Editorial: In Praise Of The Album
What was the last album you listened to? I mean REALLY listened to?
In an age of infinite listening possibilities, it seems anathema to limit yourself to an hour-plus of just one artist. The same band? For sixty to seventy minutes? Who on earth has time for that? Spotify alone uploads 100,000 new tracks daily… but I’m of an age when the album was cherished. I remember buying Use Your Illusion II, and listening to it on repeat for what felt like weeks. Nothing else disturbed the tray on my CD player until I’d absorbed it fully. To this day, around 25 years later, I can still pretty much recite the album front to back, and I maybe play it once a year now. The same can be said for Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ and Blur’s ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’. I can’t name a single album in the last 20 years that I can do that for.
Lana Del Rey by Jason Sheldon
Choice blindness, and a focus on singles, has deafened listeners to the joys of the long-player. By reducing music consumption to renting rather than owning, it has forced the listener to try to maximise value, rather than focus on quality. It’s literally music by numbers, and music fans are missing out.
That’s not to say that great albums are not still being made. Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’, Lana Del Rey’s ‘… Ocean Boulevard’ and Yard Act’s ‘The Overload’ are all prime examples of excellence, but if you take a look at the Spotify stats, it’s the singles that get played.
The Libertines by Callum Robinson
If a single is a snapshot of where an artist is right now, an album is a portrait of them throughout the creative process. It is a window into the feelings, the emotions and the relationships within a group of musicians. Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ was famously forged in the ashes of torrid interpersonal relationships within the band. ‘The Holy Bible’ by Manic Street Preachers is less a collection of songs, and more a dive headlong into guitarist Richey Edwards’ battle with depression, anorexia and self-harm. When The Libertines released their self-titled debut, it was the on-off, love-hate, loath-tolerate relationship between Pete Doherty and Carl Barat that fuelled the entire album, and it seeps out of the very atoms of the LP. You just don’t get that with singles. You just can’t get that insight with a radio-edit.
Fleetwood Mac by Tom Weschler
Then there’s the aesthetic. CD singles no longer exist in any meaningful form. They are solely consumed via the excel-spreadsheet with a nice looking front-end of your favourite music streaming service. If this is most young fans’ first interaction with music, then why on earth would they form an attachment to music as a ‘thing’. There’s a reason that those of us who are slightly longer in the tooth are clamouring for vinyl like it didn’t go out of fashion 30 years ago. It’s an inconvenient, easily damaged and space-hogging format, but at least it’s something physical that fans can actually own, and that needed to be treasured.
Yard Act by Thomas Jackson
So what’s the answer? Is it a streaming service that limits the listener to one album a day? Is it to completely disconnect and save your £15 and spend it on an album a month? Or is it self-control? A type of audio-puritanism? A commitment to giving albums the time they deserve? Listener, you need to decide for yourself, but whilst you do, go listen to an album.
Words: Thomas Jackson
Header Image: Exile On Main Street by Arnie Goodman