I grew up listening to CDs, mostly carrying only one of them on me at a time, so the importance of an album telling a story was not lost. You listened to one CD, and you listened to it in order. All the music in the world in the palm of my hand? Please. Long before Pandora Radio or the iTunes Music Store made the very concept of an album painfully obsolete, these things had a beginning, a middle, and an end. And my favorite was always the beginning–that special spot every album has reserved for the tone-setting first track.
A few modern bands are still doing a pretty smashing job of upholding the sanctity of an album’s dramatic inception, and certain artists have stood out above the sludge: TV On the Radio (Dear Science, 2008), Kings of Leon (Only by the Night, 2008), and the XX (The XX, 2009) have nailed it. Also notable have been The Shins (Wincing the Night Away, 2007) and Modest Mouse (Good News For People Who Like Bad News, 2003), and don’t even get me started on Adele.
Listen to some of the tracks above or focus on your own favorite album–specifically the way it begins. While you listen, just start writing and see what emerges. You can make a list of things that this opening track reminds you of–words, images, feelings–but try to just start your story with what the band has provided as their album’s opening sentnce.
And now: Commence.