Monday, May 16, 2011

Listening With Fresh Ears

Last year, my friend suggested I check out "Warning", his favorite Green Day album. It was the only one I'd never heard, so I gave it a listen. I've heard it a handful of times over the last several months, but only yesterday did I pick up on the jingle bells in Deadbeat Holiday. As Billie Joe Armstrong begins the lyric: "Christmas lights in the middle of August", the bells chime in subtley. My ears perked up, and I admonished myself for not having noticed it sooner.
One of my favorite things about being a passionate music lover is discovering the nuances a band chooses to include in its music. Sometimes the choice is in the instrumentation, like the Green Day song I mentioned above. Other times, the choice is in the mixdown, when the music floats from the left channel of your headphones to the right. If you're a radio personality, the mixdown could send you into a state of panic. We often wear our headphones over just one ear. If the song starts in the left channel, as Korn's "Coming Undone" does, you'll flip out thinking you have dead air. Your heart skips a beat until the drums kick in, and you laugh at yourself for the mini freak out.
When I was younger, I used to spend an entire afternoon with my mom and dad's record player, headphones engulfing my tiny head as I pulled out the sleeve and followed the lyrics intensely. As an adult, the closest I can come to that is a car ride to work. I miss the days of devoted listening.
What are some of your favorite subtle music discoveries?


  1. Ain't Going Down Til The Sun Comes Up by Garth Brooks has two strums of an acoustic guitar around the 25 second mark to punctuate a lyric... that guitar doesn't appear anywhere else in the song.

    The first time I heard the left channel- right channel thing was Love in an Elevator. It blew my mind. Another fine example is Blow'em Off by Monster Magnet. The main vocals are only on the left, music only on the right... I forget how I figured this out,but it was in my old Toyota...

  2. I like Garth. I haven't listened to him in about ten years, but he is just a likable guy. I'll have to pull up youtube and listen for that.