Friday, May 22, 2009

25 Minutes of Auditory Bliss

In recent years there has been a lot of talk about the death of the album, the rise of the single and bands loading up albums with filler tracks. I would counter that a lot of bands that aren't a product of corporate record labels and radio play never fell into that trap. So I'm going to argue that "The Element of Sonic Defiance" by Strung Out is the ideal album.

First, every single track on the album is good, and they are varied in pace, style and intensity. It is only 25 minutes and eight tracks long, and I think it's because they saw it as complete and sufficient without feeling the need to bulk it up. Every track is beautifully produced, including some use of samples and other production effects, but not to the point where the songs aren't amazing live. It's 25 minutes of what an album should be, with absolutely no filler.

Second, the arrangement of the songs on the album, and the way they are put together produces something greater than any single track. This is done without falling into the trap that many progressive rock concept albums fall into, which is a significant portion of the tracks are dependent on the context of the other tracks (Pink Floyd, anyone?). Each song can stand on its own, but becomes something more when listened to the album as a whole.

I will note that The Element of Sonic Defiance is almost 9 years old now, but in my mind, there is not a better example of a perfect album. There have been plenty of other great albums released since then, but every one I can think of either has some weak songs, or the songs themselves don't form a cohesive work.

[edit] I should mention that I think all of Strung Out's albums have been great from "Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues" on, but none have the cohesiveness of EOSD.

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