The Art of the Album

Feeling the nostalgia bug again this week.  I’m sure it stemmed from weekend conversations with friends.  I remembered yesterday that I wanted to touch on what an ‘album’ is in this day and age.  The digital music revolution has changed how we listen to music, how we talk about music and how we obtain and distribute music.  What is an album?  Is it a collection of music on either a ‘record’, compact disc, cassette tape, 8-track or other such media?  Is the new album that you download an ‘e-album’ the same way you read an eBook?  I get so confused by this ever-changing terminology.  A ‘record’ to me is vinyl visually….but maybe a record is a ‘recording’ and the medium on which it is ‘recorded’ can be all different formats.  I assume yes.

This train of thought leads me a conversation with Ryan Star.  Of course I made my way to his two shows in Montreal and Toronto over the last extended weekend.  Of course I did.  My short show review = fabulous but way too short, I’m in need of another headline show.  But this isn’t about the show, the set list, the energy, the rstar vibe, it was all there and I’m thrilled that I was in the house for both Canadian dates.  This blog today is about song listing on albums (I’m calling the collection albums because it makes the most sense to me).  Ryan took the time to chat with myself, Betty and our fabulously fashionable and cool friend Deb (@realyeo) outside Lee’s Palace in Toronto.  I think being in that neighbourhood, being in that venue sparked some serious nostalgia vibes for me, its crazy how fast memories of shows and crazy nights in the Annex come wafting back so very very fast.  I’m trying to remember if it was Dinosaur Jr. or Buffalo Tom I first saw at Lee’s.  Maybe it was neither…maybe it was both…..I don’t really know.  I do know that I danced my ass off at the Dance Cave upstairs…..that I know for sure.

The conversation with Ryan turned to his intentions with his future recordings.  He mentioned his love of the vibe of ‘Elephant’ (his first solo ‘album’ – Songs for the Eye of an Elephant) and how he wants to get back to that place with the next record.  He also mentioned how painful it was to take 4 years to put out 11:59…..dude we know we waited with you!  From this I took to mean that he wants a more raw approach to his recordings, showing more vulnerability.  I’m thrilled as this is who he is and who I see him as and why I’m drawn to his music.  Don’t get me wrong 11:59 is a great collection of songs and I love it but what I’m about to touch on as the art of an ‘album’ doesn’t quite apply, at least as I see and experience it.

The first time I heard ‘Elephant’ all the way through from Track 1 to 20, I was driving.  I had received the CD in the mail and popped it into my car stereo before a lone road trip south to Toronto.  The first leg of my drive is somewhat remote, I love this part because I can zone out and listen to tunes.  

What I love most about listening to a collection of songs in the order the artist placed them is when it becomes less about the individual song and more about the album as a whole.  A great album captures you and keeps you entranced from beginning to end.  ‘Elephant’ did this for me, I may have sped that day, I may have made it to my destination in record time…..my god I love driving fast, and it’s usually the fault of good loud music that drives me lead foot.

A blog wouldn’t be a blog without a list.  Right?  I’ve added a list of albums that have gripped me, grabbed me by the throat and choked me so that I have to breathe through my ears.  Each note, each word sung from beginning to end, enter into my brain, my blood, and my breath.  I look at these albums and see an entire book, each song plays a part, each song is a chapter and the story isn’t complete with one missing.  For me these artists have mastered the art of the album.  I’d like to see Ryan strive to take his next album to this level.  I believe it is there, that Elephant was the beginning, 11:59 has it, but The America EP proves the art is in him.  I can’t wait to see what is next.

So here is my 12, some old, some newer, some classic and in no particular order.  Please comment and add your own as I would love to discover more albums that choke me.

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

 

I don’t think anyone will argue with me on this choice.  Pink Floyd are masters of the concept albums and Dark side of the Moon does not fail, beginning to end it is a masterpiece.

Radiohead – The Bends

Radiohead take art rock to a new level.  Thom Yorke doesn’t right songs, he writes albums. This 1995 release is hands down my favourite Radiohead album and gives me a cosmic release as I listen; it is an orgasm for my ears.  In Rainbows should be on this list too, but in choosing between Radiohead albums I have to give it to The Bends.

Buffalo Tom – Let Me Come Over

Let Me Come Over is a rollercoaster ride.  The track listing is up down and all around, that by track 6 I’m out of breath and then Larry hits you in the chest.  Best Buffalo Tom song ever, right smack in the middle of the LMCO, perfect.

Dinosaur Jr. – Where You Been

J Mascis squeals from beginning to end with his voice, and with his guitar.  Dino Jr. isn’t for everyone, but they’ve kept my attention for 20 years and WYB and Green Mind are albums that need to be listened to from beginning to end to appreciate the wonder of J Mascis.

Florence + The Machine – Lungs

This is the most current album on my list.  Florence stabbed me in the ears early on with Cosmic Love and I didn’t actually acquire the entire album of Lungs right away.  I downloaded Dog Days as a single and soon after realized what I was missing.  Lungs is a brilliant album and Florence is an album artist, Ceremonials their second album release does much the same.

Pearl Jam – Ten

Do I really need to explain?  1991 seems like such a long time ago.  I wouldn’t change a thing on this album but it seems the band would love to remix it…..leave it alone please please please.

Portishead – Dummy

Clearly ‘Dummy’ is more an album than the songs are songs individually.  The album really leaves you ‘numb’ and ‘it could be sweet’ so don’t be a ‘dummy’ and go down the ‘roads’ and listen intently from beginning to end or I will kick you in the ‘glory box’.

Moby – Play

Play is weird.  Weird is good.  If you listen to only one song weird will just be well…..weird.  Play is a story of weird and Moby is the lead character.  Throw in a Gwen Stefani and you’ve got a hit, even if she’s a minor minor character. 

Peter Gabriel – Us

 ‘Us’ might not be people’s first choice in PG album. The narrative is so personal and not listening to the album in its entirety is being rude to Mr. Gabriel, he’s pouring his heart out and giving you a piece of him so listen and feel or I will punch you for him.

The The – Dusk

Don’t ask me anything about The The.  I know who they are, where they are from a bit about their history but this is the only album I have any connection to by the band.  It just sort of fell into my lap and became the late night dark room music of us budding photography students way back in 1993.  The melancholy here was perfect, the gloom is actually uplifting at least for me as an avid beginning to end ‘Dusk’ listener.  I cannot pick a favourite track on this album, I just can’t do it.  This is my perfect example of the art of the album, and I will go out on a limb and make it my #1.

Jane’s Addiction – Ritual De Lo Habitual

If you don’t see the genius that is Perry Farrell than stop reading.  Ritual is actually two stories, if you originally bought this on cassette….part one was on side one and part two was well…side two.  There is a distinct break in the album after track 5.  It still warrants a full listen.  I don’t think anyone will ever ‘get’ Perry Farrell and/or get this album but you certainly can feel the story and the anguish of his life at that time.  This album has many layers, those layers may be laced with hallucinogens but that is all part of the story.  Indulge in this again if it has been awhile, so worth repeating.

The Smiths – The Queen is Dead

I have always resented the ‘slit your wrist’ mind-set that label The Smiths.  Johnny Marr makes an appearance here as he does with The The, follow him on Twitter he’s interesting.  It doesn’t surprise me that he wrote quite a few of the songs on this album.  This album takes me back earlier than the others, even Dark Side of the Moon which I did not listen to until much later in life (shameful I know).  Morrissey is a story-teller and this album delivers a story.

 And for your listening please….Larry by Buffalo Tom

So there it is a blog with a list, a blog with rstar content, predictable Lila Lyric style.  Now give me your top ‘albums’ that need a full listen.

~Lila

Advertisements

2 responses to “The Art of the Album

  • @realityeo

    Thank you for reminding me of how much I loved The The in university. I don’t have a complete list, but two albums spring to mind that I loved listening to over and over again, one when I was pretty young, one not so young: Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and Hole’s Live Through This. And thanks for ushering me into the R. Star fan club. 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: