July 26th, 2011 | By Edwin
After patiently waiting for Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Linx II, I’ve thought about the whole album buying process, and what I do afterward. I’m a creature of habit, and I always eat my ice cream cones the same way, tie my shoes the same way, and angrily cut off the same car on the way to work everyday (half joking).
I got to thinking – what does one do after they buy a brand new album?
(I’m talking about a real CD, not a digital one. That’s for another post, although it’s not my preference. But I digress.)
The process begins for me after I scour the Internet for a new release announcement from any artist I’m interested in. If I am REALLY excited, I will mentally memorize the month it will come out for further notice. Then, the album comes out and an epic journey to Best Buy commences! Note that this is not an actual endorsement of Best Buy, which is a perennial customer service wasteland with horribly trained employees, but they do usually have $9.99 specials for new albums.
After racing home, I carefully peel the shrink wrap by removing the top sticker (they make this impossibly hard to remove for some reason – are they afraid of us copping a listen in the store or something?) and take out my initial playback instrument of choice: the personal CD player.
Do you remember the 90s when it was cool to have a mammoth CD player in your cargo pockets while you strutted your stuff in the mall? It’s hard to imagine this now in the iPod age, but a large bulge in your pants with wires sticking out of it was somehow acceptable. I use this partially because of convenient since I don’t have to wait for it to rip to MP3 files, and because I feel that the initial listen is richer and more musically complete this way. I block off some time, put on my Sennheiser HD 201s or Shure E3Cs so I can catch every note and word, and listen to the album front to back while reading the linear notes and noting the cover art on the CD cover. Linear notes are my favorite – unfortunately, they are slowly being phased out.
While listening, I note the atmosphere and tone of the album. What was the artist thinking, and why did he choose the beats? How is the chemistry between the producer(s) and the rapper, and his guests? Do the guests overshadow the rapper on any of his songs? How is the technique, lyricism, and overall “listenability” of every song? Is it filled with filler? These are some of the questions that run through my mind as I nod my head and absorb the material and listen to the stories on the album. I also make sure to listen to the skits, as they can be vitally important to the feel of the album (ala Prince Paul’s hip hop opera: A Prince Among Thieves).
After I finish the album, then I read more up on the album – reviews, background information, and forum posts to gain some more insight. Some extremely deep albums, such as Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor, may have so much to absorb that it will warrant weeks of non-stop listening – I’ll find something new for my brain to chew on each time I listen to a lyric. Heck, even that album’s title is a lot more complex than you may think! Lupe explains:
In Chicago, instead of having bodegas like in New York, the majority of the corner stores are called ‘Food and Liquors.’ The store is where everything is at, whether it be the wine-o hanging by the store, or us as kids going back and forth to the store to buy something. The ‘Food’ is the good part and the ‘Liquor’ is the bad part. I try to balance out both parts of me.
What do you do when you listen to a new album? Any comments from my readers?