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No one thinks about albums today. Music is now divisible to the… - Nate Bunnyfield [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Nate Bunnyfield

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[Mar. 20th, 2007|02:54 pm]
Nate Bunnyfield
No one thinks about albums today. Music is now divisible to the single, as represented by an individual MP3, and then subdivisible into snippets like ringtones and samples. When recording artists demand that their works be considered as a whole – like when Radiohead insisted that the iTunes Music Store sell their whole album as a single, indivisible file that you would have to listen to all the way through – they sound like cranky throwbacks.

http://www.locusmag.com/Features/2007/03/cory-doctorow-you-do-like-reading-off.html

Talk about a confused half truth.

People relate to music the same way they always have. Sampling and egomaniacal musicians were around long before electricity. Technology doesn't change us or what we want, just how we interact with one another.

And though it's now atypical to start listening to an album and finish it in one go, it does happen. If no one thought about albums today, as Cory claims, we wouldn't see the addition of Gapless Album Playback in iTunes after its widespread adoption. Interestingly, if you look around last.fm, you will find select 18-25 year olds who are more album listeners than shufflers. They are also some of the most rabid music fans and, conceivably, the album makers of the future.

The more casual listener demands a lot less of the market than the enthusiast. The former downloads a track, while the latter downloads an entire discography – if not share the career of Zappa/Mangum/Iron Maiden with anyone willing to give them a chance.

I'm not arguing that artists intentions should or should not be followed as in Cory's Radiohead example. But we cannot completely ignore the artist's perspective. One notable example is Gescom's Minidisc which uses the shuffle mode to create an aleatoric mix of the album's 88 tracks. Another example is Little Wings' Little Green Leaves which was recorded in three different versions, each unique to its medium. The cassette is an intimate and rough demo, the LP was recorded in a day, and the CD is the most conventionally finished version. Seems like a lot of contemporary album thought to me.

So while the album form can be readily ignored by the consumers who only listen to the first two tracks or the single, it is often critical for the producers and distributors. Surprisingly, all this can even lead to a track the artist considers to be a throwaway becoming a chart-topping single (like Sheryl Crow's All I Wanna Do).

Personally, I use iTunes' Play Count or Remember Playback Position to pick up an album or long track where I left off hours or even months later. This seems obsessive and perverse in Cory's worldview, but I want to hear track 10, 11 and 12 as much as I want to hear the first one.


p.s. I have noticed people doing this a lot with Arcade Fire albums. Can anyone tell me if they have been putting out cohesive albums or just really compelling tracks people can't get enough of? I haven't had a chance to listen to them yet and was curious.
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Comments:
From: arkmay
2007-03-20 09:13 pm (UTC)
Yeah, nostalgia for the "Album as The Work" concept (basically post-Rubber Soul) seems silly when you consider the earlier commercial paradigm was the A- and B-side single. Jukebox style. So yeah it should be up to the artist.
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[User Picture]From: phatpharmer
2007-03-20 10:34 pm (UTC)
Anecdotally, I downloaded the first Arcade Fire album and would play it through frequently and thought that the track order fit pretty well, although I really wasn't paying much attention. Eventually I found out that I had the songs in the wrong order and I reordered them. A few of the song-to-song transitions made much more sense in terms of smooth fades but I didn't find it made a difference in terms of the actual impact of the album.
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[User Picture]From: laurel_journal
2007-03-21 08:27 pm (UTC)
What's Nate praying to in that photo?
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From: natebunnyfield
2007-03-21 09:25 pm (UTC)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/asabass/197921667/in/set-72157594211269481/

We were stuck in this conference room for a few hours.
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[User Picture]From: laurel_journal
2007-03-21 11:54 pm (UTC)
Ha!
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[User Picture]From: phatpharmer
2007-03-22 12:29 am (UTC)
it says "profit = good" but the profit is sort of cut off.
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[User Picture]From: alabama_grrrl
2007-03-23 06:00 pm (UTC)
i'm SOOOOO into the new arcade fire album. i've been playing it (as a full album) over and over again on my car stereo since i first downloaded an advanced copy (before getting the album in the mail that i of course pre-ordered. heh!)
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From: nemp
2007-03-23 06:25 pm (UTC)
I'm a full-album listener. I'll listen to individual tracks on mix CDs, but otherwise I'll delete orphan tracks from my library. A lone track is out of context, like a chapter in a book. Artists who create albums with only two good tracks lose my respect. I assume their goal in making music is to create a hit single. I prefer process-oriented music, or music with more interesting goals.

iTunes isn't helping either. Their pricing encourages superficiality. Singles used to be about .2-.4 the cost of albums, and contain extra tracks. Now one can purchase a single track for .1 album cost.

Anywho, I recommend Arcade Fire's Funeral. I'm unimpressed with what I've heard of Neon Bible (the first two songs), and the EP is good but not great. Here's a Funeral-era concert, via NPR.

Speaking of concerts and yer blog, there's a F'ing Lips ATP recording out there (including Peaches and the wedding proposal).
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