Thursday, December 18

One Track Mind: Frank, AB

I have a dilemma. I want this post to be about a track by the Rural Alberta Advantage, but something gnaws at my conscience.

Fraxas and I started out this project, One Track Mind, to automate our music-recommendation process. And, so far, it's working swimmingly. The tracks that Fraxas highlighted are all awesome, and I've assembled a playlist with all the posts so far. Listening to it is like drinking a tall glass of eclecticism made physical.

My dilemma comes from a long-debated issue that has faced music buffs from the early mists of time:

Single or album?

Fraxas and I are busy guys. We love to talk music. But the day is short, and thanks to certain sources, the pool of good music is deeper than I can ever remember. One track a week is a small commitment, manageable, digestible, and enough to ignite a decent conversation. As much as I appreciate a good album, we confine these blog posts to the subject of a single track at a time.

Critics, performers, and connoisseurs from all across the historical spectrum vary widely on this essential question. Some acts, such as Arcade Fire and Radiohead, insist that the album is a holistic experience, going so far as to prohibit the use of their tracks on compilations or to boycott music videos. On the other hand, to be blunt, most songs by most artists are terrible. By extension, the same is true of most albums.

Industry analysts agree that the true cause of Big Music's demise was its long track-record of releasing albums padded with filler. Given the public's short attention span and appetite for easily digestible singles, the rise of filesharing technology was only the catalyst for an overdue drop in album sales.

Now, I like singles as much as the next guy. I consider an album “good” if about half its songs are re-listenable. I don't take the extreme of deleting the tracks I don't like –-after all, HDD space is cheap-- but I'd consider a lot of my favourite tracks to be a Single experience. This would be true of most of my prior posts.

That's not to say I don't have my favourite albums. Radiohead's OK computer, Firewater's recent album the Golden Hour, and-- I'm not ashamed to admit it-- Achtung Baby by U2 are best experienced from the moment you press play. These are rare accomplishments that tower over even the selfsame band's remaining oeuvre, let alone the wider music world.

So here's my dilemma. Hometowns, the debut album of Toronto band The Rural Alberta Advantage, is one of the best I've ever heard. The whole thing hangs together like the Dude's Room before his carpet was peed on. It's Canadian Rock in all its thematic, heroic, unapologetic, anthemic, melodious glory, complete with lyrics that evoke geography and virtuoso, spare-kit percussion. What am I supposed to do? I can't pick out a single track to write about. It's too difficult. As pretentious as Arcade Fire and Radiohead are for their championship of the Whole Album, I'm afraid that I have to join their ranks in this case. Hometowns is 38 minutes of bliss. That's not a lot is it?

Okay, maybe it is. I will pick a track at random and blog about it in the only way that would be appropriate. Haiku.

Track Title: Frank, AB
Artist: the Rural Alberta Advantage
Album Title: Hometowns

Pizzicato first.
Cymbals rise towards chorus.
Heartbeat speeds, wordless.

1 comment:

Jonathan Rubin said...

Good to see your rants are still in full effect, Dan. I just got some new music - up for a music swap? And link to my blog!