Originally published on September 14, 2009…
You may or may not know that, since I got the Beatles’ box set last week, I’ve been listening to all the Beatles’ albums in chronological order. I’ll write more about that when I’m done, but this whole experience has me thinking about something else: the whole idea of the album.
Not long ago I either read or heard a quote from Amy Grant about how our modern, digital, buy-one-song-on-iTunes-and-put-it-in-a-playlist culture has gotten away from listening to albums. I’m not just talking about actual records here; I mean LPs, cassettes, CDs, digital albums…you name it. In the 21st century, it seems we really don’t listen to entire albums anymore.
I got to thinking about what I listened to before this Beatles experiment; and I realized that I usually listen to an entire album when I first buy it, and after that I listen to the tracks I like most. There’s only one album I’ve listened to over and over in a long time: A New Tide by Gomez, which I’d still argue is the best album of 2009, but I digress.
When I was a kid, I’d sit down and listen to albums over and over again; granted, I had a lot more free time in those days, but I think I had a greater musical attention span. These days, I typically pick from a playlist that, at last count, contains 323 of the 5,869 songs on my iPod; chances are I won’t hear two songs from the same album in a day!
I wonder why it is people don’t take the time to nurture albums as a whole? Are our musical attention spans shorter? (Probably.) Do we not have the time to do so? (Most definitely.) Is the digital music revolution to blame? (Possibly.) Are musical artists not putting together cohesive collections of good songs? (Could well be.)
Is the album a thing of the past? I hope not. I’d hate the notion that great collections of songs likeAbbey Road, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Moondance, Eat A Peach, Lead Me On, and even more modern albums like Good Dog Bad Dog, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, or A New Tidewon’t come around as often…or ever.
I’m pointing the finger at myself here…good music is too special a thing to take in bite sized chunks. We should savor it in sumptuous feasts and full meals.