Just adding a bit of insight to the above Tumblr. I’m trying to figure out what kind of stuff should go on here, on Tumblr, on Twitter. So short stuff on Tumblr, maybe a bit more fleshed out here, with both of those used as signposts for this. Or something.
I’ve spent the last couple of years doing what a lot of music fans have been doing: shuffling. Spotify premium (or Tidal or Qobuz), make a playlist, get it shuffled.
And that’s fine. I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. I can add a bunch of albums I’d like to get to know, and shuffle them; or I can playlist a bunch of old favourites and randomise those. Guess which I do most often…
So I’m making a concerted effort to listen to full albums, and ideally new ones. Maybe even from artists new to me! Try to combat that cynicism that comes from ageing, or try to understand the age-old question: is it the music, or is it me?
With hip-hop being the primary (only?) musical currency at the moment, I’m getting refamiliarised with that genre. I think my metal bands are doing well with a couple of million Spotify plays, then I see rappers I don’t even know, with hundreds of millions, billions, for a song. I’m old school. I like rappers with flow and clarity. I’m not historically into the current scene that seems to have taken its key influence from a decade-old Kanye album. But, partly because it’s clearly captured everyone’s attention, and partly because it’s the only “new” thing out there, I’m listening.
XXXTentacion is not without his controversy. Charged with violently assaulting a woman, Spotify initially hid him away with R Kelly. Then he met a violent death. Aside from the accusations of brutality to women, which he denied, but also admitted, his fans really love him. His music speaks to them in a way that most artists don’t have a prayer of.
While newpaper readers know him as a thug who abused his girlfriend, his growing masses of fans listen to his songs of inner turmoil, angst and confusion. XXXTentacion, shit name aside, was clearly a complex, conflicted character who you could tell might be prone to bouts of rage and violence, expressed externally as well as internally.
As you can see, he “won” the weekly listening, as I played his ? and 17 albums, which I think are his official albums? Both open with an earnest, if ham-fisted entreaty for listeners to understand alternative music, and to listen without prejudice. Granted, if his market at that point was mainly rap heads, such a request is understandable. It’s just a clumsy way to open an album, even if I appreciate the personal touch that clearly helps endear him to his audience.
Musically, there’s a lot of drawly auto-tune, as you might expect from modern hip-hop, but there’s also live instrumentation, screaming and howling and a surprisingly organic sound. This strand of rap gets compared to emo, but to me it has more in common with the earthy, heavy grunge sound. It’s good enough for me to pursue this avenue further, for sure.
I didn’t know much about Dødheimsgard until recently. My man Da5e repped them (a few years ago, in a post I got to late) and they’re intriguing. A Norwegian metal band that started out as black metal (don’t they all), but who got more avant garde, I guess following in the footsteps of Ulver, Arcturus and Ihsahn. They also seem to only do one or two albums a decade at present, so I’ll give this a few more spins to understand it, rather than rush to evaluate it.
The top 3/4 is rounded out by old favourites Nine Inch Nails and Anthrax. The former is on the list because Trent Reznor (and friends? Who knows any more) has released a new installment of the ambient Ghosts series, which seems fine. And Anthrax are there because I made a playlist of 80s bands in the early 90s. I find it fascinating to hear how 80s hard rock and metal bands changed (and if they did) to cope with the challenges of a new decade. And I am of the opinion that Anthrax were even better in the 90s than the 80s anyway. But more on that later, I imagine.