Friday, January 18, 2008

The 'Narcotic Need' for New Music

By Nicole Pope

There's a new Beach House song called "Gila" that I cannot stop thinking about. Over the past week I fell so disgustingly in love with it. I listened to it over and over and over again. I hummed the song in my husband's presence, belted it out with full-lung-capacity when he left for work. I wanted to be Victoria Legrand. I wanted to sing in a girl-boy band, dress like a ragamuffin indie star, sing with such somber austerity.

Then, just like that, I heard the song for the umpteenth time, and to quote The Flaming Lips, "suddenly, everything ha[d] changed." The rush was simply over.

I'm familiar with this sort of burn out, and typically avoid over-listening to something for this precise reason. It's why I listen to full albums rather than individual songs. It's why I now skip "Svefn-G-Englar" or "Cybele's Reverie" or "The Past and Pending" or the first three tracks off The Moon and Antarctica or even "Paranoid Android" (though mainstream radio is responsible for burning me out on that song long before I heard it in context of the album).

So what leads to this binge-and-crash relationship with new music?

In his collection of essays titled Songbook, Nick Hornby describes what he calls a "narcotic need" for music. He discusses a theory posed by music critic Dave Eggers, that we play songs over and over and over again in an attempt to "solve" them. This theory definitely holds true from my standpoint. When I hear something new, it challenges me, forces me to look at it from different angles, to scratch at the varnish and wires and rusty nails until I get at its shivering, naked core. Unfortunately, the mystery only lasts so long. I guess you could say I've undressed "Gila" one too many times.

So the bad news is we can't keep that giddy, newly-in-love feeling forever. And eventually, even artists as seemingly bizarre as Animal Collective eventually sound "normal." The good news, though, is that sometimes after putting something on the proverbial shelf for a while, we can rediscover it. That, and, true music addicts know they can move on and get their fix elsewhere. Perhaps Hornby best captures this sentiment when he states,

“A couple of times a year I make myself a tape to play in the car, a tape full of all the new songs I’ve loved over the previous few months, and every time I finish one I can’t believe that there’ll be another. Yet there always is, and I can’t wait for the next one; you only need a few hundred more things like that, and you’ve got a life worth living.”

Read last week's Unappreciated Scholar.

1 comment:

Hackworth Artifex said...

I've found that if you come back to a song that you've burnt out on a decade later or so later... you can fall in love again.