First & Ten: 10 Things I’ve Learned From Reviewing Albums

First & Ten: 10 Things I’ve Learned From Reviewing Albums

Over the past four years I’ve reviewed hundreds upon hundreds of albums, everything from CCM to punk rock, indie rock to hip hop.

Some were brilliant masterpieces and some were down right abominations.

The albums had their pluses and minuses as well. I’ll let that awful joke sink in for a second so that we can move on.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned from reviewing those albums:

  1. Average albums are the worst: I can easily talk about an amazing album because there are characteristics that stand out. Same thing with an awful album. But talking about a middle of the road, safe, average album is the least exciting thing to do with my time.
  2. Artists have feelings and so do I: When I write a review, I try to write it with the knowledge that the artist that I’m reviewing could be reading it. Some will vehemently disagree, but I don’t write reviews with the intention of being a jerk. If I don’t like something, I’m not afraid to say it, but I try to do it in a way that is constructive and not destructive.
  3. People don’t usually appreciate differences of opinion: Do you agree with my review? It’s because I’m a genius. Do you disagree with my review? It’s because I’m an idiot. Some days I’m both somehow.
  4. If you do something half-heartedly, people can tell: There have been times when I’ve written a dozen reviews over the course of the weekend. Naturally, some albums get more attention than others and details matter. If I write a rather bland review, if I don’t put out a solid effort on every review, people know.
  5. I can’t do it all on my own: Last year I brought on a bunch of other opinionated reviewers simply because there is just too much music out there for any one person to listen to and then give a thoughtful opinion. Thank you, staff!
  6. There’s more music out there that I would love if I had the time: I’ve discovered that while the music I love is definitely the best, there is a lot of great music out there that I wish I had time for. I’ve been trying to get into hip hip for the last year and there’s some great stuff out there, I just wish I had more time for it.
  7. A lot of people in the industry are winging it: There’s no perfect formula to making and promoting music successfully every time and a lot of the promotional material we get varies greatly, because we’re all just guessing on how to do this.
  8. There’s about five amazing albums a year: Which makes the year end top ten list really, really difficult.
  9. First impressions don’t mean everything: I’ve been wrong on stuff, both ways.
  10. Everyone else knows more about it than me: just check the comments!


About Tyler Hess

Tyler Hess has been running Christian Music Zine since he created the site in 2008. His favorite bands are Relient K, Bleach, Emery, House of Heroes, The Classic Crime, Children 18:3 and Anberlin. Twitter = @tylerscotthess More Posts

8 Comments to “First & Ten: 10 Things I’ve Learned From Reviewing Albums”

  1. I agree with number 6- I am just starting to get interested in hip hop (a bit!), starting off with TobyMac, Group 1 Crew, Lecrae… Even though my preference is CCM, I guess I’m at the stage where if I received a hip hop pre release I wouldn’t be 100% sure if I would definitely say no to reviewing it (what I mean is that I’d be open to it!)

    As for point 8: depends of what you mean by amazing… Is it more than half the songs are individually amazing, or the whole feel of an album? I guess we’ll have to wait til December when everyone submits their top ten lists for albums and songs!

    I like the way you mentioned point 5 straight after point 4! By the way, thanks for letting us be part of your amazing team, Tyler, and I think everyone else agrees with you bringing us on! :)

  2. Out of curiosity, at what point do you consider an album amazing (reference to point 8)? Is it based on the rating you give or more about how you think of the albums you put in that group now, as opposed to then?

    Just looking back 2 years, I could vary from maybe few as 3 albums that are great to as many as 8-10, depending on how greatness is defined. I think you’re right that the number likely settles around 5, but I’m curious as to if you mean you think 5 albums are amazing THAT year, or if you look back a few years and say “roughly 5 albums in year X were great.”

    • I don’t know about Tyler, but I initially consider an album amazing when it’s good enough for me to audibly say, “This is amazing!” to myself. Then that album has to hold up well over time. So usually I personally don’t declare an album officially amazing until the end of the year. :)

      I guess we all have different definitions of “amazing” but on average I hear about 3 albums a year that have that effect on me. Although there WERE 5 records last year I’d consider “amazing” but 2011 was an exceptional year.

      • For me, I have a hard time listening to albums I’ve had for a year or more. Even killer ones. I’ll sometimes go back through and listen to this or that and have moments of ‘I love this!’ ecstatic joy that is fairly fleeting. It may be because I play the heck out of a good album for like a month or sometimes two straight. I don’t know much about a good album for the long term. So, for me, I feel like I can judge an album after a week. Usually my thoughts don’t change after that, unless I end up disliking the style of music because of changes in preference. I remember listening to albums & thinking I liked it the first or second time through just because I didn’t want to think I wasted ten bucks, & then after a few days going ‘This album sucks!’. And then there are times when it takes some consistent listening for a few days to really get into it. For me, a ‘good’ album is one that I’m excited to listen to. And sometimes I don’t like every song on an album I love, but I still love it.

    • I think internal combustion of joy is a good indicator…a few good songs does not make an album amazing, it has to be the whole thing and it has to be long term

      • I think I’m more methodical, haha. As an example, I’ve never really bought into August Burns Red (not sure if you listen to them). When their album Leveler came out last year, I heard 2-3 songs I liked, then pretty much ignored it. Now, I’m listening to it on random while I type this because I’ve come to realize I love a lot of what’s on this album. I still don’t listen to their older stuff much, but this album’s stuck with me.

        Part of it’s probably that I didn’t really get into music a lot until I was 17/18, right at the end of high school. I still find myself changing opinions on stuff from 3 years ago, haha, so it might just be a different approach on my part. I’ve found myself a little fickle with stuff, I guess–loving it at first, then simply not caring after a while.

  3. Great list Tyler, thanks for communicating what I think about reviewing because most of it is true and thanks for letting me be part of your staff! As far as reviewing, I can’t help but always remember the last part of the movie Ratatouille, where the food critic talks about criticism =)

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