Does dance music need albums?
“The album is dead, man”. That’s Sam La More, speaking to inthemix with his Tonite Only partner in crime GT earlier in the year. Having reunited under the Tonite Only moniker to release some new material and plot a new live show, the pair discussed the prospect of producing a full album, which according to them would be an unnecessary and futile exercise in the current climate of dance music. “I mean, we could release an album if we wanted to. We’ve got an album’s worth of tunes that would be ready to go out tomorrow, but with things the way they are now you just have to think ‘what’s the point?’ because nobody listens to albums anymore anyway.”
While you can excuse La More for a generalising just a bit there he has touched on something that has been troubling the dance music community in particular recently. As physical music sales continue dwindle in the face of widely adopted digital formats the literal and figurative value of an album has likewise been diminished.
For Alexis Taylor of UK electronic troupe Hot Chip, the album’s mystique and importance has been rubbed off in the recent shift towards digital platforms, with retailers like iTunes, Juno, Beatport et al offering convenience store-esque services to music consumers who can now pick and choose a random sampling of an album instead of the total package as thoughtfully constructed by an artist.
“I remember going to record shops and being in awe looking up at all the aisles and shelves filled with records,” Taylor explains. “There’s not that same feeling any more; it doesn’t seem as special. Now you get the tracks on your computer and you can see a tiny little square of the artwork on the corner of your screen. To me that just feels arbitrary.”
While album purists could easily go blue in the face arguing the point, the long and short of the problem can be found in the immediate nature of media consumption today. With everyone in pursuit of the next instantaneous hit the current landscape is simply not conducive to considered, long-form statements such as artist albums.
“That’s probably right,” agrees US big gun AC Slater of the issues facing album-ambitious musicians. “I don’t want to be negative but I can’t but feel like a lot kids don’t even know what an album is. You can put all this time and effort into making the perfect album that you always dreamed of creating and it’ll probably disappear really quickly. Kids will really only get one or two tracks online and that’s it. I feel like an album is just going to be a personal thing for artists these days. Especially if you’re a dance artist, that’s going to be a personal project that’s really for you and your peers than it is for 17 year old girls in clubs.”