Music writer Steven Hyden muses on his experience reviewing Radiohead’s latest album, especially with regard to how long and how often a reviewer should spend with each record. It’s a really thoughtful rumination on how we experience music and how that can make writing about it difficult:
“But the tricky thing about music writing — and part of what makes it the trickiest form of arts writing, in my opinion — is that a good piece of music should elicit varying responses over spans of time and in all sorts of environments. Unlike books, movies, or TV shows, songs are supposed to be experienced many, many times… Music by nature is a slow burn, parsing out its charms in small increments over the course of weeks, years, even decades. Music can be the focus of your attention, but it often fades into the background, only to re-emerge when you least expect it and reveal a whole other dimension. No other art form weaves its way into the fabric of your life like music, and this inevitably shapes our feelings about it.”
Hyden’s point, in part, is that “The King of Limbs” demands at least several listens, but that imperative of sustained experience makes it so subjective to write about — the opinions he formed just before writing his review may not be accurate based on another week or two of listening. And besides, who has the room in their life to spend so much time with an album, anyway? Read his complete, very thoughtful essay here.
For my part I’ve been listening to “The King of Limbs” regularly since its release and have come to the conclusion that it’s not their best work by a long shot. It’s a bit disjointed: the most interesting parts aren’t as good as the best Radiohead, and the most typically Radiohead parts aren’t very interesting.
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