A blog post by Serdar of Genji Press takes issue with a suggestion that deep listening of music within a narrow genre can be more rewarding than being constantly disappointed by music that’s too far from your comfort zone.
This is a strange attitude to take. If I’m in the habit of listening outside my well-worn grooves, nothing is truly disappointing or distasteful. The mere act of listening without prejudice is itself elating, if you can get to it in the first place. Just having open ears is its own reward.
As is typical for me, I can see both sides of the argument here. Over the past couple of years I’ve tried to listen beyond my own comfort zone of progressive rock and metal and explore the worlds of modern folk and jazz, and there is a lot of great music to be found there. But I’m also aware that there are vast swathes of music that simply do nothing for me at all. Most contemporary chart pop, most three-chord indie-rock, or indeed any artists who’s lyrics overshadow anything they have to say musically, however good they are at what they do, are just not for me.
But the converse is true; even within my most loved genres there is much that falls well below the Sturgeon threshold. As a reviewer I get sent many, many promos for rock and metal acts. Many of them don’t even get listened to, and a proportion of those that get past my “Does their PR blurb make it sound interesting enough to warrant a listen?” filter still end up going in one ear and out the other without making much of an impression. I tend not to write reviews of such albums, because expanding “meh” to the required word-count is more work than it’s worth.
I sometimes feel that I spend too much time listening to mediocre new releases and not nearly enough revisiting old favourites. I can’t even remember when I last listened to a Mostly Autumn studio album all the way through.
There’s an old saying “Life’s too short to drink bad beer”. The same is surely true of music, and like beer, the difference between “good” and “bad” is far more personal and subjective than some would have you believe.
Over to you. When you seek out and explore new music, do you go broad or deep? Or do you prefer to spend much of your music listening time revisiting the things that made you a music fan in the first place?