Hearing What They Hear

2014 12 30 Best Albums of 2014

One of my very favorite parts of the New Year’s season are all the best-of lists that start to come out and especially best albums of 2014. I’m going through the Washington Post’s top 50 albums of 2014 list right now, starting with Montevallo by Sam Hunt (which they put at #2 for the year). I was surprised to find out that I’d already heard one of those songs (“Leave the Night On”), but pop-country is very much not my usual fare so this is definitely a different album from what I usually listen to.

Which is why I like it.

Sure, one of the main reasons I go through these lists is that I’m hoping to find something new that will really speak to me.1 But the truth is that a lot of the time I like listening to songs that other people like, even if they don’t really speak to me in the same way, because I want to try and hear what they hear.

At one level, it’s just math. The more genres you have acquired a taste for, the more great music there is in your world. But it goes beyond that. You do yourself a favor expanding your capacity to appreciate and your potential to empathize, and in my experience you lose nothing of your own individual perspective along the way. I’m not saying every artist is equally talented or that popularity is quality. Just pointing out that there are a lot of people out there, trying to find or make something beautiful or inspiring or soothing or powerful. If you feel like your world could use a little more of those things, then try stretching out its horizons a little.

Even when you don’t find a new favorite artist, just realizing that other people are trying to bring more light or meaning or fun into the world can bring a sense of hope and optimism. Listening to new genres of music until the sounds and the lyrics start to make some sense is a way of reminding yourself how much we have in common, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye.

And, since I mentioned my current addiction, I’ll give you a sample. I totally didn’t get these guys at first,2 but now that I’m dialed in to their frequency I can’t listen to their songs without cranking the volume and, more often than not, singing / screaming along.

If the suicide theme seems dark, by the way, be sure you pay attention to the lyrics of the song towards the very end.

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