Seven Must Own Double Albums


 
The Double Album is almost a lost art. In the decades before CDs and iTunes, vinyl LPs could only contain so much space (around 50 minutes) and this time restraint helped bands to weed out the unnecessary filler from their albums. Bands usually write more songs than end up on their albums and they have to pick and choose the tracks that best achieve their vision. A CD can hold 80 minutes and bands have started to just release everything they record because they have the space, even if the album would be better off if it was shorter. When vinyl records were still being pressed bands did not have this option and would only release a double album if they felt it was necessary to execute their vision. Here are seven great double albums that don’t feel like a collection of filler.
 
The Wall – Pink Floyd, 1979
 

 
The most obvious choice on this list, it’s obviousness and cultural saturation does not stop it from being an amazing album. One of the things that separates The Wall from the rest of the albums on this list is that The Wall uses its two discs to tell a story. A lot of dunderheads will tell you that you need to be high/tripping to understand what that story is, but they’re morons, you just have to pay attention.

The music is dense and lush and it has to be listened to in full in order to wholly appreciate. The music ebbs and flows from soft ballads (“Goodbye Blue Skies) to funky rockers (“Young Lust”) to empowering anthems (“Comfortably Numb”) and coalesces into a cogent whole. Disc one details the way the protagonist (a rock star named Pink… I know, I know) builds up the “wall” that isolates him from the rest of the world, while the second disc sees him eventually tear down that wall.

The album was later adapted into a feature length film, that if you haven’t seen you probably should.

Standout Track From Disc One: “One Of My Turns”
 

 
Standout Track From Disc Two: “Vera” & “Bring The Boys Back Home”
 

 


 

Something/Anything? – Todd Rundgren, 1972
 

 
Todd Rundgren is a mad man. Something/Anything? is 90 minutes of schizophrenic 70s pop music. But here’s the thing: Todd Rundgren records everything. Every instrument is played Todd Rundgren. Every vocal track is sung by Todd Rundgren. Everything on Something/Anything? is Todd Rundgren! It’s so much Todd Rundgren!

Having complete and total control when you actually know what you’re doing can result in a great work and that’s what Todd Rundgren accomplished here. Something/Anything? bounces back and forth from raucous rock and roll to soft ballads, often within the same songs, but what shines through in every second is Todd Rundgren’s yearning to connect. There’s a loneliness that runs rampant throughout all of Rundgren’s music, but it never sounds overtly depressing. He knows how the balance the melancholy with an upbeat jangle, and that dichotomy is what pulls me to something as big and grandiose as Something/Anything?

It should also be pointed out that Rundgren is really funny too. Whether it be in the music, where he messes around with the sound production for laughs, or the fact that he produced Bat Out of Hell for Meat Loaf because he was so ridiculous that it would be a shame for the world to not be exposed to him.

Standout Track From Disc One: “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference”
 

 
Standout Track From Disc Two: “Hello It’s Me”
 

 


Nighthawks At The Diner – Tom Waits, 1975
 

 
Before Tom Waits became the maestro of weird, indulging in his love of strange tempos, accordions and organ grinder music, he was just a boozy billy goat with a piano. Nighthawks At The Diner is his third album, and it was recorded live in the studio with an audience present. The effect makes you feel like you’re sitting in some smoky cocktail lounge with Waits half drunk off his ass crooning and chatting with the crowd. Most of the songs open up with some kind of introduction where Waits cracks jokes and muses on about happenings that are sometimes related to his music, sometimes it’s just Tom Waits being Tom Waits.

Tom Waits is in stripped down form here, his songs contain little more than piano, bass, drums and his gravelly bourbon-soaked voice. The songs are all about lost loves, warm beer and cold women. But the jazz lounge atmosphere keeps it fun and light, despite the heartbroken lyrics, and the faux-live proceedings make the double-album necessary, as the album runs concert length.

Standout Track From Disc One: “Emotional Weather Report”
 

 
Standout Track From Disc Two: “Warm Beer and Cold Women”
 

 


Exile on Main St. – The Rolling Stones, 1972
 

 
The Rolling Stones are not an album band. I think they make great music, and they have a lot of amazing songs strewn across their decades long career, but Mick and Keith don’t seem to have the knack for the album. However, Exile on Main St. may be the exception. Boisterous, bawdy and bluesy, Exile on Main St. is the quintessential Rolling Stones Album.

What many people probably don’t realize about the Stones is just how country influenced their music is. Probably about 40% of their oeuvre is country music. While sometimes that stops their albums dead in their tracks when you jump from a classic like “Gimme Shelter” to “Country Honk” on Let it Bleed, Exile perfectly balances all of their influences so all that’s left is a fun party record. The Rolling Stones never aspired for the lofty artistic heights of their British Invasion brothers, they were all about partying and getting laid and Exile on Main St. exhibits that mentality perfectly.

Standout Track From Disc One: “Rocks Off”
 

 
Standout Track From Disc Two: “Happy”
 

 


Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me – The Cure, 1987
 

 
There are two kinds of Cure albums. There’s the melancholy, goth-tinged Cure of 1989’s Disintegration and there’s the upbeat, pop-tinged Cure of Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me. While it would be impossible to cure Robert Smith of his melancholic tendencies 100%, from the first track “The Kiss” it’s obvious that it’s at least been subverted a bit. Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me is filled with synth horn tinged pop songs that it would be easier to dance to than sulk to.

This is an album filled with bubbly romance, just like the title would suggest and while it may lack some of the intricacies of Disintegration, or the sharpened edge of Pornography, it remains one of The Cure’s most unique albums. Full of bright sounds and luscious textures, it shows that The Cure isn’t a band only capable of making music that makes you want to weep.

Standout Track From Disc One: “Why Can’t I Be You?”
 

 
Standout Track From Disc Two: “Just Like Heaven”
 

 


Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – M83, 2011
 

 

I recently attended a M83 concert with fellow List Off-er Jim Adair and our buddy Luke and my general impression was that M83 is so French they make me want to eat a croissant.

What’s interesting about Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is that the two discs only contain 80 minutes of music, so the band could have easily released this as a single disc album if they wanted to, but they made the distinct choice to release it as a double album. It shows, the two discs have a great flow, the songs drifting in and out of one another like a hazy synth dream.

M83 is unique among modern bands because they actually understand how to use a synthesizer. The synthesizer is a great instrument because it is able to create a certain kind of atmosphere, one that gives off a cinematic tone within the music. Unfortunately, most modern bands today use the synthesizer to make their music sound quirky/ironic so that it appeals to douchebags in their twenties who have mustaches. M83 often feels to me like a cross between Tangerine Dream and New Order, and while Anthony Gonzalez’ voice may be slightly too passive/soft for my tastes, he’s French which strangely makes it seem okay. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming sounds like the soundtrack to a lost great 80s film.

Standout Track From Disc One: “Midnight City” – The sax-man really makes this song.
 

 
Standout Track From Disc Two: “Klaus, I Love You”

This album just came out, so there really aren’t any high quality youtube videos out there yet.


The River – Bruce Springsteen, 1980
 

 
The River was not supposed to be a double album. Bruce originally recorded a follow up to his 1978 masterpiece Darkness on the Edge of Town entitled The Ties That Bind, and it was a great! It was a really tight album filled with jingle-jangle hooks and stories of failed relationships that any artist could be proud of- and Bruce threw it away. He had a finished album and he just shoved it in a drawer and left it up to bootleggers to get out to the public years later.

Bruce went back to the studio and decided to take another year to record a double-album that would be called The River. The River was incredibly hard for me to get into at first. It felt like there was no flow to it. I was not able to reconcile how a song as heartbreaking as “The River” could be on the same album as something as upbeat and lightweight as “I’m A Rocker.”

Then I realized what Bruce was doing. Where Darkness was about discovering what it means to be a man and coming into own as a person while coming to terms with your environment, The River was what happens after you do that and you have to give yourself to a woman. The River is filled with ups and downs, slow songs and fast songs, high points and low points, just like a relationship. Most of the songs in The River deal with relationships, the work goes into keep them, the joy can be attained from them, the heartbreak that can happen and even the sexual frustration that can occur. The music is some of Bruce’s best and he knows how to perfectly balance it all so not one emotion commanders the album. The River is a case where the length of the album is totally justified by quality of the content.

camaderiesStandout Track From Disc One: “The River”
 

 
Standout Track From Disc Two: “Wreck On The Highway”
 

 


What other double albums deserve to be up on there?

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Categories: Music

Author:Colin Holmes

I love movies. I love watching them and I love writing about them. My taste ranges from Jean Pierre Melville to Jean Claude Van Damme and everything in between as long as it isn’t mediocre. I’ll take a crazy failure of a movie over a middle of the road one any day. I'm an American currently living abroad in Oz and am relishing how my accent makes me sound like a cowboy to everyone I meet here.

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7 Comments on “Seven Must Own Double Albums”

  1. 11.28.11 at 2:03 PM #

    nice random M83 album

  2. 11.28.11 at 3:13 PM #

    GUYS! COLIN HAS SOMETHING POST-1980 ON HIS LIST!

  3. 11.28.11 at 4:30 PM #

    No Odessa? For shame!

    • Colin Holmes
      11.28.11 at 5:29 PM #

      Holy shit I just looked that up. I knew the Bee Gees did stuff before they turned disco, but I need to get that right now.

  4. 11.28.11 at 10:58 PM #

    “Reunion” > “Midnight City”

  5. 11.29.11 at 2:41 AM #

    i. hate. pink. floyd.

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