Two Door Cinema Club's B-sides are refreshing to hear in 2020.Instagram/@twodoorcinemaclub

It’s generally accepted that when MP3s started to replace CDs, there was a subsequent rise of the single and the decline of the album. While CDs meant that an artist’s project had to be consumed in its entirety, MP3s allowed single tracks to be downloaded. Moreover, MP3s were often kept on devices with limited storage, like the iPod, which incentivised downloading select tracks over long projects

This trend led many of the albums of the golden age of MP3s, which spanned very roughly from 2005 when the iPod Nano was released to 2011 when Spotify was launched in the USA, to be remembered primarily for their singles. For example, take 2009’s The E.N.D. by the Black Eyed Peas, which was big because of singles ‘I Gotta Feeling’, ‘Boom Boom Pow’, ‘Meet Me Halfway’ and ‘Rock that Body’, rather than the cohesion or themes of the other 11 tracks on the album, or 2010’s Animal by Kesha, known for ‘Tik Tok’ and ‘Take It Off’ rather than its deep cuts.

However, with the rise of streaming in the mid-to-late 2010s, artists are again faced with a public that are suited to album-listening, and many are taking full advantage of that fact by releasing their content in new and different ways. 

The first of these is releasing mixtapes and playlists rather than studio albums. Perhaps the most famous artist to do this is Drake. He’s done this a few times with mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, and playlist More Life among others. Calling his projects by different names allows Drake to do things which are generally proscribed for an artist of his status in the music world. Most importantly, it allows him to release a project that doesn’t contain any surefire hits. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late doesn’t have anything of the pop-appeal of ‘Started from the Bottom’, ‘Headlines’, ‘Jumpman’ or ‘God’s Plan’. Instead it’s populated with low-key atmospheric jams like ‘Jungle’ and energetic non-commercially viable tracks like ‘6 God’. In essence, not calling your work an ‘album’ allows artists to make more experimental, lower-pressure projects in between the arena hits, and facilitates some of their best work, like Drake’s ‘Passionfruit’ from More Life

"This format allows artists to let their fans decide what they like, rather than pushing certain songs as hits"

The rise of streaming services has also allowed artists to put together super-short and super-long projects. The former can be quick EPs or brief albums put together as a taste of what’s to come, or conceptual fling. An example of this would be this year’s Unlocked by Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats, a 7-track set of freestyles recorded over 3 days, accompanied by a 22-minute conceptual music video for the whole project, and a comic book. The latter can be a sweeping, excessive project, sent out into the world without cutting down masses of songs. 2018’s Culture II by Migos did this, and consequently spanned 105 minutes of trap triplet flows and ad-libs (whoo). The same was done in 2018’s Not All Heroes Wear Capes by Metro Boomin, which ran for 26 tracks and 97 minutes. This format allows artists to let their fans decide what they like, rather than pushing certain songs as hits.

Finally, the rise of streaming has been great for the B-side album. We saw this as early as 2013, when Sky Ferreira released Night Time, My Time: B-Sides Part 1, but it’s really taken off in the last 5 years. Carly Rae Jepsen has been particularly prominent in this arena. Both her terrific 2015 effort Emotion and equally good 2019 follow-up Dedicated came with B-side albums released a few months after the A-sides. This is a consequence of how Jepsen writes. Indeed, she has said in interviews that she creates new music prolifically, and consequently has to whittle down 200 songs to 12 for each of her albums, leaving boatloads of brilliant sugary pop tunes on the cutting-room floor. Her B-side albums mean that fans can get the next best 12 a few months later. Other artists have done similarly, including Tame Impala with Currents B-Sides and Remixes, Beach House with B-Sides and Rarities in 2017, G-Eazy with B-Sides and Drake with Care Package in 2019. B-side albums give die-hard fans something to tide them over between album cycles, hits of nostalgia (especially with B-sides from old albums, like those on Care Package), and occasionally new favourites. 

This brings us to Lost Songs (Found) by Two Door Cinema Club, which is predominantly composed of B-sides from their hit 2010 album ‘Tourist History’, best known for its banger ‘What You Know’, as well as indie rock staples ‘Undercover Martyn’ and ‘Something Good Can Work’. Listening to the project, you can tell it’s an artefact from 2010, with its electro-pop influence and light but layered guitars. You can also tell why some of these songs, like ‘Too Much Coffee’ with its strange buzzing-sound intro, were cut from the original tightly composed 10-track album. That said, they’re mostly solid efforts and receiving a quick blast of new 2010-indie rock in 2020 is remarkably refreshing. 

The most interesting song on the project is ‘Something Good Can Work – Original Demo’, which provides the less cleaned-up and refined version of the aforementioned staple. Having the original demo gives the listener an unusual behind-the-scenes look at how the band refined their songs, as well as providing another version of a beloved tune. There’s a long history of alternative and indie rock bands playing different versions of their famous tunes in concert and on live albums, especially with ‘jam bands’ like Dave Matthews Band or Phish, and continuing that tradition for the streaming age is excellent for the listener.


Mountain View

Does streaming spoil us for choice?

Overall then, the verdict on both this effort and new album formats in the streaming age should be positive. Though streaming services aren’t always good for artists’ earnings, they certainly allow for greater creativity in form at least, which is unquestionably great for the listening public. I, for one, welcome our streaming overlords, and the B-sides, playlists, mixtapes and EPs that they bring.