Album streams have become an integral part of promoting a new record. Bands stream records from their own websites, NPR offers a couple new albums every week, and as we’ve pointed out, even newspapers are growing less picky about participating in the process.
In general, we think this is a slippery slope for news outlets to move down, and we got a little cute when we posted about the fact that The New York Times is streaming The National’s fifth album, High Violet, today from their Music section.
But after taking a look at what’s on offer, we think the Old Gray Lady got it just right.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better brand-band partnership than the National and the Times. The National, a quintet of middle-aged white collar dudes (one of whom is married to a former editor at The New Yorker) from Ohio currently living in Brooklyn, is essentially comprised of the paper’s core readership.
But the paper clearly views the band as a worthy subject of examination, and they’ve gone well beyond just presenting High Violet. In order to access the stream, you have to open this endearing Times Magazine feature which positions the National as the vanguard of an older, but still worthy paradigm of classic rock songwriting. Luminaries ranging from R.E.M.’s Mike Mills to composer Steve Reich sing the band’s praises, and by the time you get to “Lemonworld,” the deep, warm dirge that beats at the heart of High Violet, you have a sense not only of what it means to the National (“the ugliest, worst-mixed, least-polished song on the record,” according to lead singer Matt Behringer), but of what it says about the band and why they matter to so many people.
The Times made a pretty terrible mistake by not letting their media player open in a new window (I cut off songs in mid-stream several times while reading the feature), but the high quality stereo stream almost makes up for it. It also helps tremendously that High Violet is a fantastic album, and makes you think that maybe the Times, and indeed the rest of the media world, is on to something really special here.