on albums

There is something spectacular about a well crafted album — when a musician takes you on a deliberate emotional journey for an hour or so. You know a good album when, if you hear single on the radio, you’re disappointed that the next track doesn’t follow straight after it’s finished.

I skipped home in excitement last weekend with two new CDs: Florence and the Machine‘s Lungs and The Swell Season‘s Strict Joy. They’re both full of glorious music but, the problem is, neither feel as much like albums as I want them to.

Every song on Lungs is demanding. I imagine the tracks would be awesome on ‘shuffle’ amongst your other music, but it makes listening to the album from beginning to end like being repeatedly dumped in the surf: every time you feel like you’re about to get a mouthful of air, you’re dragged into the fury of the next track. Still, Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) is one of my favourite tracks of recent years.

Strict Joy is much more diverse than Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s previous album The Swell Season (which was repackaged as the soundtrack to the film Once — but I reckon the original album is better). The new album, however, changes gears more often and more overtly, and so fails to grip me with the same emotional intensity as the first album. It settles into a better rhythm in the second half and there are some smashing songs. You won’t have wasted your money on this one – but it’s the kind of CD where you may well skip past tracks and back again depending on your mood.

[BTW: The Swell Season will be playing the Opera House early next year and tix go on sale tomorrow morning – both Chris and I rate their previous gig among our best ever live music experiences…]

I suspect that the increasing ability to purchase individual tracks will erode the commercial imperative for making great albums. But, if you’re a musician out there, please keep making awesome albums not just great tracks. I look forward to buying them.

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2 comments

  1. Neil Young, Ryan Adams, John Coltrane, The National, Herbie Hancock – it’s like looking at a picture of my CD collection!

    1. We had great fun picking a shortlist of favourite albums from our collection! Glad to know there are others who appreciate the same…

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