Or: The Obligatory Music Post
People often malign the music of this time, and sure, the pop tends to be absolute trash. That’s the nature of the beast. Yes, in the past, pop could be genre defining like what the Beatles did. But the reality is that most of it was just as terrible. ABBA is the obvious example of a band that would be pissed upon by all and sundry if they were extant today.
But if you dare to scratch the surface, you find a whole world full of musical geniuses exploiting new media to make a name for themselves. Sure, they tend not to take off in any mainstream way, but they all gather enough of a following to be remembered. I’m sure that one day, we will look back at all of the the things people have missed over the years with regret.
With the intention of pre-empting the process, I would like to present some of the best musicians currently writing.
Owen (Mike Kinsella)
One of the fixtures of the Indie/ Emo scene, Mike’s brand of acoustic music has never received the attention that it deserves. His attention to melody and thoughtful lyrics mark him as a cut above other musicians in the genre. No one writes a bridge quite as perfectly as Mike. The only downside is that his live performances are such a huge cut above his studio albums.
Davis is another perennial favourite here ἐν τήν τοῦ Ἀριστόνοθου οἰκίαν. A master of orchestration and melody, Davis is simply mind blowing, as he swaps effortlessly between heavier progressive rock and multi-tracked a cappella work that has negro spiritual influences. Then, to cap it off, he pulls out a guitar and as the guitarist and vocalist of Invalids, begins to tap out the complex polyrhythms of math rock.
Henson is the consummate artist, a poet, musician and a depressive. From his original acoustic album Dear, he has moved onto orchestrating his haunting melodies into slow, instrumental neo-classical. This is brand new, and utterly unmissable.
Trying to follow some measure of natural flow (broken so callously by Invalids), post-rock is the next contender, and Caspian’s atmospheric, spiralling work builds beautifully in soaring crescendos.
Entering the electronic section, down tempo stuff with a post-rock feel is where it’s at, and Tycho is probably the best at it. His new album is simply wonderful.
The Heavy Stuff
There are some excellent things going on in metal these days, especially progressive metal. On the electronic side, there is The Algorithm, who produces complex stuff, often with a dark vibe. Then there are their labelmates in Skyharbor, who doing great stuff. Straying onto the jazzier end of Basick’s ridiculously talented stable of bands, Chimp Spanner, a brilliant guitarist and composer. Finally, you can’t talk jazz metal without thinking of both An Endless Sporadic and Planet X. They really do speak for themselves.
But the favourite of the last few years is indie/ emo. There’s something about the tone of the guitars and the fact that 15 years after the release of the seminal album, it’s still getting better. Some bands are even getting exposure on Pitchfork, like The Hotelier and TWIABP. Palmkite was the band that started me off on this journey more than three years ago, but there’s always something new to discover, even a mainstay band that escaped my notice for years like CSTVT.
Back in Time
But of course, it’s not just the ultra modern that gets swept by the roadside. The renaissance and mediaeval periods are routinely ignored by people who claim to be cultured. William Byrd was the high point of English music, although not too high about the Protestant Tallis. Then there was de Lassus from the Netherlands, and even further back in time, Leonin. Not to be outdone, the Orthodox East‘s use of the drone in its chants is also wonderful. I always enjoy looking at the comments on this kind of video, and one there ends ‘Vaticanum II na pohybel !‘. Google translate kindly informed me that this is ‘Death to Vatican II !’. My traditionalist Catholic friends would be proud.
Music is wonderful, and we shouldn’t discount any time (except ∼1750 to ∼1830, which I’ve always considered a bit of a mistake), especially our own.