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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Where have all the albums gone?

As I enter my fourth week in the good land, I am still enthralled with the wonder that is Milwaukee radio. Between 88.9 RadioMilwaukee and 102.1, I rarely have to change the station. When I was on my way home from work the other day, there was an in-studio performance by a band called Gabby Young and the Other Animals. At first I thought they were playing some vintage 30s or 40s artist, lost in the crevasses of time. But no, just a performance by four musicians from across the pond, displaying an affinity for gypsy, jazz, rock and pop. They stated how they were playing at Shank Hall the upcoming Friday night. Needless to say, I rounded up my future bandmates and checked out the show. It was fabulous, but they deserved more than the 50 or so bodies in the hall. RadioMilwaukee was also airing an exclusive performance of TV On the Radio the other night. These are just some recent gems from a great station.


Mostly out of 102.1, there are a lot of good songs being played by up and coming artists. But you can tell that these are simply just songs. To buy the album would be an overpriced disappointment. It's hard to describe how I can discern the quality artists from the duds, but there is something about these artists that seems so...meh. It's as though they had a good hook or sound, but don't take the necessary steps to make it really interesting, to give it staying power. I think of it this way: rather than setting up a campfire with the proper kindling and log position and sitting around it for a few hours, these guys prefer to just pour some gasoline on the fire and see how big the flames will get before it quickly dies.

People have been saying that the album is on it's way out, that a steady stream of singles will be released rather than waiting 2 or 3 years between albums. I can see this happening, but not for any artists that will be around for more than 5 years. Well, if they partner this approach to the complete album, success can be lasting, but single after single will lose it's appeal quickly. There is a reason one hit wonders are ridiculed on VH1. Singles don't matter if the album is crap. Sure, the pop world will make more money this way, and the guys who actually write the songs will make a metric shit-ton of money, but artists who write and perform their own music don't operate that way. The argument is also made that recording on the go is so easy that people will just keep writing and recording while touring the world (and elsewhere.) Can you imagine how draining that would be on a band? Instead of taking the travel time as time for practice, relaxation, or phone interviews, they would also be obligated to write and record a quality product for almost immediate release.

I'm sure there are smarty-pants turds who can make any system of releasing music work to their advantage, and it would be a great system for bands trying to gain a following (it's actually what most do already, i.e. myspace/youtube) but I refuse to believe bands like Wilco, Bon Iver, Muse, or any other bands like that will ditch the album for the profit-hungry system that is the constantly streaming singles.


  1. What about the MIGHTY 91? WMSE 4 LYFE.

  2. Nice entry. I would like to see more like these. The campfire analogy was spot on.

  3. I think it's a cycle - singles were big even a couple decades ago though full albums were already popular before then.

    For many artists today, I understand the logic in releasing an EP with 4 songs as opposed to an album - artists are under pressure to release singles more frequently to keep attention on their music.
    I say give it a decade or two - albums will come back, if not for their hipster appeal as records are now. My two cents.