Thursday, December 13, 2007

It’s All About the Album.

So, not many people know this little fact about me, but other than Upto12, I was the first person I knew of to actually own an iPod. And at the time, Upto12 was living in P-town (so he didn’t count anyway). It was a 10 gigger super-brick complete with a remote control, the first track wheel, and a full FireWire hook up. I nearly filled it up with hundreds upon hundreds of my favorite songs, but with only a few choice tracks per album. I had everything on there, from Kyality classics like R.E.M.’s Drive to one hit wonders like Walk Like An Egyptian by The Bangles.

The only setting I ever used, and I mean ever, was Shuffle. I’d hit play and let that thing rock from one artist’s track to the next. The goal was to create the unskipable playlist. I was fascinated by the juxtaposition of The Gash by The Flaming Lips backing right up into the opening strums of Paradise City by GNf’nR. I’d actually pump my tunes into the airwaves at work—it was like I was the DJ of my own little radio station—unabashedly mixing and mashing tracks from one genre to the next.

I honestly don’t know what’s different now but unless I’m working out—there’s no way I can do the Shuffle anymore. Nowadays, it’s all about the album. I’ve been trying to figure out what’s exactly changed over the past five years of my digital music life. Why have I ceased all Shuffling and have since insisted upon rockin’ the album side of things?

Here’s what I’ve come up with. First, my digital music library has probably quintupled in size over the past few years—so albums have become a way to organize my vast amount of music files. They function kind of like “Events” in the new iPhoto. Second, album art has become a part of my digital lifestyle. Whether its Apple’s iTunes Artwork screensaver or scrolling through Cover Flow, I’m interacting with album art on a daily basis.

Finally, I’ve noticed that several of my favorite artists—most likely due to the fact that their tracks don’t even get played on the radio—aren’t making “singles” anymore. They’re actually composing albums once again. Like The Beatles and Pink Floyd before them, artists are bringing back the album in full force. Take for instance Arcade Fire's Funeral, you just can’t listen to Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) without listening to Neighborhoods #1 and #2 first, (Tunnels) and (Laika) respectively.

In fact due to this new wave of album-centric artists, I’ve disabled the Shuffle function on all of my iGear, whether it’s Tunes, Pod, or Phone. Though I admit, I haven’t yet disabled the Shuffle on my Shuffle. I guess I still like my Deee-Lite mixed in with a little bit of The Killers when I’m hittin’ the elliptical.
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