5 Criminally Underrated Modern Concept Albums
    • THURSDAY, JANUARY 02, 2014

    • Posted by: Matt Howard

    There's an undeniably unselfish quality to creating concept albums. That's why it came as a surprise to hear Drake describe Kendrick Lamar's good kid m.A.A.d city as the last great example in his recent interview with Vibe Magazine. He told them:

    "I feel like the music that I write is utilized in life. It would be tough for me to go in conceptual storytelling. The last great concept album was [Kendrick Lamar's] good kid m.A.A.d city —still obviously true to his life but very conceptual. Very specific stories that need to be told. I always say hats off to that album, that albums incredible, what an undertaking."

    Although the true definition of a concept album is often argued, we believe its unified theme must come from an abstract idea, which Lamar's musical story did not. Unlike movies, album's lack the "Based on a True Story" subhead —and in this situation, that often dubious text would have served a purpose by making its non-concept, autobiographical distinction clear. As we stated before, a concept album is unselfish, and an autobiography comes with an air of vanity.

    Throughout the years many artists have produced incredible examples of the concept album. While earlier creations like David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars to Electric Light Orchestra's Eldorado continue to receive the greatest praise, there are in fact many admirable modern cases. Here are five, often underrated, post-millennium concept albums.

    5. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife (2006)

    Knowing The Decembrists' frontman Colin Meloy spent his higher ed bucks on a degree in Creative Writing justifies the literary symbolism layered throughout every song. The Crane Wife was inspired by both a variation of the classic Japanese folktale Tsuru no Ongaeshi as well as William Shakespeare's The Tempest.

    4. Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi - Rome (2011)

    Although it is not regularly regarded as a concept album, the Spaghetti Western-inspired Rome will impact listeners with the qualities of one. While there is no tangible story being told, the album, which includes guest vocal appearances by Jack White and Norah Jones, was made to be a "soundtrack without a movie." Through the shifting moods created Italian composer Daniele Luppi, one is given the ability to envision his or her own narrative arc.

    3. Fucked Up- David Comes To Life (2011)

    You rarely hear critics picking apart the storyline of a concept album. Because of this, artists possess a wealth of creative freedom. Canadian hardcore act Fucked Up unleashed a narrative mind-fuck on their listeners with their 18-song epic. Following the bizarre love story of David and Veronica, we hear of a deadly protest explosion and mind control.

    2. The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free (2004)

    The hip-hop project of Mike Skinner found its greatest praise through the simple, yet relatable rap opera A Grand Don't Come For Free. It's just the story of a down-on-his-luck dude and even includes a happy ending.

    1. Cursive - The Ugly Organ (2003)

    Perhaps the greatest work of Tim Kasher's career came in the form of Cursive's fourth studio album release, The Ugly Organ. A theatrical story is introduced as "songs perverse and songs of lament" and follows the life of the "Ugly Organist". The album takes off with infections and volatile hostility in "Some Red Handed Sleight of Hand" where religious hypocrisy is questioned and music is addressed as a source of confessional. Closing with the consuming solace of "I'm Staying Alive", The Ugly Organ is an intense emotional journey.

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