On October 13, at 3.33pm, – its officially National Album Day. We are all encouraged to listen to an ENTIRE ALBUM- not a PLAYLIST, not a random pastiche of songs thrown together from all different genres, artists and time periods- but a SINGULAR LP, played from start to finish. This may sound like either wildly obvious or wildly foreign, depending on how you have been consuming music for most of your life.
I admit, I put my hands up- I have ALWAYS been a MASSIVE fan of the ‘mix’ – which is what we called the jumble of different tunes before Spotify and Apple Music started calling them ‘playlists.’ The difference with making a mix, especially a mix tape, is that you had to carefully start/ stop each song, making sure it all fit into the time allotted on the tape. And overall, as it was such a labour of love and work, you wanted it all to flow beautifully as you would most likely either be giving it to someone to impress or you would be keeping it to treasure as a little time capsule of all the songs you were into at that moment in time. Before the dawn of the digital age, the most common way to experience recorded music was by putting on a record- side one, then side two- a continuous piece of work that an artist had crafted to be experienced in a specific order, to tell a story, to take the listener on a journey.
Listening to ONE artist continuously for 30 or 45 minutes in a ROW may sound strange now, as most people consume music in a totally schizophrenic manner; as I write this, I am listening to a mix a I made, which goes from Jesse J to Joel Gion to Ghostland Observatory– a totally mad, non-linear experience. It only took me about 2 minutes to literally throw together all of these tunes on my computer. I heard them, I liked them, I sorted them into a playlist. I was talking on the phone while I was doing it, not really even paying attention or putting any thought or love into placing these songs next to each other. I don’t have to- I can delete, add, change around in microseconds if I don’t like the order, or decide I am sick of them. There is not any extended mood or transcending. Sure, the three minutes each tune is on creates a mood. But nothing that makes me go WOW.
Now, a couple years ago I purchased U2’s The Joshua Tree on vinyl. I had of course owned it as a kid. I have dipped in and out of listening to tracks from it through the years. But I could not remember when I had last sat down and played the first then the second side in succession. It was a REVELATION. I have a record player in my home office. I had the album on and listened to it in its entirety three times in a row while I was doing some writing. I staggered out at dinner time, and said to my husband, MY GOD. Sitting there, with the highs, lows, rushes and instrumentals breaking over me like waves for the 50 minutes of the albums’ running time was completely breathtaking.
Even for a record that I knew well, had heard a zillion times- it was like a completely new and exhilarating ride. This was the order, the manner that the band had wanted the listener to hear their art- and it made SUCH A MASSIVE difference from jumping from one to another to another track sporadically. It made me realise how much I am missing with my normal music consuming patterns. So, on Saturday, take the 50 minutes to sit down, find an album, and JUST BE WITH IT – you will not be disappointed.