How to Be an American Idiot

The Internet may eventually kill "the album" as a concept, but 2006 kept the concept album alive

Mastodon: At some point during "Circle of Cysquatch," dude is singing through a garbage disposal and then gets set on fire, so he runs around screaming (and on fire) until he falls on some spikes that have bombs on them, so then he blows up into a thousand bloody pieces that rain down on a field trip of kindergartners. Actually, this is a concept record about climbing a mountain (a blood mountain), getting lost, being hunted, and trying to survive. I'd repeat that, but it'd give you a nosebleed.

Joanna Newsom: Though not officially a concept record, any LP that has an oil painting of its artist on the cover qualifies to some extent. But furthermore, Ys is 2006's best example of an album whose every song—whose every note and syllable—is inextricably and essentially a single part of a very singular whole. Those acquainted with the genius present here know that there's not one stone fruit too many, that there are exactly the correct number of roans, that it just wouldn't be the same without this or that trill, pluck, squeak, or warble. If everyone made music that was even a tenth of what this record is—if they even tried, if they shelved the MTV ambitions and the Pitchfork dreams, if they just hung it all up and sat down and concentrated on the artistry and craftsmanship of it all—well, then, roughly 27 people, this writer included, would be slightly happier.

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