Remember When You Used To Listen To Albums?

I employ the past tense “used to” because you may not anymore. You may instead listen to kickin’ tunes; the greatest hits; anthems; floor fillers; singles etc. Since Rob was kind enough to ask what was up for debate next, this was a topic that came up over the weekend.

Now that there’s no compulsion to listen to those album tracks that aren’t as seductive as the singles, why bother with them? The digital revolution has underlined the power of The Song. The album as a concept seem a bit redundant. And why should an album deserve to sell well when it’s relying on three or four solid tunes (that may well have been recorded separately under the guidance of a superior producer) and merely supplemented with a host of second-rate fillers that are little better than b-sides, or instrumentals or at worst, ambient nothingness?

But then isn’t this the price you pay for discovering a couple of gems? A few songs that really should have been singles or a slow-burn epic that is structured so that it builds or even explodes into a euphoric wonder (it might sound all the sweeter for you having invested that bit of extra time). There might even be a few songs that didn’t appeal or washed over you the first or second or even third time you heard them that have over time become your favourite tracks that you might never have heard if you had only downloaded the singles. Maybe you’ve now listened to those same singles so many times that you’ve reached saturation and let’s face it, you’ve gone off them now. And let’s not forget those concept albums that are structured so that each track developes on the last or is mixed into the next track or the album as a whole tells a story where removing a track would be like editing out a chapter of a novel.

Maybe your playlists are made up exclusively of party favourites or head bangers and you only bought singles before or had to use that track skip button too much before but maybe you miss developing an appreciation of the whole album and those pieces that allow the oft overlooked keyboardist/bass guitarist (who is a virtuoso with a musical saw) of the band to display their genius?

We got to talking about which was best overall. I’d be interested to know your opinions and also whether the digital music revolution has forced or made people naturally lean towards one way or the other.

10 thoughts on “Remember When You Used To Listen To Albums?”

  1. Still do listen to albums. Still also defy what anyone’s idea of cool is. Currently listening to one of Jack Johnson’s because it’s friendly and summery.

  2. listening to a Jack Johnson atm. Cheery and Summery. Not cool by anyone’s measure, but reminds me strangely of the kinks, not for the sound but for the season.

  3. I think my music patterns have changed remarkably since I shifted all my music to my computer. For example, I have a 5* playlist in WMP, as well as 4&5*, Neglected Favourites, Chillout, Classical, Summer, Background and Party playlists. My default playlist upon opening up WMP is my 3,4&5* playlist.

    Having said that, there are albums I listen to all the way through, here are some examples:
    Imogen Heap – Any of them!
    Muse – Showbiz, Origin of Symmetry
    Placebo – Sleeping With Ghosts
    Jack Johnson
    Tom McRae
    The Veronicas – Awessome summery pop, go and find some!

    Digital music certainly hasdn’t forced people to move away from albums, but it has made people able to just listen/download/buy tracks they like. Is it not more of a sign that albums are getting poorer in overall quality and bands so often just produce one or two ‘good’ singles?
    While listening to Tegan & Sarah, for example, I knew a few of their songs from TV soundtracks, but listening to the whole album brought to light some tracks much much better than the ‘well-known’ ones.

  4. Tom McRae is a fine artist! I made playlist of his stuff when I set up iTunes and so now I either listen to that or the tracks that I dropped into my Acoustic Rock playlist so I still neglect the albums. I haven’t bothered rating all my songs as their grade would vary depending on my mood at that time! Maybe albums are getting poorer but maybe there’s no need for them to be as good if no one’s going to be bothered listening to them in their entirety – chicken and the egg?!

  5. Yes, I saw Tom McRae up in Newcastle when he was supporting Tori Amos…he was incredible. I have spent many hours rating all my music in WMP, although found a very handy tool for saving and migrating ratings between iTunes and WMP. Saved me hours of work. I have smart playlists set up so if a track is in the ‘4&5*’ list but has not been listened to for x amount of days (EG because I always skip over it) then I downgrade it, and vice versa. That way I still get to explore the rest of my collection.

  6. I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to wade into the debate.

    Personally I still love albums … but oddly have never listened to them all the way through. I run my music on shuffle almost all of the time (both on the Laptop and on the iPod … Shuffle). Occasionally I’ll cue up a whole album but it’s very rare. The only exception to this is the period after initial purchase. Then the ablum may well be put on repeat for 2 or 3 times to ensure I know what the good stuff is. Even so, such a cursory listen often overlooks the depth or build of some tracks which only present themselves in their true glory later on.

    I do like letting the music player of software introduce me to little tid bits I may have missed in my initial listening of a CD but also enjoy the whole album idea. I don’t tend to buy pop stuff anyway and most of the artists in my collection can put together a really good 60 minutes of music. As always there are exceptions – e.g. Coldplay’s Speed of Sound EP I downloaded the b-sides but on the a-side as I was already bored of it – but mostly I’d say I sit firmly in the album camp.

  7. I find myself in a conundrum. Ronan Keating has just covered one of my favourite ever songs by an amazing band – Iris by The GooGoo Dolls. I really like it. But it’s Keating. But I like it. But it’s still Keating. Do I actually have a liking for the Keating or is the song just so blinding I can see past him?

  8. Only you can answer that! Usually I like a band for their sound rather than a song. If I were you I’d just play The GooGoo Dolls version lots.

  9. Good point. I used to listen to the album a lot (the album of a half dozen break-ups), but I’ve left the GooGoo Dolls phase of my life behind. I listen to cheerier stuff now – hence Jack Johnson. Perhaps I should just avoid Iris all together, whoever it’s by 🙂

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