Monday, December 30, 2013

Eric's Top 19 Songs of 2013: Spotify Killed the Album

In a digital, post-Spotify world, the album is irrelevant. The single is everything.
(defend yourself, sir)
I am a full-fledged believer in the concept of a ‘concept’ album. That ideally, albums should tell a moving, beautiful and thoughtful narrative through a series of interweaving songs. But they don’t. Hardly anyone makes records like this anymore.
(But Radiohead does!)
Yes, they do. A few others, too. But not many.
(…but Radiohead does!)

The vast majority of bands write a bunch of songs, record the best 20, and the best 12 make the cut. They are then organized in a sequence where they transition well into each other, but hardly ever do the songs work together to tell a larger story - except perhaps at a very broad thematic level. In fact, the only reason we think an album should have 10-12 songs is because an LP record used to have 22 minutes of storage per side and that’s all that could typically fit. In the digital age, a band can release music however they want, but most of them stick to the format we know, because it’s the format we know.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about the concept album. But until the ‘concept’ part comes back with it, let’s not pretend these things are anything more than the 12 best songs the group has come out with in the past 2 years.

So, in the spirit of efficiency, here are the 19 songs I listened to the most this year. I organized them in a sequence where they transition well into each other. In fact, this may be the best album of the year. But, it’s not. It’s just a bunch of great songs. And it's the best way to discover new music.

White Lies - Max Frost
Sun - Sleeping at Last
Sacrilege - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Even If We Try - Night Beds
Song for Zula - Phosphorescent
Sweater Weather - The Neighbourhood
Entertainment - Phoenix
America Religious - Caroline Rose
Tennis Court - Lorde
Love Like This (Acoustic) - Kodaline
Retrograde - James Blake
Miracle Mile - Cold War Kids
Lay My Burden Down - Aoife O'Donovan
Another Story - The Head And The Heart
Silhouette (feat. Ellie Goulding) - Active Child, Ellie Goulding
Earth - Sleeping at Last
Dropla - Youth Lagoon
Ghosts and Creatures - Telekinesis
Cover Me Up - Jason Isbell

Eric Olsen
Director of Enrollment Communications
Lewis Univeristy


  1. But, must an album be "conceptual" in order to hold together as a unified work of art? Many of my favorite albums, past and present, don't necessarily fit nearly into the "concept" album, um, concept.

  2. Most of your favorite non-concept albums are probably "unified" in that they sound the same - recorded over the same few months during a particular stage of sound in a band's career. I'm just pushing for unity in concept/message as well.