Better On the Second Listen

Better On the Second Listen

Preston Baggaley, Contributor

Do you ever listen to a song or album and think “that was just okay”? I know that happens to me all the time. I always am looking for new music, so I listen to A LOT of albums. And quite a few of them are forgettable… on the first listen. Some of my favorite albums of all time are ones that I listened to once and thought I hated. The biggest offender has to be Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie (my favorite band) which I avoided for YEARS.  The true clarity of whether I liked it came after I gave it another chance on a random day in Spring.

The First Date

The first listen feels like an enticing first date. You think it’s going to be the perfect date. If you didn’t think so, why even make the effort to go out? You choose your outfit for the occasion, make sure your hair is good and looks good with those headphones on, you put on some cologne (who doesn’t like to smell good when they listen to some good music), after the final check you are ready and head out the door. You see them for the first time. Wow. You help them with their CD jacket because it’s a little warm, and of course, you are surprised that they’re just as beautiful without it. Now you’re in the thick of it, you start talking and listening to each other. It’s just small talk. You aren’t getting into the meaty conversations you want out of your music. It isn’t horrible, but it isn’t what you want. Halfway through the decision to chalk this up as another failure is made and you don’t focus on what could have been something. You finish the date but decide together that it’s best to not go on another anytime soon.


A few months later you see that record on your shelf, you think back to the fantasies in your head of that new relationship. You decide to give them a second chance. You haven’t settled down with that one perfect album just yet so what harm could come out of this. The anticipation of the first date isn’t there and that sets the bar at the perfect height, low. Once you start listening in again this warm sense of familiarity rushes over you. You have been here before, but without the pressure, you can listen in closer and develop a deeper relationship. The lyrics are more profound, the small tonal queues are placed perfectly. You think to yourself why you didn’t notice this before, but it doesn’t matter because you are lost in the moment. This companionship will grow, and it could even be the one!

Next time you want to listen to new album I wouldn’t expect it to blow you away on your first listen. There are so many factors that change the way we view art, so it’s best to come back to see if you’ve become a better fit for that music. Give that music you don’t like as much now another chance, maybe they will blow you away.