We once read an article on the advantage of digital collections of music. The article basically concluded that digital was best because you could fiddle around with album tracklistings as much as you like, even deleting tracks you don’t like (!!), and adding on B-sides/buzz singles/unreleased material/live recordings. We never used to bother with manipulating tracklistings in such a way. We romantically took the view that an album was a complete, finished, work of art and that the artist had put them in a certain order as they knew best. The way it was intended to be listened to is the way it should be listened to. We suppose we considered ourselves ‘purists’.
We have now changed our mind somewhat. The first ever tracklist we altered was ‘Electra Heart’ by Marina & The Diamonds. We felt this was necessary action because when the album first came out we were only able to give it a couple of listens. We found it very heavy-going and intense. The momentum and the balance of happy/sad songs was completely wrong. We had a good old fiddle and finally found a tracklist that kept us happy, able to listen to the whole album in one go. We felt like we had achieved something, in polishing a diamond, and the album (with our tracklisting) quickly became our favourite of 2012. Sure the raw material was good (above average, most might say) but there was still room for improvement.
We next had a little fiddle with the Aiden Grimshaw tracklist, because that was probably our second favourite album of 2012, but sadly just had a couple of rubbish tracks on it. Obviously fiddling around with the order doesn’t actually sort that particular problem out, but by putting ‘Nothing At All’ last we believe we have unlocked some sort of superpower. Well, we’re happier with the album now at least.
And now we find ourselves here, altering Patrick Wolf’s ‘The Magic Position’ tracklisting. We adore Patrick, as regular readers will have gathered. We really respect him artistically and musically. But, exactly like with Electra Heart, we found the momentum of the album completely ‘wrong’. In particular with this album, we found 2 tracks that we liked to put after ‘Finale’ in the running order; we view ‘Finale’ as the last track and the other 2 as “bonus” tracks. Whereas they were completely unlistenable and tedious before, in their new position they make perfect sense. We also had to promote the album’s best track further up the tracklisting to live amongst the other ‘happy’ songs; bookended by two ‘sad’ songs, the song had all the life sucked out of it. As with Electra Heart, the album has only truly come alive after our alterations.
Essentially, what we are trying to say is that we have changed our mind. Whereas once we viewed doing such things as ruining a sacred piece of art, now we feel like it is our right (and almost our duty), in order to make the album speak more directly to us. What is beautiful about this is that no two fans’ tracklistings will be exactly the same. We all carry a personalised version of the album that means something to us. And that is a special thing.
Of course, we realise the physical CD will remain unaffected by all this kerfuffle, but really physicals these days are just nice things to collect, and maybe still use in your car if you’re ‘old school’ like us.