Keeping Track: 5 Albums That Should Have Been Double LPs
by Chad Jewett
1.) Rilo Kiley – Under the Blacklight (2007)
Some albums would have proved more successful as double LPs because added sprawl would suit the atmosphere of the record in question. In other cases, it’s hard not to want more of a good thing. For Rilo Kiley’s fourth (and likely final) album, 2007’s Under the Blacklight, it’s more a matter of adding a few more checks in the win column on a wholly uneven album. Indeed, in light of 2013’s B-Sides-and-Rarities compilation, RKives, which boasted no less than five songs from the UTBL era — all of which were better than most of that album – it’s hard not to pine for some alternate version of the Los Angeles quartet’s last record, one where the too-obvious “Moneymaker” and the bland “Dejalo” can recede a bit further into the background. As middling as those songs are, they do add to the Technicolor fantasyland picture of Los Angeles that the band was going for, which is why they might at least register more as pleasant-enough experiments amongst hidden gems like “Let Me Back In,” “It’ll Get You There” (which thrillingly takes the general idea of “It’s A Hit” and turns it into something that might make sense on Joshua Tree), and “Well You Left.”
2.) Bright Eyes – Cassadaga (2007)
Also released in 2007, and like Under the Blacklight, showing signs of creative and personal exhaustion, Bright Eyes’ Cassadaga is a record full of massive ideas and soundscapes that would likely have translated better as the global work it was with a more expansive track-list. While there are a few songs on the album dire enough to call for outright replacement (the inert “Middle Man” especially”), mostly Cassadaga could simply benefit from committing a bit more to its own breadth and weight. This is especially true considering the high quality of several of the songs cut from the album for the preview EP Four Winds (a Bright Eyes tradition since Fevers & Mirrors) – especially the Elliott Smith-mourning “Reinvent the Wheel” and the indie-pop digital giveaway “Endless Entertainment” – two of the finest late-era Bright Eyes songs.
3.) Kendrick Lamar – good kid, M.A.A.D city (2012)
Considering just how unimpeachable and flawless the modern classic good kid, M.A.A.D city, actually is, it’s perhaps more than a little greedy to want more, but the scope of a double album feels like it would make sense for a record as cinematic as Lamar’s sophomore effort. And bear in mind the sheer quality of the bonus tracks, mixtape cuts, and free singles that were released (and largely recorded) during the sessions for good kid, and its hard not to dream of the possibilities. Think of how the haunting, brilliant “Cartoon & Cereal”, with its avant-garde use of Looney Tunes samples and its canny contrasting of youthful concerns and adult dangers might play into the album’s narratives of growing up. Or how the moody-yet-infectious “The Recipe” might have served as the album’s fifth can’t-miss single. Or the ways in which “County Building Blues” might further fill out the dramatized universe of Compton that Lamar builds throughout good kid, M.A.A.D city. Wow.
4.) Brand New – The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me (2006)
Despite being Brand New’s greatest album, there’s nevertheless a degree of masochism in wanting The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me to last a second longer than it does. Considering just how dark the album’s exploration of sin, death, desire, guilt, and self-loathing actually gets, the album’s quiet, unsettling end comes as something of a relief. But anyone who’s spent some time with the album’s initial demoes, which were largely abandoned after having been leaked in 2005, understands the possibilities for more from Brand New’s most creatively expansive period. While we did eventually get “Fork and Knife” in a standalone single form, songs like the haunting, Smiths-indebted (even more than normal) “Demo 1” might have added more characters and even further depth to the American Gothic of Brand New’s third album.
5.) Sufjan Stevens – Come On Feel The Illinoise! (2005)
In reality, Sufjan Stevens himself more or less addressed all the un-tapped material of a state as historically laden and culturally rich as Illinois by following up his breakthrough 2005 LP, Come On Feel The Illinoise! with an entire second album full of more Prairie State odes, 2006’s The Avalanche. While there are plenty of cuts that could be made to make for a more svelte, idealized version of a two-platter Illinoise (for instance, there does not need to be four versions of “Chicago” – especially since the original remains the best), there is still no denying the bittersweet optimism of “Adlai Stevenson,” the shimmering pop surfaces of “No Man’s Land,” the jittery sugar-rush of “Dear Mr. Supercomputer” – all songs coming off the bench that could (and should) have made the Illinoise starting line-up. The solution? Make the album twice as long. Problem solved.