The best time to listen to full albums is on a road trip. Otherwise, when is our attention captive long enough to immerse ourselves into 10, 18, or 24 tracks from start to end? Albums, in theory, are themselves a singular concept, made of smaller cohesive components or layers (songs). I had never really listened to a full album other than Beyonce, followed a few years later by Beyonce’s full visual album for Lemonade. I listen to singles as an experience and Spotify playlists as background music. I’m 25 – this could be generational. I have this nostalgic haze of a vision that things were different decades ago, that in the 70s we used to really listen to an artist’s album from start to end; to stop somewhere in between would be miss something from the story.
When iTunes was created in 2001, some artists pushed back against the idea of their albums being fragmented, cherry-picked, and sold for 99 cents a single. And yet, these fragmented singles are all I’ve ever known of music. So when hipsters started buying record players and playing vinyl, it seemed like a novel concept (to me, and the other hipsters, presumably around my age). “It sounds better” is the reason given, though I think it’s more to do with the nostalgia of another era – one less digital, less fragmented, slower, and more immersive. I just looked this word up: anemoia – nostalgia for a time you’ve never known. That’s what I believe those vinyl records are offering to the under 30s.
I recently took a road trip where I experienced one album all the way through, twice. To listen to the high points and low points, cohesive mixing of genres and paces, is a hobby I want to start – a form of meditation if you will. I’m curious now, are most artists still making albums with the album concept in mind or are they mostly collections of singles? I have no familiarity with the evolution of the music industry at all – I just have Spotify premium and some Bose headphones. Now, I could try to answer my question, but first I’m going to kick my feet up and put on a record.