Ode to the Album
With the recent arrival of The Beatles on the iTunes store, the last major holdout of the album as a unit of music has caved in.
An album is more than just a compilation of individual tracks. Done right, it’s like a book, with tracks as chapters. It tells a story. It has a progression.
Pink Floyd were masters of telling a story through an album. In many of their albums the boundaries between songs seem artificial. One could enjoy the whole album as one unified entity.
You can listen to Pink Floyd songs individually, but they feel like quotes rather than complete entities. You miss out on the surrounding context.
Listening to music used to be an intesely situated activity. I used to lock myself in my room, turn off the lights, and listen to entire albums at a stretch, beginning to end. And when I was listening, that was all I was doing. I wasn’t surfing, reading, running, walking, reading, or driving.
Then music went portable. It went from being the main event, commanding our undivided attention, to the background soundtrack of… whatever we happened to be doing. Commuting, working, exercising.
The album is dead. Long live the album.