We’ve just passed the halfway point in the calendar. Some music websites view this as an opportunity to publish their favourite 10 albums of 2011 so far, but that’s something I’m not tempted to do because:
a) An end-of-year countdown is self-indulgent enough
(and more significantly)
b) I haven’t heard three great albums this year, let alone 10.
Now, there’s a fair probability my opinion of what constitutes as “great” won’t magically align with yours, but answer this: How many 2011-released albums do you find yourself going back to?
Search for the most popular theories as to who or what is to blame for the southward trajectory of album sales and you can take your pick from piracy, the recession, games consoles, online streaming and the Apple corporation.
Few share my belief: There are fewer albums being made that are actually worth buying.
Kaiser Chiefs last month gave fans the opportunity to create their own version of their new record The Future Is Medieval by choosing their favourite 10 tracks from the selection of 20 on offer.
Some people used adjectives such as ‘brave’, ‘revolutionary’ and ‘pioneering’ to describe the move. I would have plumped for ‘desperate’. Musicians can spend entire careers struggling to fend off outside interference from record labels over the sound and direction of their songs. Now we’ve got a band proudly relinquishing artistic control of their own album to Joe Public.
Then again, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the acts who have an aversion towards releasing albums in the time-honoured tradition (Ash, Radiohead, The Smashing Pumpkins to name three recent examples) are those whose glory days – both creatively and commercially – are behind them.
A commonly repeated statement is that the modern music fan listens to individual songs instead of full albums. Given just how few memorable albums have been released in the first six months of 2011, my suspicion is that it’s a habit borne out of necessity rather than preference.
Cold War Kids – Royal Blue
Emmy The Great – Paper Forest (In The Afterglow Of Rapture)
September 20, Oran Mor, Glasgow (tickets)
September 22, Lemon Tree, Aberdeen (tickets)
September 23, Pleasance Cabaret Bar, Edinburgh (tickets)