Musical Technology and the Art of Albums

By: Connor Lenahan

“I wanna tell the whole world about a friend of mine / This little light of mine and I’m finna let it shine / I’m finna take y’all back to them better times”

 Kanye West – “Hey Mama

Sometimes the world of technology is just insane. I have long been a fan of the iPod classic, preferably with the highest capacity legally allowed by the illuminati government. I have always had an extensive music library ranging from songs I proudly display to people (“Everlong” – Foo Fighters) along with ones that I’m proud to show regardless of judgment (“Hung Up” – Madonna, great song, sorry not sorry). I think my iTunes library had ballooned to a massive digit in the area code of 9,500 songs before I migrated to my new laptop for college.

The current number is now around 5,700 songs.

With that many songs and a device that allows instantaneous access to every millisecond of every track, one of my favorite things gets lost along the way.

The album. There is a true art to making a full album that is just excellent from stem to stern. Today anyone can decide they want to buy a singular song off of an album and call it a day. I’m not exactly complaining about that, but there is a certain magic to buying a plastic circle full of sonic acrobatics and experiencing the full vision of an artist.

That’s why I want to tell you about a friend of mine, who once again will be called upon for my musical enjoyment and will, as always, deliver upon this request.


In 2002 my family and I took a vacation to Los Angeles and made a visit to the bookstore at UCLA. Whilst shopping, I picked up the CD Walkman you see above. It was the first time I had my own dependable music player. Sadly, I acquired my first iPod a few years later and it fell by the wayside. No lie, I am impressed that my eight-year-old self didn’t lose and/or break the CD player.

I’ve gone through at least 6 iPods in the past decade give or take. I have only had one CD player. This thing is my ace in the hole. It is honestly amazing that eleven years after its purchase it still functions and preforms as if it was just recently purchased.

A few years ago, my iPod at the time became corrupted and was inoperable shortly before departing for Seattle for vacation. I turned to the CD player and realized that going on vacation while being forced to listen to one artist at a time was truly magnificent. I found CDs that I loved and carried them with me as my entertainment.

Wouldn’t it figure that some similar circumstances have arisen just a week before my vacation? My current iPod (Full disclosure: it is only two months old, if that) has decided to cause some trouble for me and will most likely need to be fixed. So it goes on the 60 day disabled list and the CD player is welcomed back into its ace role. Eleven years later, I will be taking the CD player with me on vacation to Los Angeles, causing a complete feeling of “full circle.” I’m excited to see if it decides to mysteriously malfunction once we enter the bookstore. I’ve got a good bad feeling about this.


Now comes the interesting part. Because I will need to bring CDs with me, I had to fill a carrying case with my selections for my Los Angeles soundtrack. What I thought would be a heartbreaking debate over what did or did not make the cut took about 83 seconds to finalize.

What you will see below is my current setlist (in no specific order) for the trip. I will be no doubt adding to it soon.

(Disclaimer: I will also have my iPhone with some other choices and to ensure I will be able to listen to Magna Carta Holy Grail when it releases. I’m not insane)


Aja – Steely Dan

(Triple Crown Club)

Arguably the best album by one of my favorite bands. I have seen this album played in its entirety live. To say I was floored would be an understatement. It is a transcendent listen. Also, Aja falls into my “Triple Crown Club” as an album I own digitally, on CD and on vinyl. If I had my way, I’d bring the vinyl along, but I don’t feel like describing that to security or my seatmate to LA.


Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend

One of my best friends, Alex Catania, forced me to pick up this album, assuring me that I would like it. I have yet to listen to a single song. That will change soon.


The Black Album – Jay Z

(Triple Crown Club)

This album is one of my favorite listens for an odd reason. The context it is presented in is one of Jay Z’s retirement that obviously didn’t stick for too long. I love the idea of walking off in a grand fashion. This album is the epitome of that idea. It’s incredible. I can never tire of it. And if you can’t respect that, then your whole perspective is wack, maybe you’ll love me when I fade to black.


Confessions – Usher

Fact: Everyone has had a crush on Usher to some degree at some point in their lives. Everyone.


Ten – Pearl Jam

I’m even shocked by this pick and I was the one that made it. I had never realized how stacked the top half of this album is. “Once,” “Even Flow,” “Alive,” “Black,” and “Jeremy” are five of the first six songs. All of these tracks eventually made Pearl Jam’s greatest hits album Rearviewmirror. With a murderer’s row like that, you’ve got to give it a shot. Also, this was their debut album. Let that sink in. Not a terrible way to begin a career.


Back to Black – Amy Winehouse

This album is flawless. It’s unbelievable to think this was her only American album and depressing to realize we will never hear more. She was great. I miss Amy.


 FutureSex/LoveSounds – Justin Timberlake

(Triple Crown Club)

After listening to this cover to cover recently I realized that FutureSex/LoveSounds is one of the most jaw-droppingly impressive albums I’ve ever heard. It never ever lulls. Justin deserves a retroactive Grammy or twelve for this. Taking the Long Way by the Dixie Chicks won Album of the Year over this. The lesson as always, the Grammys are awful.


When the Pawn… – Fiona Apple

I can’t quite explain why I love Fiona Apple so much, but I will try, but it’ll have to be at a later time. I saw her in concert (the best I’ve ever seen by a wide margin) and she preformed the majority of songs from the album there. I may or may not have shed a tear I was so happy. Don’t you judge me.


 Watch the Throne – Jay Z & Kanye West

It’s been out for two years. I’m not sure if I fully appreciate how amazing it is yet. This will be a heavily played disc for sure.


Yeezus – Kanye West

This is the best album of 2013. It’s not close. I don’t think I can fully explain how much I love this album. I have listened to it at minimum twenty times since it came out eleven days ago. It’s mind-blowing. There are not words to describe its brilliance. That said, there is an incredible New York Times article on Kanye that should be read by every literate human being on the planet.


Channel ORANGE – Frank Ocean 

Have you ever been waiting in anticipation of something, hyping up its potential to all of your friends, reading every rumor about its release and then, when it finally arrives, you were proved right? That was me last summer with Frank Ocean and Channel ORANGE, which is my favorite album of all time. I’m still bitter this didn’t win Album of the Year, but I will get to those thoughts later.


My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

(Triple Crown Club)

Masterpiece. Will never be topped. “Runaway” moves me to tears. I can’t.

Those are what made the first cut. I can’t wait to leave. I want to start up now. I love my CD player, I love albums and I love lamp.


Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is the founder and editor-in-chief of He is a freshman at Boston University, majoring in journalism.