I have an unhealthy obsession with music. It courses through my blood like a particularly unhealthy intoxicant, often standing in the way of me getting things done. Hopefully some of this love can spill over into this blog which, now that I have a decent amount of free time, I hope to keep current with new, old or unusual music.
There are many music blogs, and I don’t have a problem with that, because, as I see it, they are our best hope in spreading knowledge of great music that’s being made today. Here in the UK, the public’s tastes in music are homogenised and nullified by generic radio stations that are predominantly free of individualism, and so entirely unoriginal music has been allowed to reign. There’s a lot to be admired in American culture, where the power of the blogosphere has ignited the rise of original, free-spirited artists without stifling them into record contracts the second they gain exposure. Hopefully, through music blogs, the same changes can gain a foothold elsewhere in the world.
My tastes in music are eclectic to say the least. The last vestiges of an infatuation with 90s pop may just about have vanished (though I’m still hopeful for a return to fame for Freak Power, White Town and other such one-hit-wonder ephemera), but in its place are all manner of genres, sub-genres and obscurities. Briefly, then, here are some of my favourite artists and bands in recent years, in no particular order. Some of them may seen to be overly modern or recent, but to hell with tradition: if good music is still being made today, what stops it from being seen as a future classic?
- Radiohead. A predictable choice, but no other band in recent years has channelled so many alternative influences into a brand of music that challenges, but never fails to entertain. My top three albums by the band would have to be Kid A, OK Computer, and, though it’s recent, In Rainbows.
- LCD Soundsystem. I’m proud to have followed James Murphy from the rise of The Rapture, through his years in the wilderness, and into a new decade of significance with his current ‘outfit’. What continually amazes me about his music is the use of ironic referencing in an entirely un-grating manner and, in Sound of Silver, he’s surely made one of the best albums in this millennium.
- Arcade Fire. Another band in whom I’ve held an interest for some time. No other band right now is writing music that can scrape up from the darkest corners of human existence so much energy, optimism and beauty. Witnessing them live made me realise just how much of a religion their following has become.
- Amon Tobin. He’s the artist who got me into breakbeat and, more generally, electronic music. There are no beats and samples put to better use than those twisted and sculpted by Amon Tobin.
- Damon Albarn. Everything Albarn touches turns to gold, without the downside of him having the personality of Midas. Blur, were, in my mind, the only Britpop band to truly escape that genre and reinvent themselves in an interesting way, and Albarn’s later work with such a vast range of musicians and artists are testament to his polymath status. He spots little things that he believes to be significant, and renders them more accessible to a mainstream audience, without alienating those at the root of the matter. Later albums from Blur took a whole host of influences from American alternative rock, experimental and ambient music, and crafted them into masterpieces like Blur and 13. Gorillaz brought hip-hop and soul into a more relevant frame. My admiration of him stretches into the distant regions of the universe.
Great music shouldn’t be restricted to what sells easily; it should inform, educate and challenge the listener. When I see a truly great band playing live, I want to feel as if I don’t know what might happen next, and I want to see a band oblivious to outside distractions, so involved are they with the enjoyment they derive from playing music. That same enjoyment should filter through elsewhere too – it’s what enables Portishead to sound so gloomy on record, and yet so uninhibited when interviewed.
Right: pseudo-intellectual rant over, hopefully, over the coming periods of time I shall be updating the blog with articles, albums and bands that are taking my fancy. I’ll try not to get so upset about music in the future.