For certain musicians, when they put out new work, I have to set aside a moment to sit down and listen to them. These days my mind is too scatterbrained to instantly shut up, switch my focus, and pay attention to this new thing I’m absorbing. So instead I have to carve out some time and space for myself to really feel it.
I first started doing this several years ago with The National, one of my favorite bands. The first time hearing their latest album is almost a sacred experience for me — I even have a ritual: I’ll buy it on vinyl, and probably set it next to the stereo when it arrives. Then when I have a quiet solitary night, I’ll put the record on and do nothing but listen to it, probably sitting on the floor.
The last time I did this was in 2019 with their latest album, I Am Easy to Find, a month before I saw them in St. Augustine, and a few months before I hung around New York for a bit, looking for the next place I hoped to live. Eventually the album would become a soundtrack to other places and events in life — maybe the quiet background to a night walking around Park Slope that fall, or the train ride home after my brother suddenly passed the following spring. I’d always hear the music in those moments, but that initial listening session was what cemented it in my mind, and made it more meaningful. I’ve sometimes listened to it in the background, but I usually skip it when it’s accidentally or algorithmically introduced to my ears — it’s always better to hear it intentionally, in the foreground.
Now I’ve started doing this with all the artists I like — I think I have to at this point. I really absorbed Lord Huron’s Vide Noir on a 4-day train ride across the country. A long road trip with a friend gave me a chance to hear ODESZA’s A Moment Apart completely. But my ritual means I still haven’t had the chance to sit down with The National’s Sleep Well Beast and hear it all the way through. And today I added St. Vincent’s Daddy’s Home to my backlog after hearing one song from the album: