ALBUMS – and what they should be.
So I just suddenly have the urge to post a blog about albums and what they should be. I know this seems weird, but this is how I see the humble album / LP…
An album is a sequential piece of art; a timeline of expression and artistry. It may or may not tell a story, but 99.9% of the time it will always be a description of some sort. I really believe that you’ve got to listen to the whole album from beginning to end to really get a grasp on what a musician is trying to portray with sound.
To put this on a deeper level, an album is a ‘journey’ – and I can see all who studied Advanced English for the HSC in 2007 cringing right now… But in all seriousness, an album is one solid hour of raw creativity which stems from a process of thought and feeling underwent by another individual or group. Besides sex, an album is probably one of the most intimate things human beings can create; it’s pure essence for anyone to discover.
I usually hate to make generalisations about music, but I will say this. Today’s pop scene is sporting some of the weakest and most shallow music I’ve heard produced from any collective period of time… ever. I mean, without trying to seem obtuse, doesn’t it all just seem the same? I’m reluctant to say that it all sounds the same, because it doesn’t, but for me all the pop songs these days carry the same shallow feel; boys, girls, clubs, boobs, booty’s, poppin’ bottles and stereotypes.
What happened to the days where a musician would work on an album for four years before it’s release; fine tuning and tweaking sounds. There’s no respect to be had for musicians who simply ‘throw together’ an album with sounds everyone has heard before. Music is a pleasure state and a spiritual experience, and to just accept any old riff-raff when there are masterpieces of pure gold floating around in the musical universe – well, this should be a crime.
I’ll be nice and give you a head start. Below are some albums you need to listen to from beginning to end with big headphones and no disturbances – they’re what I like to call ‘bug-out albums’ because you pretty much need to sit in the same position and calmly focus on what you’re hearing. I’ve tried to keep them as un-obscure as possible, but give them a go and let me know what you reckon.
1. Yellow House, by Grizzly Bear.
Now, the sounds on this album can be quite confusing at times, but for me at least that’s what attracts me to this album. Tracks like ‘Marla’, ‘Knife’ and ‘Plans’ sound quite drab with weary melodies, whilst tracks like ‘On a Neck on a Spit’, ‘Central and Remote’, ‘Little Brother’ and ‘Easier’ provide you with some very easy listening sounds to take the edge of the ‘picasso -esque’ nature of the other tracks. There are some fairly dense tracks on this album that will really demand all your attention like ‘Colorado’ and ‘Reprise’. If you hear this one out and like it, then my suggestion would be to move on to another of Grizzly Bear’s albums – ‘Horn of Plenty’.
2. Fever Ray, by Fever Ray.
Ok, this one you’re going to have to prep yourself for. I know that I previously said I would try to keep the obscurity of these albums to a bare minimum, but I just had to throw this album into the works – everyone should at least know about this album. This album is literally choc full of sound, and the production is flawless. From the very first track ‘If I Had A Heart’ to the very end ‘Coconut’, the entire album maintains quite a dark and magical feel. If you’re going to have a crack at this album, you should know that Fever Ray’s voice is quite different; strained, forced and yellow. If anything, this album will give you a greater appreciation for music at it’s most artistic. If you like this album, then I’d recommend you move on to listen to the album ‘Ring’, by Glasser.
3. The Fool, by Warpaint.
For all of you who prefer dirty, grungy rock this album is what I would recommend you hear. However, I kindly ask that you approach this album unprejudiced and without any pre-conceived ideas about chick rock bands. Warpaint are an all-female band, and whilst many chick bands have rightfully terrible reputations, these girls really know their instruments. This album is cavernous, the bass in it kicks ass – and whilst it’s not an album that sends a gigantic wall of sound screaming at you, there are enough layers on it for you to really indulge and feed off this album a good ten times at least. The whole album maintains a fairly grungy sound but brightens up somewhat for tracks like ‘Undertow’ and ‘Composure’.
4. Teen Dream, by Beach House.
This is an album that everyone should listen to. The production is incredible, and Victoria LeGrand’s vocals send you on an artificial high that has your head rolling… it’s indescribable in words, you just have to listen to it. The first three tracks ‘Zebra’, ‘Silver Soul’ and ‘Norway’ give you the impression that the album is quite gentle, but by the fourth track ‘Walk In The Park’ the more melancholy side of it emerges and sends you into a messy state of lucid drunkenness that continues through the tracks ‘Used to Be’ and ‘Lover of Mine’ before pushing you to the surface with the track ‘Better Times’ and ‘Ten Mile Stereo’. By the end of the album you’re returned to compete normality with the ballad-like track ‘Real Love’ and ‘Take Care’. This is probably the closest thing to perfect I’ve ever heard. If you like it, give Beach House’s earlier release ‘Devotion’ a listen. In my opinion, it’s not as good, but still on the same wave length.
If these are too weak for you as far as obscurity and complexity roll, try the below – these are probably the cream of the crop for me.
1. Vespertine, by Bjork.
2. Takk, by Sigur Ros.
3. Within and Without, by Washed Out – this is very ambient and electronic, but still way cool.
4. Walls, by Apparat.
5. The Way Out, by The Books.
6. Heligoland, by Massive Attack.
7. ( ), by Sigur Ros.
If you’re willing to accept any of the above challenges, let me know how you find them 🙂