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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Album-Listening

So I was just sitting around in a coffee shop, half-reading a friend of mine’s manuscript (he was kind enough to let me read it before it is getting published), half listening to Joey Bada$$’s album (or is it a mix tape?) Summer Knights and admiring his lyricism.

Joey is really really good at putting words that rhyme together in a way that makes so much sense, yet boggles your mind because you end up wondering how he was capable of putting those words in the order that he does. I’ll recommend you one song of his that demonstrates my point: Hillary $wank. Go Youtube that if you want to know what I’m talking about.

But what I noticed from listening to the 17-track compilation was that each song didn’t really have anything to do with the rest of the album. It’s just that, a compilation of 17 individual songs. It made me think about Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid MAAD City, which was 12 songs that formed one whole story. That, to me, was mind-blowing. Kendrick demonstrated to his listeners how it was possible to write a whole album, instead of just writing individual songs. This album was what made me want to write rap songs, since not only was he a rapper and singer here, he was a story-teller. And a brilliant one at that.

I’m sure that he wasn’t the first one to do what he did in this album. I’m sure he copied that concept from those that came before him, but I listened to this one, so Good Kid MAAD City will always have a special place in me. 

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Listening to whole albums isn’t exactly the “mainstream” way of consuming music. A lot of people choose to listen to single songs only. Even back in the day before iTunes was around, it wasn’t uncommon for people to buy whole albums in the form of vinyl records, cassettes or CDs just to listen to one or two songs while neglecting the other ten.

I used to do that as well. I mean, listen to individual songs only. I didn’t buy any albums just to listen to single songs over and over, of course, since I wasn’t earning any money at that point. I was introduced to the concept of listening to whole albums by a friend of mine who gave me Sum 41’s Chuck. Every song in that album sounded fantastic to me, and I started appreciating the band for being able to make so many good songs in a row.

The album after that was My Chemical Romance’s Black Parade. At one point, I wanted to learn all the guitar to all the songs on the album, so infatuated was I by the album from start to finish. I think I ended up purchasing one copy of the album. I don’t remember how I got the money to do that, but I listened to that album so much in the car, I memorised the words to all the songs on the album, even the bonus track.

The next album that I memorised from start to finish was Panic! At The Disco’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. Such good songs on there, and the lyrics were so different to anything I was listening to at the moment, I couldn't get enough.

I think listening to artists’ whole albums gives us the listeners a clearer picture of how good (or bad) a band is at what they do. Really good artists are able to produce good songs to fill a whole album. And if we’re able to see that, we are able to appreciate the artists’ craft better.

It does definitely take some amount of patience to get through whole albums, but more often than not, it’s worth it, because you get to know the artist better, and in a way, get more intimate with them, since you gain a picture of what concerns them and how they do that as well as getting to delve into why they feel strongly about what they decided to write about. I’m really glad I’m able to listen to whole albums for those very reasons, and maybe even more.


My favourite albums published in 2014 include Run The Jewels’ Run The Jewels 2 and Taylor Swift’s 1989. If you don’t mind sharing with me, what were yours?

5 comments:

Amirah Fathiyah said...

My favourite album from 2014 would be Taylor Swift's 1989. Dengar banyak kali pun tak bosan.

I think from now on I'm going to take your advice and always listen to the whole album instead of just one hit single.

Syahirah Ruslan said...

Wow. I love the way you appreciate music. Because I do, too.

My favourite albums would be Michelle Branch's Hotel Paper and The Spirit Room. The albums were released when I was in primary school (music was REAL good back then). I can listen to those albums all over again because it feels like ... home. Her music is somewhat familiar to me.

Yuna's Nocturnal is very inspiring, lush, and classy. Not to mention the fact that she inspired me to start learning guitar (how cliche').

Banks' Goddess discovers the dark side of me (you should try listen to her music!). Black and white music videos. Deep, meaningful lyrics (mostly about relationships, of course). Elegant, subtle, unique voice.

Farah Hani said...

taylor swift's definitely!!! If u noticed she has changed her music in her 1989's album compare to her RED's album. Her lyrics though. Speak for my unspeakable thoughts. Btw i enjoy reading your posts as i'm in TESL too. Pls share more about your experiences in teaching and your random thoughts. Have a nice day brother. :)

Distantcrushes said...

PATD's first album will forever be my jam. Do you listen to The Killers? Hot Fuss is by far one of my favourite things to listen to, but pretty much all their albums are masterpieces. Anyway, idk if you're into this, but try yt-ing Zitten's Rock Doves.

Unknown said...

A few months back then, my friend told me about this one band. But it's not a Malay or English band. It's Japanese.

Usually, Japanese's English will be extremely bad since I'm quite otaku that I watched lot of anime(s?).

But this band is so good, most of the lyrics are in English (even they combine it with Japanese). And they can pronounce it clearly and understandable (unlike many other Japanese’s artist).

At first, I download several of the albums (can be found easily through Google). Then I fall in love with every song in the album. They are just, I don't know, absorbing..? Even I don't understand Japanese, when I read the translation about the lyrics, I don't know, it touched me entirely. Then I started to listen to every album they have. Unconsciously I love this band so much that for almost every day I’ll play their songs on my MP3 player, on my laptop.

The band name is ONE OK ROCK. I think my top favourite will go to Niche Syndrome’s album released in 2010. Then, probably Zankyo Reference released in 2011. Ah I don’t know. I think all their songs are good.