The freaks listen at night
By Matthew Fraser, Editor in Chief
If anything, listening late at night, ensorcelled in the magic of good headphones, gives you the best and clearest view of what the artist intended.
After years and years, I have conditioned myself to love the late nights. Something about the post 10 pm listening session just does that elusive ‘it’ for me. It’s often the most rewarding part of my day; whether it’s Spotify or a pile of records, the combination of nighttime + headphones can’t be beaten.
Maybe it’s the darkness inside my house and outside of my windows; maybe it’s the cup of tea or the dram—maybe two—of liquor that makes the music sound clearer. Maybe the rest of my brain turns down and I can just focus on the sounds and rhythms that come out of my headphones, but there is a strange and pleasing vividness that music takes on once the rest of the world has gone quiet.
Late nights made me really appreciate a good album. I remember huddling next to my radio as a kid late at night when I should have been asleep listening to The Ongoing History of New Music with Alan Cross. He’d talk about albums and recording studios I’d never heard of. He’d unearth hidden stories and details I never could have known. I’d go to the library after to find those albums and listen to them on my Walkman. That must be where my love for headphones and late-night listening began.
If anything, listening late at night, ensorcelled in the magic of good headphones, gives you the best and clearest view of what the artist intended. When you’re on the bus rubbing shoulders and jostling for space, you miss half the music. When you’re out for a walk you get more, but your attention isn’t devoted to the music. But when the night comes down, when you’re in your chair, when you can dedicate a few hours to the riddles and dreams of someone elses mind, that’s when you get the most from your music.
It’s like the headphones conjure the artist into your mind; it’s like the night removes every distraction. You can wrestle with the power of John Coltrane when midnight abandons you to A Love Supreme. The headphones are like a key, and behind that door, you can be soothed by Sade and A Love Deluxe. If that’s too much love, you’re welcome to a Pretty Hate Machine courtesy of the Nine Inch Nails.
But I have to warn you, there’s plenty of traps along your late-night journey. There’s the path of ‘just one more song’ and its culmination at daybreak. There’s the ‘can I get just an inch more from my system’ brutalization of your wallet. There’s the scourge of ever more obscure and specialized bands that Spotify can dig up, yet no one else has heard of. If you’re not careful, you may not start to live until the sun goes down and your headphones go on.