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King Krule and the Myth of the Sophomore Slump

Archy Marshall was only 19 years old when he released his first full length album as King Krule. The record, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, was a watershed moment in modern alternative music. His sound was somber, while still feeling light and airy, and his husky baritone was a calling card, welcoming any listener into a cavernous soundscape that was equal parts lovelorn and macabre.

It was an album that, upon hitting my 14 year old ears, changed the way I viewed modern music and is considered by many (myself included) to be one of the best albums of the decade.

6 Feet Beneath the Moon (XL Recordings)

4 years later, Archy donned the King Krule moniker once again for his 2017 album, The OOZ. The soft warmth of 6 Feet was gone, and in its place was over an hour’s worth of darkness and abysmal isolation, depression and disconnection. It shocked both fans and newcomers alike, and remains as polarizing today as when it first came out.

https://youtu.be/K5-f1Bnltu8

This upcoming Sunday, October 13th, marks The OOZ’s second birthday, and in the time since it’s release, I’ve felt every possible way there is to feel about it. It’s a heavy, melancholic, and at times lethargic album, but it’s also beautifully orchestrated, incredibly emotive, and even blissful at times. I’ve grown to truly love it, and while it may not be as mind-altering as 6 Feet, it remains an incredible album that truly reflects Archy Marshall’s growth as not just an artist, but as a human being. Many fans and critics alike didn’t think so.

The incidence of The OOZ had me thinking about the concept of the sophomore slump.

If you’re unfamiliar, the sophomore slump refers to when an artist releases a flash in the pan amazing debut album, only to have the following record panned for not living up to the absurd amount of hype. 

This is where the line can be drawn between the artist and the listener.

At the end of the day, the artist truly owes nothing to the listener, there is no requirement to make an album that the listener will like. An artist can only make an album that they are proud of, that they put time and effort into to make perfect in their own eyes.

Many of you reading this probably already agree with this, but the reception to music is strictly opinion-based; reviews, more than anything else, are subjective. 

However, for Archy Marshall, he wanted to make an album that, to him, succeeded where 6 Feet failed; he didn’t want to be painted into a corner as a harbinger of lo-fi indie rock, so he took a left turn, and matured his music in a way that he deemed fit. Whether or not the fans could appreciate The OOZ in the same way didn’t occur to him; he wasn’t making it for the fans, he was making it for him.

The sophomore slump is, when we observe music in a vacuum, an unrealistic expectation for musicians to live up to. If we expect artists to remain stagnant for the sake of making music the masses will enjoy, no one will be happy. 

Artists and listeners are both human, 2 sides of the same coin, and we all need to grow in order to thrive. Could LCD Soundsystem have made Sound of Silver if James Murphy wasn’t willing to evolve in the way he wanted? How about Nirvana with Nevermind? Or Daft Punk with Discovery?

The point I’m trying to make here is that we as consumers of music can’t always expect artists to do what we want them to do. Artists will always go with what feels right to them, take the necessary steps to change in order to give us their proudest work. We as listeners can choose to accept this, or not. 

As long as musicians continue to push boundaries and evolve how they want, we listeners will always be given music that is powerful, evocative, and most importantly, truthful.

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