Almanac Music : Albums Still Matter

With the proliferation of downloadable music and streaming services – not to mention its indisputable convenience, it has to be said – the art of the long player has been considered by music industry experts to be on the critically ill list for a while.

Unless you’re a band or artist with the commercial clout and financial independence of U2, Metallica, Radiohead, Coldplay, Jay-Z, Snoop Lion, Madonna or The Foo Fighters, the era of spending months (or in the case of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album years) hunkered down in a recording studio writing and refining songs is over as the industry sorts itself out as the digital age continues to turn the industry and its business models upside down.

In the wake of Monday’s Grammy Awards ceremony (Australian time) Tech and pop-culture magazine Cult of Mac made the gutsy move of compiling a list of ‘Must-Listen-To Records’ in the context of recommending music to fans whose experience of interacting with music may almost exclusively be through iTunes, Pandora or Spotify

 

“When Prince presented the Grammy for best album this week, he made an impassioned case for a musical format that many seem ready to write off as dead. “Albums, remember those?” he said. “Albums still matter. Albums, like books and black lives, still matter.” That’s how you present an award, folks.”

 

No matter whether you grew up sitting your bedroom with the headphones on listening to Led Zeppelin, Funkadelic, The Beatles or Kiss LPs as you did your homework, or you can’t entertain anything less than a 128GB smartphone purely to accommodate your digital music collection, CULT OF MAC’S 20 MUST-LISTEN-LPs is great reading, even though their list is sure to cause arguments [How is Kiss’ Love Gun album not in this list? – Ed]

 

 

Do albums still matter? Were there any glaring omissions Share your thoughts and memories of your favourite albums in our comments section below, or use the hashtag #MustListenLPs if you’re a twitter user. 

 

Comments

  1. Do albums still matter? No. Can’t be bothered with anything new (which is just anything old recycled), and if I feel like anything old, I just dial it up on Spotify and have a browse.

  2. Tony Tea, what does matter is live music. This weekend we’re off to Echuca for the Riverboats Music Festival, Some of the acts are Adalita, Diesel, Mick Harvey, the Whitlams. Looking forward to it

    Glen!.

  3. I’ll never forgive The Hooters back in 1985. I bought it on the ‘strength’ of the song ‘And We Danced’. The embodiment of all filler, no killer and it scarred me for life on buying an LP without extensive pre-listening.

    Great cases for and against the LP, but I’m with Tony Tea: There’s very little stuff these days that interests or excites me. I’m a Spotify man.

    Quite surprised that Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden didn’t get a mention. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but as a huge influence on Metallica it deserves a listen.

    Also surprised U2’s The Joshua Tree wasn’t included. Regardless of your thoughts on them, this album is an all-time classic LP

  4. Glen, yes live music does matter.
    But, of course albums still do matter!

    Before glancing at this list, I was ready to poo-poo it: “I bet ‘London Calling’ aint on it” I thought. But the fact that “Sandinista” is front and centre made me think again. One of the most stupendous albums in popular music history, without a doubt.

    Then, scrolling down the list, I was surprised by how many of these albums I actually own (15 at first count!).

  5. Neil Young, in his wonky but excellent book called “Waging Heavy Peace”, is scathing of the lack of context in modern music. His view is that an album tells a story. He wrote that in constructing his albums he agonised over the order of the songs and the message he was trying to convey. Now he hears songs being plucked out and played at random and it drives him crazy – especially the “shuffle” button on ipods. Neil wasn’t (isn’t) one for the hit single, even though he’s had plenty. It wasn’t his motivation to write. The album was.

  6. BTW – where’s Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick”? The ultimate album.

  7. Andrew Fithall says

    I reckon albums do matter. The Grammy award winning Beck album has been on high rotation on my playlist since released. It is the first Beck album I have actually purchased. Mind you, I have access to I think 11 of his albums on my work iTunes library.

    As seen from my own submissions, I enjoy recent releases. In album format. This afternoon I have been listening to complete albums from Sharon Van Etten, Pond and Lanie Lane. From your list, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and Pink Floyd’s The Wall are the two I have most enjoyed. I just can’t get Kanye. But I don’t mind Beyoncé.

    AF

  8. Mickey Randall says

    As loose narratives I offer Hourly, Daily by You Am I and Place Without A Postcard by Midnight Oil. Both work at their brilliant best as unbroken listens.

    Joe’s Garage is wicked fun too.

  9. Really don’t mind if I sit this one out…

  10. “Sandanista! by The Clash: Released in 1980, this triple album is The Clash’s masterpiece.”

    Balls! How can anyone be expected to get through THREE discs of bloated nonsense? Plus, Sandanista is not a patch on London Calling or The Clash.

  11. Good albums still matter. It’s very slim pickings these days, that’s all.

  12. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    The writing was on the wall (not Jacko’s or Pink Floyd’s) when Queen released Bohemian Rhapsody, the first concept single.

    You could be on to something here…

  13. Two genuine beauties there Mickey! Hourly Daily and Place Without A Postcard must rank as all-time Australian classics.

  14. Sandinista is a great record but as Tony Tea has noted, it aint the best Clash record. London Calling holds that trophy, comfortably. Sandinista is a great record no doubt but it last two sides weaken the whole thing.

    As for whether the album is a dead concept, remember that it really hasn’t been the signature artefact of the music industry for that long, and the single has always been the definitive product driving artists, fans and music long before the album came into its own. For example, one of the Top 5 critically regarded ‘albums’ is Elvis Presley’s The Sun Sessions (and it’s a must by the way) was not even recorded as an album.

    I love albums, still listen more to the album than singles but have always mixed up the formats. Whether through mix-tapes or radio stations or the great invention, the shuffle.

    Cheers

    Good new albums by the way: Rhiannon Giddens, Bob Dylan and Ryan Bingham.

  15. Yeah Sandinista doesn’t get within a bull’s roar of London or Give Em Enough Rope, Dips.
    And U2 pull off the rare feat of being bombastic and boring simultaneously. (Melodramatic and mundane at once)
    As albums whose songs hang together as a piece of art (al a a symphony):
    Dark Side of
    Exile On
    Harvest
    Astral Weeks
    Blue
    Born To Run

  16. The People's Elbow says

    Re U2 – it will be interesting to see how they progress once Bono is hit with the realisation he isn’t Jesus?

  17. Andrew Fithall says

    To those who think that it is slim pickings these days (I’m looking at you JD), I have had a quick scan of the recent music I have been listening to over the last few years. These are my favourites (and believe me there is a lot that I haven’t included):

    2011 – Australian
    Architecture in Helsinki – Moment Bends
    Boy and Bear – Moonfire
    Dick Diver – New Start Again
    Eagle and The Worm – Good Times
    Gotye – Making Mirrors
    Husky – Forever So
    Lanie Lane – To The Horses
    Kimbra – Vows
    Oh Mercy – Great Barrier Reef
    The Orbweavers – Loom
    The Sandpebbles – Dark Magic
    Seeker Lover Keeper – Seeker Lover Keeper
    Teeth and Tongue – Tambourine
    Twerps – Twerps

    2011 – Rest of the World
    Abigail Washburn – City Of Refuge
    The Black Keys – El Camino
    The Decemberists – We All Raise Our Voices
    Florence and the Machine – Ceremonials
    Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
    Gillian Welch – The Harrow and the Harvest
    Joan As Policewoman – The Deep Field
    Low – C’mon
    Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
    Those Darlins – Screws Get Loose
    Tedeschi Trucks Band – Revelator

    2012 – Australian
    Grand Salvo – Slay Me In My Sleep
    Love Connection – Euphoria
    Mia Dyson – The Moment
    New War – New War
    Ned Collette – 2
    Paul Kelly – Spring and Fall
    Pony Face – Hypnotised
    Tame Impala – Lonerism

    2012 – Rest of the World
    Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls
    Bat For Lashes – Haunted Man
    Beach House – Bloom
    Cat Power – Sun
    Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits
    Gary Clark Jnr – Blak & Blu
    Grimes –Visions
    Grizzly Bear – Shields
    The Lumineers – The Lumineers
    Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral
    Martha Wainwright – Come Home to Mama
    Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Americana
    Neil Young & Crazy Hose – Psychedelic Pill
    Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
    Simone Felice – Simone Felice
    The XX – Coexist

    2013 – Australian
    Adalita –All Day Venus
    Beaches – She Beats
    Big Scary – Not Art
    Boy and Bear – Harlequin Dream
    Brighter Later – The Wolves
    David Bridie – Wake
    Dick Diver – Calendar Days
    The Drones –I See Seaweed
    Jen Cloher – In Blood Memory
    King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard – Float Along Fill Your Lungs
    Snakadaktal – Sleep in the Water
    Sweet Jean – Dear Departure

    2013 – Rest of the World
    Anna Calvi – One Breath
    Arctic Monkeys – AM
    Cave – Threace
    Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
    Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
    Jason Isbell – Southeastern
    John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts
    Kurt Vile – Walkin’ On a Pretty Daze
    Lord – Pure Heroine
    Neko Case – The Worse Things Get (etc)
    Wooden Shjips – Back To Land

    2014 – Australian
    See https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/almanac-music-favourite-australian-albums-2014-to-be-read-and-posted-please/

    2014 – Rest of the World
    Band Of Horses – Acoustic At The Ryman
    Beck – Morning Phase
    Broken Bells – After The Disco
    First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
    Joan As Policewoman – The Classic
    Jenny Lewis – The Voyager
    Lykke Li – I Never Learn
    The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
    The Phantom Band – Strange Friend
    Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
    Spoon – The Want My Soul
    Sun Kil Moon – Benji
    Tiny Ruins – Brightly Painted One
    tUnEyArDs – Nikki Nack
    War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream
    Warpaint – Warpaint

  18. I can’t compete with Andrew’s knowledge, but I have to say that Don Walker’s “Hully Gully” from last year is the best album I have heard for a very long time.

    In particular tracks 2 through to 6 are astonishing i.e. Young Girls, Lucky, Mogrelwise, Pool, Fishing.

    Do yourself a favour.

  19. Loving albums, love teh strry they create. Have never downloaded music, happy to keep playing CDs

    agree with Mickey etc re Hourly Daily, simply brilliant.

    Human Fraility – Hunnas
    Colour and the Shape – Foo Fighters
    London 0 Hull 4 and The people that grinned themselves to death – Housemartins
    Mix Tape – Kram
    Blur – Blur
    Dark Side
    Revolver

  20. The People's Elbow says

    Massive oversight that none of these lists include the mix-tape I made for a girl named Zoe that helped get me laid in 2001.

  21. Led Zepplin – The Song Remains The Same, Live.

  22. Andrew Fithall says

    Dips – On the Sun Kil Moon 2014 album Benji, there is a wonderful 10-minute song called I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same.

  23. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Sean – you and I might be the only people to admit to liking the Housemartins.

    C.W. – I’m guessing there was no Barry White on that

  24. The People's Elbow says

    ‘Bury Me Deep In Love’ sealed the deal…

    Which brings me to the Triffids, I understand the aforementioned track is on Calenture, but surely Born Sandy Devotional has to be in a best albums discussion?

  25. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    It worked for Harold Bishop and Madge

  26. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    AF,
    Now you’re just showing off!
    It really is a subjective list. Sean, Housemartins very underrated and Bakes, ‘All You Zombies’ wasn’t a bad Hooters track. They were referring to Reality TV probably without even knowing it back in 1985.
    These pass my car test i.e. I can listen to them all the way through without wanting to skip a track. In no particular order:
    ‘The Queen is Dead’ – The Smiths
    ‘The Wall’ – Pink Floyd
    ‘Appetite For Destruction’ – Guns ‘n Roses
    ‘The Big Don’t Argue’ – Weddings, Parties, Anything
    ‘East’ – Cold Chisel
    ‘I’m Your Man’ – Leonard Cohen
    ‘Volume 1’ – The Travelling Wilbury’s
    ‘New York’ – Lou Reed
    ‘Gunfighter Ballads’ – Marty Robbins
    ‘The Eminem Show’ – Eminem

  27. matt watson says

    I never trust a list that doesn’t contain Back In Black.
    Seriously, without that classic, the list has no credibility.
    I’m not going to describe why Back In Black should be number one. Most of you will understand. And if you don’t, find Shoot To Thrill.
    Then you will understand.
    However, for AC/DC at their dirtiest and most powerful, which exceptional lyrics, then Powerage is their most complete album. It is ballsy and bluesy with a fat sound that makes you want to pound walls.
    And Bon Scott uses a different pitch in every song.
    He was such a clever, underrated singer.
    It’s gems like Powerage that convince me that albums still matter.
    But it’s virtually impossible to find one so complete.
    The search goes on.

  28. Well said Matt. Back in Black is an astonishing record. And making a great album in the hard rock / metal genre is tougher than most … coz when you’re going full boar with the amps turned up to eleven, you’ve got to maintain the energy for 10 tracks. Only 2 albums have pulled that off for me: the aforementioned Back in Black and the Pistols ‘Never mind the bollocks.’

    For what it’s worth, these are my most admired recordings:

    Beethoven’s 9th symphony
    Beatles White Album
    Beatles Revolver
    Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding
    Beethoven’s 3rd symphony
    Pistols ‘Never mind the bollocks’
    Paul Simon’s One Trick Pony
    Beatles Abbey Road
    Beatles Pepper
    Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’
    Beethoven’s 7th symphony
    Frank Sinatra’s Live in Melbourne 58
    Beethoven’s 8th symphony
    John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band
    Beethoven’s 4th symphony
    Nina Simone’s Here comes the sun
    Beethoven’s 5th symphony
    AC/DC’s Back in Black
    Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline
    Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue
    Beethoven’s Violin concerto
    Beethoven’s Fidelio
    Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto
    MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular
    MGMT’s Congratulations
    Muse’s 2nd Law
    Bizet’s Carmen
    Beatles for sale

    Reckon that’s around 20?? And got to give honorable mentions to all my other fave artists who didn’t crack the top 20: Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Lou Reed, Led Zepplin, Macca and Wings, George Harrison, YES, Radiohead, CCR, Skyhooks, Goyte, The Kinks, Neil Young and cough cough and very much in the closet Lady Gaga and Supertramp!!

  29. Oh shit … I forgot Floyd!!!. And I’d have The Wall and Wish you were here in the top 20, but it’d kill me to bump something to get em in.

  30. John Butler says

    Trainspotter’s ahoy!

    What a thoroughly middle-aged-white-man discussion this turned out to be brothers (no sisters, apparently). Time to consider the Almanac demographic?

    As a MAWM myself, I have to admire the Fithall enthusiasm. Not always easy to maintain.

    A few points for discussion from the above:

    Re albums – I’m an album guy myself, but let’s not kid ourselves that albums were the natural way of things. In the days of jukeboxes 45’s ruled the roost. Albums only really saw their day when music started to take itself seriously. An iPod is just a jukebox in your pocket (as opposed to a rocket).

    Re U2 and bombast – Yes, Le Bono makes them an easy and natural target. But if we’re going to nail U2, then how does Bruce get off the hook? There’s much to be said for The Boss, but his recorded oeuvre is bombast personified. Anyway, to complain too loudly about bombast in r’n’r would seem to be missing the point of the exercise.

    Re the discussion prompted by the comments of a black guy (ie, this one) – I know the r’n’r playbook usually says the black guys don’t get to keep the money, but as they largely invented this stuff they might at least be given their due credit.

    For the sake of some balance to this largely Caucasian discussion I submit the following:

    John Lee Hooker – Alone
    Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
    James Brown – The Payback
    Sly & the Family Stone – Stand!
    Nina Simone – & Piano
    Tinawiren – Amassakoul
    The Harder They Come Soundtrack – Various Artists (particularly Jimmy Cliff)
    Bob Marley & The Wailers – Burnin’
    RL Burnside – Mr Wizard
    …and since the Purple One kicked all this off – Sign ‘O’ The Times

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