Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Albums: the good, the rad, and the complete mistakes

I know, you're all shocked that this isn't a wheat-related post.  Sorry.  I have to mix it up with boring posts every once in awhile.

Here I am writing about music, which I have done before, but I think it's dangerous territory.  It's pretty hard to convey how you feel about a piece of music even though it may be something that you love and want to share with people.  Getting people to spend three minutes to listen to something is even harder.  And then you're really hit and miss because everyone has such different tastes that most of the time they're not really going to be impressed with something what you're sharing anyway.

Despite how discouraging that is, there is one aspect of music that I want to talk about: the album.  How do you feel about albums?  Because I have had a rocky past with them.

I really hated spending money on albums in high school and getting home and hating 80% of what was on there.  Back then, there wasn't iTunes to preview songs ahead of time, although I did use Amazon from time to time which only had 5 or 6 songs to preview.  And sometimes 30 seconds is not enough, right?  When iTunes finally did come into my life, it was heaven!  99 cents and I could just get the one dang song that I wanted and I stopped wasting money on albums that ended up being 3 hits and 9 duds.  Suddenly my music library flowered into a stellar collection whose "shuffle" setting could only be marred by those unfortunate album songs that I bought in high school.

So, basically, I'm not a fan of albums.  I've heard cases made FOR them, and I can understand how artists are exploring different things musically and artistically and they're putting everything out there for you and sort of have a specific direction and purpose to the whole arc of an album.  My response is: it doesn't really matter, I will still think it was a waste of money if I don't like it (Squirrel Nut Zippers' Perennial Favorites, I'm looking at you).

Having said all this, there are a few albums out there, a few golden tickets where I love most if not all of the songs, albums that I'm happy to pay full price for, and I wanted to list my favorites here.  Not just so I have a handy place to remember them, but also because I usually relinquish musical selections to what I think other people will like, and as a result I don't think that people really know what I like.

I have to add a disclaimer that I'm not going to put any Beatles albums on here, because they are in a whole class of their own and I don't want to hurt any of my other albums' feelings.  So here are my top 7 favorite albums:

7. Gimme Fiction by Spoon

This album is dark and gritty and sexy and I love it.  I really have to be in the mood for it but even when I'm not I still have to admit that this is cool stuff.

6. Hot by Squirrel Nut Zippers
I know this isn't topping any "most awesome albums of all time" lists, but I still like almost every single song and that's something not every album can say.

5. Oh No by Ok Go
Love, love this album.  Fun, sexy, and SO much style.  Flying around on synchronized treadmills was just the beginning, these guys have serious chops.

4. Once.  The only movie soundtrack in my top 7, although there are plenty of good soundtracks out there.  This one, however, leaves them all behind.  Partly because the actual music is so central to the movie itself, and partly because it's just wonderful music.  The friend who introduced me to this movie said, "I just rented it from the store and watched it over and over again, it was just so breathtaking."  I started watching it skeptically and wasn't really paying attention until suddenly, Glen Hansard's voice cried out, "This is what you've waited for" and I stopped everything I was doing - even breathing - and watched.  Absolutely beautiful.

3. Viva La Vida by Coldplay, including the bonus album Prospekt's March.  I'd actually say that I like the bonus album a bit better.  What can I say?  This album actually provides the music for my little Happy Place video from a few years ago, and a few of the songs give me nearly out-of-body experiences.  Haunting, beautiful, joyful, melancholy, etc, etc.  This album packs so much in and it's all good.  Well done.

2. Discovery by Daft Punk.  Adam, thank you for introducing this to me.  I never thought I could like techno before this, and here it is my #2 album.  And my #1 aspiration is to go to one of their concerts before I die.  Or before they stop touring.  Whichever comes first.  Do I love this album because it's so funky?  Is it because I love sci-fi?  Or is there a secret subliminal message in their electronic rhythms that is controlling my brain?  Maybe it's just good stuff.

I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

1. Life Left To Go by SafetySuit.  This is not a well-known album, I think, which is a shame.  When I think about this album I think of words like, "redemptive, liberating, release."  This music just makes me feel free.  I don't think they were doing anything particularly new or ground-breaking, but I absolutely love each and every song on here.  It just all works.

So tell me what you think about albums?  Have you ever bought one that was one great song and the rest were duds?  Or do you like the variety and artistry of a complete album?  What are your favorite albums?


CK Rock said...

Have you seen Interstella 5555? It's the entire Daft Punk Discovery album set to Japanese animation. You can borrow it from us sometime if you like.

Breanne said...

Chris: I have seen Interstella 5555, it rocks!

Adam said...

I think Pink Floyd should get a spot in that list somewhere...

Kylen and Adrienne said...

I'd have to say that the only albums that I care about most are my Indigo Girls albums...usually only like 1 song on each that I don't care for. They encompass my childhood so much because that's what my older sisters were listening to a lot, so I'm really attached to those songs.

M said...

I know what you mean about albums - sometimes just one or two songs are really great, and the rest disappoint.

I think it's totally fair that you didn't include any Beatles albums in your compilation. They are totally in a class of their own, not only in terms of music but often in terms of album design/packaging.

Kelsey said...

Also, Spoon is da bomb. I miss you Breanne! Are you moving the PacNW soon? Come to SF!!!!

Breanne said...

Adam - Dark Side of the Moon is great, it's true.

Kelsey - Why doesn't that surprise me? =)

M - I'm glad that you understand!

Kelsey - lol. Thank you for showing me that movie. We totally want to come to SF. I have no idea when we'll be able to, though. =(

Anj said...

I'm a fan of the album. Yes, there are always songs that I end up not liking, but I love to listen to a entire album and discover which songs I like, love, or don't like.

Also, my opinion often times changes after listening to the album a couple of times. Songs that were originally my favorite will be replaced by lesser known songs.

Generally when I am listening to music I am listening to an entire album. It's rare that I shuffle songs.
The Airborne Toxic Event is one of those albums where every song is excellent.

Breanne said...

Good points, Anj! I've also changed my mind about certain songs after listening to an album several times. If you don't listen to an album, you don't give the other songs that chance. I think the really frustrating thing for me was buying an album for one song that I heard and liked, or buying an album because I liked the artist, but then I only ended up liking one or two songs. For $13-$15, it just felt like too much. But that wasn't always the case. Hmmm.