Stop Telling Me What to Do!

Has anyone ever considered how weird it is that by choosing to take part in a particular musical/physical scene, certain genre’s of music (and sometimes even individual artists) are automatically selected for you as “acceptable listening material” while others become “blacklisted?” Check this out.


You just put a quarter in one of those Zoltar fortune-telling machines, and I’m about to pull the last five years of your life out of thin air. The year is 2005, and if the 2010 version of you were to travel back in time and inform old you that in five years you’d be listening to music that’s made almost entirely on a computer, the ghost of Christmas past would likely be heading home with broken nose. You are a firm believer that all good music is centered around a guitar in some way shape or form. That’s not to say that you’re morally opposed to synthesizers in a band’s lineup, but electronics can only compliment guitars and drums, not replace them altogether. Your collection of music includes a couple of electronic musicians here and there, though to be fair, most of them are the ones that are talented enough to prevent you from ever considering how their music is made.

You may permit the occasional M83, The Album Leaf, or perhaps you’re younger than that and are more keen on the untamable shrieking of the Blood Brothers. But mostly you’re attracted to bands like Bloc Party, Midnight Juggernauts, and VHS or Beta. Bands that are rather talented and trick you into forgetting they’re electronic at all. Long story short: while you may be able to pull it off on rare occasions, the majority of the time you wouldn’t be caught dead listening to anything more than The Faint for fear of being associated with (shudder) techno.

Then 2006 comes around and suddenly Daft Punk is okay. What’s the deal with that? They’re completely electronic, and there’s no getting around it, but for some reason, everyone you know has their discography, and it is not cool to make fun of them for it, nor is it cool for you to point out the fact that Homework was released in 1999. Nope, you’re supposed to eat your words and act like all three albums were released that very year. So what do you do? You accept it for what it is: Daft Punk = cool. Infected Mushroom = still not cool. Titanic theme song techno remix = definitely not cool. You’ve officially added all of Daft Punk’s albums to your collection. Other than that, not much has changed. You’re still wearing your hair like the dude from AFI (a haircut that would later make it’s way into the electronic music scene in the form of DJ Paparazzi), and you still can’t tell me what a four on the floor beat is. But here’s where the line really starts to blur.

Late 2006- Early 2007: The year your one friend who happened to know about the Hype Machine at the time discovered __________ (insert either MSTRKRFT or Justice in the blank). Now, this kid was always a little strange with his music taste, so when he hands you one of his two earbuds and plays you (Easy Love / Waters of Nazareth), you’re reluctant at first. That is, you know it sounds good, and you know it’s fresh, but at the same time, you’ve spent years defining yourself as one of those guys that respects music too much to sink down to the level of electronica, and you’re not about to just up and say you like it. You decide that “sounds interesting” is the appropriate response, and you put it on the back burner, intending to forget about it. But it haunts you. Every time you finish an album and consider the ever present “what should I listen to next?” enigma, your mind jumps to that “The Looks/Cross” torrent you downloaded a week ago. Is it the right time? Are you feeling confident enough in your musical masculinity? Eventually you cave, and you give them album a once over to get it out of your system–except your plans change, and somehow, it makes it into your daily rotation, and before you know it you’re listening to an entirely electronic album just as much as you listen to everything else. What’s going on? You’re not allowed to like this. You try even harder to convince yourself that you don’t like it, but it’s impossibly clear that you do, and there’s nothing you’re going to be able to do to change it. This feels even worse than that time you got caught telling your shampoo bottle to “Move bitch, get out da way.” The stone cold realization hits you: You’re going to have to change scenes, because (and trust me, there’s definitely no pun intended here) the “scenesters” just aren’t going to accept the person you’ve become.

Before you know it, your Misfits shirts have gone out the window, and you’ve replaced them with graphic tees depicting mostly naked women. (And it’s okay because the look is “artsy” and “in good taste.”) You’ve discovered house music, and with each new album you acquire your pants become a little bit more colorful. (I’d say they got tighter too, but that wouldn’t be fair to those who had already maxed out the slim cap by stringing dental floss through their leggings.) Suddenly, you find your music collection is growing as though it had invested in Google. By the time another year has gone by, not only has your music collection doubled in size, but you also find that listening to Avenged Sevenfold just doesn’t seem appropriate anymore. Even further, you now find yourself slightly repulsed by those who haven’t managed to follow the same path you did, and you’re constantly asking yourself how they can be satisfied listening to the monotonous drone of same-sounding guitars, when there’s a world of unlimited potential for sound into which they haven’t even considered wandering. However, the one thing you don’t consider, and likely still haven’t considered even now as were moving through 2010, is the impact that your transition into the hipster scene has had on your perception of music in general.

So Now What?

So here we are now. We’ve arrived in the present, and are now faced with a new set of rules. Give me an artist, and I’ll give you a number between 1 and 10, indicating how acceptable it is for a member of the hipster scene to listen to them/him/her (1 being completely unacceptable).

Daft Punk: 10
Slipknot: 1
Laidback Luke: 10
Sigur Ros: 9
Green Day: 3
Oasis: 7 (They’re not electronic, but they’re one of those bands that is, for some reason, accepted as remixable.)
Massive Attack: 7 (Electronic, but not so hipster-y. Minus three.)
Royksopp: 9
Paul Van Dyk/Oakenfold: 5 (Electronic but dated; better left for outsiders and the uninformed.)
Rusko: 9 (So-called purists would likely protest)
The Bloody Beetroots: 8 (Used to be a ten, but they’ve since been rejected by the mainstream opposition.)
The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s: 8 (For the same reason as Oasis. though to be fair, remixes are more acceptable than originals.)

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. The big picture themes are nothing more than:

A) Electronic dance music is always okay, unless it’s trance, drum ‘n’ bass, or was produced before 2006.
B) Rock is sometimes okay, depending on what the people in the band look like, and how remixable their material is.
C) Classics are allowed, assuming you either remix the tunes, or use them tastefully.
D) Metal, and all it’s derivatives, is never allowed, unless you make it with synthesizers and call it dubstep.
E) Dubstep is okay, unless it sounds too much like metal.
F) Punk is okay if it incorporates some kind of electronic component.
G) Hip-hop is treated like a controlled substance. It essentially boils down to circumstance, and depends on how far-removed from electronic dance music it is. Artist intelligence is also a contributing factor.
H) Classical is okay, as long as you listen with confidence.
I) Most everything else is neither acceptable nor unacceptable, but if you get too into any of it, it’s just weird.

So that’s how it works. By reading this blog, you’re defining yourself as a hipster, and as such, your music of choice is not, in fact, music of choice at all. It’s chosen for you. And just like so many of us were missing out on electronic music when we were busy convincing ourselves that it wasn’t okay, who’s to say we aren’t still missing out on a world of fantastic music by allowing our hard drive’s to be brain washed by the momentum of expectations? I won’t stand for it!

Today, for the sake of liking good music for good music, we’re bending all the rules and listening to all the tunes we technically shouldn’t touch with a ten-foot poking stick. And who knows, maybe tomorrow, we’ll still be doing it.

Spor – Aztec
[It’s Drum N Bass, and I don’t care]

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Me Gusta – Megadrive
[It’s Hip-Hop, and I don’t care]

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Flux Pavilion – Got 2 Know
[It’s trancy, and I don’t care]

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Rusko – Da Cali Anthem
[It’s both massively mainstream and poorly produced, and I don’t care]

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A Collection of Beautiful Mistakes, Captured From the Aural Ether

It’s funny how the human mind works. Each new day for every one of us (though many would argue differently) seems to be nothing more than an attempt to separate ourselves from the masses and to become unique in our own right. And it’s not like we’re being self motivated in doing so either: the world we know–every magazine, website and television show– encourages it, or rather, discourages the contrary. Take Apple for example: Here’s a company that gears it’s entire ad campaign toward emphasizing the different ways that you can express your own personal feelings and be unique by using their products. Everything is customizable, and the iPhone does indeed, “have an app for everything.” However, there’s one thing that Apple fails to acknowledge, despite the fact that it contributes enormously to the success of their products, and this is the simple fact that every single one of the products looks exactly the same.

nano ad

Like I said, it’s funny how the human mind works, for our drive to be unique and independent seems to have lured us into a giant black pit of uniformity. And it not just within the corporations that this type of trickery (although I do have a hard time calling it trickery seeing as we’ve elected into it) occurs. Think back to high school, and take a look at the punk movement. Punks seem to thrive off the notion of anarchy, because it is a concept that is quite the opposite of what the mass majority of people are interested in. They want to be unique and to avoid letting mainstream culture influence their lives, but again, the failure to be unique can be seen in this attempt to be just the opposite. Punks started dressing the way they did (tight black jeans with floss stitches, patches, odd hair colors and styles, and such, to place their image as far away from what is generally excepted as possible. Why, then, do they continue to dress this way, despite the fact that a Google image search on the word punk yields this picture? Though their mission statement may indeed be antiestablishment, punks are really just appealing to a different establishment, so that they might fit in among this other group of people. The put things concisely, they aim to be defined as punk.

The list really does go on forever, and while it would be quite feasible to write a book containing purely the instances in which this trend is followed, it seems much more proper to decline this challenge and skip ahead to an extremely rare find that recently poked its sleeve out from the bottom of the stack: an artist, who truly embodies the uniqueness that most only think they have.

Emancipator

Having spent an unusually large amount of time simply tracking down this Oregon producer’s album (which I can only assume was distributed by dropping jewel cases from an airplane out over the pacific and letting them do their thing) I had prepared myself for something out of the ordinary, however, what I received upon placing that album in my cd player made my expectations look like a hipster without a fedora: very, very wrong.

emancipator

Though they certainly are not the kind of thing you’d throw into a dj set (or at least the kind we’re familiar with) Emancipators beats come from a different world, and could very likely be the perfect cure to your post party depression. For an electronic musician, he uses surprisingly little synthesizer, and replaces this absence a mastery of unlikely string instruments and natural sounds, and though there are clearly roots that stretch from deep in the realm of hip hop, many of his tracks also convey influences as obscure as the drill ‘n bass of Aphex Twin. All things considered, however, I feel nothing contributes more deeply to the sound of Emancipator than his refusal do be what has already been. His un-doctored ideas have an uncanny ability to make even the most restless child open his eyes wide, sit still, and listen, and that talent, in my opinion, is the rarer than a golden 8 track.

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Mobb Deep & Sigur Ros – Shook (Emancipator Remix)

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03-Emancipator – First Snow

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Emancipator – Wolf Drawn

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10-Emancipator – Good Knight

What’s With All These English Speakers?

There’s a certain aspect of the indie electronic scene that I’ve never been able to understand: Why is it that (in a large number of cases), the country that an artist comes from has almost nothing to do with the language in which they do their work? For a genre of music that holds some serious power in a huge number of countries around the world, it seems we’ve developed an overabundance of English speakers. I mean, obviously, there’s some sense in a British, Canadian, or American artist putting out an English record, but look at Daft Punk, Justice, Digitalism, and The Bloody Beetroots; All huge names from non-English speaking countries, and yet all of their albums, lyrics, websites, and promos are done in English.



In a certain respect, I suppose there is a bit of sense in the concept of “appealing to a larger audience”, but who’s to say that English speakers would not buy it if they couldn’t understand it? Justice doesn’t seem to have much trouble making their way throughout the rest of the European countries. And I realize that some of your minds are likely filling up with fury at the fact that I would think to complain about having so much music written for me to listen to, but personally, I feel that though it is indeed nice to hear and understand words in my native tongue, that I have lost a part of music that’s even more important to me.

Think about it this way. Musicians (and don’t hold me to this, because I’m sure there are several significant exceptions), do not become musicians because of their overflowing need to deliver their poetry; They would otherwise simply have become poets. Musicians become musicians because they want to create, feel, understand, and live for the music, and as such, I don’t believe lyrics need to be understood for the message in a song to be delivered. Sigur Ros, for example, chooses to make use of their native Icelandic, a language spoken by less than 300,000 people worldwide, for most of their music, and this has allowed us as listeners to devote attention to the emotion in their vocalist’s voice, without the worry of being distracted by his words. Needless to say, the success of the band has, in no way, been hindered by the choice.

I suppose my goal here was to address this matter, rather than to provide an explanation. Considering I don’t have any real evidence with which to draw conclusions, I’d be delighted to hear from anyone who’s got anything to say on the subject, however, before you go commenting, I should leave you with my latest discovery to ponder…

Familjen

I’m entirely thrilled that a simple stroke of luck put me in touch with Familjen, a curious producer and vocalist from Stockholm, Sweden. His work, though it makes use of the expected driving kick drum like so many these days have come to know, captures a style that I believe its fair to say has not been heard before. His tracks develop in a fashion that could be considered highly simplistic, and yet the huge amount of invisible detail in them gives them a bit of a spark that moves them into an unusually satisfying dimension. The best part about it, however: His vocals (and just about everything else for that matter) happen to be composed entirely in Swedish.

Quality beats, indeed.

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Familjen – Det Snurrar I Min Skalle

The Beginning of Something Beautiful

If I were to quit listening to, blogging about, and living for music today, I’m proud to say that I would, in fact, die happy, for today I have discovered what I consider to be the most perfect blend of sounds to have graced the many ears on this earth in years. Naturally, you’ll have to excuse me if you don’t completely share my idea of beauty and finesse in the way of sound, but for myself, and those of you who can fall in love with the sensitive magic of artists like Sigur Ros just as easily as you can the sweaty pounding of well crafted electro, I’m proud to present to you the most perfectly crafted combination of all that there is to enjoy in this word: The Deer Tracks.

The Deer Tracks

Essentially, the title says it all: The electronic duo made up of the Swedish David Lehnberg and Elin Lindfors will pull you into a white world of emotion that can only be described by the image of deer tracks on snow. They’ve taken the haunting softness and gentle horns and bells of the Icelandic, Sigur Ros, and have managed to combine it with the electronic instruments similar to those used by MGMT, M83, or even Air, without losing even the slightest bit of emotion, which, seeing as electronic instruments manage to mask the mind behind the compositions quite well, is an impressive feat. Give any one of these newly released pieces only a few moments of your time, and you’ll have become overwhelmed by the power of a melancholy world. There is no happiness or sadness, no wants or need. Amidst these beautiful waves of sentiment, you’ll feel a perfect nothing–the utmost tranquility. Might I suggest that you put on your headphones, breath deep, close your eyes, and live.

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MP3: The Deer Tracks – Yes, This Is My Broken Shield

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The Deer Tracks – Cast Away

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The Deer Tracks – Slow Collision

It’s artistry like this that makes me feel like I really am missing out on a whole other world.

Sigur Ros


It feels a bit strange to stray from the pure disco path I’ve been taking, but when something as beautiful as Sigur Ros‘s latest work finally lands within reach, keeping it a secret would be the truest of crimes. The leaked track titled “Gobbledigook” (actual name or merely a result of the inability to read Icelandic, I’m not sure), which is due to be released in about a week or so as part of “Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust” (Don’t even try), is an incredible change from the classic Sigur Ros sound that we’ve come to know; It’s lighthearted and gracefully upbeat, but at the same time, the true depth and ability to convey emotion to an audience that can’t even understand their language stands strong. Utterly amazing…

Sigur Ros – Gobbledigook