Kanye West was Bret Easton Ellis’s first guest; Marilyn Manson his second (Bret then speaking through an increasing buzz off tequila and Marilyn discussing pop culture while sipping absinthe). The author of Glamorama, Less Than Zero, and American Psycho, Ellis has hosted his own podcast since November 11, 2013, and, a fan of B.E.E. after having thrice read American Psycho, I now tune in to this podcast every week which features mainly screenwriters and musicians conversing about Hollywood, whether we are in fact in a golden age of television, behind-the-scenes production of films, commerce in entertainment in the digital age, and writers’ struggles.
On May 12, Ellis spoke to musician and Philadelphia-native Kurt Vile, whom Ellis at one point in the podcast stated that he’d once tweeted “might be the future of rock.” The pair discussed, among other things, the phenomena of a culture effervescent for social media and being in-the-know so therefore steeped in over-consumption of content resulting in an increasingly dissipating attention span. A side effect: people now consume music in bits (singles) rather than a full course (albums). As someone of so-called Generation X, an era when people consumed music in the way presented them rather than in popularized $1.29 downloadable bits, I’m in the same camp as Ellis of which he states:
I’m more seduced by a series of songs that are ordered in such a way by an artist and which is more satisfying to me as a listener. I usually listen to music vis-a-vis the record rather than the single which is of course where music is located now more than ever. The single is the message because the single is all about popularity and popularity is craved to an almost fanatical degree leaving the idea of the album as something of a relic — the album is sort of too long.
Short documentary of Kurt Vile’s “Wakin on a Pretty Daze:”
In our heyday of vice, Musicritx collaborator Robert Kerestes once introduced me to Fragile by Yes while properly indisposed by substance; though we still clung to a crystallized experience, sobered through that album’s topography. And it was indeed an experience from beginning to end, track by track. It was also the first time I’d realized why limits in choosing individual songs on vinyl gave the world great albums. Setting the needle and leaving it to drag along the groove over an entire record made musicians consider an artistic element to the way they served music to listeners; they composed individual songs yet were inclined to exquisitely coalesce them as a full record thus allowing us to consume it in a continuous, digestive listen. Records were the canvas, the stage, and The Dark Side of the Moon and Fragile were directed pieces of art.
Bret Easton Ellis, in his discussion with Kurt Vile, on why he prefers the album as opposed to the single:
The meaning of Yeezus by Kanye West is completely different than if you just listen to ‘Black Skinhead.’ And the way Yeezus is built, by the time ‘Blood On The Leaves‘ plays, you have been through an emotional experience that makes the placement of that song even more devastating than it would be just as an unmoored single.
Jason Isbell’s “Elephant” from Southeastern:
This is true for albums as disparate as Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories to Jason Isbell’s Southeastern to Drake and Kendrick Lamar‘s last records. The meaning for some of us isn’t the single, the one song, the four-minute YouTube clip. The meaning is the collection of songs culminating in a fifty-minute experience, and that’s a different kind of experience, a different kind of enjoyment than the single, The single is more fleeting, more disposable, more immediate. The album [on the other hand] works as a long-form narrative, growing in intensity as you listen to track, following track, following track.
Kendrick Lamar’s “The Art of Peer Pressure” from Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City: