What An ‘Album’ Means To Me (James Alexander Graham)

I like songs.  I love albums.  I have two different relationships with ‘the album’.  To begin with, it was as a fan of music then, later on, as ‘singer, songwriter, musician’ (I use that term very loosely).

The first album I ever owned was “Everything Must Go” by the Manic Street Preachers.  I was twelve years old and went to William Low’s with my Mum for the weekly shop.  I usually tried to sneak a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure under the big box of cornflakes so she wouldn’t notice it until she got to the checkout when it was too late to put it back.  This time, instead of the usual action figure (or doll as she called it. FYI: it’s not a doll!), I decided to pick up a CD and casually slide it under the shopping.

I’d seen the band perform “Design for Life” on Top of the Pops the previous week and for some reason that song had stayed with me.  Up until that point music hadn’t played a big part in my life.  When we arrived home, I stole my sisters Sony Discman then went to my room.  My intentions were to skip straight to Track 2: “Design for Life” and I think I did that the first couple of times.  Then, after that, I played the record through from beginning to end and that was the start of my on-going love affair with albums.

I love the way songs compliment each other on an album, how it can make you feel one way and then instantly take you somewhere else and make you feel completely different.  I love that you have to give some records more time than others and that the albums you don’t instantly love more than often become your favourite records.  I love that there can be songs that you thought you didn’t like or didn’t ‘get’ but then put within the context of a record make total sense.  Bands can write a great song and that song will be remembered for a while but, in my opinion, if you want people to truly invest in your music you have to produce a great album, put everything on the line within the record and prove that great song wasn’t a fluke or a one off.  As a fan I want to be taken somewhere else when I’m listening to music and that can’t happen within one song for me.  I want to hear everything that band/musician has to give and I’m willing to invest my time and money to be taken there for that hour.

I began writing music in my early 20’s.  I use music to document my life and that can’t be done within one song.  The album format allows me to get the highs and lows (mainly the lows) of a certain time in my life off my chest and it will always be there within that album.  Our band, The Twilight Sad, have released three albums now and each documents the person I was at that time.  I love that when I’m older I’ll be able to look back at my life through music and without the album format I wouldn’t be able to do that.  We write albums.  When we’re writing it’s never about writing that hit single, it’s about making sure we get everything we want to say out within each song to make an album that flows and takes you from one point to the next.  I approach each song like a chapter within the overall story which in the end forms the album.

I’m 28 now and when I look back on my life I don’t remember things from events or birthdays etc., I remember what album I was listening to at the time and then the memories come back to me.

James Alexander Graham
(The Twilight Sad)