Am I too addicted to buying new music?

Some recent buys and yes, I’m boring enough to burn downloaded music to CD so I can also play it via my stereo.

No results to “the experiment” parts 1 or 2 this week, I haven’t got round to writing it yet. My mind is on other projects, so I had to add a bit of finish to this half written post, instead.

I love music. Regular readers of this blog will know and understand this. An early post of mine discussed how music influences me, or more specifically, what music and writing have in common, to me anyway. I’ve blogged on music lots of times, although not too much recently. I’m always hearing new things I like on radio Sirius XMU, or reading about music that sounds interesting in Mojo magazine or on Pitchfork. So I like getting hold of it. I’m mostly talking about albums here. The snob in me looks down on just buying individual tracks. I’m an old timer in that sense. You can tell I’m a music fan when I love the album over downloading seemingly random tracks.

My current dilemma involves buying new music. Although I prefer CDs (for the quality of the format), I’m quite willing to try new music as downloads, especially when the price is good, that always seems to serve as a good introduction. But naughty keeps putting albums on a $5 or sometimes even less, price. So what is a music fan to do I ask you? Ok I shall give you the answer. Buy some music. Bring it on…

So I both do, and did. And you know what, it’s great. Problem is, when you get a new album, especially a half decent, or good, or great one, they take four or five listens to really open up and to begin to get to know the songs a bit. Your mind needs time to decode the layers. Usually a song that sounds great straight away, rarely lasts that long, before fading into the sometimes played. So time is needed to play new music, to fall for the lyrics, the melodies, the beat, the timbre, or whatever facet grabs you most. And I’m now getting a bit of a backlog of albums I’m trying to familiarise myself with. Here is a list of recent buys, loosely grouped into genres although admittedly some could cross into several groups:

Pop / Folk

  • The idler wheel is wiser than the driver of the screw and whipping cords will serve you more than ropes will ever do – Fiona apple
  • What we saw from the cheap seats – Regina Spector
  • Thats’s why God made the radio – The Beach Boys
  • Yours trully cellophane nose – Beth jeans houghton
  • Home again – Michael Kiwanuku
  • Tramp Sharon Van etten
  • Valtari – Sigur Ros
  • Bloom – Beach house
  • Master of my make-believe – Santigold
  • Dr dee – Damon albarn
  • Huh? – Spiritualized

Rock / Alternative

  • Maraqopa – Damien jurado
  • Oceania – The Smashing pumpkins
  • Neck of the woods – Silversun pickups
  • Open Your Heart – The Men
  • Celebration rock – Japandroids
  • Ghostory – School of seven bells
  • Funeral Blues – Mark Lanegan
  • Blunderbuss – Jack White

Dance / Soul

  • Hurry up, we’re dreaming – M83
  • Wonky – Orbital
  • The bravest man in the universe – Bobby Womack
And this is not everything either, there is probably some I’ve missed. Some of the above I am more familiar with than others. Thus far I would recommend checking out tracks from the Bobby Womack album, Fiona Apple, Jack White, Damien Jurado, Spiritualized, and if you like a good rock / slightly punk album, Japandroids. Though that said, none of the above strike me as bad thus far. For example if you’ve liked Orbital in the past, you’ll probably like that one. Oh and I’ve also bought the Sugar “expanded” reissues (when I was in the UK where they came out earlier and had dvd discs). I loved that band, they are one of my all time favourites. I’m obviously familiar with those though.
To help with this fun problem I recently received (a few weeks ago) an expensive but completely fabulous gift from my lovely wife and son. It was a pair of these superb Grado Labs SR225i headphones. You can keep your Dr Dre, or Bose headphones, I’m not criticising them, and I do own a few pairs of Sennheisers which are decent, but I prefer Grado Labs.

quiet now.. come to daddy..

This particular pair are open headphones which means if you are sitting nearby you will also be able to hear what is being played. But as anyone familiar with how headphones work can tell you, you can get a much better sound out of open headphones than you can closed ones. It is to do with the airflow. These headphones really are fabulous, they do a great job of opening up the sound, great clarity on instruments, great separation, they introduce things you have not noticed before. As a downside, they also show up when MP3 quality can be bad (the detail isn’t in the file to play), or when something has a dense mix and the separation is not there. These headphones are great, noticeably different from e.g. a $50 pair. An upgrade from my older pair Grado Labs Sr60i (also very good). And more encouragement to buy more music. Oh well, I love music, what can I do.

Music. It’s my addiction. Am I addicted to buying new music? Well of course, and old music as well. I love it. It is entertaining and inspiring in so many ways. If only I had time to do it justice. This addiction I’m ok with. Oh by the way, suggestions for other new good music are welcome below.

Lexicon word of the day: pudendum.


32 comments on “Am I too addicted to buying new music?

  1. La La says:

    Do you have a LastFM account? That’s how I find a lot of indie music, but XMU helps a lot too. Great post!

    • Elliot says:

      Thanks – No don’t have a lastFM account and barely use Spotify either. I hear XMU in the car which is useful, but I don’t get chance to listen to much at home for playing albums and what not (when I get chance).

  2. jmmcdowell says:

    I’m at least 10 years behind on new music. 😦 Most of what I hear is what’s used on television shows. I should be better about looking up who did the tracks I liked and then taking a real listen….

    • Elliot says:

      Think of visiting a music shop like archaeology, you have to dig through a lot of dirt, but dig carefully so as not to miss out on the valuable pieces you are looking for. Of course you need to have an idea what you are looking for, so you do a bit of research beforehand.

  3. Margarita says:

    Once you’re addicted, there’s no “too” about it. It’s like being “a little bit pregnant.” I say embrace it and revel in it! All the best, M

    • Elliot says:

      Well it was meant as a figure of speech, but you are correct, you are either addicted or not. Although I’m sure my wife would have argued the “bit too much” pregnant when in the ninth month.

      I have no intention of trying to kick this addiction.

      • Margarita says:

        Yeah, I’ve always thought there had to be a better distribution of labor (all pun intended) in the whole birthing process. If one partner does the gestating, it seems only fair that the other should bear the labor part…haven’t figured out how to do that!

        Enjoy your addiction! Mine is chocolate…step away from my chocolate! All the best, M

      • Elliot says:

        Um, I’m also addicted to chocolate as well but I keep that down to just weekends.

      • Margarita says:

        Naaah, I enjoy my chocolate with abandon! In this heat, it’s been frozen, so that slows me down a bit! 🙂

  4. crubin says:

    As you already know, I’m one of those people artists probably have a love-hate relationship with, as I mostly download single tracks. But sometimes I’ll buy the whole thing. I have with the Black Keys, Incubus, Eddie Vedder, Vampire Weekend, and I’m tempted to with Young the Giant, as I like what they’re putting out. I will also buy Alanis Morisette’s when hers is released in August. So I’m not entirely uncouth. 🙂

    • Elliot says:

      I like the album as art approach. Where someone has tried to put an album together to be a collection of good songs perhaps with a theme. Historically, there have been a number of mainstream acts, who might have some good singles aimed at teens, or the people who would buy a single (now download a track), but their albums were the singles plus filler. To an extent that is why I avoided mainstream acts for a while to find the “album” not “filler album” works. I’ve often found that albums, especially good ones can contain some great tracks that either are not released as singles, or would not work as singles, but are the best thing on it. In a nutshell, that eternal search is why I love buying albums.

      Of course there is crossover with good albums hitting the mainstream, or mainstream artists creating good albums, so it is not an exact science, and need a bit or research, or trial and error. Hmm, I should have put all this in the post, or expand it sometime for a different one.

      • crubin says:

        It really is a bit of a search to find those albums that are worthy of a full listen. As you point out, many of the current popular hits are separated by “filler” tracks on the actual album, and one ends up just listening to the main songs, anyway.

      • Elliot says:

        It took me a few years to learn what to read, and where to listen to music, to get to know what is reliable and hits my tastes. I know now so I have a good hit rate on good music. If you’re not that interested, or just getting into music, I can imagine it is difficult knowing where to start.

  5. Dan says:

    My dad always says that being addicted to music is ultimately very inexpensive as once you get past the initial investment, it’s hours and hours of entertainment. And the more you listen to it, the cheaper it becomes in the long run. I am a total music hoarder and while I’m not an audiophile like many are, I find digital music to be my savior. It allows me to hoard music without the physical hoard.

    I agree with Margarita – embrace your addiction! And get thee to Last FM. I’m dancpharmd over there.

    • Elliot says:

      I would agree with your dad. I do get downloads, but I will enjoy downloads more when the file quality is better. I imagine in a few years that hard drives will be larger and music files will be better and also larger. But it will be the next way the music industry can sell us the same music again. Whilst it is not bad now it is not brilliant. If I play something via my iPod / iPhone plugged into my stereo, and then the cd equivalent, I can more often than not, tell the difference. It is a small difference, but it is a little bit like hearing the music from the speaker, with and without a cloth over it. Once you’ve noticed, you then cannot help noticing it more.

      That said, I love being able to carry round a lot most of my music on an iPod, so I’m not totally against it. Plus digital does give instant access to a lot of new music as well. And as I said to Margarita, I’m not planning on giving it up!

  6. Smaktakula says:

    I too love music, although I don’t buy nearly as much of it as I used to. But I think as far as something to spend your money on, art (which certainly includes music) that you enjoy is hardly the worst purchase you can make.

    I don’t listen to the radio (except for the occasional ballgame), so I’m not exposed to a lot of new music. Much of what I do hear is unchallenged and designed to appeal to the broadest segment (and therefore not to offend or upset that same segment). I think the last album I was really excited by was Muse’s “Resistance.” If I thought about it, I could probably think of something more recent, but that’s sort of where I am right now.

    I love to tease about cultural differences, but this is a serious question: do you think that your cultural upbringing contributed to your love of music? The reason I as is that every time I’ve been to the United Kingdom, I’ve been struck by how much music seems to be a part of everybody’s life. In London, everyone has a pair of headphones on, and concert playbills are pasted everywhere. And every time I go over, I hear new songs by band that I thought were long gone.

    • Elliot says:

      I have that Muse album (well all of theirs) as well.

      I don’t think it was the culture for me. I was around more music than I realised when growing up, a mix of mainstream and other. My uncle was always bringing round heavy rock / metal albums and listening to them with my dad as one example. Then at college in a media studies class I had a somewhat cliche sounding “awakening” moment. He played the sex pistols, and for whatever reason I thought it was good. This led me to other music where I realised a value I had previously missed. This might have been awakening of what was already there.

      I think when I was growing up there might have been more music in the culture. You need to remember that the UK is really a small island so back then, radio stations like BBC R1 which cover everyone had a bigger influence. Newspapers, are also national. Coverage of things especially popular things, music, artists, stars, whatever, could pretty much get to everyone.

      London is a little different to everywhere else (kind of like comparing New York to everywhere else in the US). London is very much a commuter and tourist city, so adverts are always trying to attract those on the move, and people like to use their travel time e.g. with music. They also like their individual space, so in one way headphones help active this.

  7. Smaktakula says:

    Your point about London being like New York is well-taken, although I should note that I’ve observed the musical affinity in other places around the UK (including the North, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland–which I realize neither you nor the Irish consider part of the UK, even if everyone else does).

    And ironically, even though I can be something of a national chauvinist at times (mostly facetious, I think), not only have I spent far more time in London than I have in NYC, I LIKE London a great deal more than NYC.

    • Elliot says:

      I think several of the larger cities like e.g. Manchester, definitely like to try have a music scene to rival London. You may see more people with headphones around the country too compared to the US. I think it is the small island thing though. When something breaks, or a trend sets in, the whole country can know about it in next to no time. I know what you are saying, and there may be more importance of music in the culture, but I hesitate to say it is too big a thing purely because I know plenty of people who have little interest, and maybe only buy the odd occasional mainstream thing.

  8. I used to buy a lot more music than I do now. Probably because so many other things are competing for my brain’s attention now. It’s hard to know what to choose since there’s really not the same sort of Album-Oriented music that there used to be, I don’t tend to feel the need to download entire albums, just individual songs. But with everything being digital now, it’s a lot nicer and easier to sample stuff before downloading, so that makes it fun, more like shopping for music.

    • Elliot says:

      I think there is the same album orientated approach, I just think it is delivered in a manner i.e. digital, which is more difficult to market the album in. It does allow the buyer much more freedom in what they want to purchase so those not as interested in albums can buy the tracks they want. But I know a lot of music fans who still value the album highly.

      Personally I prefer buying music in a good music shop (there are not too many of those around now), but digital can be fun as well.

  9. rtd14 says:

    I confess I own an iPod, but I still have my huge cd case from high school and the early part of college. I loved going into cd stores, putting on the head phones, and I would listen to the music. That was one of the coolest things to do at Virgin in New York. I understand what you mean about music and writing relate. I completely agree.

    Before I dedicated myself fully to writing, I sang, wrote songs, and played guitar.

    Lyrics speak as much as stories or poetry.

    Great post and head phones!

    • Elliot says:

      I love music browsing in a decent music store. I always loved it when I was younger, I still do now. I can totally understand the headphones thing in the store. That was a part of the experience. It is different now as I have a large music collection and (in my opinion), good taste in music. I usually have to take a list with me of things to look for otherwise I forget.

      I agree with the lyrics and poetry, my guitar playing is rubbish, I assume you were competent?

      Oh the headphones are brilliant 🙂

      • rtd14 says:

        I received a schloarship for Voice/ Music when I first began college, and I took guitar lessons and declared it as my minor. I was pretty competent, but I would never play lead guitar. I used it mostly to write songs.

  10. DyingNote says:

    My use of headphones is only when the ambient noise is high and therefore an open system doesn’t work or on fewer occasions when there are people around me that I wouldn’t like disturbed. I use noise cancellation. But I prefer listening to the stereo without headphones any day.

    Nice list you have hear. A few in there I need to check out. I suspect you’ll like ‘WIXIW’ by Liars, maybe ‘Animal Joy’ by Shearwater. One album that’s consistently gone below the radar this year but which should not have is Sinead O’Connor’s ‘How About I Be Me (And You Be You)’. It’s a terrific record and it deserves more attention than it has received.

    • DyingNote says:

      *Sorry, should be Nice list you have ‘here’, not ‘hear’

    • Elliot says:

      I prefer listening without headphones also but these headphones are really good, and far better than any noise cancelling ones, unless you buy really expensive noise cancelling ones. I see what you mean though. They don’t suit all people and circumstances.

      I shall try check out some of those you have mentioned. I also want to check out Patti Smith’s latest, and the latest by The Walkman.

  11. I pulled out my CD book from college and loaded that collection onto Itunes. I forgot how much great music wasn’t yet in my Itunes library. 🙂

    • Elliot says:

      That is one good thing about digital libraries, the ability to put so much in them and discover some things you haven’t heard in a while. I prefer listening to albums, but the occasional random play pulls up some tracks in a different way and sometimes different perspective on them.

  12. DyingNote says:

    I recently had an opportunity to listen using the SR225i that a friend had got – I was very, very impressed. Nice pick, Elliott

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