New music experiences

(I was debating on making this a FB post or a blog post, and had ultimately decided on an abbreviated FB post. Buuuuuut then FB ate my post. So, here I am.)..

Recently, I’ve been listening to some new music. Well, new to me. I’ve been a rock/metal fan for years, though the last few years have seen me shift towards exploring electronic music, like electronic rock, dubstep, DnB, synthwave, ambient synth, etc. But while all of the above is still interesting and I do enjoy it, it hasn’t been catching my ear as much as it used to. What has been? To give the short answer: folk music.

It all started, oh about a year or so ago now. And it’s a relatively meandering path, so bear with me.

I’d say what really set me down this rabbit hole was discovering the band Kaleo. My coworker sent me a link to their official music video for their song Way Down We Go (in a volcano!) And, just, love. It took only a few short minutes, but I decided this was an AWESOME band. I listened to their album A/B repeatedly. My favorite song, hands down, is Vor í Vaglaskógi even though I can’t understand a damn word of it.

Somewhere around this time, I also discovered Hozier, specifically the songs Take Me To Church and a bit later Angel of Small Death & the Codeine Scene. Previously, I’d also fallen in love with The Glorious Sons’s song Sometimes on a Sunday, so I was just starting to touch on folksy / bluesy side of indie rock, and discovering there was some really cool music!

In the autumn, I had discovered Bon Iver, and this led me to investigating some Celtic folk music. I started with some Gaelic Storm (you know, the guys who did the music that Jack & Rose dance to in the movie Titanic.) I ultimately discovered Scottish tribal music, which lead to listening to a LOT of Albannach. I really enjoy the instrumentals, the pipe and drum. There’s something primal about it. Seriously, I dare you to listen to listen to Unleash the Albannach and tell me it doesn’t get the blood flowing.

Then, in the winter, I finally heard Mumford & Sons. I mean, REALLY heard them. I knew the band name, and had pointedly avoided them for rather silly reasons, but I heard their song Babel on the radio on a drive in to work and knew I had to hear more. The entire album is great, I have a post on here somewhere about it.

So I finally had to admit to myself that there really was something to folk music, and that I should explore it a bit more. One problem: That covers a ridiculously huge amount of music. Much like rock has about a gazillion genres that fall under it, folk has all kinds of different sounds to experience.

Within the past few months, I discovered there’s this… thing… called southern gothic. I guess you could call it a style. Not specifically related to music, Wikipedia gives us this definition: “Southern Gothic particularly focuses on the South’s history of slavery, a “fixation with the grotesque, and a tension between realistic and supernatural elements”. Similar to the elements of the Gothic castle, Southern Gothic gives us the decay of the plantation in the post-Civil War South.” But specifically on music, Wikipedia says, “Southern Gothic (also known as Gothic Americana, or Dark Country) is a genre of music characterized by a fusion of alternative rock and classic country/folk.” [An interesting aside, I colorize this style with lots of earth tones and blacks, which is subconsciously how my dress has been tending.]

I’ve been spending a lot of time on Spotify listening to various southern gothic playlists. And I am in love with so much of it. Some of the artists are: Kaleo, Hozier, The Builders & the Butchers, Nina Simone, Johnny Cash, July Talk, Leonard Cohen, and Blues Saraceno.

Being the nerd that I am, I’ve spent some time trying to put specific names to the music that I like, but like always, I’m finding it a bit difficult. And, like always, there are things in one “box” that I like but things that I don’t like in the same box.

I’ve had this same struggle so many times in the past five or so years, when I’ve really tried to expand my musical knowledge and listening. It started in earnest a couple years ago when I first discovered the German group Seeed. When I found they were technically a reggae group, despite Augenbling (the first song I heard by them) not being remotely close to what I would consider reggae, I realized I had to throw my pre-assumptions out the window. I did some research on reggae, and found that it, like my more familiar metal genre, is riddled with subgenres and styles, and songs that cross over between them. Fun fact, ska punk came from a blending of ska (part of where reggae originated) and punk rock. Reggae styles including dancehall, dub, hip hop, and it’s own drum and bass, and has origins in jazz, mento, ska, rocksteady, R&B, and soul.

So recently, I in turn performed this same research on folk music. Folk music, at it’s base, is simply traditional music that is passed down orally, played on readily available acoustic instruments. An easy couple of examples of this are songs like When Johnny Comes Marching Home or the Irish Lannigan’s Ball. It’s hard to pin point who the original composers were, often because the same melody has multiple lyrics written for it, and because they have existed for decades in some form. I guess the proper term for what we listen to now is folk revival, but to me that seems like splitting hairs. But what we really have now are styles like bluegrass, Americana, southern gothic, Appalachian, Western, country, and Cajun.

After all this research a new, shiny knowledge, where does this leave me? Can I finally put a name on what I like?

Sorry to disappoint you, but the answer is a resounding “no.”

The plain and simple truth is that I like what I like. Doesn’t matter if it fits into box A, B, or C, or says fuck the boxes and has hints of all three. I will forever have an eclectic taste in music, and simply listen to whatever fits my mood, to hell with labels.

But this brings me back to a recurring question: Why do people continue to limit themselves to only the old, familiar stuff and are hesitant to give anything different a chance? Why write off an entire catalog of music, including dozens if not hundreds of artists, because you had one or a few bad experiences? And this isn’t even considering all the stuff that toes the line, pushes boundaries, and experiments with unfamiliar mixing of sounds.

Sure, you’re always going to have your fallbacks and favorites, we all do. But I find that I enjoy new discoveries, and don’t understand when other people don’t seem to.

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Music & tradition

Some of the things I’ve been thinking about the past few days, and have unloaded here, have gotten me thinking about this other idea I had about a year ago. And I’d like to see if I can make some sense out of this, if these two are related, or if I’m just grasping at straws (strings?) here.

One of the points of disagreement lately has been about the importance of traditions. A bit of history about me: I grew up in a household that didn’t have terribly many traditions. We celebrated all the major holidays, but a “light” version of celebration. Usually that entailed going over to visit a set of grandparents (only the one set, as I got older, since my maternal grandparents died when I was 6). Easter we had a little egg hunt, July 4th we would go watch fireworks, Thanksgiving we had turkey, and Christmas we did presents. But that was really it. And the family that was present was myself, my father, his parents, my aunt, my uncle (once he came into the picture, I was 12 or so), my 2 younger cousins, and my older cousin and her longtime boyfriend (they were together for 6 or 8 years before they got married). So 10 people at most. None of this aunts and uncles and cousins for days business. None of the visiting more than one house per day.

As I got older, the desire to see specific family members waned, but it was always outweighed by the desire to see other family members, plus the fact that my father said that it was important. They all lived about an hour away, so it’s not like we saw each other all the time. He made it a point that we go visit his parents once a month(ish). I know I didn’t talk to them much outside of those visits, and I don’t think he did either. So I see the importance of staying in touch and catching up. Keep in mind, this was also mostly pre-cell phones and at the beginnings of the internet. And my grandparents lived in a rural town and didn’t even have cable, let alone a computer. They didn’t really keep up with technology. (No fault here, just a fact.)

I guess part of the reason I don’t see a ton of importance in us now spending holidays together with H’s (husband’s) parents is that we see them and talk to them way more frequently than I ever did my grandparents. So the primary reason for my “family get-togethers” growing up being catching up doesn’t really apply here. We aren’t so out of touch that it’s necessary. It’s not that I don’t want to see them, it’s that I don’t feel I NEED to see them.

And this I think is the root of the problem. M (mother-in-law) at least DOES feel that need to actually see us. She doesn’t believe phone calls, texting, and fb is a substitute. I realize that none of that is the same, and I’m not saying it is, but for me, it’s enough. It helps fill the gaps and makes me at least feel connected enough that I’m not completely out of touch.

Now, how does music fit in with all this?

About a year ago, I put up a rather rambly fb status that ended with the following idea:

“All of this culminates into: I don’t understand why I don’t seem more people rockin out to their tunes in the gym, in the car, walking down the sidewalk, wherever. It’s all earbuds-in-straight-face-focused. Are people just doing it internally, or do the vast majority just have ‘buds in to help tune out the world?”

M replied to my post, and one of her points was:

“3: (now don’t get your panties in a wad) Today’s music, while is okay, for some reason doesn’t have meaning. By this I refer to the fact that the lyrics don’t grab your attention by referencing to the things that happen in life (unless your listen to some rap music) or the beat in the music doesn’t keep your attention. I have tried to listen and hear what today’s music has to offer and find very few artists capture my attention with their songs”

I of course had to respond to this specifically, because this is a point that really bugs me. There is SO MUCH music out there. With the internet and services like YouTube, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and others, it is easier than ever for amateur musicians to get their stuff out there. And we’re getting to a point now where it’s not that we’re making new genres of music, but people are combining them to make amazing sounds. There is all kinds of talent out there if you just look for it. In fact, there are plenty of artists covering older music, or doing a “revival” of older styles/sounds.

I don’t understand being stuck with the same old music, and only listening to that stuff over and over again. Heck, there’s music I listened to 10 or 15 years ago that yeah, it’s still good music, but I don’t have a desire to listen to it all the time. I love finding new stuff. Heck, it was one of H’s friends who gave me some dubstep artists to listen to that eventually lead me to my current favorite musicians (Celldweller & Blue Stahli). There are some songs I will always love. But if I try to listen to a whole album, I’ll get bored partway through. Not because I don’t like the music, but because I’ve heard it a zillion times before.

So how are these connected?

It goes back to the concept of being stuck in time. This inability to see that what currently exists may actually be better than what was.

Once again… Grace Hopper: “Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, “We’ve always done it this way.” I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.”

Music: Mumford & Sons – Babel

I realized while I was in the shower that I promised a month ago when I started that I would probably have some music content on here, and that I hadn’t delivered on that promise at all. So I’m here to remedy that!

I’m a few years late to the game here, but I recently discovered how totally awesome the group Mumford & Sons is. I knew of them, I’ve heard the name plenty of times before, years ago when they first became big, but I avoided them. Why? The truth is… I have an ex-something with the last name of Mumford, and it felt weird to listen to a band named after him. No relation, I’m sure, but sometimes my brain makes associations that are really hard to reverse.

Anyway. Moving on. So I was in the car, on my way to work, and the radio DJ played the title track off Mumford & Son’s second studio album, Babel. And it just clicked in a way that I Will Wait never did. I think it’s the bridge, that’s usually what gets me. Don’t get me wrong, I Will Wait is a great song, I like it, it just doesn’t grab me.

So I got to work, found the album Babel on Spotify, and set to listening.

Now sometimes, a lot of the time really, I’ll hear a song on the radio, think it’s awesome, go look up the band, and be kinda disappointed by what I find. Their “radio song” is literally their best song. Don’t worry, this is NOT the case here. 🙂

I get half way through the album, loving Holland Road, Ghosts That We Know, and Lover of the Light all along the way.

But then, this plays.

Hopeless Wanderer

Lyrics:

You heard my voice I came out of the woods by choice
Shelter also gave their shade
But in the dark I have no name

So leave that click in my head
And I will remember the words that you said
Left a clouded mind and a heavy heart
But I was sure we could see a new start

So when your hope’s on fire
But you know your desire
Don’t hold a glass over the flame
Don’t let your heart grow cold
I will call you by name
I will share your road

But hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
And hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer

I wrestled long with my youth
We tried so hard to live in the truth
But do not tell me all is fine
When I lose my head, I lose my spine

So leave that click in my head
And I won’t remember the words that you said
You brought me out from the cold
Now, how I long, how I long to grow old

So when your hope’s on fire
But you know your desire
Don’t hold a glass over the flame
Don’t let your heart grow cold
I will call you by name
I will share your road

But hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
And hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under
I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under
The skies I’m under

 

Followed by this.

Broken Crown

Lyrics:

Touch my mouth and hold my tongue
I’ll never be your chosen one
I’ll be home safe and tucked away
Well You can’t tempt me if I don’t see the day

The pull on my flesh was just too strong
Stifled the choice and the air in my lungs
Better not to breathe than to breathe a lie
‘Cause when I opened my body I breathe in a lie

I will not speak of your sin
There was a way out for Him
The mirror shows not
Your values are all shot

But oh my heart, was flawed I knew my weakness
So hold my hand consign me not to darkness

So crawl on my belly ’til the sun goes down
I’ll never wear your broken crown
I took the road and I fucked it all away
Now in this twilight, how dare you speak of grace

So crawl on my belly ’til the sun goes down
I’ll never wear your broken crown
I took the road and I fucked it all away
Now in this twilight, how dare you speak of grace

So crawl on my belly ’til the sun goes down
I’ll never wear your broken crown
I can take the road and I can fuck it all away
But in this twilight, our choices seal our fate

 

And these two songs just sealed my fate and I fell in love with this album. A beautiful combination of lyrics, unique instrumentation, and a variety of melody throughout pretty much all their songs (instrumental and vocal) keep me interested for the duration of the album, and keep me coming back again.

5/5 stars, highly recommended. Will headbang to banjo.