*written while watching a pre-recorded hour of Beck at Austin City Limits*
Recently, I have found myself in musical conversations. And I don’t mean the kind where you talk about whether you’re team Glinda or team Elphaba. These one-too-many-to-not-write-a-post-about-it convos have really got me thinking about the infinite diversity of music. Two people could have the exact same taste in music, and here’s how the dialogue would fall:
“Hey! I hear you like Fall Out Boy! Have you heard Panic! At The Disco’s new album?”
“Yeah, I have! It’s great. Do you listen to All Time Low?”
“Yeah, bro, of course! Do you listen to *insert unheard of, kind of punk-ish pop-rock band here*?”
“Wait, no. I’ve never heard of them.”
Ding, ding, ding. The infinite diversity of music. There is something for everybody, there is always something to share, and (the best of all) there is always something great you haven’t heard yet.
With this idea becoming tangible in my brain, a coinciding idea also took hold: diversity in music creates diversity in its purpose. In other words, different kinds of music do different things. Mulling over this idea made me realize that pretty much every single album by every single artist does something entirely different because the artist is creating for him/herself. Whether he/she is processing a breakup, attempting to speak for a larger group of people, or writing without thinking anyone would ever read the words, much less have the words sung back to him/her one day, the artist is doing something never been done before because it is being done by him/her, a unique individual, a direct copy of nothing.
For the past year or so now, I’ve been trying to build my musical repertoire in order to avoid saying the one thing I despise: “Oh, yeah. I know that one song by them. What’s it called again?” This response, in my opinion, does a huge injustice to the artist after he/she/they have slaved on an album for the past anywhere between 12 to 36 to 48 months. So I’m a huge proponent of the album. And a not-so-huge proponent of the “hit single” culture of today. There. I said it.
With all of this being said, to me, the purpose of music has a lot to do with the album as a whole. To demonstrate this, here are three albums that I believe encompass a whole lotta purpose. Keep reading for your potential new favorite music. Stop reading if you hate expanding your mind.
- Beck – Morning Phase
I know what you’re saying. “Beck. Hm. That sounds familiar.” You’re darn right it does. It’s because you tweeted hate at him that one time for winning Album of the Year in 2015 over Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé. Let me refute you real quick. Name another artist who plays multiple instruments, produces, composes, and writes his own music, has been famous for longer than you’ve been alive but is younger than your mother, and is known worldwide by his first name. Oh, and two of his LPs are published in the Rolling Stone’s list of 500 greatest albums of all-time. That’s what I thought. Morning Phase demonstrates change. Beck himself says in an interview with Rolling Stone the album is about the existence of “…this feeling of tumult and uncertainty…about coming out of that – how things do get better.” Even further than that, however, Morning Phase demonstrates the change and transformation of Beck from his early days of fame until today. Before it was released, this album was placed number two on Stereogum’s list of most anticipated albums of 2014. Beck was a huge deal before winning any Album of the Year Grammys to prove it. He has recorded 9 official studio albums in his lifetime, his first recorded in 1994. Even though his first album has only one relatively well-known song, this relatively well-known song is the number one most played of his on Spotify with, get this, over 40 million plays. No, Beck. You are certainly not a loser. In addition this first hit is classified on Wikipedia as “experimental hip hop,” and I think that’s hilarious. But nonetheless, in comparison to the acoustic, mellow tones of Morning Phase, “Loser” could have been created by a completely different mind. That is the beauty of Beck evolving. But the key is this: he doesn’t lose his artistry. The production value doesn’t depreciate, and his vocals, wow, his vocals. They’re unreal. Beck can grow and change as an artist and do it well, and that is why he is important. Plus he’s the cutest human to ever exist.
2. The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it
I fell in love with The 1975 when I first heard Chocolate on my Sirius-XM radio. I consider myself the introducer of their “not a pop band” pop music to my (at the time) little bubble of lovers of good music. This sophomore album, albeit the title a mouthful, is tremendous. I have never come across a pop band with a sound as distinct yet as wide as The 1975’s. And this album demonstrates that among other things. The frontman, Matty Healy, wanted, and succeeded in my opinion, to create a sound that is The 1975’s. Taking inspiration from artists like Michael Jackson and Prince, the band evokes in you a nostalgia for an era that you never knew (considering the majority of their fanbase is teenage fangirls (not including me (ugh, who am I kidding. I hate that this includes me))). Another aspect of this album that I enjoy is the subtle allusion to the band’s self-titled first album. The 74-minute journey commences with a redone track from the first album titled “The 1975.” How fitting. The subsequent tracks contain lyrics which are direct responses or growths from the first album. It’s like a little puzzle to solve for the very dedicated lyrical people. And if you know anything about me, the previous sentence just described me in thirteen words. The 1975 have created more than a sound; they have created a vibe, and that is why they are important. They can remix a song that is entirely not their own and make it sound as if Matty Healy is behind the mic. (Here’s an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9CdTRL3n70) Also, you’ll swoon over Matty’s accent and intellect. Here’s his original poem. Read it out loud with the thickest British accent you can muster.
3. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
Okay, so I can’t take credit for the discovery of this gem of an album or the discovery of Father John Misty, but I can take credit for doing more research on it than what is socially accepted. If you know what’s good for you, you know FJM as one of two people: either as the front man of J. Tillman or as the drummer of Fleet Foxes. Über talented. Über stereotypical tortured artist. Über in love with his wife, Emma. Honeybear is a social critique, a love story, and it’s without a doubt meant to be listened from start to finish. I love albums with a storyline, and this one does it better than most, detailing every aspect of being in love without forgetting the part about the people falling in love being socially cynical and unsure of why humanity acts the way it does. These two themes of love and social critique marry and intertwine in the lyrical aspect of this album–you cannot find one without the other. FJM, or Tillman for our purposes, takes on a number of personas to depict this marriage throughout the course of these 11 songs which I have listened to roughly 32 consecutive times today. Tillman the satirist demonstrates poignant social critique coupled with fear of relational commitment in “Bored in the USA” (“I’ve got a lifetime to consider all the ways / I grow more disappointing to you as my beauty warps and fades”). Tillman the jealous boyfriend/ladies’ man paints a picture of an old Western bar scene with the twangy sounds of “Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow” (“On the road again / For months at a time / It doesn’t take half that long for men about town to forget what’s mine”). And Tillman the EDM-induced separatist demonstrates his ironic separateness from his lover because of the American obsession of “strange devices” in “True Affection” (“When can we talk with a face? / Instead of using all these strange devices”). FJM may hate the conformity and effects of technology this world has to offer (watch this video if you don’t believe me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5_6EUJNjCQ&feature=youtu.be), but he loves you, honeybear. Josh Tillman is a great American poet in disguise, and that is why he is important. (Also, “When You’re Smiling And Astride Me” is so important.)
So there you have it. Music with growth. Music with sound. Music with a story. Music with purpose.
Also, to be clear, I’m not that music prude. I could get down to something good by Taylor Swift. Or at least respect that you get down to that kind of thing.
I also really enjoy 80s pop and Kendrick Lamar.
If you ever want to musically chat, hit me up on Facebook, Instagram, or the email address in the “about” tab!
And in the uplifting words of Father John Misty:
“No one really ever knows you, and life is brief.”