DJing vs. Casual Music Listening

Lately, I’ve taken lots of steps back to really look at how I listen to music, and how it differs from the way I consumed it 5, 10, 15 years ago.

It’s hard to really pin-point when exactly my music-listening habits became a such serious part of what I did in my free time. I guess, sometime around 7th-to-8th grade when I dropped consuming ephemeral pop radio hits and started actually taking intiative to go out and buy an album I had interest in, rather than listening to it through an assembly line of hit singles.

Back then, I wouldn’t be as inclined to really analyze a record I liked because honestly, I didn’t really give a shit about what any of it meant– the tunes just sounded really good. And I probably never even thought of giving a shit. And there being a brand of criticism that had geeks like me talking about records they liked/disliked as part of a healthy discourse in assessing a pop record is kinda cool.

For me, CD-listening at that time felt really carnal and raw. Absolutely no thought was put into the technicalities or intentions of a record; if it sounded good then it was probably good. Who cares about the separation between the artist’s music and personal life? Who cares about who the song is for, or what it’s about? Who cares about whata gimmick they’re exploring? Who cares if it sounds way shittier than the last record? It didn’t matter because on a sonic level, it felt right. And I didn’t even think of sharing to a friend why I loved a record and/or what tracks I liked from a record– I just liked it and that was law.

The more you grow, though, the more critical you are of things. You begin to question why exactly you like songs or bands, and if you’re like me you freak out at the thought of those questions.

As a DJ, I’ve been taking a lot steps back to analyze what exactly I liked in a song. The way I listen to music right now is so different from how it was in 8th grade. I approach listenership with the intentions of how it’d sound for other people. Going through tracks and skimming through them to find what textures or drops will raise ears and appeal to different registers. And that’s cool, because it’s very much altering a tune’s consumption for different contexts.

Lately I don’t find that I really sit down and listen to records anymore. That came to me when I popped in the new Fucked Up record “David Comes to Life” into my car. Here, you have an 18-track record, clocking in at around 1:20:00 and on it lies an overarching theme– a fucking concept record. I was listening to it in my car, mainly because my friend told me it’s very much a car/gym record, but by track 3 I wanted to play the new Araabmuzik because I grew impatient with listening to it.

Honestly, the situation shook me. I’m listening to one of my favorite bands’ new record (I own like 20 of their releases [singles/albums/etc]) and I don’t want to listen to it. I have deep personal real estate with this band, and I have no interest in listening to their record. For me, I was freaking the fuck out.

Eventually I listened to it, and then relistened to it a couple of more times and obviously loved it.

But my relationship to album-consumption has drastically changed, mainly because I’m knee-deep in a culture that’s very different from the indie-rock matrix I used to have stake in– one that functions on singles, white labels, dubplates and EPs. The capital-A Album is virtually non-existent, save for a few records that have come out recently pushing the format into its proper context. These records (of which have been the Albums I’ve been jamming to): Clueless – Torrid Affairs; LV & Joshua Idehen – Routes; Zomby – Dedication; SBTRKT – S/T

It’s a culture obsessed with the scramble for new music that will get the club floor bouncing and you being responsible for it. And I’ve sorta tapped into that mentality with almost no second-guessing. Until now, when I raise the issue that I’ve really lost touch of what it is to Listen to a record, save for the few I mentioned above.

Yet, still, I find it cathartic when I click on a record and felt the push to move my body, and know that other people will share that same feeling. And I’m not saying I hate DJing and what it’s done to the way I embrace music. I just think it’s what’s current for me, and as many questions as I have about it, I just keep moving.

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