Got a short attention span? Then you’re wrong here. Also, you’re perfectly right here. Have you ever wondered why most songs are about 3 to 4 minutes long in the first place? Radio edits, yeah… but why?
The disks rotating at 78 and 45 rpm could hold about 3 minutes of music and with the upcoming of new formats, song length has mainly stabilized around 250 seconds since the 90s. The wired has it all if you want to dive deeper into it.
I’m fascinated by longer tracks, so this is all about songs longer than 7 minutes and thus no surprise that this is my first contribution to beyond tape after Don and Mathias started the whole thing off with Blues gems.
So this is about long players. It’s about journeys and surprises: a sudden change of tempo or complete breaks… and where the hell do these percussions come from?! You’ll find yourself hypnotized and caught in quicksand; stay patient and don’t move too fast.
These songs play out their length (and strength) very differently and vary greatly in the genre, mood, and dramaturgy. One song will fit jour running routine, while another one will make you want to dive right into the sweaty masses (yeah, I’m pointing at you, The Mars Volta). I’ve highlighted just some of them below, you’ll find the complete Spotify-Playlist with about 20 songs at the bottom. Enjoy the rides!
Joanna Newsom – Emily (2006)
First, you may, no you will stumble over her voice. If you then keep on walking, and you definitely should, you’ll often find yourself in this ancient and mythical spaced out world… a labyrinth with dragons, meteors, talking animals, and fairies built delicately by harp-core multi-instrumentalist Joanna Newsom, who plays more than 10 instruments. Technically I could have picked every one of the five songs from this album since each of them is between 7 and 17 minutes long. Each one is a planet for itself, forming this other-worldly planetary system.
The Mars Volta — Cicatriz Esp. (2003)
At The Drive-In created probably the most disturbing music when I was a teenager… and I loved them for the confusion it caused. Sadly, they split eventually but luckily left behind the pounding pandora box named Relationship of Command. Omar Rodríguez López – make sure to check out his solo stuff as well – and Cedric Bixler Zavala then formed The Mars Volta to continue the dizzy and virtuosic madness.
Björk — Black Lake (2015)
I’ve seen Björk performing this song live in Berlin. An open-air concert, the weather was fantastic, it was summer and the sky dimmed from blue to black. Then she played Black Lake, her voice interplayed by strings and pierced by syncopated beats… all accompanied by the overwhelming Björk-typical visuals. Minutes within that song I felt captivated until suddenly somebody… farted. Ahhh, wtf?! Immediately my attention switched from eyes and ears to my nose and it took me some minutes to be able to focus on the music and the performance. Isn’t it awkward and funny how many things have to be in place especially for a live music experience in order to be able to fully enjoy it?
Karl Blau — Fallin Rain’ (2016)
This song could easily be just 3 minutes long, theoretically. Nothing „interesting“ happens, no surprises, no changes come along after the first couple of minutes. But like continuous rain (title says it all), it’s just pure enjoyment to see the rain falling for some more minutes and watch it pouring down gently. A deep voice holding an umbrella, unagitated, repeating, and flowing peacefully. However, this song could easily go on for another 20 minutes.
Lil Dicky — Pillow Talking feat. Brain (2017)
Aliens, vegetarianism, dinosaurs… all these topics come up in this pillow talk between Dicky and his hookup. You’ll watch it until the end, because it’s so funny, weird, sometimes offensive, and visually appealing — and one of the 60 most expensive music videos because of the sheer amount of CGI effects, just take a look at the whole crew that was involved.
The Antlers — Wake (2009)
Frontman Peter Silberman has described the underlying motive for the album as one of an abusive relationship. He’s using the story of a Hospice worker falling in love with a terminally ill patient as a metaphor. It’s an album you would probably listen to when you’re “not in a good place”, feel sad or depressed, or maybe just looking desperately for words and not being able to grasp them. Wake takes you by the hand when you lie down, and then drags you along, at some point starting to move again, bringing you back on the feet and running slowly. Every song from the Album „Hospice“ has an alternate title. The one for Wake is Letting People In – an almost whispered line you can hear in the song over and over again – and at that point, on Hospice it serves as a remedy when you’ve already indulged the pain and grief that sprawled out before. The song ends in a powerful crescendo summoned by these lyrics:
Some patients can’t be saved
But that burden’s not on you
Don’t ever let anyone tell you you deserve that
LCD Soundsystem — Dance Yourself Clean (2010)
Put on your sports outfit and step outside. Then insert your earplugs and start off your running playlist with this song. Then you have about 186 seconds to stretch and start easy until the harsh boom kicks in and forces you to make a sudden jump and better get moving NOW!
Naturally, it was also the first song they played on their over 3 hours (b)lasting Long Goodbye Concert in New York in 2011.
The Notwist — Run Run Run (2016)
I love these nerds from Bavaria. They’ve been around ever since I started listening to Indie in my teenage years, just like everybody did back then. They made it into my all-time favorites section, also because some years ago they did some kind of „psychedelic renovation“ of their old songs on the Album Superheroes, Ghostvillains + Stuff and then started performing them live… Go see them in real life if you can, so dedicated and yet so humble you’ll probably too like to give them a hug afterwards.
Tame Impala — Let it happen (2015)
The dreamy vocals get interrupted over and over by the harsh bass, leading you up a spiral staircase full of keyboard samples, filters, and gibberish, disappearing vocals… and you keep climbing and climbing until the very end as the stairs get steeper and the bass even deeper.
Keep on checking out the Spotify Playlist, as I will keep on feeding it with big lovely chunks of long players: