When was the last time you listened to an album?
For many that might seem like a bit of a redundant question. I suppose it is really. I listen to albums more than I think. I probably do anyway, I don’t actually remember the last album I listened to. Was is Loyle Carner? Adele? It wasn’t the Biebs was it? Nah, it was something cool, I’m a cool guy, I think. Anyway it doesn’t matter, what really matters is I don’t really remember, and here in lies the problem.
It’s pretty rare these days for an album to resonate with me, I mean really resonate. If I listen to something from start to finish it’s for one of three reasons: I’m being nostalgic, I really, really, really, realy, like the artist, or it’s an audiobook. I’ll admit that this might be my fault, each year I pay less and less attention to what albums a band releases and I focus more on the songs. I pick and choose what I want to soundtrack my life rather than staying true to the artist’s intentions. I miss the nuances, the recurring themes and the evolution of the sound. And I rarely discover new songs, I am stuck in a musical rut, and no amount of pop-punk perfection will rescue me.
Now this is not to say I didn’t avidly devour the latest Kendrick release for a few days after it came out. I did, I’m pretty damn cool. But after that I added my favourite few to the appropriate playlist (my rap playlist is called ‘Masters of the Universe’) and the album got metaphorically shelved – who actually buys albums anymore. It’s doubtful that I’ll ever listen to that album in the same way again. I’ll only put it on to seem cool, because cool I am.
And I’m not trying to be some sort of vinyl apologist who sits in his room playing B-Sides of The Smiths on his vintage, teak gramophone (although, I hear the sound quality is UNREAL), but I do miss the physical act of putting on an album. There’s something a little magical in it, it’s a moment you have to dedicate to music, a sort of prostration, a form of worship to the sound. It’s deeply intimate. You remove the sleeve, you insert the disc, and you press the button and magic happens…. Ok, that was getting weird, but you get my meaning. There’s simplicity in the act. Once it’s in you can’t change it without filling the air with silence. More music is more than just a click away.
A big issue I find is that there is just so much music out there to consume. Services like Spotify make it so much easier. If I dedicate an hour to an album it feels like I’m missing out on so much else. I can’t focus my attention solely on one thing so I don’t choose any. I just add track after track that I hear to this never-ending list that I shuffle. There’s no order, no carefully crafted musical journey, just a jumble of what I happened to like at the time. The irony being the playlist is called ‘Recent Sh1T’ and it’s been going for four years.
For me, trying to remember my favourite albums is like trying to remember that weekend I had where I didn’t do much but I really enjoyed what I did do, although I can’t remember what it was. I’ve forgotten what music I love and I can only remember the music I added. And I don’t know how to change it. I’ve lost a part of my musical identity and I find myself going back, time and time again, to the albums I owned as a kid. And there’s only so much Fall Out Boy a man can listen to.
And so here I am, stating my intention to listen to a new album each week. Or an old album. Just an album. The entire thing. From start to finish. The way the band – or more likely, record label (forever a cynic– intended. Will you join me? Will you take up the album mantle? Or am I being reductive, and everyone but myself listens to albums. Am I weird? Probably. Do I care? Definitely.
Even now, as I type this out, I’m shuffling that gargantuan playlist of mine.
I never said I was perfect.
Or at least I don’t say it often.