I love music. Always got a song in my head, often pulled up for singing or humming out loud at work, during exams, when I’m meant to be listening to someone… Often I’m totally carefree about it.
Music also has a big effect on me – it can calm me down, get me into game mode for ultimate, it even once convinced me to end a difficult relationship. It’s powerful, and as such often I’m very serious about it.
One such area I take very seriously is albums. I still buy physical CDs and I insist on listening to an album ‘properly’ the first time around: in one go, without distractions, from start to finish. I sincerely hope that you read these sentences in order (though if you don’t and get anything out of that, do tell me!), and for the posts of mine that build on previous ones, I hope you read them in order, as that’s how I intended them to be read when I wrote them. I believe the same to be true of albums.
There is logic, thought, emotion behind the order and the combination of those tracks. While picking only your favourites to listen to the second time around is fine, you should initially respect the artist’s intentions for the album, as a novel composed of ordered chapters, all of which contribute to the story. You wouldn’t leave out a chapter of a book if it didn’t interest you straight away, would you?
Saying all this, some CDs are just collections of hits thrown together. If it’s a bubblegum pop hit parade (and as an Aqua fan I use that description with reverence) the order might not be so important – these are perhaps less likely to have slow, building intro and outro tracks, inter-song skits or deep, recurring themes. But they still might!
Some albums definitely do, and [insert comparison number two] just as sports finals are elevated by their significance and the journeys of the competitors to make it there, so tracks of a true album are more than just individual songs. I’ve listed a few of my favourite musical journeys below – these are albums that, to me, demand to be listened to properly, so powerful are the tales they weave.
Nero – Welcome Reality: The first words are almost three minutes into the album. Way to build expectation, and the way the words (“December the first, 2808: Doomsday”) set the tone for what’s to come (futuristic, space-age dubstep with hints of mind control) is masterful.
Disturbed – Believe: The religious overtones that permeate through the whole album kick off with the first song and continue until the final few bars of the beautifully melancholic end track, ‘Darkness’. Saving this slow sleeper hit for the end leaves the listener drained after the incessant high energy of the rest of the journey.
Kings of Leon – Only By The Night: The energy of the songs is key – the desolate start with ‘Closer’ gives way to the rush of ‘Sex on Fire’ and ‘Use Somebody’, we’re drawn through the slower ‘Revelry’ and ‘I Want You’ by dogged drum beats into the hard hitting ‘Be Somebody’ before a 5 minute-plus cooldown as the wistful reflection of ‘Cold Desert’ closes things out.
That’s about all from me on the matter for now… Would love to hear your thoughts, whether you do things the same (and what albums you’d consider great examples) or completely the opposite to me!
[I’d like to dedicate this post to my friend Katie, who completely disagrees with me on this. But how boring would it be if we all felt the same?]