#35: Bob Dylan, "Triplicate"
I’m listening to this album a day late because by the time I got home last night and scrolled down to discover my homework was a three-disc Bob Dylan tome of a record, I had used up all my self-discipline for the day and preferred to spend the last hours of my evening scrolling through Instagram on the couch and then reading by book about the periodic table of the elements in bed, in silence.
So I broke the rules. There are rules to this thing. The principal purpose of this 50 albums endeavor is to give myself a structure that facilitates my sitting down and writing something new every day, but the structure itself interests me, or else I wouldn’t have picked it. So, like all my self-prescribed life experiments - the one where I gave up texting for Lent, the one where I took on “Extreme Unitasking,” the one where I spent money strictly on needs for a month - there must be rules.
Rules: Listening through Rolling Stone’s list of the 50 best albums of 2017
Write something new every real day.
Starting at 50 and in descending order, listen to one album (or grouping of albums, as I’ve now discovered with #37 that the editors at Rolling Stone are not concerned enough with the generally accepted rules of ranking things that they won’t put more than one album on one number *shakes fist menacingly*) every day.
Listen to the album (or albums 😒) in full, start to finish, without pausing.
No looking ahead. Look to see what the next album on the list is only after finishing the previous album and writing that day’s piece.
No reconnaissance. When you find out what the next album is, there is to be no Googling or Wikapediaing or Spotify perusing until after you’ve listened to the album in full. What you know going into the album is what you know. After you’ve listened and written, you can research the artist and album as much as you want.
I’m on #35 and so far have broken every rule but Rules no. 4 and 5. As tempting as it’s been to scan ahead in the list or sample the discography of an unknown-to-me band or look up an artist who I know I should know but I just don’t know and don’t want to be embarrassed by writing about not knowing and then finding out that it was super obvious and I must not know anything about music (ahem, Christine McVie), I’ve gone into each album with only the knowledge I already had about whatever it was I was about to listen to. In most cases, that’s been no knowledge at all beyond the cover art of one album and how much on a scale of 1-50 the editors of Rolling Stone liked it. Sometimes I don’t even know the genre, though I can usually make an educated guess.
Rule no. 5 has made it so I go into each album with minimal bias or expectation and can form my own opinion about the piece as a standalone work of art. It’s then been fun to read about the album and the artist once I’ve listened to and and decided what I think of it. To know a little about who the artists are and where they’ve been. If this album is par for their course or a total 180-degree flip. Whether the person who’s made it is even still alive anymore (in several cases so far, no).
As a person who both loves and hates rules, I have to be able to distinguish between the rules that are useful and those that are just there for the sake of being there. My rebellious spirit wants some rules to push up against. These are the rules that keep me on track for whatever habit I’m trying to take up or break, but I can break them every once in a while and still feel like I’m pretty much on track. That’s Rules no. 1-3 here. Yeah, some days I don’t write anything new. There are some days I write something new but don’t listen to an album. Some days I’m listening to my album in the car, and there are four tracks left but I’ve reached my destination and I have to get out of the car. I press pause and save the rest for later. Of course, I should adhere to these rules whenever I can. They exist for a reason, after all. But these are the rules that, even when occasionally broken, ruin nothing and continue to serve their purpose the next day.
Then there are the rules that rest on principle. The ones that make an experience what it is and, if broken, would add a tinge of disappointment to the whole project. The integrity rules. The rules there’d never be any good reason to break, and so one must not break. I haven’t broken Rules no. 4 and 5. And for that, I can only be grateful that I already knew who Bob Dylan was.
VERDICT: Despite being the longest of the albums I’ve listened to so far, this album felt the most essential. There wasn’t a melody or guitar riff out of place or a single song I would have edited out to tighten it up. It needs no tightening. It fills an hour and 34 minutes beautifully and will enhance every second you give it.
GREAT FOR: Staring out the window on a cloudy day, thinking about lost loves and happy-sad memories.