A perspective on the end of the album era

Take a moment to think about the first CD you ever received, or the first album you were able to buy with your own money. Do you also remember wearing it out and studying every lyric of every song?

I vividly remember buying Let Go by Avril Lavigne…no shame here. I was probably in 5th grade and was so excited to crank up the volume on my blue Walkman CD player and fiercely study every lyric and note on the entire CD. Those were the days.

Then Napster happened, followed by iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify. Albums seemed to vanish among the charts of singles, and singles began to fill playlists. Are we missing the full story?

In light of his new album release (22, A Million), let’s take Bon Iver’s 2007 effort, For Emma, Forever Ago. There is such an unfiltered intensity that captures the audience from the first track. As you flow through the rest of the record, each song unmasks an emotionally raw journey through one man’s mind. There is a unique fluidity that brings the album together as a complete story.

Another great example is Jon Foreman’s 2008 release of Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter…a series of songs that were masterfully crafted to reflect the changing seasons. Each album walks the audience through a reflective journey, offering a beautiful glimpse of poignant transition in each season. Jon Foreman was so intentional with his writing to bring the listener into every bloom of spring to every empty branch in winter.

It is vital that music listeners are reminded of the bigger picture that the artists have intended to be seen. The intentionality behind the order of songs and movement of the lyrics establish a deeper connection with the listener.

It’s no secret: I’m guilty of hoarding playlists. But appreciating a work of art like a Georgia O’ Keefe painting or an Ansel Adams photograph takes time. You have to slow down enough to really study every inch of the canvas. So, next time there’s a freshly cut single, slow down and immerse yourself in the artist’s story by listening to the entire album.

[now playing: Sunlit Youth – Local Natives]