soundtracking with Robert Szkolnicki: Have you heard … ?

September 10, 2012

NPR’s All Songs Considered cast of characters wondered if it’s possible to put together a top ten list of albums that everyone can agree on.

The kinds of records that, if you put them on at a party, everyone would say, “turn it up!”

It is an ambitious idea. It is also an impossible idea. There’s always one person in a crowd at a party who will not like something. (Heck it might be me if I hear something by The Tragically Hip.)

To figure this out, NPR has run a poll each week this summer containing twenty critically acclaimed or popular albums and the question “Do You Love It?” The choices are “Yes”, “No”, or “Haven’t Really Heard”.

After a few weeks of polling, an unexpected trend occurred. Robin Hilton wrote on June 5 …

We’re a few weeks into our search for the albums everyone can agree on, and some of the results of our surveys so far have been surprising. Most of you haven’t even heard the Once soundtrack or The Band’s Music From Big Pink? How is that possible? And only 40 per cent of you like Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill? That’s one of the most amazing records ever! Hey, not judging here. (I’m judging.) Just surprised.

While I am curious to see what the top ten albums will be, I think it is more interesting to see the list of albums that people have not heard. As of September 1, the results say that The Once Soundtrack has not been heard by 43 per cent of responders. The Band’s Music From The Big Pink … 47 per cent have not heard the album.

Here are more albums that have not been heard.

  • Sigur Ros, ( ) 45 per cent
  • Van Morrison, “Astral Weeks” 36 per cent
  • Almost Famous Soundtrack 47 per cent
  • Queen, “Night At The Opera” 30 per cent
  • Kate Bush, “Hounds of Love” 61 per cent
  • Peter Gabriel, “So” 45 per cent
  • The Who, “Who’s Next” 30 per cent
  • The Cars, “The Cars” 40 per cent
  • Arcade Fire, “Funeral” 25 per cent
  • Bon Iver, “For Emma, Forever Ago” 28 per cent
  • TV On The Radio, “Return To Cookie Mountain” 51 per cent
  • Buena Vista Social Club 47 per cent
  • Roxy Music, “Avalon” 61 per cent
  • Matthew Sweet, “Girlfriend” 63 per cent
  • Jeff Buckley, “Grace” 41 per cent
  • Feist, “The Reminder” 41 per cent
  • Vince Guraldi Trio, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” 32 per cent
  • Wilco, “Summerteeth” 42 per cent
  • Blur, “Parklife” 60 per cent
  • Massive Attack, “Mezzanine” 59 per cent
  • Portishead, “Dummy” 49 per cent
  • My Bloody Valentine, “Loveless” 58 per cent
  • Billy Joel, “The Stranger” 36 per cent
  • Yann Tiersen, “Amelie Soundtrack” 64 per cent

This is just a partial list of albums that had high or surprisingly high “not heard” numbers . While these survey results could describe something about the NPR ASC listener, I think it might be better to have a side B to this project called albums you would recommend to someone at a party.



  1. I think there are two things illustrated by the high “not heard” numbers. The first is that “critical acclaim” doesn’t exactly send people running to buy anything. The second is that the appeal of more “underground” music; (portishead, TV on the radio) has become much stronger in the internet age. Basically, I think a lot of us are playing catch-up with music that we’ve been hearing about for years. NPR itself probably hadn’t seen such a surge in popularity and listenership until the rise of the web, and the iphone etc. It probably also says a lot about the demographic of the average NPR listener.

    • Hey Patrick! I have some similar theories about “critical acclaim” that i might bend your ear about offline. And I totally agree about the demand for underground

      • Certainly, let me know!

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