Here at HeadStuff, our writers are forever consuming endless amounts of music on top of the stuff we already write about, and thinking about that music in all sorts of different ways so that our brains can compartmentalize the sheer volume of tunes they’re hearing on a daily basis.
Thankfully, we’ve finally got an output for all of our semi useless musical knowledge – presenting to you in all its glory our brand spanking new monthly music feature – The HeadStuff Roundtable.
Every month we’re going to be putting our writers to the test with a random music question in order to provide recommendations and have a bitta craic while discussing the good, the bad and the oh so ugly of modern music history.
We’d love our readers to get involved too, so if you’ve got a burning questions for us nerds to address then fire away and hit us up at [email protected] with some food for thought.
Today, we’re kicking off with the Best Albums Under 30 Minutes. In a world where streaming and music on the go has never been more popular, sometimes it can be difficult to sit yourself down and pore over all six hours that the deluxe edition of Melloncollie And The Infinite Sadness clocks up, so we’ve got you covered with our very own select picks of the greatest half hour musical journeys you could hope to take.
Without further ado, here’s the list.
Nick Drake – Pink Moon
Length: 28 minutes, 5 seconds
Pink Moon by Nick Drake. That this man was not lauded as a genius in his lifetime is absolutely criminal.
He had it all – amazing guitar player, amazing voice, amazing lyrics. While his previous two albums were also excellent, this is his masterpiece. Eschewing the string arrangements in favor of a stark, minimal, guitar and vocal set-up, it really serves as a showcase for the warm fragility of Drake’s voice and words, and for his deft cross picking technique.
I love it. Despite his untimely, tragic demise, it’s a remarkably comforting listen.
The Beach Boys – Friends
Length: 25 minutes, 31 seconds
If I’ve got downtime from running through new releases, I’m almost always going to throw on post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys and Friends is a calming little album clocking in at a few seconds over 25 minutes.
There’s always a song or two on each of their records I can do without, but Friends is damn near flawless, with ‘When A Man Needs A Woman’ as the one I can scrap. Even the reliably obnoxious Mike Love is pretty good here, with ‘Anna Lee, the Healer’ being a sneaky little earworm. Most importantly, it’s the beginning of brother Dennis Wilson’s singing career, and his efforts, ‘Little Bird’ and ‘Be Still’ are just lovely.
My personal pick here is ‘Busy Doin’ Nothin’, a Bossanova exercise that fits perfectly into the record’s peaceful atmosphere, and Brian Wilson singing directions to his home:
“Drive for a couple miles,
You’ll see a sign and turn left,
For a couple blocks,
Next is mine, you’ll turn left on a little road,
It’s a bumpy one,
You’ll see a white fence,
Move the gate and drive through on the left side,
Come right in,
And you’ll find me in my house somewhere,
Keeping busy while I wait”
boygenius – boygenius
Length: 21 minutes, 59 seconds
Boygenius’s self-titled debut, because I love to be sad.
‘Sad’ is not a good word though. There is no depth to ‘sad’. It is melancholy, or nostalgia, or sorrow, or regret, all braided together by the voices of angels from above.
And, with that, you get a sense of how the rest of my answers will go…
Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
Length: 30 minutes, 1 second
Yes, I’m cheating by one second, but Pink Moon was already taken – twice.
In all seriousness, the rap genre is an absolute goldmine for short classics – aside from another excellent choice from Karl below, just take a look at some of our honorable mentions at the end of this list which include Pusha T’s twenty one minute opus DAYTONA or the recent tour de force collab between Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats, UNLOCKED, the best hip-hop record of 2020 for my money despite lasting just eighteen minutes.
On I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, a 21 year old Earl Sweatshirt found himself at a crossroads.
Odd Future’s wonderkid was in the process of evolving from the devilish teenage prodigy that Tyler, The Creator and Frank Ocean among others had hailed as a talent of mythic proportions since day one, into an altogether more experimental, contemplative and abstract artist in the vein of his idol MF DOOM.
As a result, this half hour combines the phenomenal bars and super smooth flow that Earl was renowned for in his early teens while also unveiling the beginnings of the production wizardy and careful instrumental craft that Sweatshirt has leant deeper into on recent releases.
It’s a breathtaking, all consuming self-portait tied up in grief, angst, anxiety, love and loss, all super compressed into thirty relentless minutes. And one second.
Kids See Ghosts – Kids See Ghosts
Length: 23 minutes, 52 seconds
I would have to say Kids See Ghosts, the collaborative project from Kanye West and Kid Cudi.
At only seven tracks and twenty three minutes long, the pair still manage to create a tightly cohesive, technicolour tapestry of hip hop, rock and soul across the album’s incredibly short running time. From the moment ‘Feel The Love’ kicks off with Kanye echoing the track’s drum beat with his wild “Grrrat-gat-gat-gat-gat-gat” noises, through to the Kurt Cobain sampling outro Cudi Montage, the album is fresh, fun, vibrant and truly unlike anything else.
Ramones – Ramones
Length: 29 minutes, 16 seconds
The finest album that clocks in under 30 minutes is Ramones self-titled debut.
It is everything that punk was, and the promise of what it was going to be. So ramshackle, raw, and loose, Ramones proved in under a half hour how rock music did not need guitar solos, synthesizer or a lavish production to produce the energy to thrill and inspire audiences.
Nick Drake – Pink Moon
Length: 28 minutes, 5 seconds
Pink Moon by Nick Drake is one of those albums that feels like a single coherent statement, beautiful and haunting all at once.
Recorded by Drake in only two sessions, with just an acoustic guitar and almost no overdubs, the whole thing feels almost unbearably intimate – it reminds me a lot of Sufjan Stevens’s Carrie and Lowell. It was Drake’s final album, and it feels like it – there’s a sense that he’s slipping away as the album goes on, and the album’s brevity really adds to that, as though its time is limited, and it’s determined that not a note should be out of place.
In addition to all of the good stuff below, there’s no shortage of super short classics to get stuck into so we’ve compiled a list of honourable mentions below to keep you ticking along after you’ve dispensed with the above gems in a couple of hours:
Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul (28 mins)
The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night (30 mins)
Beat Happening – Jamboree (23 mins)
Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline (26 mins)
Descendents – Milo Goes To College (22 mins)
Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats – UNLOCKED (18 mins)
Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp (28 mins)
Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again (19 mins)
Minor Threat – Out Of Step (21 mins)
Mitski – Puberty 2 (31 mins)
Prince – Dirty Mind (30 mins)
Pusha T – DAYTONA (21 mins)
Simon & Garkfunkel – Bookends (29 mins)
Slayer – Reign In Blood (28 mins)
Sleater Kinney – Sleater Kinney (22 mins)
Weezer – Weezer (The Green Album) (30 mins)
Next Time: Stay tuned as we turn the tables next month and take a look at our favourite long plays with the Best Double Albums on The Roundtable!