Listening to a new album for the first time

Listening to a new album for the first time is always a special time for me. Personally, I usually to listen to it in private on repeat, shut away in my bedroom with the headphones on. Sometimes if I’m feeling really kinky, I’ll do it in the dark. 🙂  I will then keep playing the album over the next couple of weeks as I become familiar with the songs.

I have been eagerly awaiting the new album from Darren Hayes, “Secret Codes and Battleships”, due out on 21 October 2011. Strangely I was never particularly a fan of Savage Garden but I did and still do love Darren’s solo work. He has an amazing voice and a great pop sensibility pervades his work. Darren’s last album “This Delicate Thing We’ve Made” is an absolute masterpiece and one of my favourite all-time albums.

Since my anticipation for “Secret Codes and Battleships” has been running high, I was intrigued when Darren’s official website announced special listening sessions for the album just for fans. I put my name down, not really expecting to get in, and promptly forgot about it. I never get picked for these things anyway.

Imagine my surprise when I got an email confirming my attendance at a listening session in a recording studio in inner Sydney. I must confess to being nervous before going. Although yes I am a fan of Darren’s music, I can’t compare to those obsessive fans who can reel off facts and who know every details about Darren’s life and career. I have never been that comfortable being that sort of fan about any artist to be honest although I have been in the past.

It was a beautiful sunny day three weeks ago when I turned up at the studio. I made sure that I got there an hour early and was fortunate enough to get into the courtyard area. I sat quietly with another fan even when most of the other people were ushered out to wait in the street. It does pay to be well-behaved at times.

By the time they were ready to let us in, we had to leave any bags and electronic devices with security. We were scanned with one of those portable security wands. I guess they had to make sure no unscrupulous person would record it. The confirmation email had advised that we had to be prepared to be patted down and I was ready for that but sadly no action for me on that front! The security guys were very friendly and apologetic about the security arrangements but no one seemed to mind.

There were about 100 fans and we all sat in the main orchestral room. Darren’s sister Tracey, who runs the fan club, spoke with us about the album and how Darren and his family were very appreciative of the fans’ support. Darren himself couldn’t be there but he had recorded a video introduction which was a nice touch. It was nice to have an artist who is genuinely supportive of and grateful to his fans. A rare thing these days.

And then it was time to listen to the album.

I musy say that this was a very unusual way to listen to an album for the first time. Well, for me anyway. I felt a sense of desperation, knowing that I was going to hear it only once and then having to wait two months to hear it on my terms. I was trying to recall every detail so the memory of it wouldn’t totally disappear. Of course, I wasn’t successful in that regard. It was all a distant memory by the time I got home.

I was able to hold on to my general impressions of the album which of course were very positive. This is a more pop friendly album and a lot more accessible than the last one. It has a lot more tighter sound. I think it’s got the potential to be huge. The two songs that stayed with me the longest were the next singles – “Bloodstained Heart” (now out on Australian iTunes) and “Black Out The Sun” (the rest of the world).

We only got to hear the album once. After the last song, Tracey just announced that was it. I wanted to scream out to play it again but thought that wouldn’t be a good idea. There was a brief chat about favourite songs and then it was time to go. I made sure I thanked Tracey for the opportunity. She joked about how cruel it was to only play it once and then make us wait. I had to agree but at the same time I was very appreciative of being able to hear the album.

Thinking about it afterwards, I think it will still be like listening to it for the first time when I finally get the album except the anticipation and the experience overall will be enhanced by having had this sneak peek. At least I know that I won’t be disappointed.

I have also just found out that there is going to be a special edition with seven bonus tracks and a collector’s edition with twelve bonus tracks so there will be the equivalent of a whole album of extra stuff that will be totally new. Exciting or what? 🙂

An epic clip has been unleashed for “Black Out The Sun”. Darren is currently filming a clip for “Bloodstained Heart” but in the meantime there is a lyric video. Both these songs are different shades of brilliant with “Bloodstained Heart” pipping the post as my favourite. I can’t stop playing them.

And to round it out, here is the video for the first single from the album, “Talk, Talk, Talk”.

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