Albums 4.0 is out today, but rather than wax poetic about its great new features, like Apple Music integration or the Release Feed, I’m going to talk about… myself. You can only weather so many pandemic-induced existential crises before you reluctantly learn something about yourself. I came to a hard-won conclusion this year: instead of cynically dismissing the earnest and joyful parts of myself, the only sustainable path forward is to embrace them. I come to you today in renewed kinship with my 14-year-old self, tirelessly dragging full albums into a specific sort order in Winamp then accidentally overwriting the save file and having to build it all back up again, checking Soulseek and WinMX every day to see if the new Rancid album leaked.
My life divides into eras of music consumption, each tied to a new technology or discovery: the first time I heard “Waste of Paint” by Bright Eyes in my childhood bedroom, streaming in what must have been 96kbps on MusicMatch Jukebox. My first MP3 player, a 60GB Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen. My first hours spent downloading perfect “scene” rips from IRC bots (if you know you know). The day I joined Oink and the day it disappeared. The first time — just after moving to Philadelphia, fresh out of college — that I got into the car and streamed my library from Google Music, a service that sounded too good to be true. Those moments were epochal for me because they redefined the rules and possibilities around experiencing music.
That’s the thing I zeroed in on this year while working on Albums. This stuff is in my bones. I’m not making a utility app that shuffles full albums. I’m making the music player I’ve been building in my head without realizing it for the better part of two decades. I’m bringing to bear a philosophy I’ve developed over years of trying to understand why Pandora was good enough for almost everyone I knew, but it was anathema to me.
Albums has become an integral part of my life, like so many music app regimes before it. It is the primary interface to one of my life’s principal joys, and that — I realize — is why I make it. I just want to be happy, y’all. I want it to be a tool that enriches the experience of people’s joy, to do for others what those apps did and now Albums does for me. As I hear from an ever-growing number of people that Albums now fits into their daily lives, I share in a communal joy, and that shit can be hard to come by.
If you’re alienated by the cold march toward passive music consumption, Spotify playlists, and machine-learning personalized radio stations, I’m right there with you and so is Albums. There is much more to come. Consider me… catalyzed 👀. Thanks for reading this and for giving Albums a shot. Have a nice rest of your day.