t completely made my mind up about it but feel like I’m done with it for now. Once a track or two gets stuck in my head (or I wake up listening to the songs in my head, like from this MIA album), they have to get unstuck so I’ll make a conscious effort to choose something really different to listen to next.

    I am reluctant to ditch an album I’m not initially fond of as I’ve often found that if I go back to it later, I like it more or hear it in a different way. The Disclosure album didn’t do much for me the first few times I listened, but I was playing it in the kitchen last weekend and it made good baking music. Hmm, I don’t know if that makes an album recommend it when it’s good to cook to. Then again, I get a lot of my best listening in when I’m cooking/baking or driving to and from work.

  12. ladymisskirroyale

    Yeah, he’s sort of like an album I want to pitch but can’t quite make myself do because there may be that one song that I like.

    In general, he irritates the crap out of me.

  13. cliff sovinsanity

    Most of the time I give new CD’s and downloads the “car test”. I’ll drive around or commute listening to the CD straight through (no skipping tracks) 2-3 times. I’ll usually have a good impression whether I like it or not. If I’m underwhelmed with the music I usually put it away for a month or two than return to it to see if I recall any of the songs. Sometimes I’ll come away with a renewed appreciation or a confirmation on my dislike.
    I’ve thrown away or returned only about 3% of my catalog. I usually find something redeeming in all that I buy, most likely because I don’t have a huge budget to blow.

  14. diskojoe

    It blows my mind when you say that you actually throw CDs away, especially considerationg Can’t you @ least trade them in or donate them to your local charity (That probably why I see plenty of copies of Blue Skies on Mars, although R.E.M.’s Monster is the champion of most seen used CD)?

  15. diskojoe

    “especially condering the cost” D’oh!

  16. I know it’s not right for many reasons, including the environment, but every once in a while I dislike a record so much I feel it’s better for society to take it out of circulation.

  17. misterioso

    Yes. He has this capacity to write sentences, paragraphs even, that upon close examination actually say nothing.

  18. underthefloat

    My answer is 3 times. That seems to be the magic marker for me. If I still don’t like it by that time then I’m not going to.

  19. misterioso

    Having dumped on Sasha Frere-Jones, I have to say that basically I like Beck and like the sound of the new record. But I find the affectation of listening to it “almost fifty times” (was it 47? 49? Oh, do tell!) ludicrous and “I can’t find a single thing wrong with it” even worse, as if the record were a figure skating performance (Beck just nailed that triple axle!) or math quiz.

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