It’s been a fun year in music, hasn’t it? A song glorifying obesity reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, Deadmau5 perpetuated rape culture, Katy Perry proved once again that she is an illuminati psyop, and probably a lot of other things happened too.
There are a lot of things I’d like to write about, but I haven’t been able to commit the time and research into any one thing for this article, so instead I’m going to share some thoughts I’ve had recently about various bands and genres I’ve been listening to. We’ll start with my ongoing favorite.
- I’m still enjoying Foxing very much. I was asked after my initial article mentioning them if I had heard any bands with their sound. To this day, I have not. It’s pretty impressive on their part, because the vaguely post-rock/emo crossover that they represent is becoming pretty common with recent emo albums. What seems to make Foxing stand out is that their sound is truly melancholy — despite the genre being called “emo,” melancholy is not a common sound. Their singer sounds pained, and while I won’t claim he carries the band, his vocal contributions go a long way in differentiating their sound.
- Prawn has caught my attention recently. They’ve got some good diversity on their albums, and a pretty decent implementation of the loud-quiet dichotomy. I haven’t felt that their sound reaches what I’ve described in other bands as “furious” per se, but their songs are dynamic and keep my attention throughout. Ships is a great EP, and I’d recommend just about every song on it. Donald Domesky is one of the best. I did not enjoy Kingfisher as much on a first listen, but I’m hoping it grows on me.
- I’m going to talk briefly about bands named after sports.
- Some may recall that I did not enjoy American Football when I first listened to them. Months later, I feel that I like them even less. I’ve had songs come up on Spotify and gone “man, what IS this crap?” only to find it is American Football once again come to ruin my playlist with inexplicably monotonous and repetitive songs.
- On the other hand, I’m a fan of football, etc.. For a three-person band, they get a lot done. Their songs are relatively simplistic, but very calming and melodic. Safety is one of my favorites.
- While they enter more into pop-punk territory, I’m also giving a shoutout to Modern Baseball. Some people may find their sound too sugary, but I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve heard from them. The Weekend and @chl03k are some decent representatives of their music.
- Speaking of pop punk, The Hotelier is a slightly less sweet entry into the genre that released a strong album this year. Again, it may seem odd to make the claim when referring to emo/emo-like bands, but the fact is that The Hotelier seem particularly good at conveying emotion compared to their peers. The songs on “Home, Like NoPlace There Is” appear deeply personal to the vocalist, and it makes for better music even when one’s expectations are low. Snowing was another band with that strength.
- I am extremely disappointed with “After the Earthquake,” the new release by a great 90’s emo band called The Jazz June. The album, as well as their previous release, “Better Off Without Air,” is a notable departure from the emo style. I would argue that the band is unrecognizable on these two albums, and it is a shame, because their older stuff like When The Drums Kick In and Get On The Bus are among the greatest emo songs ever written.
- I miss Christie Front Drive and Penfold. It is unfortunate that they, along with Mineral, are among my favorite bands, but they all disappeared a long time ago. Thankfully, Mineral had a reunion tour this year along with a “Collection” album that has a few songs I haven’t heard. Penfold appears as though they’re considering doing the same.
I’ve been pretty burned out on hip-hop this year. Ironically, as much as I like the genre and have written about it in the past, I have been finding it a bit too predictable lately. What I’ll call “underground whiteboy hip-hop” – artists/groups that channel Atmosphere, cLOUDDEAD, or Sage Francis – are some of the worst offenders. Lyrically they’re still relatively original, but their beats feel really uninspired.
Similarly, while the appeal of artists like Childish Gambino, Frank Ocean, and Kendrick Lamar is easy to understand, I just can’t get into them. Their music is by no means bad, but this pseudo-“based”, “sounds like you’re on weed”, west-coast-esque beat production is getting old for me.
I’ve been on an upswing with folk this year. When I was in the Disney area around St. Patrick’s Day, I heard some Irish folk and started listening to bands like The Dubliners for a bit. I also briefly ventured into folk’s spiritual protege, country. As I’ve said in the past, most of what people consider country today is pretty much just pop with guitars and pickup trucks. There’s definitely potential for me to get in to older country artists like Waylon Jennings, however.
- Ed Tullett is my favorite folk find of the year. I love his falsetto and minimal but meaningful instrumentals. Thaw is one of his best songs, as well as Silver Dive.
- Daughter is another recent favorite. Their singer’s voice is captivating, in a way that reminds me of the allure of trip-hop. Youth is a great example of that dynamic.
- For my third consecutive British folk artist, I present Keaton Henson. Amidst the several unique artists mentioned in this article, he is in a class of his own. His voice is very fragile and sometimes even anguished, and his instrumentation is even more minimal than Tullett’s. This causes his music to have a distinctly personal quality. His music is often described as extremely depressing. You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are is one of his “essential” tracks, but I’m also a fan of Flesh and Bone.
I took two separate dives into jazz this year. The first was basically a chronological “journey through jazz history,” beginning with blues, and moving through swing, bebop, hard bop, and some free jazz. It was interesting, but as with a similar foray into classical music this year, I simply don’t know enough about it to really articulate anything useful on this blog. That will be something to anticipate in the future as I increase my exposure and knowledge of the subject.
The second incident was incidentally the result of a wild goose chase I went on after listening to Keaton Henson’s recently-released classical/instrumental album, “Romantic Works.” In attempting to find some music by the cellist on the album, Reinoud Ford, I discovered some contemporary jazz musicians that I have been listening to for the past week. They’ve captured my interest enough that I am intending to do a full length article on them in the future, but for now, I’ll just give a teaser for Get the Blessing. They do some really interesting stuff that I believe would appeal to non-jazz listeners. If you want to know more, check back in 2015.
Many people tacitly think of music as the lowest form of art: anyone can make it; everyone enjoys it. It can be experienced in the background while one does other things. The most successful forms of music are often the least creative.
To the people who see things that way, or indeed, to the people who do treat music as merely a background experience-sweetener, I suggest a change in outlook. If you take the time to make listening to music a priority in and of itself, the boredom with the old monotony and the lust for something new will change your taste for the better. When you put the music at the forefront, you will realize how good it can be.