Believe it or not, every detail that goes into the creation of an album has a purpose. From the format of the cover art to the arrangement of tracks, an extraordinary amount of thought was put into the creation of a record, both to appeal to an audience and convey a specific message. Speaking from experience, I began to better appreciate and even enjoy the music more after becoming aware of everything on the record. To get the most out of an album, follow these tips.
Look at the album. A lot of what the artist wants to tell you can be discovered before you even start to listen. Besides trying to catch your eye to inspire a purchase, stories and messages are already being developed on the cover, insert, and artwork on the CD or Vinyl.
Do some reading. There is a ton of information that you can find on the inside of the album. Some artists decide to write personal messages telling what they are trying to convey with their work while others include what inspires them. In one case, I discovered an entire plot line for a video game on two massive inserts, courtesy of Father John Misty’s Fear Fun record, pictured to the left.
Listen to it completely. When you first listen to an album, it is important to give it the attention it deserves. Do not listen to it in an uncontrolled setting or when you are in a distracted mood. Choose whatever way you concentrate best (driving around, alone in your room with your record player, or even exercise), it’s truly whatever works best for you. Whatever happens, you may not stop until the album is over. If this happens, you are abondoning the frame of reference the artist has created through the other songs.
Do not sing along. While this seems silly (and rather difficult for people like myself who feel the need to live vicariously through others by singing along) it is of the utmost importance to give the writer the chance to speak alone before you join along. I know, it’s difficult. But singing along before a concept or even lyrics are grasped can damage the experience you have with the music later by creating a misunderstanding.
Look up references. Musicians tend you use allegories and allusions in their work to create a broader perspective. If they use a reference you are unfamiliar with, check it out! Not only could it make the music mean more, but you could actually learn something that will be useful later.
Listen to songs you didn’t understand the first time. Singles are nice and all, but if you get in the habit of listening to only one or two songs on a record, it can make it difficult to understand the rest of the music. For this step, appreciation is key. If you don’t understand it, keep trying. I will personally guarantee that the bigger chance you give a song, the more you will understand it.
Tell a friend. Music is what you make it, but if you keep it to yourself, it becomes worthless. Whether it’s a track, the entire album, or even just the name of the artist, sharing music is what makes it worthwhile.