I had an interesting experience yesterday when checking out the new album from Elements Of Life. I’m a huge fan of Louie Vega and was seriously looking forward to this LP so when I saw it was available for streaming on Spotify I dived right in. I scan listened a few tracks and my immediate reaction wasn’t positive:
The main issue for me at that point was the lyrical content. On a single track basis the examples I checked out sounded too sugar coated, bland even. I guess I was looking for an edge that just wasn’t there.
I’m too much of a hardcore fan though and needed to give it another chance. I cue’d it up on my iPhone and made it my soundtrack for the journey into work:
The introduction track “Balance In All Things’ set the mood perfectly, Ursula Rucker bringing the serious words over a rather Robert Glasper-esque piano piece.
I’m a huge fan of Robert Glasper so was into this for sure. The next track “Canto Para Ochosi” blended in seamlessly with lush vocal harmonies and turned into an afro latin jam..
Sonically I found myself listening to something that was sumptuous, a luxuriously recorded ‘experience’ with true musicianship. It’s quite rare these days for an album from this scene to sound so ‘expensive’. The album actually began to feel like a ‘concept album’ where a story is told across the duration. We’ve had terrible weather in the UK and this album really needs to be heard in the sun…. I tried to put myself in a brighter world.. it helped..
At this point It got me thinking.. streaming music is a relatively new thing in the lifetime of the music business. In the past we bought an LP or CD and because of the financial investment in it we played it from beginning to end, sat with it, lived with it, made it part of our lives.
Spotify and other streaming services give us the opportunity to listen to any track from an enormous pool of music, our attention span is short, distracted by the attentions of something else to listen to. We don’t have to take the CD out, put it back in its case, go and get another one to listen to. It’s way too convenient.. but that’s also a great thing.
I came to this realisation on the journey and decided to put more faith into this album and try to experience it properly, pay my respects to the creators..
So I got to one of the tracks I auditioned the night before, the one with the lyrics I just wasn’t feelin’.
Now, after all of the tracks that had come before it this song made sense. In isolation I didn’t like it but as part of the ‘journey’ it worked. If I had heard it at this position in the album timeline before I would have been sold.
So it’s got me re-appraising how I use streaming services. I have made an internal pledge to give albums proper attention and time when I listen to them. Taking tracks out of context just isn’t fair.