I understand that the idea of an "Album of the Week" may have been confusing enough to spin some of my readers into a psychotic episode (*cough* Reckless *cough*), and I should have probably been a little clearer in my description. The title, "Album of the Week" refers not to the freshness of the music, rather the weekly nature of the blog post. I apologize for an confusion/minor nerve damage/atherosclerosis/rabies this may have caused.


Anyway, moving on, today's guest post comes from a dear friend of mine who, if she had been born 30 years earlier, would have slept with Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, David Bowie, Jim Morrison and Hall (but not Oates). Of course, I would have totally done John Oates with that thick-ass moustache of his.

What was I talking about? Right, wise words from the District:

The Practical Application of Gestalt Principles in Album Construction

I bought an album a few days ago. I mean, I bought a real, physical album. I even ordered it throug
h the mail, so I had excitement in anticipating its arrival. It has been a few years since I ordered music - mostly I buy albums at shows and swap discs with my local coffeeshop employees. But, I had heard this band on Myspace and was tired of listening to the few tracks available on their music page. So, when I finally got the CD in my hot, little hands, I unwrapped it immediately and stuck in my CD player, and prepared to groove.

Pffflew. Deflation. So, the album that I ordered and had waited to receive, Band of Horses' "Everything All the Time" is quite enjoyable at times; however, the album itself has no continuity, no theme, no story to tell. There are two standout tracks on
the album, but the surrounding songs do nothing to support the singles. Both "Funeral" and "The Great Salt Lake" are strong songs with delightful melodies and catchy lyrics. Tempo changes and instrumental breakdowns drive the tunes, while Ben Bridwell's vocals compliment the tone and temper of the individual songs. Although Band of Horses lacks the orchestral depth and magnitude of Bridwell's previous band, Carissa's Wierd, the songs are solid rock pieces and induce toe-tapping. Hell, I like the band so much I bought the album. Individually, there are nice songs, but the path of the album is jarring with odd tempo and key changes between the tracks. At this point, I am not sure if it is better on random shuffle or listened through from start to finish.

I guess this is what happens in our new age of iPods, mp3s, and shuffle. You can pick and choose the tracks, and so how they work together just does not matter any more. I bought the Band of Horses disc off their songs on Myspace, so I am guilty of this myself. However, I remember the time when the traditional album was put together with love and care - the transitions between songs were just as important as tempo changes within the songs. Hell, Death Cab for Cutie's "Photo Album" has one of my favorite musical moments in between the tracks "Steadier Footing" and "A Movie-Script Ending." And Built to Spill's masterpiece "Perfect From Now On" escalates from song to song and culminates with the raucous pieces "Kicked in the Sun" and "Untrustable/Part 2." These albums (quite recent as 2001 and 1997 releases) are thoughtful works as a whole in addition to the individual song, and the development throughout the album only makes them better pieces.

Perhaps I am advocating for concept albums. The Decembrists certainly have figured out how to tell a story through an entire album; Ben Folds Five did a lovely job with "The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner." But, really want I am suggesting is that the format of the album needs to be considered when creating a marketable product. The sum of songs can either help or hinder the success of the album, and in the case of Band of Horses' "Everything All the Time," it certainly hurts. Or, maybe I should just use shuffle.

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