This Music is Good! Do I like it?
Summer is long, and this summer has been longer than most; we have the strike to thank for that. However, with the long summer came a deluge of new music, which was a cause for celebration. Some of it was great (e.g. Quelle Chris & Jean Grae’s Everything’s Fine, Ghost’s Prequelle), some of it was less so (e.g. Father John Misty’s God’s Favorite Customer, Drake’s Scorpion). Of course, a microcosm of this was seen in Kanye West’s remarkable June, during which he was directly involved in the release of five albums, both as a producer and as an artist. The quality of these records ranges broadly. (Kids See Ghosts > Daytona > Ye > K.T.S.E > Nasir, if you ask me.) While I got a chance to hear much of the summer’s musical output, I didn’t listen to nearly as much music as I had wanted to. The new albums from Parquet Courts, SOPHIE, Kamasi Washington, Courtney Barnett, The Internet, Travis Scott, and Mitski are all ones I wish I had gotten to. I’ll still listen to them, but I don’t like being late to the party.
What frustrated me most, however, was the album that I just couldn’t connect with, or “get” – Deafheaven’s Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. This album came out two months ago, and I have been listening to it since then. I have conflicting feelings about it. On the one hand, the sounds and compositions are just beautiful. The opening track alone puts me into a state of entranced euphoria, and the rest of the album doesn’t really lose that at all. From this perspective, I want to say that the album is great. However, there’s something else I just can’t ignore.
I find it really difficult to recall any individual moment from the record when I’m not listening to it. I don’t want to say that the music is forgettable, but I do forget it. This problem puts me in a state of confusion–I normally remember the music that I like, so do I like this album if I can’t commit it to memory? If the answer to this is no, then can I have a positive opinion of an album I don’t like?
I don’t have an answer to this question. I will say that this experience has been eye-opening in that it has shown me that liking music is not as simple as I had thought. It also raises the question, with which I had already been familiar, of how long one should give a piece of music to let it “click.” These questions can make listening to music a bit of a challenge.
Of course, I do have the option of chilling out and forgetting about it for now, but there’s something exciting to me about the prospect of solving a mystery. I feel that there is something to be gained in finding the answers; that there is a reward. This is why I’m not giving up on Deafheaven’s latest, even as the number of new releases from other exciting artists grows larger and larger. The struggle demands to be worth it.
In any case, I would recommend Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, as it is definitely an achievement in black metal and post-rock composition, and it really is (as I recall) a blissful experience. More than that, I would recommend (for anyone who appreciates a challenge) sticking with the music that you’re unsure about. We tend to know when we like or dislike something, so there is something disconcerting but interesting about the things that defy this tendency. Some of my favourite albums, songs, and even movies are ones about which I initially had no idea how I felt. This won’t always be the case, but it’s certainly worth it to try.