Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Not to bring up long albums again...

You might recall July's feature, Musical Surgery, where-in I took albums that I considered overlong and pared them down to a reasonable length. While it was an enjoyable process for me, I fear it also might have led folks to believe that I don't like long albums. In the conclusion of said feature, I name-checked a few long albums that I hold near and dear. But, still, I wish there was some fresh examples I could submit to convince the doubting Thomases out there that I can take a long one. What?

Anyhoo, here are a couple of primo examples from 2010:

Titus Andronicus - The Monitor

At 65 minutes, it's an epic concept album whose Civil War theme practically demands an hour-plus treatment. You don't see 90 minute war movies, do you? No, they're usually three hours. And such is The Monitor. What's interesting about The Monitor is that it's comprised of only ten songs. But when the five-minute tracks seem relatively short, it adds up to a long ride. It's a rich effort, full of bombastic guitar and drum interplay, ravaged vocals, and macabre lyrics. To be sure, isn't for those of us with attention-span issues.

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

There's been much fanfare about this album, and rightfully so. I may still be in the honeymoon phase, but the album has ascended the ranks quickly, and may have overtaken the #1 spot. Like The Monitor, it eclipses the hour mark. Unlike the Monitor, it takes 16 tracks to accomplish this. But there's nary a miss on the whole thing, conceptually rich and rife with uptempo tunes perfect for contemplative highway drives. In fact, if I had to levy a criticism on the album it would be that there isn't enough variation in style, as it rarely strays from 4/4 drum and guitar attacks. But that's always been the Arcade Fire's bread and butter, and packaged with a dystopian lyrical critique of suburban life, it makes for a rousing journey.

Sun Kil Moon - Admiral Fell Promises

Newsflash: Mark Kozelek writes long albums. While it's shorter than and The Suburbs and The Monitor, it's still over an hour long. And because it's such a minimalist effort featuring scarcely anything more than vocals and a classical guitar, it demands more focus than the other two. The album has proved divisive among the Kozelek fanbase. Some folks have tired of his increasingly stripped-down arrangements, especially when the lush and magnificent Ghosts of the Great Highway was the result of years of cautious build-up. Since then, he's retreated to barren arrangements apropos of song titles like "Australian Winter". I'm an admitted Kozelek apologist, so I've embraced AFP as an ideal gloomy day/quiet morning album. I also look for it to pick up steam as the autumn cool sets in.


I'm comforted to know artists are still giving it their all even in an era when albums are viewed as dated and passe. By the way, look for Mark Kozelek's next album in a year or two, which will probably consist of a single plucked note on a classical guitar for 65 minutes.

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