Thursday, May 26, 2011


OK, so my last post was in July. Turns out that my inner monologue is not, in fact, posted directly here.

So what do I have to talk about today? Well, a large part of it is in response to Rose's post. I know that a list of songs may seem innocuous enough but I must ask, why songs?

Now, I'm not talking about the differences across disciplines. I could care less to compare songs with stories or paintings. What I'm asking here is why the song is considered the base unit almost every time when it comes to music. Literature has novels, short stories and poetry, drama has plays, skits and screen plays and there are piles of options when it comes to visual arts. Why is the song such a monolithic entity in music?

To me it comes down to the idea of the single. Since the beginnings of recorded music, the single was what grabbed the attention of the listening public. You could move a lot of product, sell a lot of concert tickets on a good single. Even as longer formats emerged, the single remained the star. Optimally, a record would contain hit after hit and keep money rolling in for a long time. Seldom was the supremacy of the individual song questioned.

So what are the alternatives? Well, the idea of the concept album is not new. It has been around at least since the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. David Bowie's personas are well documented and reflected in his album's coherence. The tradition of the concept album has even run strong to this day. Yet even so, most of these albums can be divided into singles and not singles and are often taken in this way. Simply put, much of the artistry in these albums is lost because people are all too willing to chop out what they consider "the good stuff" while leaving the rest behind.

Of course, remedying this is quite simple. There are plenty of coherent musical experiences for those willing to check them out. I'm personally fond of Our Lady Peace's Spiritual Machines. Interspersed between tracks are quotes from Raymond Kurzweil's the Age of Spiritual Machines. These quotes seem extremely out of place in an environment of one single after another but they fit the album very well. If you're not quite sure you want to sit and listen to an entire album, there are plenty songs that connect with each other out there. Recently, I've been enjoying the Decmberists' Crane Wife 1-3. Even MC Frontalot has a number of small tie-ins on his Zero Hour album that would be completely useless if the album was taken as a collection of unconnected track.

Now for those feeling adventurous (and you should be because this is GREAT music), I put forward the Dear Hunter. Beyond just a single concept album, the band has three albums that are all interconnected. I'd suggest you get them all, listen to them in order and anxiously await the fourth. I listen to them all (in order) frequently and I still find the experience enthralling. I repeat, you should download and listen to their discography as soon as possible.

Anyways, so that's all I have to say for now. You are now free to completely disregard everything I have said here.

Still talking about things you don't care about,
Travis T



  2. Sorry Peter Wu, I was look for pure musical experiences here not musicals. A subtle distinction, I know.

  3. Hey, I hear what your sayin', but consider this: artists in the use of various media (poets, painters, whatever) are quite often known for individual works rather than for the book, series, set, collection, the work is part of; it's not an occurance unique to music. That being said, I agree with you. When an artist can produce an entire concept album or what have you that has all the impact of an individual piece, then that artist is quite amazing.

  4. Here's a few things that may make better analogues. Short stories and Novels are different media. Movies and TV Series are media. Seldom do people try to tear out a chapter or episode and treat it as superior to the holistic nature of the work. Of course, part of this may be a trick of naming. I mean, even in the strongest of concept albums we still usually divide along a unit that has the same name as the smaller work, that being the song.