Sunday, February 23, 2014

33 1/3

Hey, guys. So apparently it's our thing to write once a year now. Or it's my thing, anyways. I can't decide if it's because we have been busy or if music hasn't inspired us enough to write lately or both. I think I can speak for Laura and say that music is always inspiring us...but perhaps we just don't or can't always put it into words. Or at least not into blog form.

My blog for you today and perhaps for 2014 comes from my recently new-found joy of BEING ABLE TO GO TO THE LIBRARY AND READ BOOKS I ACTUALLY WANT TO READ. Any of you other advanced degree students or teachers understand this luxury. After finally finishing my graduate studies, I now have time to read for FUN and not just material for research papers or exams.

This hiatus I took from reading for fun means that I have arrived late to the 33 1/3 party. If you are not familiar with the book series, it has it's own wikipedia page HERE! Essentially, it is a book series with each book written about a particular album and authored by a fan of the album. Some of the authors are writers, musicians, and I think some are just self indulgent nobodies like me. Which means.... maybe *I* could write one one day!!

I am currently reading the 33 1/3 book on the Talking Heads' "Fear of Music" album. The album came out in 1979- two years before I was even born. But I am a child of the 80s and also very much a product of my parents who always had current and pop music on in the house. Speaking of libraries, my father would go to our local library and check out albums- I remember seeing Michael Jackson's "Bad", Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" and the Pointer Sisters' "Break Out" all leaning up against the bookshelf underneath the record player in my dad's den at our first house.

"Life During Wartime" is the only song I really know off of this album, yet the way the author writes about the album, though very self indulgent at times, certainly makes me want to download the album right now.

But here in lies the real reason for me finally mustering up the strength to write an entire blogpost for the first time in a year: I said download. The author of this book refers often to the entire breadth and scope of the "A Side" and "B Side" of this work. Have we lost part of an artform because we now no longer have to "flip" sides?

I can see how artists back in the day may have strategically sculpted an entire side of an album. Today, we focus on tracks and singles. In fact, one of the "benefits" of itunes is that you DON'T have to buy an entire album, just the songs you want.

So do artists still write and create and sculpt entire albums?? Or do they just look for the break out singles and tracks?

Buzzfeed is all the rage on Facebook and Twitter these days- their lists, their quizzes. (I give it about another 2-3 months. It will then be relegated to the Facebook "note" no doubt). I succumbed to one of these quizzes the other day and one of the questions asked was related to this very topic: "If you were to write a 33 1/3 book, which album would it be on?" (Here were the options, just in case you want to play along:

1. The Strokes, "Is This It"
2. The Breeders, "The Last Splash"
3. New Order, "Power, Corruption, and Lies"
4. Mariah Carey, "Glitter"
5. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffit, "Before Today"
6. Madvillain, "Madvillainy"
7.Fugazi, "13 Songs"
8. (500) Days of Summer Soundtrack
9. What is 33 1/3

And while I probably own all of the songs on the (500) days of Summer Soundtrack and have fond, fond memories of The Strokes' album from college, I had to go with The Breeders which was the soundtrack to my adolescent, coming of age years. And I believe that is what a good 33 1/3 book would be about: an adolescent's coming of age experience with their first really *good* album.

Because let's face it, sure, I bought cassette tapes when I was growing up in the 80s, but as I have come to realize after having nannied a 10 year old all summer, children under the age of 12 just do not have the best taste in music purchases for themselves. I was forced to listen to One Direction this summer just as I made my parents listen to New Kids on the Block twenty years earlier.

But by 13, I was starting to explore real music for myself. Sure, one of my first cds was still Ace of Base (anyone can make a mistake when they are just starting his/her music collection) but the collection quickly filled with Salt n Pepa, Janet Jackson, Nirvana, Violent Femmes, Weezer...and The Breeders' Last Splash which got me through an out of state move which involved living in my grandparents house for a short period of time (if I ever do write my 33 1/3 book on The Last Splash, I will tell you all about it).

My point with the cassette tapes vs cds, however, is this: I grew up never having purchased an ACTUAL LP album that as 33 1/3 revolutions like the book series suggest! And we could fast forward or skip over songs, which still was at least a little more work than what kids can do today (which is never actually ever have to purchase a full album if they don't want to). They can fill their playlists with hit single after single, and I am becoming guilty of this myself.

So I write this post to ask: What is the ALBUM that you would write a book about? Where each and every song flowed and spoke to you? That you had an entire experience with the WHOLE album?

I struggle to remember full albums anymore, sadly. I played out my Miseducation of Lauryn Hill cd in 1999 but I know that I still skipped over tracks. I think I could name the first six tracks in order, but after that, it gets a little hazy for me (Intro, Lost Ones, Ex Factor, To Zion, Doo Wop (That Thing), Superstar....When it Hurts So Bad? I Used to Love Him? Every Ghetto, Every City? See? It starts to get hazy, but maybe I'm also just old....)

Ooo! I know that I can name every track in order for Sara Bareilles' Little Voice, though! I could probably write a 33 1/3 book about that album, too. I'm so glad she finally won a Grammy, though, I liked her first two albums better than the latest one she won for.

Anyways, all this to say, I've just been thinking a lot about albums as a medium and our childhood experiences with albums vs what music production looks like today. I hope that the value of entire albums will never be lost- I do think they will always be treasured, even if in an archaic kind of way- but I also hope that the next generations are still able to produce the kind of quality and impact that only an entire album (instead of just tracks) can make.

And there are your thoughts for 2014!

By the time I write again, *I* will be 33 (and a third). No, but really.

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