Friday, March 24, 2023

The Album Format Is Dead

I think this is going to be a genuinely brief flick through tracks that've caught my attention since last time I did this but I guess we'll find out soon enough. I do know I haven't tucked much away and I also know that much of what I have got to offer is just more by people I've already posted but what the hey. If that's what I'm into, that's what I'm into.

The big, big, BIG news, of course, is that today's the day Lana del Rey's ninth official studio album. "Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd.", drops - drop being the operative word, since my copy of the CD landed on my doormat about half an hour ago. 

I don't actually have a doormat. For some reason I thought that needed clarifying.

I haven't listened to the whole album yet. I can't even say for certain how many tracks there are because the font on the back of the CD is so tiny I literally can't read it. It looks like there might be nineteen. That would be a lot.

By delightful synchronicity, I was in the middle of reading the Pitchfork review when the postman pushed Lana though the letterbox. I learned a couple of interesting facts about the record, one of which is that there's a four-and-a-half minute long track called Judah Smith Interlude that's"a sermon on lust from Judah Smith, the Beverly Hills pastor...accompanied by melancholy piano". Want to hear it? Of course you do.

To no-one's surprise, I'm sure, someone's already seen fit to post the entire album, track by track, on YouTube. Makes me wonder why anyone buys anything except of course it doesn't. I pre-ordered mine on 14th February, the first day I knew you could. 

I read this week that the whole vinyl/CD revival is heavily underpinned by Japanese and Korean fans purchasing physical "souvenirs" of their idols as part of Idol Culture. Pretty sure that's what I'm doing...

The other item of note in that Pitchfork review was this: "“Taco Truck x VB,” the chimeric closer ... is partially a trap remix of Norman Fucking Rockwell!’s “Venice Bitch”". Since Venice Bitch is my all-time favorite Lana song, I'm going to make an exception and include Taco Truck x VB right here, right now, even though as I type this I haven't even heard it. It's going to be awesome, I promise.

Taco Truck x VB - Lana del Rey

Oh! My! God!! Screw Judah Smith! That's a religious experience!

Ahem. Moving on...

So, what else have I been listening to? Well, there's this.

From The Morning - Let's Eat Grandma

Wow! We really are playing in the big leagues this week, aren't we? I pity whoever has to follow this opening salvo. And this one's not just Let's Eat Grandma, it's Let's Eat Grandma covering Nick Drake ffs. 

From The Morning is the closing track from Drake's final album, Pink Moon, which came out originally in 1972, to a wave of indifference, after which it largely vanished from popular consciousness altogether, until the growth of his posthumous cult a decade and a half later. Now, half a century on, Pink Moon is a fixture in Greatest Albums of All Time lists although personally I prefer Nick with a band. Hazey Jane I and II are among my favorite songs by anyone, ever.

Let's Eat Grandma's cover is for "The Endless Coloured Ways – The Songs Of Nick Drake", due out in July. It's one of those "get a bunch of bands to cover tracks by the same songwriter" affairs that once seemed like an exciting novelty but now feel more like a desperate marketing ploy. Still, every time one appears, someone does a stellar job and this time it's Rosa and Jenny's turn. Also, did you notice how they've made it sound like the Velvet Underground's Sunday Morning? That bass line... 

Jokerman - Bob Dylan

Okay, let's make this fair. Bob can handle the pressure. I came across this by chance last week and it made me smile. With a certain amount of irony, yes, but not only that. 

I think "punk" would be pushing it but it's a very solid New Wave performance, of its time (1984) in a way I just don't recall Dylan being in the eighties, when I was living through them. Two-thirds of the backing band come from the Plugz, "a Latino punk band from Los Angeles that formed in 1977 and disbanded in 1984". Their Wikipedia entry mentions the Letterman performance backing Dylan but gives absolutely no explanation for how it came about. I'd love to know.

TV in the Gas Pump - Wednesday

Much though I love Bob Dylan, I doubt I could listen to his new wave stylings more than a handful of times before the novelty wore thin. I could listen to this on a loop for hours. These days, I like my songs short, so at 2.21 this ought to be perfect but I want more. I might have to get the album, Rat Saw God. It's out next month.

HI 5 - Frost Children

As is Frost Children's Speed Run. With 100 Gecs moving towards metal-inflected pop-punk on their new album, 10,000 Gecs, maybe Frost Children are poised to pick up the hyperpop baton. Although...

Dumbest Girl Alive - 100 Gecs

I just played that as I was writing the last entry and I enjoyed it much more than the first time I heard it. Maybe I shouldn't jump so fast to judgment.

Desert Flower - The Saxophones

And finally, for everyone who feels, like me, that we never got enough of Lee Hazelwood while he was alive, here's The Saxophones. For some reason, I thought they were French. You can see why. They aren't, though. 

This is from their third album, To Be A Cloud, which comes out in June. It's all about new albums this week, for some reason, isn't it? Well, except for Bob. Does he have anything in the pipeline, I wonder?

I guess we can just ask him. Don't you love the modern world?


  1. Pretty much just responding to your title :-)

    Does anyone actually sit down and just listen to an album any more? I used to often sit in a darkened room and just play an album. That was literally all I was doing. Years later, it was still pretty common for me to buy an album on itunes and listen to it while I was driving or playing a MMO. Still more years later, and now I pretty much only listen to new music as individual tracks. I am relaying more and more on Pandora to introduce me to new music, and you can't even listen to every track on an album in order that way unless you subscribe to their service.

    I have to think that to young people growing up in the current digital music environment, the idea of buying a whole album and listening to it front to back would be nearly a foreign concept. Yet a lot of my favorite music works best if you listen to the entire album, the tracks in the correct order are far more than their sum. I worry that we are on the verge of losing something important.

    1. I confess to converting entirely to streaming services these days. I don't even own a CD player, unless maybe one of the game consoles will play them. My PCs no longer have CD/DVD drives.

      But I still would LIKE to listen to albums but I feel like the streaming services kind of make it hard. And when you do finally figure out "OK here's the album I want to hear" and listen to it, when it ends it doesn't end but rolls into random tracks.

      My partner and I were just talking about this last night. The joy of going to a record store, flipping through albums. Buying an album for one song and discovering a bunch of other songs that you love even tho they're not getting much radio play. Miss those days. I mean... do record stores even still exist, aside from niche specialty places?

    2. The post title leans into the irony that although most people don't seem to listen to albums *as* albums any more, the album remains the standard release format for the mainstream and a whole range of genres. Every one of the acts in the post has an album coming out in the next few months except Dylan, whose latest album came out in January. It's true that loads of artists drop single tracks, "EPs" (Even weirder that that label still has traction.) and mixtapes (Which aren't tapes or mixes - I'm still not 100% clear on what they actually are...) but every day I see news items about new albums, complete with release dates and track lists.

      Personally, I still buy albums on CD but mainly because I need to have something to tell people when they ask me what I want for my birthday and Christmas. Lana is one of the few exceptions for whom I actually pre-order CDs and pay for them myself and that's mainly because, as I semi-seriously aknowledge in the post, it's in recognition of my fandom as much as anything.

      As for listening to albums, the only time I play them start-to-finish in the old way is in the car. The drive to my mother's is about one album each way and I do it about once a month so I guess I hear a couple of dozen albums in full in a year these days. I used to rip the CDs onto my IPod Touch and listen to whole albums that way but I don't even do that any more. I just play individual tracks either from my desktop, Amazon Music or YouTube.

      That said, I suspect the supposed universality of streaming might not be as permanent a change as we all thought. There are a number of indicators now pointing to a swing back towards owning physical product, not least because of the combination of cost and lack of availability on streaming sites. It's more of an issue with visual media but audio will have some similar issues soon enough. I don't imagine we'll ever go back to physical product being the prime distribution method, though.

    3. I still do, but I'm old.... Okay, not as old as Bhaggy, but up there nevertheless.


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