Like most people, I have many musical beliefs. These commandments dictate how I consume music everyday. And if we get past all the rules concerning the eliteness of a good cover, seasonal identities, and the power of clarinets and slide guitars, the importance of sequencing would be dutifully engraved as number four on the list. Order is important, not only does it distinguish an epic playlist from just another playlist, but it also makes the difference between another album and the album. So, in the spirit of sharing and spreading the good news, here are 5 immersive concept albums to inspire your next playlist.
Let’s start off on the right foot with one of my favorite albums of all time. Dirty Computer is not only an amazing concept album, but it also contributes to the growing case for Janelle Monáe’s greatness. Part of a discography filled with afro-futuristic and sci-fi concept albums, Dirty Computer explores a world where individuals, who do not fit into certain molds, are cleansed of their individualistic viruses.
The first track, which also happens to be the title track, introduces us to a “dirty computer.” While there are signs of self-doubt and depreciation at the beginning of the project, as the story continues, we slowly witness this character grow into themselves and flourish into the individual they were meant to be. Featuring some of her signature android themes, Monáe takes the time to explore topics surrounding racial double standards, sexual liberation, and self-love. Meant to be experienced as a whole; Dirty Computer is one of those albums I could never fathom listening to any other way.
Up next is Long Lost, Lord Huron’s most recent album. Set in a fictional variety show, the project stays true to this conceptual theme locking in the listener with the help of an omnipresent host. Featuring various interludes, such as “(Sing For Us Tonight)” voiced by the presenter, Mr. Tubbs Tarbell, the album weaves in and out of songs, or, should I say performances, seamlessly. Skillfully adorned by nostalgic, ghost-like strings, assertive acoustic/electric guitars, and swoon-worthy slide guitars, this album will have you begging for an encore.
In another of his memorable 80s synth inspired projects, The Weeknd gets his fans to tune into a fictional radio station, hosted by Jim Carrey. Unlike your usual lighthearted programs, 103.5 Dawn FM, is full of tension and anticipation about the end of it all. Said to emulate the experience of driving through a tunnel towards the listeners inevitable death, the album is sure to sooth your inner nihilists. Sonically and thematically cohesive, Dawn FM is the perfect soundtrack for any genuine or imaginary existential and doom-full car ride.
If Dawn FM is the journey towards the end, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is the lounging area before the next life, or alternate universe. Moody and mysterious, this album is centered around a cosmic hotel located on the moon. Sticking to the theme through an assortment of vintage synths and jazzy lounge-esque instrumentals, features tracks sung from the perspective of the lunar resorts' sleazy, and opulent guests.
The fourth and title track places you right in the middle of the lobby. The chilled intro reels you in as you make your way through the golden revolving doors. Guests are checking in, you're taking a look around, and your thoughts are constantly interrupted as you hear the clerk repeat his rehearsed speech throughout the chorus: “Good afternoon / Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino / Mark speaking / Please tell me how may I direct your call?” While most of the album revolves around slightly absurd and truthful concepts, there's an element of chaos present in each song. Regardless of its chaotic ambiance, Tranquility Base guarantees 5-star treatment every day of the week.
Stepping away from existentialism, science fiction, and modern relics, let’s turn our attention towards a familiar topic: love. Tyler, The Creator presents an album that follows the linear progressions of the classic and timeless tale of unrequited love. From crashing into an earth-shattering love, to the swirl of anger and sadness evoked by rejection, he documents the highs and lows of infatuation, all too well.
Following tracks rooted in infatuation, devotion and manipulation, the narrator is forced to come to terms with the possibility that this relationship may never truly come about. Exasperated by the back and forth, Igor still holds on to a glimmer of hope, as he makes his final advance in the outro, “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS.” Devastating, and at times heartbreaking, Igor is the perfect cautionary tale, or blueprint, to cupid’s next unsuspecting victim.