Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Under 40

La Sera--"Break My Heart" (mp3)
Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears--"I'm Gonna Leave You" (mp3)

For a long time, I was a bang-for-the-buck guy, but I'm over that now.

When CDs burst onto the scene with their "DDD" super clear sound and expanded storage capabilities, I was often about nothing more than how clean a CD sounded or, more importantly, how many minutes of music it contained.  If the CD didn't have at least an hour of music on it, I figured I was getting ripped off.  You've got the space, I thought, fill the damn thing up with tunes. 

I remember the outrage I felt when Neil Young and the Shocking Pinks put out Everybody's Rockin'.  Forget the fact that it's probably his worst CD, with unnecessary rockabilly versions of songs that others had done better.  No, my outrage was based on the fact that the CD ran just a little over 30 minutes!  I just couldn't believe that a major artist, one known to be quite prolific, couldn't get together more than a half hour of music and then would charge the same amount for it as for something with 70 minutes of music on it. 

Yeah, of course, I bought it anyway.

If you're buying music these days, you're noticing a very different trend much of the time.  Many CDs are clocking in at under 40 minutes.  Songsters, hipsters, indie rockers, r + b types are all putting out tight little records that aren't inclined to overstay their welcomes. 

And I'm not complaining.

The new paradigm is as follows:  10 or 11 songs, somewhere between 2 and 4 minutes each, no particular filler, songs have distinct differences from the ones that preceed or follow them.

Why is that a bad thing?  Well, it's not, at least not to the new me.  Now I'm all about quality over quantity, even if the quality isn't always particularly there.  I know that may not make much sense, but what I mean is that rather than have to wade through 15 or 20 songs to find the ones I really like and want, I'm only having to sift through a dozen or less.  There's usually a good chance that the best songs are front-loaded anyway, a circumstance both Billy and I have blogged about in different ways.
Yes, it's serving attention spans, but it's also serving lifestyles.  And, it's an adjustment to the fact that people who buy music are often buying songs, not whole CDs.  So if we're going to cherry pick anyway, why not put out about 35 minutes of your best stuff and be done with it?  Imagine if Pink Floyd's The Wall were not a bloated concept double-album and if, instead, it only consisted of the 10 best songs coming one after another, bang-bang-bang.  You wouldn't be comfortably numb; you'd be hitting replay over and over.

So yeah, it's retro, it's 60's, baby, it's probably in come cynical way to the advantage of the music companies, but for me, a tight little song as part of a batch of them on a tight little CD?  Bring it. 


Billy said...

More and more digital albums are running for $7 or less now. I'm much bagpiper paying $5-7 for 40 minutes of music than $12 for 70 minutes of music.

cinderkeys said...

It was hard enough to find an album where more of the songs were good than not in the vinyl era. 60-minute CDs exacerbated the problem. And I noticed almost as soon as I started buying CDs.

When we cut our debut album, I insisted on a 50-minute ceiling. We clocked in at 45 minutes, which to me is about perfect.