Line Out Music & the City at Night

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Is the Album a Useless Relic?

Posted by on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 at 12:42 PM

Music-industry pundit Bob Lefsetz thinks so. In his newsletter from Jan. 7 ("Face Facts"—facts!), he writes that the album is “A circle jerk in a world where nobody has time for anything but the best. I hope you have fun making your long player, because you’re the only one who cares!”

My, oh my, that’s rather extreme, Bobby. Such sweeping generalizations proclaimed without a trace of self-doubt are typical of Lefsetz. Sometimes the man is right and his advice is helpful. Other times he’s so off the mark it’s a wonder he’s not working for a major label.

Regarding albums: People are still making ’em by the many thousands every year and, yes, most aren’t worth your time; however, many are—hundreds, I'd say. I and millions of others still think the album is a valid, fulfilling art form. But the loud, confident Bob Lefsetz scoffs at your painfully outmoded mindset. This calls for a poll.


Comments (21) RSS

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bunnypuncher 1
I am just now, literally, in late 2012/early 2013, beginning to accept that I don't have to listen to a full album, thanks to Nicki Minaj.

I still mostly do. As in, with every album I own/in my iTunes, except for Nicki Minaj.

It's a start.
Posted by bunnypuncher on January 15, 2013 at 12:59 PM · Report this
Sure, all music should be presented in the same way. If Nicki Minaj can only generate three minutes of interesting content a year, then that must be true for everybody in all situations at all times. It's true because I say it is!
Posted by Critics Who Know Everything on January 15, 2013 at 1:30 PM · Report this
blip 3
I fall somewhere in between. I still prefer to buy a physical copy of an album, which I import into my music library and pick apart track by track until I have the patience / attention span to listen to the entire thing all the way through (recent notable exceptions: Jessie Ware and Purity Ring). Some artists do not have more than one or 2 good songs but to dismiss the entire concept of "The Album" on those cases alone is just silly.
Posted by blip on January 15, 2013 at 1:46 PM · Report this
I think it's funny that his two examples of "people who recognize the facts" are Kendrick Lamar and Psy. One of them had one song that went viral mainly because of a funny video, and that we are all super tired of. The other made an album, and it looks like he's here to stay.
Posted by redemma on January 15, 2013 at 1:56 PM · Report this
seandr 5
Does an hour long mix count as an album? If so, then the album lives!
Posted by seandr on January 15, 2013 at 1:57 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 6

Albums of ringtones are the only way to go.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 15, 2013 at 1:58 PM · Report this
Dougsf 7
If music has changed in any significant way, it's that it's becoming impossible for people that work in the industry make these sorts of generalizations. Look at the top selling albums of the last 10 years, and look and the number of artists with albums available—I'll be damned if you can make any predictions based on that info.

Pop culture anecdotes tell me albums haven't been the most popular format for music since the 70's, and it's harder than ever to tell if that will ever happen again, but it's crazy to say it won't.
Posted by Dougsf on January 15, 2013 at 1:59 PM · Report this
The album really hasn't been around all that long. Great music existed before, and will exist after. For a long time I felt like you had to wait until you had 10-12 good songs, then go do this extended recording, then pay through the nose to produce physical copies. 2-4 good songs on a 7", as they are ready, or a shorter form EP, where everything can be recorded and mixed in a weekend is a much more pleasant way to release music.

as a listener, I will mourn the loss of the cool-out track. Album sequencing requires a lot of thought and pacing, and a good slow-burn cool out track after a couple barn burners often ends up being my favorite song on the album, althought it would never exist as a single, or even a B side.
Posted by Chris Jury on January 15, 2013 at 2:02 PM · Report this
Lefsetz is still writing *newsletters*? Talk about relics. All journalism and punditry should be done by Tweets or text messages or links to YouTube videos. Important articles should be tattooed on Rihanna.

Newsletters. How quaint.
Posted by rainbird on January 15, 2013 at 2:07 PM · Report this
raku 10
Mixtapes (the digital kind), EP's (the bandcamp kind), and remixes/singles (the MP3 blog kind) are where most new good music comes from. The full album is great for conceptual/experimental art, but it is definitely dead (as in irrelevant) for pop music or dudes with guitars.
Posted by raku on January 15, 2013 at 2:12 PM · Report this
jnmend 11
I believe the happy medium is that bands shouldn't feel obligated to do albums (because most fucking can't scratch together a decent EP's worth of shit), but that some bands are obviously still capable of doing so.

A lot of my favorite bands would have done well to cut their albums in half.
Posted by jnmend on January 15, 2013 at 2:20 PM · Report this
very bad homo 12
If a band can't give me 10 or 12 good songs, they're not worth my time.
Posted by very bad homo on January 15, 2013 at 2:55 PM · Report this
Gurldoggie 13
Last night I played Mal Waldon's gorgeous "Blues for Lady Day," front to back. And I sure like this new Yo La Tengo album. I don't know who Bob Lefsetz is, but I can tell you true that his opinions have zero bearing on my listening habits.
Posted by Gurldoggie on January 15, 2013 at 3:44 PM · Report this
Posted by mwr on January 15, 2013 at 3:59 PM · Report this
LEE. 15
this matter is really a defining line between people who appreciate music and people who consume music. the more a person views music simply as a product, the less attention they will pay to and artist's output lacking the bells and whistles of a single meant for mass consumption. as for myself, I'm hard pressed to think of one artist or band that I at least respect who can't piece together a coherent album. maybe not including hip hop and pop, but most other popular genres demands some kind of cohesion with a large collection of songs. while you don't have to produce a pretentious concept album, you should at least know how to make collected songs flow together properly and accept certain songs might not fit on the same release with others. unless that's like, your jam.


I think the single/EP's dominance as of late makes it unnecessary for artists to feel like they have to release a full length every 12-18 months. that seemed to be the standard pace for a long time. as a musician and an avid music fan, I'm happy about this. it means we can release a couple tracks at leisure, while taking out time to focus on making a real album rather than just a lopsided mishmash of songs.
Posted by LEE. on January 15, 2013 at 4:52 PM · Report this
eclexia 16
Rush "Clockwork Angels" not only showed there was life in the album, but also showed there was potential in the concept album.

Muse has also played around with doing portions of an album-- usually about 10 minutes-- where a concept was split across tracks.
Posted by eclexia on January 15, 2013 at 5:10 PM · Report this
I think dear old Bob is becoming a grumpy cat.
Posted by ejival on January 15, 2013 at 5:40 PM · Report this
Estey 18
I don't think we've even begun to experiment with the format most people call an "album."
Posted by Estey on January 15, 2013 at 5:57 PM · Report this
Aurora Erratic 19
I would hate to see the album go by the wayside, because I often find some of my favorite songs are the less charismatic ones that I come to appreciate after several listenings - not the "star" songs of the album.
Posted by Aurora Erratic on January 15, 2013 at 7:05 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 20
Lost on a wave, and then after
Dream on, on to the Heart of the Sunrise
How can, the wind, with so many around me?
Lost in the city

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on January 16, 2013 at 3:25 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 21


You could say that the "Tune" has broken down the album.

But at the same time, the unlimited nature of the Internet allows for even greater formats...the 22 minute album can become a restriction.

For example, a band could host an entire 2 hour performance for little or no money.

It could in fact play 24 hours a day for an entire week and then put it on YouTube.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on January 16, 2013 at 3:29 AM · Report this

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