The indie band The War on Drugs’ album, A Deeper Understanding, recently won Best Rock Album at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards last month. I took the time one day last year to listen to the complete one hour and six minute-album.
With my favorite Bluetooth headphones paired, I opened Spotify and hit play. As I listened, I didn’t skip a song, and I found that I liked more than just the most popular tracks.
I had a similar experience listening to Arcade Fire’s album, The Suburbs. The first track, “The Suburbs,” opens with Win Butler pounding at piano keys. An hour and four minutes pass as the album concludes with the outro, “The Suburbs (Continued).”
I was a freshman at Utah Valley University when Spotify first launched. It was my first time away from home, and the ability to listen to an endless library of music coincided with my newfound independence.
For the first time, I didn’t have to pay for an entire album to listen to it. The idea of free, unlimited access to songs changed the way I experienced music. I was now able to listen to my favorite artists’ albums in their entirety without spending hundreds of dollars I didn’t have.
According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, as of 2016, streaming accounts for 59 percent of digital revenue. More people than ever have access tocomplete albums.
I soon discovered how listening to an entire album enhanced my music-listening experience. I listened to albums from indie artists such as Young the Giant, Deerhunter and The Black Angels, and albums from punk trailblazers like The Clash.
More recently, I’ve enjoyed exploring artists like Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire and Father John Misty by listening to their latest albums.
When we listen to only our favorite songs on an album or the most popular ones, we miss the context of the artist’s message. Many artists arrange their albums with a deliberate beginning, middle and end. The Suburbs follows the band’s founding members Win and Will Butler’s experiences growing up in a Houston suburb and explores themes of modernism and isolation. Every song on the album — and their placement — is important.
Listening to entire albums has allowed me to discover a lot of songs I would never have bought from a 30-second preview.
Singles are great, but when you’ve found an album that you can appreciate in full, you know you’ve found a great artist.
Pick your favorite song, and listen to the whole album. You will begin to discover themes and a coherent message that you may not have realized was there.
If Justin Timberlake’s new album, Man of the Woods, gratifies your tastes, listen to that. As for me, I think I’ll sit back and enjoy David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust.