It’s probably the hardest thing to do when it comes to any art form. Not having any sort of expectation. The only time that I can actually listen to an album without any sort of preconceived notion is if I have not hard anything by the artist before. It helps if I know very little about them as well. But the days of buying an album based on someone else saying “yeah it’s great, just buy it” are long gone.
I used to buy albums if they had a cool cover. You would only hear top 40 shit on the radio so the cooler music was completely unknown. Now you can check anything out before you buy it. Reviewing music means getting inundated with pressers about the music to convince you to listen to it. So you have a slight bias or expectation before you even hear it. A necessary evil I suppose.
Part of the reason that people love the first album they ever heard by a band is that they had nothing really to compare it to. That’s not to say that something might come along that you like better but it’s hard to do. You are always going to compare a new album to that first one. “They just aren’t as good anymore!” Not true. You just prefer that innocence you can’t have any longer.
Bands change, their sounds change, members change, and yes you change. All of that baggage is with you going into listening to a new album by that band. You have an expectation, a preconceived notion that you are certainly entitled to but many times it puts blinders on you. You might not be comfortable without them, no matter how “progressive” you claim to be. Trust me, I know.
How do you leave those preconceived notions at the door? You have to be in a frame of mind for it. As open as you can be and up for anything. You also need to be willing to listen many times to break through the walls your expectations have built. It can take years. I find many times that albums that didn’t meet what I wanted at the time hit me later, years later, and I wind up loving them for what they ARE and not what I demanded at the time.