The music album - does it still have its place?

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sporkles
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The music album - does it still have its place?

Post by sporkles » Tue Aug 05, 2014 6:13 pm

So, what are your opinions on the music album? You know, the 60-70 minute thing with, I dunno, at least 7 tracks? Is it turning irrelevant? I mean, there are so many brilliant albums that work as a whole, a story being told through several songs by the same artist/group. Then again, our attentions spans are surely not what they were back in the golden years of the album, and we've not only become accustomed to picking and choosing individual songs, but we've also adjusted to a new reality, where artists will have one single track that may catch your attention, before they vanish into obscurity.

So would you say that making the effort of crafting several tracks, giving them a sense of cohesion and mastering them to go together in an album is worth it at all any more? Should everyone just put all their energy into getting listeners' attention with single tracks, and focussing on churning out tracks at a somewhat steady pace in order to get enough material for a live show?

I for one, miss the whole 'sitting down and listening to an album' bit, even though I know that I could still do that now if I really took the time and had the patience for it. I particularly used to love it when the tracks would flow into one another (you know, the good, old gapless playback), really giving it a sense of storytelling (I remember when I first realised how amazingly difficult such a simple thing as having albums play back without gaps suddenly was when MP3s were starting to take over as the preferred means of playback).

Tarekith
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Re: The music album - does it still have its place?

Post by Tarekith » Tue Aug 05, 2014 8:45 pm

I still listen to albums quite a bit, but usually my favorites. Gear upgrades sometimes facilitate this, it could be worse. :)

I think a lot of musicians are finding out that most people just don't have the time to listen to a complete album. It can be a nice way to wrap up and present a large body of work, but it still seems that I do way more EPS and singles thes days than albums.

Right when mastering engineers got something genuinely well done like DDP, everyone stopped wanting CDs. ;)

andydes
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Re: The music album - does it still have its place?

Post by andydes » Tue Aug 05, 2014 8:50 pm

Excuse me, while I get on my high horse about why I still listen to whole albums and don't flick from one track to another:

I can't be bothered to get off my arse to change tracks every 5 minutes. The computer is over there, and I'm over here with a nice G&T.

60-70 minutes is a nice amount of time to listen to something without worrying about what song to play next. Chill out, mofos.

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Re: The music album - does it still have its place?

Post by Tarekith » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:23 pm

I admit, usually I just put iTunes on random, and let it decide what to play. Great way to find out what songs I haven't listened to in a long time.

But that's just me.

H20nly
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Re: The music album - does it still have its place?

Post by H20nly » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:33 pm

i still like to buy the whole album. what's even better is when the whole album is worth buying.

i like the "complete my album" feature in iTunes and the way it subtracts what you've paid from the cost of the album. that single feature has allowed/encouraged me to kind of do both... buy the single track i like right now... and then go back and not feel gypped when i have time/money/desire to buy rest of the album later.

the one thing i do miss though... especially with a group i've never heard of but that have a history... is reading the album cover/sleeve/insert. knowing who wrote the tracks, or the lyrics, or even just the artists names was always something i enjoyed... back in my day


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regretfullySaid
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Re: The music album - does it still have its place?

Post by regretfullySaid » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:48 pm

I think the album still has its place, but it's conception as an album should be the first priority, and not quantity/quality.

I don't mean it has to be a concept album, but just one that where the songs and their placement should be carefully selected so that the album is likely to be played the whole way through without wanting to skip a track or turn it off early because it's too long.

I think the best albums are around 35-55 minutes. It became pretty common after cds came out that a lot of groups wanted to fill up the cd to give people their moneys worth but it ended up being a lot of filler. A great album that isn't long, you can just leave it be and for all you know you've let it play 3 or 4 times until you realize it or don't care.

That's a big plus for digital distribution now. The artist can focus more on the conception and less on feeling some pressure on filling up the medium as a container.
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Re: The music album - does it still have its place?

Post by yur2die4 » Wed Aug 06, 2014 1:16 am

An album where nothing happens is almost easiest to listen to.

Angstrom
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Re: The music album - does it still have its place?

Post by Angstrom » Wed Aug 06, 2014 2:26 am

I'm not convinced the "album" made a great deal of musical sense beyond conforming to the constraints of the physical medium during a narrow window of time.

You can point to "classic" albums where the tracks complement each other in some way, sometimes these are in some way "concept albums", but mostly it was just a bunch of songs recorded in the same studio on the same gear sounding somewhat unified. Then the time limitation of a 12 inch album being 45, then a CD took it a little longer. So you had to feed the marketing and touring beast one of these monoliths at least once every 18 months, sooner if possible.

But there was no artistic reasoning for most musicians, just scheduling, and media limitations.

But it's like getting used to travelling on horseback. It doesn't make any sense other than "that was all we could do at the time". It's still nice to dedicate time to a project, but an album? Nah, I think a group of 5 related songs is probably the maximum which makes artistic sense.

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Re: The music album - does it still have its place?

Post by Tarekith » Wed Aug 06, 2014 2:39 am

I can see that in some regards, a lot of great albums did have quite a bit of filler.

I think for me any mention of a noteworthy album always implies concept album. Maybe not so much in terms of breaking the mold of what an album is, but in shaping all of the songs to fit a common theme.

Angstrom
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Re: The music album - does it still have its place?

Post by Angstrom » Wed Aug 06, 2014 3:10 pm

But then again, so many concept albums were absolutely awful. The success stories are not at all representative of the class but the success stories are the ones which come to mind.

Related to the availability heuristic there's also a thing called "Survivorship bias". In short - if something sank without trace then logically nobody remembers that thing, but if it succeeded and survived then it's lodged in the collective memory. Everyone remembers Sergeant Pepper ( 5.1 million copies), nobody remembers KISS - Music From "The Elder" (500,000 copies).

If the success rate of making a 10 song concept album is even 5% I'd be amazed, because writing one good song is hard, but thematically linking three good songs is harder. Ten thematically linked good songs? It's near impossible.

Right now I see making an album for the modern market like trying to start a food truck - the Ten Course Banquet Company: ten gourmet courses delivered in meticulous sequence ... to busy people who don't have time for that shit and just wanted a burger and a desert.

regretfullySaid
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Re: The music album - does it still have its place?

Post by regretfullySaid » Wed Aug 06, 2014 3:25 pm

We should think of concept album liberally, not like some prog-rock opera but a loose theme, even just by attitude + consistent production.
Let's say Purple Rain; the songs may have no relation to each other but from the outlook of the story teller and the consistency of instruments and production make it cohesive enough. It's still a nice space to get into if you enjoy the overall collection enough to listen to it for however long it is. What if you hear a couple of singles by an artist and wish they had an albums worth of that kind of stuff? And what if they were able to make a good album of it?

You're not going to get a good album of sporadic recording sections from different times and places compared to the dedicated day/week/month the artist can dedicate and be in a headspace in.

I don't have a problem with the reality that it's a singles market these days, but it kind of sounds like dissing the album to justify not being able to handle or afford the pressure of making one. Not even sure putting having that kind of pressure would do any good anyway. We're all old farts here, not having some love for an album seems odd.

Also, comparing Kiss to The Beatles is like comparing Hasbro live action figures to relevant artists.

The talk of logistics and market to justify not making one shouldn't even be considered, either you're an independent artist who can rely on internet distribution or you're backed by a label whose job it is to figure that side out anyway. I'm not buying it.

Not a personal attack on you Angstrom it just doesn't seem like a complicated thing to me. either you have a collection of songs you'd like to have as an album or you have some songs you'd like to release on their own or as an EP, whatever. If an 'artist' is thinking of logistics first and that as the deciding factor then maybe they should be an agent instead. That's why iPhone 5c's exist. Logistically feasible, forgettable album.
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TomViolenz
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Re: The music album - does it still have its place?

Post by TomViolenz » Wed Aug 06, 2014 7:59 pm

The album for me is the only artisticly relevant way to release music. I never bought a single or a track in my life and I never will.
If you don't have a way to fill an hour with that emotion/story/frenzy/whatever... that is your thing, then I am not your target market.

Filler is also often much too harsh a word. Just because a songs doesn't work by itself, doesn't mean it can't be a good linking piece between two great songs.

Think of it as a novel with many chapters, sure there are parts in it that just link other more important parts, and you would not read them as the author at a public bookreading in the book store or at a festival, but they are nevertheless part of the whole and as such important.


Same for my view on music. I don't make tracks available, it just doesn't feel right. When I upload something it needs to be a somewhat cohesive story I tell, a world I want to take the listener too, or an emotion I need to express.
This takes around a year (or more), and that is how I like it. Also this means I produce many more tracks in that time than will be on the album. Making the album is therefore also an effort in currating. I like that.


(But then I'm only a guy with a Soundcloud account, who doesn't care about making a hit (and wouldn't know how to) so the market is irrelevant to me!)
But if I ever would get more widely known, I would want this to be for an album, not for a track!

stringtapper
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Re: The music album - does it still have its place?

Post by stringtapper » Wed Aug 06, 2014 8:53 pm

The idea of the album is in many ways (and as Angstrom pointed out) intrinsically tied to recording media. It's also tied to particular types of music, mostly pop.

Of course the idea of a larger work comprised of individual smaller works precedes the album and probably got its start with masses in the Western sacred music tradition of the Catholic church.

Symphonies have movements which we call "pieces" but we also think of the symphony itself as a musical "work." So nothing new there either.

Collections of songs in the vein of Schubert that have a unified theme might well be considered an aesthetic precursor to the concept album.

Standalone works are actually relatively new in the western canon, with one-off pieces becoming more common in the early twentieth century with the likes of Debussy. Although standalone pieces in the high art tradition might very well take up an entire album.

Ultimately it comes down to humans needing ways to organize things. I don't see anything wrong or less artistic about singles or standalone pieces. The preference for albums seems to me a conditioning from cultural experience and consumption of media.
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TomViolenz
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Re: The music album - does it still have its place?

Post by TomViolenz » Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:42 pm

Yes, it very well may mostly be a result of me being brought up with albums as the unit of musical artistic output.
That said.
For me the problem with the track as the artistic unit is the way music is consumed, by the people who I consider consuming it as an artform. And that is with focus and a willingness to leave other things aside for the time of consumption (some activities like driving, running, walking etc. are also ok).
This time is usually (at least for me) longer than 3, 5, or even 8 minutes. So at the end of that period, what happens if this is only a track?! You switch focus away from the piece and to some other piece, often selected by an algorithm. This is no way to respect an artform IMO (self made playlists, can be an exception IMO, because currating that, often with some effort, is almost like making your own album of the tracks)

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Re: The music album - does it still have its place?

Post by JuanSOLO » Wed Aug 06, 2014 10:22 pm

Prior to internet mandate there were lots of 45's, 12" singles, B side CD's, EP's etc.
I don't think seeking out selected tracks in that way is new or somehow a slight against albums.
Sure the internet makes doing that more accessible, however albums are still hard to make.
There are very few albums I would consider complete and well done.
Even when I am buing an album it's usually for one song I just have to have.
If there's others on it, GOOD.

Also different types of music create different buying habits.
Music fans vs passive listeners etc.
I look for hip hop 12" singles, I want the original track, the instrumental, and accapella.
Kraut Rock or Stoner metal, I want a long listening experience possibly over the course of a few songs.

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