Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The End Of The Album

When is the last time you bought an album? I'm not even talking about one made out of actual vinyl. I just mean a collection of songs by a band on a single archive of media. Better yet, when is the last time you listened to an album the whole way through? Without clicking next?

It used to be that an album was the only way you could get music (or so I've heard - I'm not all that old). Then you could buy a single of a released song complete with b-side. Now you can just buy one song at a time. Any song. And for as little as 88¢.

There goes the album.

The funny thing is that you can tell your iPod to show the album art of the song you are listening to, even though you would never even think about actually buying the whole thing. Artists don't even need to put out an entire album anymore. We're living in a single-oriented world. And I am a single-oriented girl. Or whatever.

But I still love the album. It's a collection of songs in the order that the musician intended for you to listen to them. Sadly, we will probably not see many more great ones in our lifetime. There is no need or incentive to put any effort into album making.

So, to eulogize the end of the album as we know it, I submit my top 5 albums of all time.

5) Foo Fighters
One By One




4) The Beatles
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band




3) U2
Achtung Baby




2) Smashing Pumpkins
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness




1) Pink Floyd
The Wall



(click on the album covers for more information)

I'm sure after seeing my picks that you want to argue with me, or you at least have some of your own to share. Go ahead. Stop downloading that song for a second and post your favorites. Join me in celebrating the album.

The only rules are that no greatest hits or compilation albums are eligible for the list.

Goodbye album. It has been a fun ride. Rock on.

10 comments:

jayman said...

Actually, the last album I listened to straight through (as a CD) was Coldplay's X&Y. On my MP3 player, I last listened to Luna's Rendevous straight through. But then again, I am a music dork.

I agree though, most teens and tweens aren't going to get the idea of an "album". Sigles are so much easier to get, legally or illegally. Good thing Radiohead released OK Computer (what I consider the the last great concept album) when they did.

VIVA THE ALBUM!!

jayman said...

I normally wouldn’t do the blog-post-in-a-blog-comments thing, but this post has me itching to share my top 5 favorite albums. I must admit, coming up with the fifth was difficult....there are a lot of albums I could have placed there, but I do enjoy the jam band genre (Grateful Dead, Phish, etc) so I felt it was a good choice even if DMB isn’t my favorite band in that category. Although it’s close to yours in regards to artists, I have to differ on album choices.

Dave Matthews Band – Under the Table and Dreaming. DMB is a jam band that has met with commercial success. Under the Table is a great collection of well-written melodic songs. Seeing the band perform them live is even better than the album because you get to here the band string-out the 5-minute studio versions into creative collaborative jams. Songs like “Jimmy Thing” and “Warehouse” are fantastic live or studio.

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon. DSOTM is THE concept album. There’s the heartbeat that runs from start to finish. The actual album (vinyl) included a poster. The songs flow from one to the next. It’s got big stadium rock guitars and some of the best non-musical additions ever (the cash register in “Money” and the screams and laughter in “Breathe” and “Eclipse”). Much of what Floyd did was trippy, but DSOTM may just be the trippiest.

Nirvana – Nevermind. Nevermind put grunge on the map. Prior to Nevermind, I had crap like Whitesnake and Winger in my tape collection. The album was teen-angst to a T and left me wanting so much more. Unfortunately, I found most of In Utero to be a disappointment, but Nevermind was a terrific disc from cover to cover. Some say it’s a shame Kurt died so young, but I think its part of what make this album so damn good. There’s little else to compare to it to say it was a flash in the pan. Add how much Kurt’s voice can give goosebumps on the Unplugged album to add to the mystique.

The Beatles – Abbey Road. Abbey Road is a concept album that was never meant to be a concept album. By the time the band was trying to make an album of the mess of incomplete songs that ended up on side B (most of those you direct this post to won’t understand what side B is) they wanted to kill each other. George Martin took those songs (along with some other gems that are on side A) and made a great little story told by songs. I’m always disappointed when they play part of this grouping on the radio and don’t take it all the way through “The End”.

Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream. This is the one that hooked me on Billy Corgan., although he got too dark for me on the last couple of albums. Gish was an excellent pre-cursor and MCIS is a great rock double album, but Dream is just beautiful. The soft lulls and the loud feedback are amazing. Who couldn’t love a 9-minute track named “Silverf*ck”? There is not a song on the album that I would ever skip.

Just my $0.02.

sinkerbeam said...

I knew that jayman wouldn't be able to hold in his comments...

All of his albums were under consideration for my top 5 at one point or another, but each ended up a bit further down the list.

Dark Side of the Moon almost came in at number 5, but all of the screaming/non-musical stuff made me change my mind at the last minute. That and I decided not to repeat Pink Floyd.

Ten is an album that I struggled with. I haven't listened to in a while, but every song is a good one. With Nevermind there is some unnecessary screaming, ameturish stuff, etc. Looking back, I might replace it with another album. Maybe The Eagles: Hotel California. Or sometihng else I discuss here.

It was tough to pick my favorite Beatles album, but I have to say that I don't own Abbey Road, so that probably was a stike against it.

As for Siamese Dream, my 7th favorite album of all time, I just don't like Hummer or Sweet Sweet/Luna. That kept if off of the short list. I think that MCIS has a lot to pick from in every style imaginable.

The Wall has been my favorite album since the first time I heard it. In fact, I haven't even converted that CD to MP3, because I would rather listen to it as a complete collection only. I guess I'm a dork, too.

jayman said...

This is going to get ugly...you know me and music.

I can't agree with Nevermind being amature-ish. The screaming is what makes it so teen-angst and why it was so different (at that time). It was like Kurt, Chris, and Dave re-invented punk. And it was good this time.

I agree about not taking the wall from CD > MP3. I hate the gaps that are between songs in MP3 format...DSOTM is bad that way too, and that's why my live Phish shows stay in CD format (that, and its bad practice to make MP3s of live shows.

I can't beleive you don't like "Hummer" or "Sweet Sweet/Luna". "Luna" is such a great soft melodic Pumpkins song. "Sweet Sweet" isn't a great song alone, but paired with "Luna", its terrific. As for "Hummer", that's probably my favorite on that album next to "Soma" (which is the best soft-hard-soft song on Siamese Dream).

The Eagles suck. There, I said it. They are the most overrated band (especially in Pittsburgh--although in the 'Burgh Steely Dan is even MORE overrated). They are a glorified country group. I have both greatest hits albums, but they've probably spun in my cd player a combined 5 times.

Remind me and I'll burn a copy of Abbey Road for you. I love Sgt. Pepper's, but I only have it on cassette (not a copy either...a legit cassette). Abbey Raod and Sgt. Pepper's are my two favorite Beatles albums.

I'm sure this issue isn't dead....

sinkerbeam said...

There are just some Pumpkins songs that do nothing for me. That's all I can say. And don't get me started about listening to them live...

As for the Eagles, yes, they are overplayed and overhyped, but some of their songs still hold up. And Hotel California is not one of their country albums.

Anyway, as you can see I changed my #5 pick to a Foos album. I went back and listened to a few things over again and that's what I came up with. I had a hard time choosing between One By One and There Is Nothing Left To Lose.

As for Nevermind, I agree it is a great album, with songs 1-5 and 8 being among my favorites of all time. But the whole thing together isn't quite my the top 5. I think my top 10 would take years to come up with.

What were those guys so angsty about anyway? The rough feel of flannel on the skin?

jayman said...

I will agree that Billy doesn't have a great live voice. Screaming lyrics night after night tends to make his voice sound like crap. I will say that the show I saw on the Arising! tour (Adore) was awesome and he sounded great. The fact that they played "La Dolly Vita" acoustic (one of my favorite b-sides) may be one reason I loved that show so much. Also, there's always been a part of me that's loved "Silverf*ck" live -- feedback and all.

I'll accept your new number 5. I've always known you to like the Foo Fighters and I was suprised you originally chose Pearl Jam. Ten is a great album, but there's something about Pearl Jam that keeps them from being a top 5 or even top 10 band in my eyes. Maybe it's that I think Eddie Vedder tries too hard to be different.

BTW, my God did I make a lot of spelling errors in these comments.

I've noted:
Rendevous (rendezvous)
Sigles (singles)
the the (doubled word useage)
beleive (believe)
Raod (road)
its (it's)

There are probably more. I caught two for you:
sometihng (something)
stike (strike)

Blogger needs an Edit Comment option.

Anonymous said...

Ok here it is... The best album I own is Keith Urban's 'Golden Road' which for all of you pittsbughians is a country album. I like all of the songs on it including the secret track at the very end... before 'Golden Road' the last album I bought before that was Fiona Apple's TIDAL in 1996. Pitiful. But I still listen to it in my car where it has a front slot in my CD holder. The truth is, Albums may be in the order that the artist wanted them, but not necessarily in the order I want to listen to them. I prefer the mix cousin Drew made for me in 1999, which included Queen's 'Bohemian Rapsody' and Alice Cooper's 'Schools Out for Summer'. Instead of hearing the 'artists cut' or random bad songs intermixed with hits, I got Drew's bundle of random rock (which I prefer). So although your picks for greatest albums are very good choices, I feel we can individually comprise a better CD with all of our favorites rather have the artists fill some of the album with garble, such as Jewel's 'Pieces of You' twelth track, 'Daddy' which in my opinion kills the flow of the album.

Keep in mind I'm posting to make you happy, Brian, not cause I'm a very opinionated person! wink wink...

-Jul

Anonymous said...

OK, it's time for the geezer squad to check in with a few moldy oldies off my shelves. It's been fun to hear you youngsters talk about your favorites - and even funnier that some of them are from my generation. (by the way, this is Brian's uncle glenn - soon to be 51 years young in October)

From a concept album point of view, I'd list Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon at the top of my list for all the reasons previously stated. At the time of release, this was a creative masterpiece and became a staple at college campuses across America. I'd venture to say you'd still hear it playing on campuses - there's probably some kind of statistic that says a Pink Floyd DSOTM song is playing somewhere every 19.3 seconds.

The Beatles Sgt. Pepper would be up there, too. There was a whole thing that was going on on AM radio (that's how we used to listen to music back in the day) that Paul McCartney was dead and that there were clues that revealed this throughout their music. The album cover is filled with the clues that became radio talk show fodder night after night. Beatles songs contained clues like the mumbled "I buried Paul" way at the end of Strawberry Fields Forever(which was actually on Magical Mystery Tour). And in Come Together (Abbey Road): "one plus one plus one is three" (4 Beatles minus Paul, cuz he's dead). And "hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease" - then look at the Sgt. Pepper album cover and check out the chair. I could go on and on about this, but let's move on (it was great fun back then (ask your parents) - and I don't know that there's been anything like that for your generation).

Anyway - I was also an Alan Parsons Project Fan (they may be most famous for the Chicago Bulls theme - which is actually called "Sirius" and was the lead into "Eye In The Sky"). The great thing about the Project was that there was no set band. There was a core few - like keyboardist/songwriter Eric Wooflson who partnered with Parsons for a long time (by the way, Alan Parsons produced Pink Floyd's DSOTM - see the connection ? No wonder I liked them both) and guitarist Ian Bairnson. But they trotted out a collection of interchangeable lead singers - like Chris Rainbow, Lenny Zakatek, Elmer Gantry and Colin Blunstone. That's why you could hear APP songs and not know it was APP at first because they had no instantly recognizable front man. But anyway (how easy it is to digress), Parsons developed each of his albums around a theme. My favorite album was Turn Of A Friendly Card - which kind of had a gaming, risk taking, gambling kind of theme to the songs on the album. "Snake Eyes" is one of the better tunes along with the more radio friendly "Games People Play" and "Time" but also "May Be A Price To Pay" is a great catchy tune. Parsons was also famous for including at least one instrumental on each of his themed albums and "The Gold Bug" is one of his better ones, including whistling (ala Billy Joel on "The Gambler") and layer upon layer of instrumental counter-melodies.

One of my all time favorite bands was Kansas and it's too close to call between Leftoverture and Point of Know Return, but I'll go with PONR which included the title song, "Portrait (He Knew)" and the classic "Dust In The Wind". Great Southern style rock with electric violin thrown in - which hadn't been done before with commercial success (although the Charlie Daniels band in the late 70's became known for a similar sound, but as more country than rock flavored.

Finally, another favorite band from the old days was Styx and their Pieces OF Eight album included some of their biggest hits like "Renegade" and "Blue Collar Man" and lesser known "Great White Hope" and "Queen Of Spades". I just saw both Styx and Kansas at the Heinz Field NFL kickoff concert a month ago and they are both still rocking (some of them in their 50's like me). The sad thing is that they probably can't keep it going too much longer. After all, they're not the Rolling Stones.

Anyways . . . that's a nickel's worth (better than 2 cents) from an ol' codger.

This was fun. I feel better now.

Thad said...

A blog post and 8 comments later and not a single mention of Queensryche?! I grew up listening to "Empire," but later picked up a copy of "Operation: Mindcrime" and liked it even more.

Like most of Pink Floyd, Mindcrime tells a whole story as opposed to traditional albums, which are not much more than the last dozen or so songs the band recorded, all stored on the same medium. With a few exceptions, who cares if it is in the order the artist intended.

Also, with the progression of storage medium technology, artists are forced to fill up an "album" with more music, most of which is not worthy of radio broadcast. Contrast this with a classic band like the Beatles that had almost every song on every album played on the air. The only way to match this with a modern band is through a greatist hits CD, which does not qualify as an album. Much of this is our own fault, though. Why should an artist apply themselves and write 10 or 12 really good songs if we pay the same for an album with just 3 hits and 8 filler songs.

With all that being said, there are a few true album writers left; Alicia Keys and Norah Jones to name a few. Now-a-days I mostly listen to AM radio anyway; and even if I do switch over to FM, they only play singles. I wish I could say I cared, but I don't need any new albums; so while the art of album writing is on life support, with the libs aching to pull the plug, the albums that have already been made will never die - and that's good enough for me.

Thad said...

Perhaps we should end the yoo-googly by bowing our heads and lisetning to a turn table scratching and hopping over the last vynal groove; that unforgettable sound that lests you know you've reached "The End of the Album"


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