Are albums dead (or do they just smell funny)?

For the last year I’ve been recording the second Snakebearer album, and I started thinking about the point of albums themselves. I’ve been procrastinating by drowning myself in different sideprojects that have been separate songs or ep:s recorded live in one weekend, and they have been much more enjoyable than trying to make a full-length album for a “real” band. I don’t want an album to be just twelve first songs composed after the previous one, they should form a coherent entity, which makes the whole process much harder. But, how many people listen to full albums anymore? Most of the music is listened from digital files or streaming, and people listen to their own “best of” and/or mix of songs by different bands. The whole contemplated and planned album is mutilated and only the best parts are enjoyed. Would it be better to just release separate songs?

The whole term “album” itself comes from the 1950’s and 1960’s where music was released as 7″ vinyl singles and album was literally an album of those singles. When full LP’s gained popularity, bands started to plan full-length records and release them still using the term “album”. Also, in that time recording companies often had their own studios, so it was reasonable for a band to record just a song or two. Now we are again in the same situation as home studios have come in reach of almost anyone and people rather listen to single songs.

About those “best of”-lists or personal mixtapes. They aren’t new, compilation albums have always been best-sellers for big bands and since invention of magnetic tape have people made their own mixtapes. It literally in the name “tape”. I also thought about some old bands I listen lot of, and realized that they actually often have only one or two good songs per album and only time I fully listen to their album from start to finish is when they release a new one. Then I take the best songs from that and add them to the personal mixtape of their songs I like.

A band that has a publisher and does long tours probably benefits from the album release, as it is easier to plan marketing campaign for it. But for a band that doesn’t plan to have a commercial success or even have tours? If they also record and mix everything themselves, why not just release songs when they are ready?

I’m planning to do that with Snakebearer. It removes the stress of finishing multiple songs at once and lets me to focus on a single song. If a bunch of songs start to feel like that they would make a good full-length album, nothing prevents me from just compiling them into an album. Maybe remixing and/or rerecording parts to have more constant sound. Or not. Does it matter if the sound and mixing slightly varies from song to song? I often don’t even notice when a compilation album has songs from three different decades with varying band members if all the songs have a good sounds in their own context.

So, starting from January of 2022, Snakebearer will release a new song per month and will not bother with albums until something in its fabric of existence changes. First song will probably be the simplest one ever, composed way before the first album was even recorded. Then, well… we’ll see.

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