Panel from Aquaman No. 2, "Captain Sykes' Deadly Missions", 1962
I freely admit to being unnaturally drawn to projects of questionable value (see "contractual obligation" albums). Some would put concept albums in this category, but I find myself drawn to them like a pretentious moth to an overworked flame. The grander and more ridiculous the concept, the better. Rock operas? Yes please! Song cycles based on literary works? Yes yes yes! Concept records with dialogue tracks telling a story between the songs? Surprisingly, I'm going to draw the line there and say "no thank you". I think it has something to do with my lit studies background that I like to see that some time and thought has gone into the lyrics, and what better evidence is there than having a set of songs telling one story?
One of the most ridiculous (and ridiculously awesome) slept-on concept albums of recent years is Every Scene Needs a Center by Tullycraft. Several things make this album particularly odd - first, Tullycraft is a cute-pop/cuddle-core/twee band from Seattle, a scene not known for high-minded concept records. You could even make an argument that the genre's key signifiers are antithetical to concept records. Second, it's a concept album about a music scene, which is a little unusual. More so because it is not about the twee-pop scene - rather, it is about the intersection of the current indie scene and the popularity of the emo music among today's teens. Song titles like "The Punks Are Writing Love Songs", "Georgette Plays a Goth", "If You Take Away the Make-Up (Then the Vampires They Will Die)", and "Dracula Screams of Tiger Style" all point to a very specific theme, but, oddly, I haven't seen anything written about Every Scene Needs a Center that identifies it as a concept album. Unlike many twee-pop albums, it rewards careful repeat listens as the songs' insights into the goth origins and current state of the emo scene reveal themselves subtly underneath the happy, bouncy melodies.
One thing about the album that is common to concept albums is that a few of the songs link to the core theme only obliquely, if at all. For instance, take "The Lonely Life of the UFO Researcher" - for one thing, it sounds more like the Postal Service than Tullycraft. And, while the sentiment is pretty emo, the story the song tells has nothing to do with scenesters and pop zeitgeist. Still, it's a good song and makes a nice break from the very focused content of the rest of the album. I recommend tracking this one down if you have any tolerance at all for twee pop.
"The Lonely Life of the UFO Researcher" by Tullycraft