Young Star

The long and the short of it

SENSES WORKING OVERTIME - Luis Katigbak - The Philippine Star

Does the album still matter? Musicians speak.

It used to be all about the album. Not so long ago, if you were a musical artist, people didn’t really know what to make of you until you released your debut full-length. Now, in a world of downloads and streaming and custom playlists, the album as an art form has lost its dominance. Now it’s all about the single- (or, sometimes, the 4-song EP).

As listeners, we know our own preferences. But there’s the other side of the equation: What about the artists? How have these changes affected the way they’ve been making — and will be making — their music? We asked four of our favorites for their thoughts on the matter.

Mikey Amistoso (Ciudad)

I love the album format. Given the choice, I would release an album every year. Heck, no... twice a year. It’s just that an album takes so much time to complete. In our case (Ciudad), we have day jobs, husband duties, father duties, etc., so completing an album takes about two to three years for us. It’s frustrating for me sometimes, because I have ideas that I want to put out there and have first dibs on, but then I can’t because we’re still lacking some finished recordings to complete the rest of the album. For example, My Emptiness and You Should were written in 2003, and I really really wanted to put those songs out then, but we didn’t have an album yet to put them on (at that time, “Is That Ciudad” was already closed and slated for release). They didn’t come out until “Bring Your Friends” (2008). Imagine my frustration from 2003 to 2008 (ha-ha-ha).

I experimented with putting out singles this month, because I wrote two new songs this year, and I thought they were good and groundbreaking, and I didn’t want to feel the same frustration again. It’s refreshing! S.I.F.I.L. was released on Nov. 10, and three days before that, I was still tracking and putting Justin and Jeff’s guitar parts into it. You Shouldn’t Wait was released just (a week later), and (the weekend before), I was shooting and editing and uploading the video for it. I love the feeling that the songs are still fresh in my heart, they haven’t stagnated yet, and then they’re already out there for the people to consume.

Digital release has made it easier as well to do that. Simply because we don’t have to wait for the printing presses to finish our physical copies (it takes weeks to finish the job). Just upload and propagate!

An advantage of singles is that people really focus on the song that you put some hard work into. I was really proud of all the songs on “Follow The Leader” (2012), but half of the people probably talk about four of the 10 songs in there. I kinda feel bad for the other six.

I don’t know yet, but maybe we’ll try putting out singles and double A-sides whenever we feel like it. And maybe compile them in an album when we have 10 or more already out there (“Ciudad, The Singles 2014-2016”... naks!). We’ll see.

Joon Guillen (Modulogeek)

I’ve always felt that the good songs tell stories, whether explicit (through lyrics) or as interpreted by the listener. Albums (and EPs, to a lesser extent) tell longer stories, which if done well is much more rewarding. Just like reading a book, with chapters and themes and high and low and exciting and slow parts.

Obviously, I am more an album/EP person. (When I was younger it was the other way around.) I like immersing myself in music when I listen, so single songs just are too short.

I like albums and EPs equally... EPs risk being too short, but albums are also in danger of having “throwaway songs” which can break the story arc.

When it comes to my own music, it’s easiest to make singles, but it’s more fulfilling to finish an EP. I’m not very keen on albums, because it just takes too many songs and I don’t have the skills yet to tell such a long story!

Selena Salang  (Slow Hello)

I still think the album is a great way to release music because it depicts movement between the songs created within a certain space in time. It’s an art form in itself, and it creates context for the songs as well. Even if people these days expect their music to be released as singles or EPs, I think the album still provides a deep and unique listening experience. Ideally, I would love to release Slow Hello’s music on albums, and I’m not affected by how people want to receive their music these days.

But the way I produce music now is dictated by economics. I can’t afford to put out a long release again because printing CDs costs so much. Even if you plan to release digitally, proper recording costs so much. Slow Hello plans to release singles and EPs henceforth, just because it’s economically easier and more efficient that way. I don’t mean that the music we’ll produce will be less than what could come out on an album, but that unfortunately we won’t be able to play with the album format as an additional art piece.

If I get the opportunity to produce an album in the future — meaning I’m backed financially — I’d definitely go for it.

Photo of Selena Salang courtesy of Satchmi.

Lally Buendia (Domino)

When I’m asked to talk about music, I’m more comfortable doing it as a consumer than as an artist. And as a consumer of music, I do not much care for albums. I can trace it back to my youthful frustration at having to rewind or fast-forward cassettes to standout tracks. It was tedious. I was horrified when I realized that albums are really just a few great songs then mostly filler. I’ve become song- or single-oriented since then.

Physical versus digital, I can appreciate both formats. But I don’t own any CDs, not even of my album.

When I write material for an album, it’s almost obsessive how much I try to set my songs apart from each other. I don’t want them to blend into one another. My work has been called unfocused, of course. One writer said that my album lacked cohesion, and that I have no idea what I want to sound like. I do, and this is what I want to sound like. I want to write songs that can stand on their own. Single-oriented versus album-oriented again.

I plan to keep releasing albums, only because of a resistance to change. Hmmm. But now that it’s in black and white, maybe I’ll remember that it never really held any appeal for me. I might just go the single or EP route. This option is looking better and better, to be honest.

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