What I Am Listening To, December 2021

Recently I have been branching out and checking out some new music; here are my latest discoveries.

The first is the excellent David Bowie album Station To Station I am slowly working my way through his back catalog and this album is the most recent stop on that journey. The album is refreshingly short at only 38 minutes in length. My favorite track is probably Golden Years which despite sounding somewhat dated and cheesy has a undeniable charm. What I always enjoyed about Bowie is his constant willingness to change and experiment and take risks. He never stayed in one stylistic place for a very long time and was always searching for something new. It is hard to believe that the person who wrote this upbeat and fun music would later be responsible for an album as dark as Blackstar. Also, his work has never had the feeling of being egotistical, although Bowie is clearly the center of attention there is more to his music than mere egotism, it is not centered banally on the person “David Bowie”. Rather, the focus is on the persona he adopts to help him express a certain facet of his character. Whilst these personas are clearly the product of Bowie’s mind they remain once removed from the man behind the music. For as an outsider it is difficult to determine which elements are attached to David Bowie the man and which are free creations of his aesthetic intelligence. In an age of a confessional and overly intimate relationship between artist and audience via social media it is refreshing consider the likes of Bowie who left much to our imaginations and intelligence to figure out. They don’t make them like Bowie anymore. There is a literalness to today’s culture that is nauseating. As much as the great ease of access that the internet offers is undoubtedly a good thing there are also negative aspects to such advancements, one of them being that information (especially that of the half-baked kind) is too easily available. This can lead to unparalleled levels of group think and pot analysis.

Next is Brian Eno’s landmark album Music For Airports. This album was as far as I am aware the first  body of work that popularised the new genre of ambient music. Further, the idea of music performing a functional as apposed to a purely artistic purpose is not something that fits with the usual historical presentation of the 1970s when the album was released. What expressions of Eno’s individualism are present are through the manipulation of existing musical material rather the performance of anything new. The idea of the producer as the composer, is perhaps a novel and one that foreshadows the innovations that would be pioneered by those creating hip hop years later. The music is a times impersonal and for this very reason but also strangely moving. The lack of percussion gives the work an ethereal quality which makes the album in a certain sense closer to classical music than anything mainstream.  

I have also been listening to The Original Soundtrack a compilation of music by 10cc. The best track by far on this album is I’m Not In Love which has become far more well know than the band who created it. I did not like the rest of the album; the clichéd ideas that are expressed in the first few tracks about Paris are boring. Later in the album a racial slur is used (whoever wrote the liner notes for the CD I have is strangely not bothered by this). I think it is fair to say this album has not dated well; I will be listening to it more out historical curiosity than for pleasure.

If you have any suggestions as to what I should listen to next please leave a comment.

Merry Christmas.

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