Tag Archives: Radiohead

Top 5 Albums of 2016

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A lot of things informed my list this year – I turned 30 (shriek!), then got laid off from my job, then got another job, then my relationship of over 2 years ended, then I moved to a new city, got a new apartment, then Trump was elected as our next President, oh and then all those musicians everyone loved died. And that’s just my shit, sooooooo…

Yeah, 2016 man. It’s why my list is only five albums this year. It’s not that there weren’t many, many more great albums released this year. It’s that I’m tired. I’m over it. Check please. In strange times I’ve relied more heavily this year on old emo favorites – Aimee Mann, Elliott Smith. Sufjan is never turned off. The National’s Trouble Will Find Me finally found me three years after its release when I didn’t even know I needed it most.

But these five albums also had a tremendous effect on me. They’re the five that I’ve kept coming back to over and over again throughout the year. They’ve kept me going, made me cry, made me laugh, made me get beyond excited to hear one of their tracks in the cloob, helped me be more introspective than I think I’ve ever been. Maybe some of these have done that to you too?

So here’s what’s ‘currently murking’ me. I’ve been a mess – thanks for putting up with me this year.

5. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

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I was at work hiding in my cube with headphones on and the livestream of Yeezy Season 3 up and running. The Kardashians made their entrance, which was chic but also not chic, and then the crowd at Madison Square Garden cheered even louder as Kanye finally stepped up and played the first track off of his new album, “Ultralight Beam.” And then we all died.

Hope you’re feeling better Ye, stop meeting with Trump.

Favorite track: “Ultralight Beam” / “Highlights”

4. Beyoncé – Lemonade

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I was sitting at home on the couch looking at Instagram when an image from Beyoncé’s account depicting her in a fur hanging out the side of a car casually slid across me screen with a link to the music video for “Formation,” which was literally released that minute. Then the Super Bowl happened the next day and, despite my thinking that not enough time had passed since her surprise self-titled, we all got that taste of Lemonade we were so, sooooo thirsty for. And I mean everyone got that taste, whether they liked it or not. So necessary this year.

Favorite track: “Sorry”

3. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

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It was the worst week of 2016 for me. Although the clues from Radiohead helped a little. I was glued to Radiohead’s Reddit thread along with all the other nerds, keeping myself occupied.

Then the video for “Daydreaming” was released and I could barely get through the day.

Then it was Mother’s Day. Then A Moon Shaped Pool was released. It was gorgeous. It was Radiohead’s breakup album. How perfect.

Favorite track: “Present Tense”

2. Bon Iver – 22, A Million

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I had been feeling exceedingly worse about my decision not to attend this year’s Eaux Claires Festival as it became “duh” that Bon Iver would be premiering their new album in full on Friday.

The last time I saw Justin Vernon live was in September 2013 for a Volcano Choir show at The Metro in Chicago. I was convinced that band was his new point of focus – interviews Justin gave before kind of led you to believe that the Bon Iver project was dead dead dead.

Well it wasn’t. It’s not. Holy hell. It’s entirely possible for me to cry during every single song on this album – I’ve tried it.

It’s almost enough to get me to move back to the Twin Cities – to be closer to family and friends, of course, but also closer to the music scene and culture and the people that made and continue to make this kind of music happen.

Favorite track: Sorry it just really has to be taken as a whole.

1. Frank Ocean – Blonde 

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“Listen, stop trying to be somebody else. Don’t try to be someone else. Be yourself and know that that’s good enough. Don’t try to be someone else. Don’t try to be like someone else. Don’t try to act like someone else, be yourself. Be secure with yourself. Rely and trust upon your own decisions. On your own beliefs.”

– Mom

Favorite track: “Self Control”

 

 

 

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Thoughts on Yeezus

kanye-new-album-yeezusThe first record on Kanye West’s sixth studio album, “On Sight,” clearly spells out what the fuck is about to happen for the entire length of Yeezus.

“How much do I not give a fuck? / Let me show you right now before you give it up,” West snarls before we hear a classic Kanye-esque sample, featuring the line “He’ll give us what we need / It may not be what we want.”

Exactly.

West already gave us want we wanted with 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He’s so good at doing this only 10 years into his professional solo career that he pulled out all the stops, scheduled every guest rapper you’d ever want to hear on a Kanye album and pushed all the studio flourishes to the extreme because he knew Dark Fantasy would play like a greatest hits album. At the very beginning of Dark Fantasy, we hear “Can we get much higher?” Like, hello.

And you wanted that again?

I’m about to compare Kanye West to Radiohead right now. Radiohead are expected to evolve and make drastic and creative leaps and bounds forward with each album. All of that came to a head with In Rainbows – it was the best of everything that had come before it. Then The King of Limbs was released and people were pissed off because it was more challenging, didn’t change things enough and was “too short.” LOL K.

I think the same thing is happening with Yeezus, although I would say it’s more like Kanye’s Kid A. You see, Kanye got us all gassed up over the past decade, made his “ultimate” album with Dark Fantasy, and then pulled the rug out from everybody who was expecting something they could play in the club or while pre-gaming.

Yeezus is a dark, twisted fantasy in its own right. It sounds like nothing else, yet peppers in sonically beautiful moments that link to Kanye’s past, most directly to the also challenging and commercially unviable 808s & Heartbreak. All at once, it’s funny, uncomfortable, provocative, beautiful, depressing and a challenge.

Very recently, celebrated band Low played the annual Rock the Garden, and people were super pissed because the band’s set consisted of one song stretched out to 27 minutes. In response, the City Pages’ Reed Fischer complied an argument for why it was actually brilliant. I’m going to use a couple of his arguments to wrap up my thoughts:

Fischer: Rock the Garden is a Walker Art Center event, not Jingle Ball.

Low not playing “Plastic Cup” is nowhere close to equivalent to Katy Perry skipping “Teenage Dream.” Get over it. The Walker has a long tradition of supporting experimental performance that sits outside the mainstream, and Low’s choice to densely explore one track was a fitting addition to the day. If anything, this will be a Low appearance that will be talked about for the rest of our lives. Plus, “Drone, not drones,” was a completely badass way to address the crowd. Alan Sparhawk and his band looked fearless and punk as fuck up there.

Me: Kanye West is not Flo Rida, T.I. or J Cole. He’s creating art that the masses have seemed to relate to up to this point. Kanye West will not be playing Jingle Ball.

Kanye not making “Gold Digger Part 2” is kind of the point of pushing music forward. Get over it. If anything, Yeezuz will be talked about for the rest of our lives. Plus, sampling “All the Beautiful People” on “Black Skinhead” is completely badass.

Fischer: Not every effective piece of art is easy to pigeonhole.

Admittedly, I was initially confused by the long, billowing intro that stretched easily five minutes before a noticeable change. But as the sun started to peek its way out from behind the clouds, “Do You Know How to Waltz?” began to build into something epic. In an era when we’re used to getting exactly what we want with a swipe of a finger on our smart phones, it can be refreshing to have a surprise, a plot twist, a moment of not knowing what will come next. Although the few lyrics of the song include the line “One more reason to forget,” I guarantee no one who was gathered there Saturday will be able to erase in their minds what they experienced while Low played. A shame for those who just wanted something less unique, less singular, and less captivating. The crowd agreed that Emily Haines was “not synthetica” later on, but should remember that we should not be passive, music-consuming drones either.

Me: Not every effective piece of art is easy to pigeonhole.

From the very beginning, Yeezus sounds like no other Kanye album out there and can initially be confusing. In an era when we’re used to getting exactly what we want with a swipe of a finger on our smart phones, it can be refreshing to have a surprise, a plot twist, a moment of not knowing what will come next, a la Yeezus and Kanye’s career in general. I guarantee no one who listens to Yeezus will be able to erase in their minds what the hell just happened in their ears, on their speakers, etc.

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When Kanye first tweeted that he would be projecting new music at specific locations across the country, I dropped what I was doing and headed up the street to Wrigley Field, not knowing what to expect. In true Kanye form, the projection of “New Slaves” started an hour late. I tried to be as in the moment as possible while also trying to decipher what this new sound was and listening intently to the subject matter of what is a very deep song. Then, out of nowhere, in slammed the sample of Omega’s “Gyöngyhajú Lány.” It’s quite a beautiful and somewhat profound moment, actually, and felt more that way as me and 50 other people stared at the entrance of Wrigley Field with jaws dropped, while Kanye and Frank Ocean crooned “So let’s get too high, get too high again.” It may not be the same type of high that Dark Fantasy gave the world – Yeezus is a high of a very different sort. And thank God – At least none of us are bored anymore.

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Welcome to Currently Murking

Central and Remote has morphed into Currently Murking, a blog that I actually hope to keep updated.

Instead of focusing on full album reviews, I’ve decided that in addition to a live, constantly updated playlist on Spotify, I’d re-focus the blog to short, daily and weekly posts and music roundups consisting of tunes that are murking me.

First of all, writing full-length album reviews is like, kinda hard and time consuming. Second, many of you probably don’t care what my deep dark thoughts are on many of the albums I love the most beyond me saying “you should listen to this and here’s why and here are a few tracks to get you started.”

Third, contrary to popular belief, Spotify doesn’t have all of the music that is currently murking me, mostly because I’m a music pirate and indulge in albums before the official release date. That’s not to say I don’t monetarily support music by attending more live shows than my bank account says I should and buying many albums once they are officially released. I’m just an impatient music lover.

So with that, welcome to Currently Murking. To get things started, here are a few things that murked me this week:

THOM YORKE DANCING IN ATOMS FOR PEACE’S VIDEO FOR INGENUE

This is pretty self-explanatory.

PHOENIX – BANKRUPT!

The new album from Phoenix, due out April 23, leaked earlier this week. I’ve been hearing whispers that this might be a poorly mixed and not finalized version. Yes, the sound on Bankrupt! Is massive compared to other Phoenix outings, however I’m really enjoying it even if it is devoid of some of the more emo/quiet moments found throughout Phoenix’s catalog. Take a listen to the first single, “Entertainment,” below.

SUFJAN STEVENS RELEASES “ABONDONED SONG” FROM 2010, “GIVE A LITTLE LOVE”

I’m really happy Sufjan has a tumblr, because he does things like release random songs he forgot about but recently found on an old hard drive. Listen to it over on his tumblr here. Things turn wonderfully emotional about a third of the way into the song. Even in this raw form, it’s still murking me. It’s Sufjan Stevens afterall.

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Top 25 Albums of 2011

Ok 2011, you were kind of a weird, but good year for music.  Honestly, this has been one of the hardest “Top 25” lists I have ever made, because, besides my pick for the number one album, a lot of the rest was pretty much up in the air for me.

One note: PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake is nowhere to be found on my list.  Sorry for partying, but it still just hasn’t clicked with me.

Also, lots and lots of good hip-hop came out this year.  Which is fun, but also, as a big fan of hip-hop, might make my list seem very “commercial.”  Not really sorry for this one, it just is what it is.

And so…..judge away:

25. Panda Bear – Tomboy

 

 

 

 

 

I mean, it’s mostly all about “Last Night At the Jetty,” but it’s also about the overall lush, woozy sound drenched in layers upon layers of reverb  heard throughout the album that makes Noah Lennox’s Tomboy a notable listen in 2011.

24. Cults – Cults

 

 

 

 

 

Cults threw their hat in the whole retro-pop ring and came out on top with their first try.  Although I was skeptical at first, debut single “Go Outside” was the perfectly breezy song of the summer.  Seeing them live at the 7th Street Entry sealed the deal, and “Walk At Night” is one of my favorite songs of the year.

23. Lady Gaga – Born This Way

 

 

 

 

 

There’s really not much more to say about this one than what I already wrote in my review of the pop star’s second album, and even though it’s getting kinda old kinda fast, there’s no denying that this was one of the best pop albums to come out this year.

22. Beyoncé – 4

 

 

 

 

 

Ughhhhhhh Beyoncé, how you murk me so.  Even though I would have preferred an album filled with songs like “Countdown,” we instead got more of a mood album, a Beyoncé tone poem, if you will.  You can almost hear the tears in “I Care,” feel the swagoo in “Party,” and bonus track “Dance For You” definitely makes me want to swirl.  A fine body of work.

21. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation

 

 

 

 

 

Another example where a live show catapulted an album into being something special…no but really, as a debut, The Year of Hibernation is a remarkable achievement for the young Mr. Powers.

20. TV On the Radio – Nine Types of Light

 

 

 

 

 

Bucking the trend, I actually didn’t much enjoy this band’s appearance at First Ave.  I honestly think it was just because I was in a sour mood, however music usually can lift me out of that, and that just didn’t happen at the show.  But as an album, Nine Types of Light continues a winning streak for TV On the Radio.

19. Britney Spears – Femme Fatale

 

 

 

 

 

I mean…Britney hasn’t been this exciting since Blackout.  Love her, hate her, say what you will about her, but Femme Fatale is simply a fun, expertly crafted, perfect pop album, and that’s all it needs to be.  It’s also fun when Britney gets dirty and swears (“You can be my fuck tonight” on “How I Roll”) and references past hits (“Hit me one more time” on “Inside Out”).  Let’s just face it, growing up with Britney as the soundtrack to everything from 8th grade “mixers” to high school proms and now drunken, messy nights out in your 20s has been a gift everyone can (and should) appreciate.

18. Feist – Metals

 

 

 

 

 

Metals is a really pretty album.  Nothing too groundbreaking happening here, but for craft, this album gets an A.  “Graveyard” and “The Circle Married the Line” sound both thrilling and heartbreaking at the same time, which could describe this album as a whole….yes?  Maybe?  Yeah.

17. James Blake – James Blake

 

 

 

 

 

Dubstep ughhhhhhhh.  It’s a great album though.  Also, I saw him in the Entry and you probably didn’t.

16. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah yeah, “Midnight City” is like, the song of the year.  Listening to this album in one sitting is quite the experience.  And, they hit their live show out of the park at First Ave.

15. CANT – Dreams Come True

 

 

 

 

 

I was pretty skeptical about the solo effort from Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, especially since lead single “Answer” really didn’t do much for me.  Well, wow, this album is pretty fucking great, proving Taylor can hold his own as an artist.  Also, none of you went to the show at the Entry.  Shame on you.

14. Terius Nash – 1977

 

 

 

 

 

Terius Nash aka The-Dream.  That’s pretty much all you need to know.  The best part is that this breakup album is mostly about Christina Milian.  Super fun.  Also, 1977 is a contender for giving us some of the best one-liners in rap history: “You used to be anti-internet, but now you constantly blogging and shit,” “Another day with you is just another fucking day,” “That get up in the mornin’ and put it on me, she so horny,” “Let me sing you my drunk song,” “Blowin’ bottles of dat drank,” “Ever seen a n@&*a buy a house from the toilet?”  I could go on, but I wont.  You should just listen.

13. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

 

 

 

 

 

Not too much to say about this one either, other than Laura Marling’s voice is, you know, one of those voices.  It just hits you right in the gut.  And she’s only 21.  Although not as immediate as I Speak Because I Can, there are plenty of highlights throughout A Creature I Don’t Know, including “I Was Just a Card,” “Salinas,” and “Sophia.”

12. Wilco – The Whole Love

 

 

 

 

 

WILCO IS BACK!!!  Right, they didn’t really go anywhere, but honestly, this is the best thing since A Ghost is Born, and a lot of people didn’t even like that album.  So then this is the best thing since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  Which is saying a lot.  Also, their first of two recent shows at The State Theatre was one of my favorite concerts of the year, maybe even ever.

11. The Roots – Undun

 

 

 

 

 

If you know me, it’s kind of a given that if an album includes Sufjan Stevens in the credits, I’m going to take notice.  And while Sufjan’s “Redford” is the base for the last suite of songs, the rest of this concept album is all The Roots, and it’s fantastic.  Definitely the most heartfelt hip-hop found on this list.

10. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

 

 

 

 

 

Strange Mercy might be Annie Clarke’s masterstroke.  “Cruel” is one of the best songs of the year.  The title track is my personal favorite from the album.  All in all, Strange Mercy is classic St. Vincent but more focused and sonically profound.  Amazing stuff.  I also got to sit on the stage for her show at The Walker.

9. The Antlers – Burst Apart

 

 

 

 

 

The Antlers’ Hospice was a masterpiece, even if it left you completely wrecked after each listen.  Talk about a downer!  Things haven’t changed much with Burst Apart, but everyone was waiting to see if Peter Silberman and crew would be able to produce something as meaningful that didn’t have the story arc of Hospice.  I’d say The Antlers have succeeded – Burst Apart still tells a story, but this time it’s about moving through the murky waters of heartbreak and loneliness, fun stuff like that!  Who knew depression could sound so lovely?

8. Real Estate – Days

 

 

 

 

 

The surf-infused sounds of melancholy is the best way I can describe Days.  What’s up with me and loving sad-ish music so much?  Anyways, Days is a lovely gem of an album.  And really it’s not all that sad.  Seriously, don’t let that scare you away from listening to it!

7. Beirut – The Rip Tide

 

 

 

 

 

Zach Condon’s most accessible work still maintains that European quirkiness that defines Beirut’s sound.  Condon’s voice has also never sounded better, song’s like “Goshen” a showcase for his deep, swoon-worthy vocals.  All those horns pull at your heartstrings too.

6. Radiohead – The King of Limbs

 

 

 

 

 

It’s an odd year for me when Radiohead put out an album and it’s not automatically number one on my list.  Yup, I’d say you either loved or hated The King of Limbs.  Maybe it even pissed you off.  Clearly, I fall in the love camp, while also recognizing that better music came out this year.  Honestly though, why is everyone so mad that the album (consisting of JUST EIGHT SONGS?!?!?! ) is under 40 minutes long? There’s a lot packed into those 40 minutes.  “Bloom” is like an awakening, “Lotus Flower” is another one of the best songs of the year, “Codex” murks you and “Give Up the Ghost” is unlike anything heard from the band.  Yeah, it’s not an instant classic like In Rainbows, but this record holds up very nicely when not compared to Radiohead.  Think about it.  Bye.

5. Kanye West & Jay-Z – Watch the Throne

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah yeah, I know I wasn’t head-over-heels for this when it first came out.  But my, how Watch the Throne has grown on me, just like I guessed it would.  Again with this one, pretty much everything that could be said about this album already has been said.  Along with 1977, Watch the Throne also ranks high with classic one-liners that have quickly made their way into me and my friends’ everyday vernacular.  I’d type out some examples but I’d have to use too many $*#@)($#@s.

4. The Weeknd – House of Balloons/Thursday

 

 

 

 

 

Completely out of nowhere and I am so completely happy that both of these mixtapes (with a third on the way) happened this year.  Really, there’s not a single track on both of Abel Tesfaye’s (ok let’s just stick with calling him The Weeknd) outings thus far that I would skip over.  They just make you feel so many feeelingssssssssss.  And I think that’s a good thing, especially in this genre.

3. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

 

 

 

 

 

I actually re-listened to Helplessness Blues last night as a refresher.  Originally it was a few slots lower on my list, but my notions were confirmed that, yeah, this is definitely one of the top three albums of the year.  The title track kills me every time.  The harmonies almost make you want to vomit because they sound so perfect.  It’s almost an overload of beauty.  Did I really just say that?  Yeah.  Cuz it is.  Helplessness Blues is almost an overload of beauty.

2. Drake – Take Care

 

 

 

 

 

Are you for real?  Really though, Drake killed it this year.  I really can’t talk about it.  I also really can’t talk about that album cover.

1.  Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver

 

 

 

 

 

Why must Justin Vernon do this to me?  Crying in my car, crying at work, crying in my apartment, crying at the freaking concert.  This album is actually mind blowing.  It’s almost like everyone wanted it to suck because it would not be fair for our very own Justin Vernon to keep on succeeding and producing music that is again and again this transcendent.  But guess what??? He made 2011’s album of the year.

So, that’s it!  Below, in no particular order, are some of the albums that didn’t make the cut, even though I really, really wanted them to.  Going up to 50 albums would have actually killed me.

Akron/Family – S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT

My Brightest Diamond – All Things Will Unwind

tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l

Cut Copy – Zonoscope

Bright Eyes – The People’s Key

My Morning Jacket – Circuital

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong

 

 

 

 

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Album Review: Radiohead – The King Of Limbs

9.7 out of 10

If In Rainbows saw Radiohead return to Earth with some if their most organic and lush music in a decade, then The King Of Limbs is an album about transition.

First of all, lets address the gripe about the album’s length.  At 38 minutes, it is the shortest album in the group’s collection, however it’s only 5 minutes shorter than Amnesiac. Yes, the album zips by, but it still leaves its mark on you.

“Bloom” is one of the more notable Radiohead album openers, the song literally unfolding with looped pianos and an incredible focus on Phil Selway’s tumbling beat, set in a vast landscape of keys, strings and horns.  Who knew Thom Yorke and Rufus Wainwright could sound alike as Yorke belts “Open your mouth wide.”

And from “Bloom,” The King Of Limbs transports the listener on a remarkable journey that only becomes richer with each listen – typical for Radiohead, yet could lead to early dismissal among causal listeners expecting something as instantly gratifying as In Rainbows. The fact is this isn’t an extension of In Rainbows, nor is it the return to the huge hooks and anthmatic rock of The Bends, although influences from Radiohead’s cannon of music can be heard in pockets throughout the album.

“Little By Little” has a very Radiohead-esque descending guitar chord as its backbone, reminiscent of “Reckoner” or something from the OK Computer era. But the spotlight is again focused on the churning beat, a drum machine augmented by what sound like junkyard percussion influenced by middle-eastern melodies.

“Codex” is the album’s downbeat ballad, with production akin to that of Kid A, draping the piano and horns (the horns are out of control good) in the audio equivalent of taking a xanax and wrapping yourself in the warmest blanket possible.

However it’s tracks like “Feral” and “Give Up The Ghost” that make business as usual for Radiohead an accomplishment by anyone else’s standards, “Feral” taking on the dubstep movement head on as a sort of “yeah, we can do this too and do it damn well” note from the band.  The album’s centerpiece, “Lotus Flower,” seals the deal, with Yorke singing the line “there’s an empty space inside my heart” in his most gorgeous falsetto yet over a sinister bassline mixed with a human handclap.  It sounds distant and processed yet warm and soulful all at the same time.  The music video really takes it there too:

So, The King Of Limbs is its own beast, taking cues from the band’s library and the current state of music yet existing on its one plane entirely.  As the laid back trot of “Separator” signals the end of the album, Yorke sings “I’m a fish now out of water,” which is the prefect definition for The King Of Limbs; a brilliant collection of songs that leaves one feeling slightly uncomfortable yet at ease all at once, a collection that requires that you take pause to fully digest what is going on here, a collection that strongly hints that Radiohead are about to blast off once again into completely new territories.

Perhaps this is only part one of a two-part album, a primer for LP 9 or a chance for listeners to catch their collective breath before the next big thing.  But for now, The King Of Limbs is Radiohead’s big thing of the moment, and what a moment it is.

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Does Song Sequence Matter? Notes From a Napster User

On an idle night over the holidays, I took to my iTunes library with a cleanup mission in mind; recently, I had found that there were a few albums in my collection that had tracks out of sequence.  “Just a couple here and there,” I thought, until the algorithm behind the shuffle function directed my attention to a track from my favorite group during my high school years.

As Atmosphere’s “Guns and Cigarettes” played in the background, I started to wonder if any songs from their albums were out of order.  You can imagine the horror when search after search confirmed deeply hidden fears of musical inadequacy.  God Loves Ugly? So out of order.  Lucy Ford?  Wrong, all wrong.  Surely Overcast was in the right order, but alas, no, it wasn’t.  Only the reissue of Se7en Headshots was in the right order, but I remember purchasing that CD like it was yesterday, even though it was 2005.

And therein laid the rub.  I had actually purchased that album, but the majority of the songs in my Atmosphere collection had been downloaded from a variety of illegal sources years and years ago, including Napster.  And like a puppy dog, those original mp3 files had followed me from computer to computer, their ID3 tags misnumbered or corrupt, causing iTunes to present me Atmosphere’s albums in an order that Slug would frown at (not to mention the fact that I hadn’t ever paid for a majority of his music).

While my love for Atmosphere has waned since the early 2000s, the group’s albums still hold a very special place in my heart.  Their music was the soundtrack to my life in high school, and as an obsessive fan and wannabe know-it-all, weird and icky feelings of insecurity started to bubble to the surface, reacting to the fact that I had been listening to the albums with the songs not in the order intended by the artist.

But does that even really matter?  In the case with my Atmosphere collection, these songs were usually listened to on shuffle with an iPod plugged into someone’s car stereo via one of those tape adaptors.  My 16-year-old self didn’t really care what order I was hearing the songs, just as long as I was hearing them and could download more with relative ease for future releases.

In a live setting, bands hardly play an album straight through, start to finish, unless the performance is billed as such an act.  Most concerts are a grab bag of greatest hits and hidden gems, presented in a seemingly random order over the course of a couple of hours.  However, some thought does indeed go into concert setlists and the order that songs are played, even if the songs come from many different albums covering many different years.  And nearly a decade later, in an age where I no longer have to listen to music via a tape adaptor, I now fully appreciate song sequencing and would even go so far as to criticize people for not listening to certain albums all the way through, start to finish.

Of course, iTunes and the ability to purchase only the songs you want from virtually any album went and shitted on the whole art of sequencing, although I think it would be safe to say you would be missing out on something if you thought that The Dark Side of the Moon started with “Us and Them” and finished with “Time.”  And while a majority of concept albums would still make some sense being heard out of sequence, (for example, Kid A) I still think that even those albums that have a sequencing that seems random to begin with deserve to be heard in the way they are packaged.

Yet even after all of this, I was still somewhat hesitant to actually correct the errors in iTunes, especially errors associated with Atmosphere and other artists I hold near and dear to my heart.  Even though the sequence that I was hearing the music in was wrong, it was the sequence that I had been listening to for 10 years.  Sure, it wasn’t correct that “Girl Named Hope followed “Song About a Friend,” but that’s the order my brain had been conditioned to expect.

In the end, the OCD and Type A side of my personality won and I “fixed” the order of all of Atmosphere’s albums that had “problems.”   But again, in an age where the single is again king and the art of the album as a whole is diminishing, maybe I should have lived with the errors and seemingly sloppy iTunes library – it’s the way I had come to love and experience Atmosphere’s music in the first place.

So, does song sequence matter?  Of course it does.  However, music is for each individual listener to love and hold and experience in their own way.  If you get more out of an album by listening to it in a nonsensical way, at least you’re listening in the first place. Maybe over time, the artist’s idea of what makes sense will start to jive with you, and then you get to experience the album as “new” all over again.  And I think that’s pretty fantastic.

 

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