Talking Music: How To Improve Your Musical Listening


WORDS: Laura McCarthy

Having a job in which you get to listen to music and go to gigs, take photos and talk to bands seems great. And you’re be right. It really is amazing to be able to do this, and to see people reading what you have to say on music is a real privilege.

However, this has sparked some discussions with those that are interested in what we do at Distorted Sound. Having a dialogue about what you like about music is great fun, but if anyone has had any sort of introduction to critical analysis, you know that you can’t just say “it’s good because I like it”, and especially not “I don’t like it, therefore it’s bad”.

Looking into the musical tastes of music fans, it’s clear that perception and opinions on music change over the years. People as youngun’s have gone from loving GEORGE MARTIN’s In My Life to being fans of MASTODON, or even go from ANTHRAX’s Among The Living to the more groove based styles of CROBOT. Social groups, age and exposure are all big parts of understanding your own musical taste. However, when looking at music analytically, you have to be more objective. Your own personal interest in the sound can only carry you so far. Of course, generally speaking you have to enjoy the genre, but the specific bands themselves have to be looked at closer.

Firstly, what is the music is trying to achieve? If it is doom metal, for example, is it creating the kinds of emotions you’d expect from doom? What are the tonal qualities like, and is there anything unique about it? If the band are perhaps more pop punk, what are they doing to make the music fun, and is there anything innovative about the playing style that hasn’t been repeated a million times? Rap metal- what’s the subject matter and are the lyrics well delivered? Does the band play around that vocal style in a way that compliments it? Is the band iconic, like IRON MAIDEN? What have they done with the latest album Book Of Souls, that still ties the music to the image of the band, but equally gives the fans something new and stimulating to listen to? (See what we had to say about the latest IRON MAIDEN album here.) All things to think about.

A bands ability to be innovative, always striving to be the best version of themselves, whistle keeping a core understanding of who they are and what they are creating with their sound is hard. No band ever comes fully formed- look up some of ALICE COOPER’s very early work, it’s very 50’s rock and roll, even quite prog.

It’s fun to see a band find themselves and progress, regardless of the genre. If there is a distinct upping of the game from one album the next- all musicians playing their best, the mix is produced well, that is great. If a band starts to reuse some of their old innovations, the music becomes a little generic or even cliché. What is key is that you notice these things. It’s no good to outright declare a band’s music as great because you were a fan at fifteen. If you can see the qualities and the flaws in a bands material, then by all means discuss them with those that want that discussion. However, if a band surprises you and you find yourself enjoying something you would not regularly like, dissect the music and think about what it is you are connecting with. What’s important is to always go into music with an open mind.

What bands did you enjoyed in your youth, and what bands you love now? Are they the same, or has your taste changed? Leave a comment below and let us know!