There are no certainties and no absolutes in life, so I would be going out on a limb to say mainstream western popular music is dull and uninteresting. It’s a fair generalisation but just occasionally my teenage daughters introduce me to new music that I find exciting and engaging.
When I look at my favourite music from 2019 — I see English hip-hop, Sudanese and Scandinavian jazz, re-imagined folk music, love songs by a Syrian-American, classical music from Poland and music inspired by Orkney. I really enjoy just how much easier it is to discover new music now.
Just as a sample, here is the video for the song Everybody by Sinkane.
I was watching this short animation voiced by Jeff Tweedy and it reminded me of my own musical journey from hating my father’s easy listening music to coming around to appreciating the craft, universality and power of those old songs.
Some weekends I find myself listening to Radio 4 on a Saturday morning when the show Saturday Live plays its segment called ‘Inheritance Tracks’. The idea of this segment is a little like Desert Island Discs — guests first choose a piece of music that they ‘inherited’ and is special for them. They also choose a second track that they cherish and would like to bequeath to future generations.
It’s an interesting challenge and a while back I thought about what music was passed to me and what I would pass on to my children.
When I was young person I hated most of the music that was played in my home. Continue reading
Just occasionally an album comes along that changes everything for the listener, introducing them to a prodigious new talent. The amazing thing is that it may be a different album and artist for each person — as my father-in-law says “that’s why all the cow gets sold.”
I reckon I first heard Sinéad O’Connor’s album The Lion and The Cobra in early 1988, shortly after it came out, when my colleague ‘Shug’ gave me his Walkman and said I just had to hear this album. Normally the overlap between my taste in music and Shug’s was wafer thin, but this music blew me away with its ferocity, rawness and yet also a great delicacy.
After that I bought and enjoyed every one of O’Connor’s albums until she finally leapt off the rails — most albums released in the 21st century.
I was reminded of that first encounter earlier this year when I first heard the album Psychodrama by Dave. Once again this is a debut album containing songs written with rawness, ferocity, delicacy, but also insight and empathy. This is an album with a narrative running through it; one to immerse yourself in the story being told even if you feel rap music is not generally your thing.
I was listening to this album while ironing a while ago and wondering just how many hundreds of times I must have listened to it, first as a student, from LP, through to today as an MP3.
The album was recorded in 1973 by Vangelis, who was later to be more famous for the soundtracks for the films Chariots of Fire, Bladerunner and Conquest of Paradise, and was his first studio album. Earth seems like a natural continuation of the progressive rock sound of his earlier band Aphrodite’s Child (which, as an aside, also had Demis Roussos as a member) but is more visceral, with a sound that would now be seen as influenced by world music. This album is like an audio sculpture, with layers of voices, drumming, ambient sounds plus conventional acoustic instruments.