What are your favorite first 10 seconds of an album?

Illustration for article titled What are your favorite first 10 seconds of an album?
Graphic: The A.V. Club
AVQ&AWelcome back to AVQ&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences.

This week’s AVQ&A was inspired by a viral Twitter thread from a few weeks ago:

What are your favorite first 10 seconds of an album?

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2 / 9

Radiohead, Kid A

Radiohead, Kid A

It’s been 20 years, but the opening synth line that kicks off Radiohead’s Kid A is still the most perfect mood-setter for not only that record, but the band’s subsequent entire career. The somber, minor-key melody that begins “Everything In Its Right Place” captures an entire aesthetic with only a descending melody that hits a dark chord, then slowly tries to rise again—as accurate a description of the British group’s output as any I can think of. It lets you know just what kind of record you’re about to experience, and it instantly creates a sense of foreboding and anxiety. Huh, I wonder what about 2020 is reminding me of those emotions again. [Alex McLevy]

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3 / 9

Kelly Clarkson, Meaning Of Life

Kelly Clarkson, Meaning Of Life

It’s a simple table-setter—eight footsteps; the unmistakable static of a record gearing up; and one word, “sometimes,” dripping with soul—but the first 10 seconds of Kelly Clarkson’s Meaning Of Life is the perfect way to ease into 14 tracks of soul and R&B. While the original American Idol’s sound remains current, the opening of “A Minute (Intro)” puts fans in the ideal mindset to toss their screens aside and enjoy her 2017 album in the same way past generations would have savored an Aretha Franklin vinyl. [Patrick Gomez]

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4 / 9

Alex G, Rocket

Alex G, Rocket

It’s unlike (Sandy) Alex G—wait, he’s just Alex G again—to offer a warm welcome. The experimental folk artist’s DSU opens with some glitchy, garbled guitar, while last year’s House Of Sugar finds the singer unpleasantly wailing over some halting strums. The opening seconds of 2017’s Rocket, though, are something else entirely. There are no effects, no pitch-shifting—just a cascading wave of banjo arpeggios and, somewhere nearby, a barking dog that sounds like it’s trying to keep up. It’s so instantly evocative—country porches, green grass, sweaty jugs of lemonade—that the pastoral vibes manage to linger even as the songwriter begins teasing out his darker melodies. [Randall Colburn]

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5 / 9

Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion

Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion

To press play on Emotion is to feel the skies opening up—the holy saxophone riff of “Run Away With Me” announcing the arrival of Carly Rae Jepsen bearing gifts from pop-music heaven. The opening to the Canadian chanteuse’s immaculate third album is a siren call, beckoning the listener in to her neon-hued world of love, loss, and oh so many e•mo•tions. That the sax loop feels like a rush of blood to the head even after a thousand-something listens is a testament to the immediacy of Jepsen’s songcraft, grabbing you by the heartstrings and never letting go. [Cameron Scheetz]

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6 / 9

Neutral Milk Hotel, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

Neutral Milk Hotel, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

It’s just an acoustic guitar, some midtempo strumming, but the simple opening of “King Of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1,” track one on Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, is indelible in my mind, immediately evocative. It’s less about the guitar sounding good, though it does, than what it tells me: that even after just 10 seconds I’m going to have to listen to the entire album, front to back, the spare beginning soon giving way to distorted layers of accordion and horns and singing saw. Jeff Mangum’s magnum opus is grand and all-encompassing—rich with scuzzy sound, the eclectic detail, life and death—and those first moments are the quiet, wooded path that leads you to its heady carnival. [Laura Adamczyk]

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7 / 9

Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run

Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run

Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run was basically the album that got me through high school. I’ve listened to it innumerable times, but never fail to thrill at its first few moments. “Thunder Road” kicks off with Springsteen’s mournful harmonica wail, supported by a few plaintive piano chords with a predictive melody that indicates the nostalgic saga that’s about to unfold. As a crap harp player myself, I have tried to mimic those notes, but never succeed at capturing the emotionality present at Born To Run’s beginning. That harmonica still makes me gleeful, as hearing it means that I am about to experience the sheer bliss that the 40 minutes of one of my favorite records will bring. Again. [Gwen Ihnat]

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8 / 9

Chvrches, The Bones Of What You Believe

Chvrches, The Bones Of What You Believe

If I may also pick an opening 10 seconds that foreshadow a band’s entire career, I have to go with the “Oh oh oh ohohoh” that kicks off “The Mother We Share” on Chvrches’ The Bones Of What You Believe. It’s poppy, it has an energetic beat that gets even better when the second run through adds handclaps, but then the final “oh” dips down a bit, adding a single note of melancholy. So it’s a fun and catchy melody that sneaks in a hint of sadness, which is as good an advertisement for the Chvrches catalog as anything else. [Sam Barsanti]

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9 / 9