What I’m Listening To: September/October 2020

Recently I have been trying to get out of my old habits and listen to some music that I would not do normally. With this in mind I checked out Gangs Signs & Prayer by Stormzy.

What really interests me about this album is the strong narrative ark that holds all the songs together, the lyrics look to the future but also reference coming to terms with past problems, the strongest example of this being the Don’t Cry For Me, in which difficult emotions are laid bare. Raleigh Ritchie’s vocals are stunning. This is by far my favorite track on the album.

Recently I have also revisited the landmark album Kid A by Radiohead.

Even after all these years this album still holds so much mystery and euphoria. Kid A represented a total change of direction from where Radiohead had been previously musically as a guitar based band. This album saw them move into exciting territory of electronic music (Idioteque), to tracks with mostly acoustic instruments (Motion Picture Soundtrack) and tracks that are more reminiscent of Radiohead’s old style (Optimistic). For a band as successful as they were this album was a big risk for them artistically and commercially. The true artists are those who a not satisfied with easy formulas and regurgitating old ideas. I have never understood what the mountain top scene on the album cover signifies. Perhaps the last safe location after some disastrous war? Are the snow peaked mountains an oblique reference to climate change?

Another old favorite I have revisited is Myths of The Near Future by The Klaxons.

I have always felt this band’s career was cut short and they never fulfilled all of their potential. Myths.. came out when I was quite young and some aspects of the music have not aged well, the lyrics can seem a bit vapid at times. However, for something that could be described as “commercial” there are some really good songs here and a genuinely unique style that borrows from rock but also has elements of dance/rave music. There’s also some really interesting guitar work which is places (Gravity’s Rainbow) is reminiscent of Johnny Greenwood’s work in Radiohead. The spiritual ancestor of this style is Adrian Belew who I talk about more in another post. The Klaxons have the uncommon privileged of having material that was meant to be there second album being rejected by their record label. They released some of those tracks as an EP:

It’s strange to look back on the era the Klaxons were popular in as for me the early 2000s are a time when the full impact on new the new technology of file sharing and music being primarily being consumed in a digital format had not been fully realized. Record labels and other gatekeepers were still relevant to new artist looking to break through. Now the number of hits your video gets on Youtube are a far greater indicator of your potential success than any level of endorsement by the powers that be.

Further, the strength of the old players in the music industry are waning as sales of recorded music continue to fall. Many in all likelihood can only remain viable through the control they have over large back catalogs which can then be licensed to Spotify for undisclosed amounts of money. This change in dynamics has meant that artist’s task is now to try and break through the fog of obscurity rather than impressing a few key decision makers. What is taken away in one place is added in another.

If you have any suggestions on what I should be listening to feel free to contact me.