October 10th was national album day – a celebration of the long-play record. But does the album still hold the same relevance that it did in the 20th century?
The album is a revolutionary music medium that has played a monumental role in developing modern culture since 1948 – and it continues to develop. Entire years, even decades, have been synonymous with albums released within them. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, What’s Going On, Thriller, Nevermind. Albums like these serve as some of the purest time-capsules of their respective eras – relics of the zeitgeist.
With the rise of streaming services and the commercial importance of the single, some argue that the LP has faded in relevance with the music industry’s transition into the 21st century. I would argue the contrary – as, despite everything, the album remains the most popular major release format across the board, and it’s easy to see why.
The album experience is something of potentially outstanding scope, offering an arc that no single possibly could. A truly great album captivates the listener and takes them on a journey – perhaps to tell a story, or simply to evoke emotion. The importance of structure, consistency and depth is not lost on modern artists, with a culture of deep affection for well-crafted albums ingrained in the minds of musicians across the globe.
The importance of structure, consistency and depth is not lost on modern artists
The fact that classic records still hold so much weight in popular culture is more than enough to evidence their continued relevance, but modern LPs that may not yet be seen as classics undoubtedly will in decades to come. Art is seldom truly appreciated immediately – often only ascending to legendary status many years after release. With that being said, groundbreaking records such as To Pimp A Butterfly are arguably already on the same page as What’s Going On et al.
Since its origin 72 years ago, the album has been fundamental to nearly every genre of music. As an artform, in my eyes, it is even comparable to film. Modern technology may have evolved it, but it’s cultural relevance remains, and with each new generation it gains new interest. I don’t see the album fading away anytime soon.
Last modified: 3rd November 2020