Albums that sour or grow sweeter and why
You know how some albums go from sweet to sour over 20 listens? Or get even better — go from sweet to sweeter? I’m not talking about those that sound dated 5, 10 years later. I’m talking about those that change over the course of 2-3 months. Why does that happen?
I got caught on this notion when I saw R.E.M. mentioned on the VH1 list MCQ linked to and had this visecral, vestigal memory of how much I hate “Out of Time.” It came out the spring of my senior year of high school, and at first I really, really liked it. It seemed fresh and unexpected. By summer, I hated it. Some of that may have been because it becameÂ ubiquitous and popular. But mostly, it was because what seemed clever quickly became cloying. Make the jangley stop! Another album I had a similar reaction to Feist’s “The Reminder” and to a much, much lesser extent Metric’s “Fantasies.” Granted, I still kinda like that Metric album, and was never super in to “The Reminder” but both, I initially embraced and then found I couldn’t stand to listen to them.
Of course, I have had the opposite happen. The conventional wisdom is that The National’s “Boxer” is a “grower album.” But I got it from the first listen and my love for it has never dimmed. I also liked “High Violet” from the first listen. But as I’ve listened to it over the summer, it has grown even sweeter to my taste. Where my initial reaction was “really like this, but it’s not as good as Boxer”; I’m now at a place where “Boxer” almost seems not quite subtle enough for me, and I find myself craving “High Violet.”
So what’s going on here? Certainly, I think that with the souring, overexposure doesn’t help. But I don’t think that it’s only factor. Novelty is one. For me, the vocals tend to be another. What may be tolerable for 2-3 listens can later grate on nerves. Production can also be a factor. Repeated listening may bring out a boring-ness (or flatness) in the production. Or an overreaching and too much fiddling around. But a lot of it, of course, may just be personal experience and tast.
So do any of you all have any theories on how this operates? And what albums have you soured on or fallen even more deeply for after living with them for a few weeks or months?