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The Importance of the Album

The following is a small excerpt of the foreword for “My 150 Favorite Albums of All-Time”, a list that will be released next Friday, July 15.

Of everything that has changed or disappeared on the music landscape in the past 20 years, perhaps nothing has been so altered as the album. Gone are the days of platinum hits every other week. Gone are the mass trips to record stores to pick up the new compact discs. Gone are the times when you had to hear your favorite CDs out of your car stereo instead of a laptop speaker.

In the music world, things change all the time, so the iTunes movement could not have come as a huge shock to the experts. It has served the same function that CDs served when the vinyl age was coming to a close. So far, however, the musical concept hasn’t changed much. An artist puts together a collection of songs from similar recording sessions and releases it, either on their own or through a label.

Some "Green Day fans" are only fans of the Dookie era...

What I love about the album is the snapshot it provides of the artist who makes it. It can be hard to explain a band’s sound to someone based on the artist’s overall work, because a good artist is dexterous and experimental. I believe that we shouldn’t view music purely in terms of the artist, but in terms of a particular piece of work an artist made during a particular place in time.

After all, Green Day in 1994 (Dookie) and Green Day in 2004 (American Idiot) are almost night and day in terms of songwriting. If someone asks you what Green Day is all about, would you tell them they write tunes about masturbation or about social ills? My point is that Green Day is multiple entities, and creates quite a fissure in a music conversation: “Do you like old Green Day or new Green Day?”

...and some prefer the American Idiot regime.

Of course, there are numerous similarities between the albums: The band’s core three members remained intact over that 10-year period, and both albums are rife with power chords. However, it is important to respect both pieces of work, and view them separately. That’s what this list is all about. I might include an album from Justin Timberlake here, despite the fact that he wouldn’t sniff a list of my 150 favorite artists. It’s like actual art: You might really dig “Starry Starry Night” even if Van Gogh isn’t one of your favorite painters…

“My 150 Favorite Albums of All-Time” will be featured next Friday, July 15, here on Air Core Yell. 



About Alex Smith

Alex Smith is a writer and musician from Minneapolis, MN. He currently attends the University of Missouri in Columbia and is pursuing a dual degree in journalism and english.


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