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Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty
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Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  698 ratings  ·  110 reviews
What does it mean to listen in the digital era? Today, new technologies make it possible to roam instantly and experimentally across musical languages and generations, from Detroit techno to jam bands to baroque opera—or to dive deeper into the set of tastes that we already have. Either way, we can listen to nearly anything, at any time. The possibilities in this new age o ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 9th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Lee Klein
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loved this, more or less -- here's the official playlist: ...more
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Fantastic premise, fantastic introduction, and then... no. Rather than providing true insight into the mechanics and perception of music, it reads like a music critic's proudly diverse iTunes account. Yes, many great songs mentioned, but knowledge or taste does not equal insight, and exposure does not equal perspective.
Indran Fernando
May 02, 2016 rated it did not like it
The playlists have some interesting stuff from off the beaten path (Derek Bailey!). But Ratliff's diverse tastes in music and metaphor-laden writing style fail to conceal his lack of insights. Basically, take a verbose Pitchfork review, subtract most of the substance, then expand it to 200-some pages, and you have this book.

Other complaints:
1) Ratliff suggests that music appreciation needs an update for the age of the cloud. Far from achieving that update, he didn't even convince me why it's nec
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
It's rare that I write reviews anymore these days--despite the ongoing wish to write more of them--but today I feel the need. I need to WARN PEOPLE ABOUT THIS BOOK.

Read the title of the book, including the part that comes after the semicolon. Now, understand this: The book is NOT THAT. This is a collection of twenty brief essays about a variety of concepts as they are applied to music across a broad variety of genres. They are interesting, and if this book had just been titled something more ac
Josh O'Kane
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
From my Globe and Mail review:

As much as it pains creators, songs are now eminently discardable. Without anchors to keep listeners coming back for more, they can easily vanish into the ear’s ether without leaving a trace in the brain. This is where Ratliff’s new tools come in. They’re a series of connection points to draw between songs and bodies of work that don’t rely on genre – itself a corporate construct, really, with geographic and socioeconomic implications – for their definitions. Drake
Ian Hamilton
Apr 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
Proof that even one's favorite and consistently trusted critic can be way off the mark sometimes. This collection of 20 essays accomplishes almost nothing, especially failing to espouse the book's subtitle: Twenty Ways to Listen to Music in an Age of Musical Plenty. This is little more than 200+ pages of an author's self aggrandizement. And to think I actually paid for this book...UGH.
Mar 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: music
The unfulfilled promise here is that this book is going to help you better appreciate the enormous amount of music available on the streaming services. As a consumer of the music on those streaming services, I could definitely use some help, but this book didn't deliver it. That said, I couldn't help but to be impressed with Ratliff's knowledge of the music, from a very wide range including jazz, punk, rap, classical and more, that he used to illustrate the qualities of listening discussed in th ...more
Oct 31, 2016 added it
Shelves: did-not-finish
The title is completely misleading. This book has nothing to do with the ways we can listen to music (files/vinyl/videos/cds/etc.,) but talks about slowing down music, speeding up music, etc. Good grief, DJS have been mixing/changing speeds, etc., for at least 40+ years, rendering this book absolutely pointless. "Maybe we need slow funk. Is there anything more worthwhile, more worth slowing down for?" asked this author early in chapter 2. Well, how about a first kiss, a great meal, maybe the bes ...more
May 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: music
After hearing Ben Ratliff speak on What’s the Point, I was somewhat surprised by how little of Every Song Ever directly deals with the internet’s effect on music (this is the core subject in the podcast interview). That’s probably for the best, though, as plenty has already be said about the current and future state of art in the digital age. Instead, Ratliff sets out to remind us of the prodigious amount of sound that we have at our fingertips and urges us to make the most of it.

To help us out
Feb 23, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is really wonderful when Ratliff's bringing his passion for music to one particular song. He's clearly got a huge library of musical knowledge, and in describing the particular virtue of one piece of music, he'll make references to other pieces of music from diverse genres. For example: "...the first movement of Henryk Gorecki's famous Symphony no. 3 does something related to both Lawrence and Faure, also through chorale-like means: it starts and ends with figures rendered in deep bass ...more
Seth Fiegerman
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-books
It's been said that social media creates a "filter bubble" for news consumption, which only reasserts our existing beliefs as echoed by the friends and contacts we use choose to follow on Facebook and Twitter. In this book, Ratliff effectively suggests that the recommendations of streaming services create a similar filter bubble for our musical tastes.

In these twenty creative essays, Ratliff attempts to break that bubble by pushing us to think beyond genres like Indie Folk and Punk Pop and focus
Stephen Jenkins
Jul 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
I'm a musician and this a book about music. I guess it's not surprising that there was much about it that troubled me. My biggest problem is my own high expectations for a NYT critic to help with the huge onslaught of music available to us this day. I think his subject was too big for him. At any rate, there's too much purple/confused prose and outright errors. Example of the former: "A perfect moment is often wordless, or indirect if has words. It is the song blushing: an unplanned or perhaps o ...more
Mar 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music, non-fiction
This book is suprisingly really good, despite its poor title/subtitle. The prolification of different methods to access music is not really the focus. Instead, I came away thinking about the many different ways I already approach listening to and thinking about music, ways that I had not yet put to words. (Plus many other concepts I am dying to put into practice.) Ignore the title -- if you like obsessively listening to music -- if you are inspired by writing that makes you want to seek out what ...more
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: music, quit-reading
I quit reading this book for a few reasons... it wasn't what I expected from the premise and introduction, and I didn't like how the author wrote about music. It came across as pretentious and a bunch of references to songs you didn't know without describing them... I couldn't get through it. Not to mention statements that assert nick drake couldn't have made music if he were depressed, rather than just sad... I couldn't do it. Would not recommend, unless you need some stock phrases to sound pre ...more
Jason Das
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
I tried to read it over a couple of weeks and just can't make it happen. I enjoyed reading several promotional interviews, and I'm sympathetic to and interested in the thesis, but as a book I just don't get the point. It's like reading philosophy, which is about the most boring and pointless kind of reading for me. There's probably potential for a great 15-page essay to be extracted from here? Should be a magazine article or a pamphlet, not a fat book.
Dan Mcdowell
Feb 19, 2016 rated it did not like it
This is the first book in a while that I had to just quit reading. I thought I was really going to dig this. This is garbage.
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Tremendously smart essays about ways to listen to music. Must read for anyone who thinks a little about the music they listen to.
Antonio Paola
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating read! This book reads like a bodyscan meditation, focused on the ears.
Mar 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
Generally very sensible advice on how to make great playlists, and the spotify playlist from the book is excellent. "Transmission" is bullshit, but most of the other themes aren't.b
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Thoughts on evaluating your music and suggestions to break out of your music rut.
Samuel Zucca
Dec 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Music writing is a very strange art to perfect. You only to have a stroll through Pitchfork's reviews to find some truly odd-expressions, and a frustration to capture how we feel about arbitrary sounds into words. This might sound a bit over-the-top, but can you think of many great descriptions of music in fiction?

Now this book is far from fictitious, but it drew me in because of how it tackled music in a different way. This isn't about music theory, and I assume not the sort of thing you'd lea
Nick Huinker
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
thoughtful & accessible ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
This book is ok. The author focuses on one aspect of music per chapter and includes playlists of the songs he uses as examples. So that's neat. But he loves jazz...and I do not, so that's where he loses me.
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
After recently plowing my way through Retromania, Simon Reynolds' curmudgeonly account of the state of modern music, this was a welcome breath of fresh air. I went into Reynolds' book completely convinced of its thesis ("everything has been done", the future of music is mere rehashing, etc.), but it had the strange effect of actually convincing me of the opposite: both that music had always been recombinatorial, and that there is still innovation happening. I tend to take the view Borges took in ...more
Oct 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: abandoned
I love the idea of this book: To expand the reader's musical horizons and deepen their understanding by grouping music pieces not by genres or time periods, but by cross-cutting and tantalizingly amorphous qualities and attributes, such as slowness, quietness, intimacy, virtuosity, sadness, etc.

I also love the diversity of styles among the pieces that the author highlights (each chapter ends with a specific list of music tracks, ranging from Duke Ellington to Drake, most of which are nowadays ac
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016
Ratliff explores the current musical landscape and how society consumes and interacts with music. With more music options available to us than ever before and the technological advancements that allow us to access it faster and easier, Ratliff identifies that our listening habits are becoming more restricted and less open to new ideas. Over the span of 20 different, Ratliff examines 20 different concepts designed to help people listen to music better and be more open-minded. Ratliff focuses on m ...more
Keith Carpenter
Jun 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
The publisher sent me a comp. copy of this book hoping that I will use it as a music appreciation text book. Fat chance. While Ratliff writes decently, his understanding of music is greatly limited to how the receives the music, now upon the actual physical properties of the musical elements or the historical contexts in which the music is based. Sentences like "Its tracks are poetic rituals, not like most of what we listen to in this world", while discussing a rumba, drive me crazy: they're una ...more
Mar 12, 2016 rated it liked it
The title of this tome is a misnomer. This book has nothing much to do with finding a way to come to grips with the staggering amount of Music available to us midway through the 2nd decade of the 21st century; it provides no strategies to find your path through the colossal amounts of music that exist.
It really should be called Ben Ratliff's guide to listening. But then again, that won't appeal to many readers be they millennials or anyone else.

Ratliff tries to envision a new paradigm of listene
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
One of the most original books of music criticism I've ever had the pleasure to read. Ratliff explores novel ways of categorizing and appreciating music in the digital age, which has enabled listeners to access more music than ever before. Yet despite this increased access, people often have trouble finding new music to listen to that they enjoy. Ratliff argues that in this "age of musical plenty," classification of music by genre has become an inadequate tool. He suggest that we begin thinking ...more
Feb 29, 2016 added it
Shelves: nonfiction
This has really made me think about how and why I listen to music, the music that has had a profound impact on me, and how "we" categorize music (especially into genres, since that's part of my job and I often angst over how to label it). I do think it might be a little too steeped in music lingo for casual readers. I can read music and played an instrument (poorly) so I got some terms, but others were hard for me.

Ultimately, I really wanted this to be a blog, preferably a tumblr, where I could
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