A&E

[Cultural Attachment]

Sometimes only an all-out, one-artist binge-listen will do

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Smith Galtney

Now that “binge-watch” is in the Oxford Dictionary, due to a fourfold increase in usage this year and overall “changes in our media consumption habits,” it’s time to focus on another obsessive-compulsive practice the Internet hath wrought: the binge-listen. Podcast people are fond of the term, as in, “It’s a six-hour drive, but it goes quick if you binge-listen to Marc Maron.” But in my house, it only means one thing: picking an album to listen to, then another by the same artist, then spending the next month or so listening to anything and everything they ever recorded.

I was a binger well before the web came along. Music is my healthiest addiction. Hearing a great song, I need to hear another one. If there’s an album I can’t find, it’s hard to think of anything else until I can get it. I’ve always aspired to be an adventurous, omnipotent listener, but that wasn’t really possible in the old days, when music cost good money. How could I buy Lou Reed’s poorly reviewed Berlin when Rolling Stone assured me Transformer was the safer bet? Blowing precious allowance/paycheck dollars on bad albums totally sucked!

Fittingly, or oddly, Lou taught me how to best appreciate Spotify. I’d dabbled rather aimlessly in streaming beforehand, but Lou’s death gave me a primary directive—ingest any and all entries in the man’s discography. After revisiting the stuff I new and loved, I listened to White Light/White Heat for the first time (not half as terrifying as the music press lets on). I even listened to Metal Machine Music (three-times worse than I’d ever imagined) and Take No Prisoners (an awful live album filled with more stage banter than actual music). In the past, when I was limited to my record collection, my Memorial Listening Periods lasted a few days, maybe a week. Thanks to Spotify, I paid my respects to Lou for well over a month.

It’s lonely business, this bingeing thing. My partner was happy when I started playing R.E.M., but after four of five spins of the bonus discs that accompanied recent reissues of the band’s ’80s albums, he told me to please, please put on headphones. People always want to hear Blue or Purple Rain, but who really wants to follow you into Joni Mitchell’s late-’70s “jazz” era or anything by Prince from the past 20 years? I shudder to think of how long I’ll be gone once Lord Dylan decides to leave this planet.

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