The past few months I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly makes me really love an album. I’m looking for the right word to describe that special something that makes me keep bringing that album back out and bumping it. Right now the best word I can come up with is that my favorite albums are always “coherent.”
To me it’s like saying that the album speaks with one voice. Instead of a jumble of tracks coming at you from different angles, somehow the artist managed to get out the ideas they wanted, AND chose the right music to go along with those ideas AND put them in the right order, no filler. No matter how many albums that artist puts out, when you hear a certain song, you know exactly which album it was on, because all the songs on that album sound like they just belong together. No amount of skits or proclamations about how an album needs to be listened to as a whole can make an album feel coherent.
When I think through all of my favorite albums, almost all of them have that kind of coherence. Here’s a brief selection, in no particular order:
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On?
One of my very favorite albums. The way the beat changes slightly to flow into the next song never ceases to amaze me.
Nas – Illmatic
Wow, steady rotation for this one since 1994. I could probably recite every word from it in my sleep.
Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
I really gotta thank smokingsection.net for putting me on to her in the beginning of last year. For me, this was the best album of 2007. I don’t know if a week went by that I didn’t listen to it at least once. For years, whenever I was in a bad mood, I put on the two albums I already mentioned, one after the other, and by the end of Illmatic, everything seemed much better. I had to add this album to those two. Now I just put all three on repeat. Get off them drugs Amy.
Little Brother – Getback
I was really surprised by how much I liked this album. I mean, I liked their other two albums, but not on the same level as this one. Maybe my second favorite album of 2007. Gonna be on the playlist for a long time.
D’Angelo – Brown Sugar
His version of Cruisin’ is easily one of the best remakes I’ve ever heard.
Close runner up: Voodoo
ATCQ – The Low End Theory & Midnight Marauders
Bonded with one of best friends because of Low End Theory. I’m convinced Midnight Marauders fits any situation.
The Roots – Illadelphalflife & Things Fall Apart
Not only do they fit internally, I always think of these two albums together.
Close runner up: Game Theory
The Pharcyde – Labcabincalifornia
“Yaaaaaaaaay _________!” I can’t believe this album is so heavily slept on.
Outkast – ATLiens
These songs all feel like they had to be together on this album. Haunting.
Close runner up: all of their other alums. The actual ones, not Idlewild and The Love Below/Speakerboxxx
Bob Marley – Catch A Fire
Probably belongs with the first three albums, but I listen to it often enough anyway.
Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt & The Blueprint
Don’t care what anybody says, American Gangster was good, but a lot of those tracks could be on any Jay-Z album. I don’t feel the same about the tracks on these albums.
Do any of you feel me on the coherence thing and feel the same about some of these albums? I have more I would probably name, but this is a start.