Second records are incredibly difficult. Let’s just say that from the get go. One of the reasons they’re tricky is because for a large number of popular bands, this is their chance to prove that they are able to follow up their first record and cement their place in the modern music landscape. Some bands make second records that match the debut records(Interpol’s “Antics,” LCD Soundsystem “Sounds of Silver). Others totally blow away their predecessor (Tool’s “Aenima” and Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea). but for every second release that nails its delivery, there are a million more that never seem to take off. This article won’t be a list of the best second releases, but more of a brief conversation about why some records stick and others don’t.
First off, technically, you have your entire life to write your first album. All these feelings float around in my body and soul, and over time those opinions, thoughts, hopes and fears bleed into what becomes your artistic calling card. This is important. Sure you can evolve and grow and some of your opinions can change, but those first pieces and that first album come from a truer place that many of the follow up records. That’s not to say the later thoughts aren’t important, but in that early stage an artist hasn’t truly felt what it’s like to be part of a well known group or performance entity. The business side of it hasn’t fully taken effect. Sometimes you’re lucky and you become more honest and true to yourself, but in my life i haven’t seen an overabundance of evidence to suggest that.
By the time the second record needs to be made, if you’re successful, you have lawyers, managers, fucking clothing handlers who are there to help you, but also to help you to be more accessible to the growing eye of the public. All of that is nonsense and bullshit. Like why is there someone around telling people what cool clothes the band should wear when they go on stage. Its really lame. I digress though.
My point is, once the second record comes around, expectations are high, for everyone. Whether it’s your team of monkeys handling you, or the fans who felt as though you were talking only to them on your first album, people are excited. And with excitement comes expectations. Will the album sound too much or too different from the debut? Or worse, will it be so bad that people will wonder why they ever liked you in the first place(Looking at you Awolnation). But in the end, music is art for everyone, but most importantly its for the people making it. Also just remember that for every bad second album, comes an album that not only changes your original ideas of the band, but makes you appreciate how much they’ve changed.
Take for instant MGMT and Passion Pit. both bands had very good, very popular first albums. Then, and this mainly goes for MGMT, the band decides to change their sound to fit in with where they are in their lives at the moment. For the record I really loved both of these bands sophomore records(“Congratulations” and “Gossamer”) They were both quite good, and even though the bands were getting pretty big, neither album really hit the mark commercially speaking. Whether or not it’s because the albums weren’t as good as their first records is up for debate(Like or dislike is a matter of opinion) or the tide had turned that quickly, we may never know. But to come to a conclusion, second records are way more difficult to make and produce than debut records, so maybe we should be more focused on whether it draws us in, as opposed to liking only if it reminds us of the first times we heard a band or artist. Thanks for reading!
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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