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It’s an easy enough to trap to fall in – for many of us, it may seem like more is always better. If a TV show gets three perfect seasons, we may crave a fourth, only to find the quality dropped off significantly. I am an avid Stephen King reader, but do find that sometimes his long-winded novels can overstay their welcomes. Similarly, I seem to remember growing up an era when music albums just grew longer and longer.
Musicians like Drake and Justin Timberlake have released hour-plus long albums. In fact, Drake specifically can seem in need of a good editor in the studio with him, as his albums regularly drag along for 80 or 90 minutes. Sometimes albums of this length can really rise to the occasion and deliver a powerful punch – Beyonce’s self-titled 2014 album comes to mind. But lately I have found myself feeling more and more than shorter, tighter albums are resonating with me more clearly.
Twenty One Pilots is one of my favorite bands, but their 2018 album Trench felt like a bit of a drag to me. Its 56 minute runtime left me growing weary by its end, unsure of which tracks stood out or what the album’s real impetus was. In contract, their latest album, titled Scaled and Icy, has completely enthralled me with a runtime of just 38 minutes. Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album, Sour, runs just 34 minutes and it is setting the world on fire, tearing up the record books and propelling the 18 year old into superstardom.
Ironically, I have spent more time listening to these tighter, more compact efforts than the longer works. With longer albums, I find myself coming back to a few songs and doing away with the larger body of work, whereas these shorter albums capture my attention in a way that brings me back to the full work time and time again.
This is nothing new – The Beatles’ landmark album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album clocks in under 40 minutes and it has resonated for more than 50 years.. Of course, art deserves however long it needs to be expressed, but I have found a unique power in artists stripping down the self-indulgences and releasing tight and focused pieces of art.
Both Scaled and Icy and Sour have been in heavy rotation in my house – they seem to say so much with their limited time, and I can’t get enough of either.
I’m Evan Rook