Sunday, 15 May 2011

April Albums: The Conclusion

So, that's that then. 30 days, 100 albums, one 20-something with time on his hands and a near-obsessive fascination with listening habits and the way we consume music. Job done.

For those out of the loop, throughout April I made a conscious decision to take my life off the shuffle function which it had seemed to have regressed to, and go back to listen to albums as they were intended. No compilations, best ofs or EPs and wherever possible stay away from perennial favourites. This was to be no month long karaoke session. Oh no. So, now it's all over, what are my thoughts?

Firstly, my thoughts on my choices. A massive batch of newly purchased albums arriving just prior to my listening experience commencing skewed things a bit – not only were there a pile of albums waiting to be included that I'd be listening to for the first time, but owing to my 'one album per artist' rule, there'd be albums that I wouldn't actually get to listen to until a month later. Surreal times. I have to say that looking back over the list I'm pleased with the way things went. Obviously we can all sit there going 'damn! Why didn't I put that in there?' but on the whole it was a good mix between albums I haven't listened to in years (or even forgot I owned), recent discoveries, new records and albums from some of my favourite back catalogues that I'd always thought of as runts of the litter. As well as a voyage of (re)discovery the whole experience also gave some albums a second chance, rescuing them from a near certain fate of charity shop dust gathering. Did I walk away with some new favourites? Well yes actually, the main two that spring to mind being The Concretes' Concretes In Colour and Tokyo Police Club's Elephant Shell. But perhaps more importantly, a number of albums that I'd written off or had mixed views have, as a general rule, now left a far more favourable impression than they had previously.

Whereas Jack Stewart of Mercury Challenge fame was constrained by what he had to listen to, I – while having free choice of what to listen to – was limited by time and having to rack up 100 records. What this inadvertently meant was that there times when I'd be sat listening to an album and willing it to end not because it was bad, but because I wanted to get another on the go and keep to a mental schedule. While it'd be nice to boldly proclaim this didn't dilute the listening experience in any way, it's fanciful at best. I suppose the targets that I set myself, while being something to aim for, also proved a a distraction and it could be argued detracted slightly from the experience as a whole. If I were to do it again I might do it under more relaxed criteria and compare notes.

One aspect that I wasn't really expecting was the social element. Tweeting the albums as I listened to them (as much of a record of what I'd listened to/how many albums I'd chalked up as much as anything else) gave way to conversations about the merits of particular albums and how they compared with the rest of back catalogues. It was a real eye opener, and a demonstration of how unifying music and albums can be. A recent trip to Manchester saw me being asked about my listening experience by people who followed me but who I'd never really conversed with before. It was surreal. As was people offering to buy me their favourite albums to be included, such was their belief in them and desire to share said love (I was only listening to albums that I personally owned). Crazy days.

So the big question is: has it made me appreciate the concept of the album more? The answer is a resounding yes, incredible as it may seem. Two weeks on, and apart from my daily couple of walks where the mp3 player stays on shuffle for a bit of variety I've listened to nothing but full albums. Not only that, but if I have a free day can be found giving thought to what I'll be listening to throughout the day, just as I did during April Albums. I'm enjoying it. It's nice. I suppose the main thing I've learnt that is that the age old excuse of 'I haven't got time to listen to albums' is a load of rhubarb. With precious little effort 3 albums a day is easily achievable. I wish I could end this with a snappy punchline, but I can't. The best I can think of is: I'm glad I did it.

Over the course of April I listened to:

Beirut – Flying Club Cup

Felt – Strange Idols And Other Short Stories

Wild Beasts – Two Dancers

Razorcuts – The World Keeps Turning

Malcolm Middleton – Waxing Gibbous

Eels – Hombre Lobo

The Rakes – Klang

OMD – Organisation

Antlers – Hospice

Dum Dum Girls – I Will be

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Belong

The Wave Pictures – If You Leave It Behind

Pulp – This Is Hardcore

Bruce Springsteen – Born In The USA

Air – Moon Safari

The Lemonheads – It's A Shame About Ray

Television Personalities – Privilege

Tracey Thorne – A Distant Shore

Darren Hayman – Table For One

Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career

The Indelicates – American Demo

The Knife – Silent Shout

The Ramones – S/T

Pete & The Pirates – Little Death

Those Dancing Days – Daydreams & Nightmares

Foals – Antidotes

The Kissaway Trail – Sleep Mountain

Orange Juice – You Can't Hide Your Love Forever

Edwyn Collins – Home Again

Beach House – Devotion

The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever

The Undertones – The Sin Of Pride

Magazine – Murder, Magic and the Weather

Perfume Genius – Learning

The Lost Brothers – Trails Of The Lonely Part 1 + 3

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Rattlesnakes

Richard Hawley – Late Night Final

The Wedding Present – Bizzarro

New Order – Technique

Elvis Costello – This Year's Model

The National – High Violet

Arcade Fire – Funeral

Help Stamp Out Loneliness – S/T

Good Shoes – no Hope, No Future

Last Shadow Puppets – The Age Of The Understatement

LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver

Doves – Lost Souls

Jeremy Warmsley – The Art Of Fiction

Joey Ramone – Don't Worry About Me

Elbow – Asleep In The Back

The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead

The Concretes – The Concretes In Colour

Art Brut – It's A Bit Complicated

Envelopes – Demon

The Brilliant Corners – Somebody Up There Likes Me

Radiohead – Hail To The Thief

Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

John Cooper-Clarke – Zip Style Method

Field Mice – Skywriting

REM – Reckoning

Girls – S/T

The Libertines – S/T

Young Knives – Voices of Animals and Men

The Cribs – The New Fellas

Albert Hammond Jr – For Keeps

David Bowie – Let's Dance

The Clash – Combat Rock

Los Campesinos! - Romance Is Boring

Dexy's Midnight Runners – Too Rya Aye

The Orchids – Striving For The Lazy Perfection

Christopher Eatough – A Creak in The Cold

Echo & The Bunnymen – Porcupine

Hefner – The Fidelity Wars

The Magnetic Fields – Get Lost

James Yorkston – When The Haar Rolls In

The Drums – S/T

Jim Noir – Tower Of Love

Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit

Goodbooks – Control

Kubb – Mother

Noah & The Whale – The First Days Of Spring

The Jam – This Is The Modern World

The Vapors – New Clear Days

The Replacements – Tim

MJ Hibbett & The Validators – We Validate!

Brian Eno – Apollo

Tokyo Police Club – Elephant Shell

The Cars – S/T

The Modern Lovers – S/T

Cold War Kids – Robbers & Cowards

Suede – Head Music – Blur – 13

M83 – Saturdays = Youth

Neutral Milk Hotel – Aeroplane Over The Sea

All Darlin' - S/T

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff.

    Though sure it was called Born in the U.S.A.

    Glad you liked The Concretes; lovely drop.

    Quite a lot in their I've been meaning to listen to also but not actually heard yet. To my stereo!