Jacob Cornell / In Defense of the Album, and Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Long-Form Music Releases As A Whole.

In the age where anyone can be a musician with as little as a laptop and a cheap mic, it’s no surprise that it’s also easier than ever to access exactly the music you want to hear exactly when you want to hear it. If you want to hear an artist’s newest single, you can tap the link they decide to spam on all of their social media. Or, better yet, within a few hours someone’s almost certainly ripped it and stuffed it into a low-quality YouTube video. Since new music is constantly being uploaded to the web, some artists are choosing to release their newest songs in the form of frequent singles or EP’s. While that approach is certainly SoundCloud and YouTube friendly, there’s an argument to be made for experiencing an artist’s fully developed release as a whole. This time of year it’s pretty common to see tons of discussion about which album was the “Album of the Year.” While there are usually a few common bands or artists whose fans will insist that they’ve written the best album of the year, it’s rare to find many publications or articles that will agree on their pick. Is that because some people have bad opinions? Maybe. Is it more so due to the fact that enjoyment of music is subjective and each person’s life, mood, experiences, and opinions will influence how they hear music and affect how their opinion of said music develops? Yep. That being said, why is AOTY even a discussion? If the release of music in the common scene is gravitating away from the album format as a whole, shouldn’t the discussion move away from whose album stood out the most or who had the most bangin’ bop of the year? Nope. The album, as an art form, will never and should never die. Aside from being an obvious way for artists to release a larger body of collective work, it’s a way for an artist to convey a deeper tone, story, or meaning. Rather than limiting themselves to what can fit into a single song, an artist is able to create an entire narrative around their release, some even going as far as creating an entire universe for their characters to live in. This is NOT something that can be accomplished in one song. Take The Wonder Years’ fourth album, The Greatest Generation as an example. In the album’s first single, “Passing Through a Screen Door,” singer/songwriter/musical genius Dan Campbell details the regret he feels regarding his comparative immaturity, his lack of a family, as well as the loneliness of how his life has developed. While Campbell’s lyricism certainly brings a lot of emotion and depth to the track, stopping at just this song and assuming this to be the theme of the entire album would be doing it a disservice. There’s two reasons, however, I won’t get too deep into an analysis of the album as a whole: One, because I couldn’t do it justice, and two, because if for some reason you haven’t listened to The Greatest Generation in order, you’ve made a huge mistake—stop reading and go put it on right now. In short, albums allow artists to channel their experience into art. Whether they choose to use that experience to tell stories, express their opinions, or create an atmosphere, a full-length album is the best format for doing so. The album will never, and should never die.