A few months ago I was contemplating on this final album. The final one I will release. I am already old, and to be honest, songwriting, performing, and music production done all at once was really an exhaustive experience. Not to mention if you’re working full time doing something else. God bless full time musicians! Anyway, my problem was with the number of tracks, and this relates to how people listen to music these days.
Ideally, an album should be over 10 tracks. Well, not ideally, maybe rather, historically. For many decades, before audio streaming platforms rule out world, we were accustomed to listening to 16-track albums, from a cassette tape. Side A, play! Switch, side B! The same with previous generation who listened to tracks in vinyl recordings. You listen, and then you flip the vinyl to play the other side. For those who were lucky enough to live through those glorious moments of human civilization, enjoying an album is something truly unique. We could sit for hours, in our room, in the seat of a car, listening to the album telling us stories, song by song. Some of the greatest albums I’ve enjoyed listening to are ones that have considerable 1st-tier songs (the catchy ones) and some 2nd-tier songs (the not-so-catchy ones) that functions to either set the mood, shape the concept, or distract us from the whole story. For some people, album listening is like enjoying a piece of art. For musicians, composing a great album is a work of art in itself. But it is no more. No longer so. Thanks to the modern-day music streaming.
Despite saving our ears from the loudness wars, music streaming platforms promote new way of music enjoyment. One that is shaped by playlists, shuffle and skip buttons. Albums are now rarely heard as albums any longer. But this makes sense. Why? We are now living among the instant generation. The young people. The modern breed. Everything has to be fast. No one has spare time anymore like back in the 90s.
Some of you may have experienced the following:
Ok. So Artist A have just released a new album. Show me which one is the single. Probably this one with the highest number of streams? Okay let’s get on with it. I’ll listen to the other tracks when I have time. I’ve got something else to do shortly.
Hmm.. People are talking about this Band B from the 80s. Let’s see… I want to get to know their music. Ohh they have 6 albums back then from the 80s and 90s. I wonder which one I should listen to first. Should I start from their debut album? Ahh heck, let’s just listen to this Spotify playlist titled ‘This is Band B’, a playlist focusing only on the best songs and hits by Band B.
You see? Who listen to albums anymore? And I’m talking full-album listening activity where you listen from track 1 to track 14 and just sit there listening for an hour or so. No one has time anymore. A positive thing to note is that this has also brought back mini-albums, EPs, and the traditional 3-4 track singles. The more ‘instant’ the fans and listeners are becoming, the shorter time it is for a single to take a center stage in a music chart before being pushed down by another new single from another artist. Things are moving so rapidly, and so do songs and singles. Brian Adams had ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’ topping the charts for 16 consecutive weeks. Sixteen bloody weeks, ladies and gents. Today, 16 weeks is enough time to release a 2nd single. Well, theoretically. Unless we’re talking about ‘Despacito’. But that song was probably written from another planet, an outlier.
So coming back to my contemplation on what I should do with this final album. I have been wanting for people, us, you, me, our neighbours, to return to the old-days of album listening. To sit nicely for 1 whole hour and consume the stories, the concepts, the ups and downs of each track throughout the length of the album. No shuffle, no skipping. Let the tape rolls! So I had tried to compile 16 songs that could last more than 1 hour. But then, I finally doubted myself. On one Sunday morning, I played the new album by Mipso while doing some house chores. It was a 12-track album, released in 2020. Boy, did it take a while to finish. I’ve done this and that, and finally sat down on the sofa, and it was still on track 10 or something. I was surprised to learn that I too have became a modern man [insert emoji of face screaming in fear here, or facepalming man]. I’m officially citizen of this instant generation nation. Someone who’ve lost the same patience we all have back then in the 80s or 90s.
So I have finally decided to split up my album and make it into two. It’s only 8-tracks per album. Not something I would really like to have, but hey, it’s the modern era. Afgan or Rendy Pandugo is probably releasing a 4-track single as you’re reading this. So this final album is not going to be my final album after all, it’s going to be my final double album! BAM! Fist to the sky like that Freddie Mercury pose!
To be honest, I have actually prepared for the tracks to be in separate albums, just in case my ego (to release a 16-track and 1-hour long album) couldn’t beat the modern fact of life. Because throughout the months (or maybe years) that I’ve written and composed the songs, I have also noticed that some of the songs are different from some of the others. There has actually been 2 different concepts all along. One group is more towards traditional folk/ roots/ country/ whatever, while the other is more modern sounding, with some efforts to mix genres.
The concept for Faux Velvet Stars (1 of 2) is, well, same as what the words suggest. Fake stars up there in the sky, something that is very soft when you touch.You can see the velvety texture from below, making you want to grab it more. This represents our dreams. What we would like to become when we were young. Picture perfect life. Like the ones presented by our beloved Instagram celebrities in their countless feeds. But you know, fake. When you’ve finally reached the sky, and touched the stars, it’s faux. Velouté mais faux. This is the concept behind some of the songs. Dreamy, hopeful, young, single, dark.
Home Range Hearts (2 of 2) is the opposite. It represents reality. Hearts that are grown in homes. It is content, it is wiser, and it has accepted where it is today. The songs draw more on life facts, heartbreak, regrets, and acceptances. The songs and the tunes here are also simpler, more traditional or conventional.
I hope you can enjoy both albums as one full story. It doesn’t matter which song you like the most, or which album you think is better (although please let me know which one, because I really want to know!). I am just wishing that the listening experience is enjoyable, and I hope I can be successful in getting the stories, the emotions, and the messages (both explicit and hidden) across into your ears. Something that is worthy as a final double album.
Thanks for reading!