By Jeremiah Tucker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
During the long holiday weekend, my buddies and I discussed the theory that, given enough time, your tastes eventually resemble a more refined version of what you liked before you knew any better.
For instance, one friend said when he decided to get into coffee he began brewing increasingly complex darker roasts, until after a few years he reverted back to the lighter coffees he'd previously favored. He still turns his nose up at Folgers, but now he likes the blonde roast at Starbucks -- if it's prepared with a French press.
Another friend said a similar thing happened to him with microbrews. And I said it's kind of like how you might really be into Swans and other seminal no-wave bands, then one day realize you prefer the elegant pop of Justin Bieber.
I only got blank stares in return.
I do think there's some truth to this. I began to wonder how broadly this circular theory of cultural appreciation could be applied.
I started out as a fan of whatever was on the radio when I was young, regularly recording the Top 40 countdown on cassette tapes. Then I rejected anything mainstream as a teenager, got into increasingly esoteric stuff throughout college, only to cycle back around to appreciating genres I'd formerly maligned, including Top 40 pop and modern country.
Most of my favorite music still tends to fall outside the mainstream at the end of the year, but I find I have increasingly little patience for truly difficult records. As much as I love outrŽ troubadour Scott Walker's earlier work in the '60s and '70s, I didn't even bother listening to his album "Bish Bosch" last year, which included a 21-minute song entitled "SDSS1416+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)."
I haven't decided where I land on whether this is a good thing. I do think realizing how difficult it is to do simple music well takes an astuteness that comes with time. But it's worrisome if, as you get older, you find yourself increasingly unreceptive to any art too difficult or challenging.
At any rate, I wish we could've discussed this topic further, but the conversation quickly turned to underrated, ripped guys. My contribution was Hank Azaria.
Daft Punk: 'Random Access Memories'
Though it remains one of the biggest albums of the year, I greeted the latest release from the iconic French dance-music duo with a shrug. Although I love a lot of Daft Punk's singles, in particular "Digital Love," I rarely revisited their music. Unless I was on a dance floor or jogging, I found its use limited.
Still, I couldn't deny the allure of the lead single "Get Lucky," which likely will wind up as one of the best songs of 2013. The nouveau-disco song, built around a sterling riff by Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers, did its job: It got me excited to hear the rest of the album.
Now, I wouldn't go so far as to say "Get Lucky" was a bait and switch, but it certainly was not indicative of what the rest of "Random Access Memories" sounds like. Unless you heard it and thought "I bet this means there's going to be a 9-minute song/interview with producer Giorgio Moroder," the album requires some adjustments of your expectations.
Once you've reoriented yourself, however, there's a lot to enjoy, even if it's just basking in how good this album sounds on a nice pair of headphones.
Recorded all over the world on analog tape in the most expensive studios, Daft Punk set out to make a blockbuster album that hearkens back to a less parsimonious era when the biggest bands would routinely blow through millions to cut a record. In the past, Daft Punk used samples; here they recruited studio musicians such as Rodgers and some of the guys who played on "Thriller" to reproduce the sounds of the late '70s and early '80s albums they grew up listening to.
You might not be able to dance to it, you may think only a handful of the songs are any good, but it sounds fantastic.