I came of age when mix-tapes were the medium for professing love and admiration. For making a statement about the world. In 80 minutes or less, you could tell a story that your words alone simply couldn’t.
The order. The opening and closing notes. The contrasts. It was all so important. The medium was an earnest form of self expression. It was art. A sincere rebellion against record companies and copyright; a fight for what can and cannot be.
Fast forward 10 years and I started dragging and dropping mp3s to make iTunes playlists. Hundreds and thousands of songs, mixed and matched, copied and copied.
Making a running playlist, in a way, is like taking exotic creatures out of the wild and placing them in the zoo. Each track may be mysterious and beautiful. But out of context to the rest of the album, they lack meaning and urgency. Something gets lost in translation.
A playlist is to music as Instagram is to real life. The greatest hits. Songs to move and groove to. What you want to hear without filler. It lacks the mundanity of the every day.
A good album tells a story. It slowly unravels. Emotes. Gestures. The juxaposition of each track holds some meaning known to the artist and interpreted by the listener.
Planning your run around a great album can be meaningful and beneficial. It can expand your mind. Teach you patience and restraint.
Load a great album onto your device of choice and let the it lead you. Follow its cues. Change pace and direction as you see fit. Resise the urge to skip tracks. Instead, let them unfold and tell the whole story.
Here are 25 great rock and folk albums from past and present to enhance your mind and body, listed in order of run-time (no-pun intended).
- Ramones – Ramones, (29:04)
- Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else (31:04)
- Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy (31:29)
- The Pixies – Surfer Rosa (32:50)
- Japandroids – Celebration Rock (35:10)
- The Beatles – Revolver (35:32)
- Lou Reed – Transformer (36:40)
- Hole – Live Through This (38:16)
- David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (38:37)
- Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted (38:41)
- Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (39:55)
- St. Vincent – St. Vincent (40:12)
- The Rolling Stones – Let it Bleed (42:13)
- Radiohead – In Rainbows (42:43)
- Patti Smith – Horses (43:10)
- Television – Marquee Moon (45:54)
- Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (47:10)
- TV on the Radio – Seeds (52:43)
- The Black Keys – The Big Come Up (54:15)
- Built to Spill – Perfect from Now On (54:13)
- Dinosaur Jr. – Farm (61:05)
- Sun Kil Moon – Benji (61:56)
- The Clash – London Calling (65:07)
- Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (72:57)
- Arcade Fire – Reflektor (75:12)
Written by Stephen Marcin.
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