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What counts as an 'album' nowadays?

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sidneyfranklyn




Age: 20
United Kingdom

#1 | Posted: 12/21/2018 13:27 | Post subject: What counts as an 'album' nowadays? Reply with quote
I wanted to start a conversation thread on what makes a release 'full-length' or just an EP now that we are in an era where often release is limited to digital, and if this affects the way you review a release.

I understand back in the age of vinyl this wasn't even a sensible question, but with Kanye's spate of 20-minute releases this year, which are all being received by music critics as 'albums' and not EPs (Anthony Fantano has released a separate list for his favourite EPs of the year, with the number 1 spot going to Aphex Twin's Collapse, which is 10 minutes longer than any of Kanye's 'albums') I thought I'd raise the question of where we draw the line between album and EP, and indeed if this matters at all.

I remember reading a comment on the internet re. Kids See Ghosts that said "it's amazing that the only difference between an album and an EP now is what the artist says it is". Certainly artistic intent is important. However, I've found separating ranking and reviews for albums along these lines completely non-sensical: Daytona is an 'album' that clocks in at 21:08; am I to review it differently to the Signals, Calls & Marches EP which is only 20 seconds shorter? The same questions stands for the Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada EP and Pink Moon. What about the Gay? EP by 12 Rods, which is 38:04; should I review it with EPs even if it's far longer than certain 'albums'? To differentiate the two by whatever the artist themselves classifies it as seems completely arbitrary and unhelpful along these lines.

Another solution would be to just review everything together, but I feel silly trying to compare a 10 minute EP by someone to a 2 hour double album, any concurrent credentials for deciding which I like better don't cover both.

Personally, my solution is to designate everything below 30-minutes as a 'Short Release', and rank it separately (my Greatest Short Release chart is coming soon), I know this is no less arbitrary but I feel at least giving these things of similar lengths a better chance of competing with each other.

Thoughts BEA?
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Kool Keith Sweat
skronkist



Location: Tejas
United States

#2 | Posted: 12/21/2018 13:57 | Post subject: Reply with quote
EPs and LPs are industry terms based, more or less, on musician payout and sales tactics. The industry is adapting to digital already by tracking release downloads, track downloads, and -most importantly and interestingly- album-equivalent streams (where e.g. Drake can have "sold" 10 albums with 100 streams of the same track). Do these industry-indicators have any bearing on the listener? No, unless for some reason the listener wants to be in line with the industry as much or more than the musician.

Groups like Autechre have hour-long EPs, groups like Sleep have hour-long one-track 2x-LPs, groups like Minor Threat have 20-track 15-minute albums on a 7". These aren't necessarily recent examples, the EP concept has been dumb since its inception. Listen to a release and rate/review it based on the experience; just like you would knock a release for dragging on for too long, knock a release for leaving too many things unexplored. Just this year, Anahuac's Y_y, one ten minute track released on cassette and digitally, was among the best 20-30 things I heard this year and felt beautifully complete.
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carpents




United States

#3 | Posted: 12/21/2018 14:13 | Post subject: Re: What counts as an 'album' nowadays? Reply with quote
While there still are vinyl records being made, the distinction is becoming meaningless. There is no longer a constraint regarding time, either for "radio play" or physical processing.

sidneyfranklyn wrote:
Personally, my solution is to designate everything below 30-minutes as a 'Short Release', and rank it separately (my Greatest Short Release chart is coming soon), I know this is no less arbitrary but I feel at least giving these things of similar lengths a better chance of competing with each other.

Thoughts BEA?


I think that's as good a cutoff as any, although I would lobby you for making 28 minutes the cutoff. Smile
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albummaster
Janitor


Gender: Male
Location: Spain
Site Admin

#4 | Posted: 12/22/2018 09:14 | Post subject: Re: What counts as an 'album' nowadays? Reply with quote
sidneyfranklyn wrote:
Thoughts BEA?

Not sure if you are aware, but in BEA terms an 'album' is defined as being at least 20 minutes long, or containing at least five tracks. The UK definition is 25 minutes (& the US 15 minutes if you believe Wikipedia), but 20 minutes is in the middle and and has served the site fairly well. (There needs to be a hard cut-off for BEA to allow the site to be managed properly and to make the site easy to understand for site visitors). This is an interesting thread from a while back where the rules were discussed - https://www.besteveralbums.com/phpBB2/v...php?t=1925
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sidneyfranklyn




Age: 20
United Kingdom

#5 | Posted: 12/22/2018 10:45 | Post subject: Re: What counts as an 'album' nowadays? Reply with quote
carpents wrote:
I think that's as good a cutoff as any, although I would lobby you for making 28 minutes the cutoff. Smile

aha carpents I see what you did there Wink
Ah thank you albummaster, I'm reading the thread now. Having read interpretations like that of purple and Wombi I think I come somewhere down the middle, in that I definitely agree in Wombi's emphasis on the 'album' as an art form (I too think box sets and singles are indeed a cop out) though all I want to ask is how stringently should we draw the line between album and EP. I understand the necessity that you've given the website's limitations of 20 minutes and with at least 5 tracks, though sometimes there are incredibly short releases that I love which have the function of an album (they're a linear progression through tracks intended as one listening experience) they just happen to be in miniature.
I guess for BEA it's fine, but should wider music publications collate albums and EPs in their year end lists? I don't have the answers I just wanted to see what the BEA community thought!
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PurpleHazel




United States

#6 | Posted: 12/22/2018 12:01 | Post subject: Re: What counts as an 'album' nowadays? Reply with quote
sidneyfranklyn wrote:
I understand the necessity that you've given the website's limitations of 20 minutes and with at least 5 tracks

OR 5 tracks. There are many jazz and other genre albums that only have one or two tracks.
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JOSweetHeart



Gender: Female
Age: 36
Location: East Tennessee

#7 | Posted: 12/22/2018 19:20 | Post subject: Reply with quote
In my opinion, an album is at least ten songs.

God bless you always!!!

Holly
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LebowskiRams



Gender: Male
United States

#8 | Posted: 12/22/2018 20:26 | Post subject: Reply with quote
Something that tells a complete story (not necessarily conceptual.) I consider shorter records like the Wyoming Sessions and Joyce Manor's debut to be albums.

To quote that famous court case, I don't know what it is, but I'll know it when I see it.
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carpents




United States

#9 | Posted: 12/22/2018 20:43 | Post subject: Reply with quote
JOSweetHeart wrote:
In my opinion, an album is at least ten songs.


How about 9? Smile
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carpents




United States

#10 | Posted: 12/22/2018 20:48 | Post subject: Re: What counts as an 'album' nowadays? Reply with quote
sidneyfranklyn wrote:
aha carpents I see what you did there Wink
...I just wanted to see what the BEA community thought!


So really, I think the BEA 5 song/20-minute limit is a good point. (Although the differentiation doesn't really matter, 28 minutes is still 28 minutes whether you call it an LP or an EP.) Personally I cut off 6 minutes from my album, it was hard to do but made a better cohesive work. I could do the same for a lot of other albums honestly.
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