You’re probably aware that the music industry is – in some ways – struggling to evolve in the digital age. People just don’t want to buy physical CDs, records are getting more popular but demand is still low, places like HMV are closing their doors. I could sit here typing about the value of physical albums all day, but hell my MacBook doesn’t even have a CD drive.
I think part of the problem is that a lot of people don’t want to listen to full albums anymore either. As a result, are artists going to stop putting as much effort into the rest of the album? If it’s not a single, will people actually listen? Well, in short, I would argue yes – but I think that popular artists and bands need to keep reminding themselves to think of their albums as a unified piece of art. Or at least they should be trying to fill an album with songs that are all actually worth your time.
When’s the last time you sat down and listened to an album front to back? It’s a wonderful thing, I promise. I can’t do it wth just ANY album, obviously, but the right one can be quite an experience to listen to.
Sit down with that record you bought 100 years ago, blow the layer of dust off the top of your turntable, and lay down the record. Or pop in a CD, or tape, or whatever thing you’ve been called a washed up hipster for owning. Resist the urge to skip songs. Give each song a shot and you might change your mind. Bonus points for listening on vinyl, because you can’t just skip the song and listen to the next unless you physically lift the needle.
Here’s why you should be listening albums straight through to the end:
First of all – the volume levels are relatively even throughout so you don’t have to constantly adjust the volume. I don’t know how many times I’ve jumped out of my freaking skin on the bus while listening to a quiet song by the Innocence Mission when some METZ song comes screeching on immediately after.
But more importantly, you get to experience it in the order that the artist intended it to be listened. They’re trying to tell you a story and speak to you through a progression of ideas and a mosaic of poetry. Maybe you never really got that one song on the album, but all of the sudden you hear it in order and then it clicks. I used to hate the song “Rococo” from Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, but it just seemed to make more sense in the context of the whole album. It’s growing on me.
Listening to full albums is a way better alternative to mood playlists. Playlists have their place, but in the wrong circumstances it just puts you in an emotion bubble. For example: Hey I had a shitty day, so I’m gonna listen to this angry punk playlist, or this rainy day sad-millennial-compilation.
You just end up feeding into your own emotions, and not much gets solved. Maybe you get somewhere with it, maybe you don’t.
But if you listen to a full album, a great artist can walk you through a range of emotions. Suddenly the change in pace of the album has guided you from self-deprecating anger to stoic mindfulness, or tearful joy –
** music is important to me guys don’t judge. I’m allowed to be emotional–IT’S JUST SO BEAUTIFUL TO ME AAGHHH **
But seriously. Let the music take you somewhere you didn’t know you wanted to go. Be vulnerable to it. I can’t count how many times an unexpected song turned my whole day around.
If you’re looking for some great concept albums/albums that feel whole, here are some that I’ve been listening to that I think you should give a try:
- Andy Shauf – The Party
- Radical Face – The Family Tree series (It’s a 3 album concept project. Shit is wild. I personally like “The Leaves” and “The Branches” best)
- Aidan Knight – Each Other
- Radiohead – King of Limbs (or) A Moon Shaped Pool
- Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
- Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
- Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
- Feist – Metals
- Royal Canoe – Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit
- We Are The City – High School
- Patrick Watson – Wooden Arms
NOW GET TO WORK.
Or don’t, it’s chill. I’ll still like you anyways.