By Lapo Belmestieri
Only politicians and Disney stars can express a concept in less than 140 characters. Regular humans, especially artists, need a little more room.
When it comes to music, songs are emojis, and if you have anything interesting to communicate –like, I don’t know, a real emotion– then you need a sentence, or maybe two.
Hello, person who thinks albums are too long (hashtag: boring). We have tolerated your “playlists” of favorite songs to listen to while running. We’ve suffered skipping from one hit to the next.
Yes, there used to be people who bought those “Now that’s what I call music” compilations, and most likely they were somebody’s mom, playing it in the car while carpooling you to soccer.
Let me deliver the good news: Albums are back.
Remember “Rumours?” “Sgt. Peppers?” “Hounds of Love?” Albums are what made music, music.
A 45-minute, 10-songs journey – or something like that – with peaks and valleys. it could be a wild ride or a boat floating between two river banks.
We are lucky because we’re seeing a lot of albums lately. Amazing albums like those from Anohni (Formerly Antony Hegarty,) James Blake, and Radiohead.
This is beautiful music that could not exist in an abbreviated form, where career-high masterpieces are followed by intentionally less important tracks. That connective tissue creates the tapestry of a headspace, cohesive and single-minded. The new James Blake album is a perfect example: he chooses to stay in the familiar territory of sparse ballads and quiet noise, but the 17 songs create a length that amplifies his vision. The bleak, empty spaces resound like a skateboard in an underpass, and are occasionally sweetened by collaborations like “I Need a Forest Fire,” where Bon Iver adds his soulful, soft wailing. The results are still achy, but warmer than ever.
Or take Anohni, who decides to give up the trappings of assigned gender and in the process finds his own voice. In “Hopelessness,” he sounds affirmative and secure, his tremulous high pitch now marching in almost military grandeur over sharp, synthetic beats. “4 degrees” is a protest anthem working for the dance floor and the Greenpeace picket lines.
Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool came out almost unannounced (apparently good music doesn’t need press releases) and is not supposed to be a concept album, because it collects odds and ends, songs originally written two decades ago and often performed live, but never committed to an official release until now. The thing is, when you’re Thom Yorke, even a quilt made from scraps is going to bear your quintessential trademark. Something that in other hands would sound like a jigsaw puzzle here sounds positively cohesive. The closing track “True Love Waits” that in previous incarnations through the years sounded like something Coldplay would love to have written, is drained of all the “stadium-ballad” catchiness and it shines.
The hour-long format is not just for meditative affairs. Remember, Beyonce has just released Lemonade… an album – a visual album in fact brimming with creative energy and with songs that connect to each other both sonically and topically. Critics tend to dismiss Ms.Carter-Knowles as a “machine” too big to be credible as an authentic voice, and I don’t know how her music is created, but I know the final product is astounding. Beyonce doesn’t dabble in modesty, everything she does is grand, switching voices like she does outfits. But Beyonce not about the looks, and if you got distracted by what she’s wearing, sorry, you’re missing the point. “Lemonade” travels from intimate to dishy to political, from home tapes to Southern Rock to sample-heavy soul, and it stays believable throughout. Hate all you want, this is a big, accomplished musical statement.
If you still think albums are too long, then fuck movies, aren’t trailers enough? Fuck books, just tell me what happens at the end.
Sure, you have the attention span of a 4-year old, but that’s a medical condition, not a badge of honor. Now get off my lawn.