The album is dead. We all know this. It’s a singles-driven, iTunes downloading culture, despite valiant efforts from superbly talented musicians, our attention spans have been beat down by decades of video games and the increased ease with which we can skip through music. I know that sounds like an old man shaking his fist at the clouds, but it’s true. I think before the time of the CD, albums held up better simply because skipping tracks was a pain in the ass, whether that was dropping the needle on a record or enduring that awful chipmunk screech of holding PLAY+FF on your cassette deck. When CD’s came out, bringing their miraculous technology of one touch cueing, we didn’t have to endure the filler anymore [cause remember, people, even Illmatic had ‘One Time 4 Ya Mind’].
But the closest thing I would consider to a perfect album, that I’ve experienced in my lifetime is Dj Shadow’s ‘Endtroducing…’ which you can find me singing the praises of here.
Thing is, there are albums that I knew were supposed be good, those canonical titles that somehow get embedded in your consciousness before you hear them [Songs From Big Pink, Blood on the Tracks, Revolver], it’s already been established that they’re classics. When I first heard ‘Endtroducing…’ it wasn’t a given that this would be one of the seminal albums in sampling culture, or that it would inadvertently launch the trip-hop ‘movement.’ It was just beat after beat after beat, like nothing I’d ever heard before. You knew you were encountering something totally different from anything you’d heard before it, and you knew you’d be hearing its influence in the decades to come.
Honourable Mention: So back on Day Eleven I told all of y’all that my favourite band was a Japanese power pop band called the pillows. Of all the pillows albums, Happy Bivouac is hands down my favourite, and while it has that one clunker track in the middle of the album, it’s still pretty awesome top bottom, and really, I just wanted an excuse to plug some live footage of them.
EDIT!: Double Honourable Mention! I, am a fool. It took my evening commute from work to realize the closest thing I have to a favourite album, and it’s shameful to acknowledge I forgot about it.
The book ‘Stuff White People Like’ posits that there is no rap album more beloved by white people than A Tribe Called Quest’s third effort, and that’s probably right. The Low-End Theory gets celebrated for innovating, but Midnight Marauders perfected the formula. You know the one complaint people have about that album? That it’s too good! That none of the songs can stand out because they’re all of such high quality. Still, even this masterpiece isn’t flawless: 8Million Stories is a downer after Award Tour [sorry, Phife]. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad song, just means it’s the weakest of the set. How could I have forgotten this record?! They gonna revoke my card for that.