Saturday, 18 November 2017

Music for Adults: Part 1

It's been a long time since I've posted anything here. I could blame a new job in part, but more simply I guess it was just laziness. Anyhow in the meanwhile I've been mulling over an idea, for the past year, which concerns music for adults, or to put it another way: "What can an adult listen to, whilst developing and discovering new music?" It does seem an easy question to answer, but many friends of mine still listen to, and talk about, groups and artists that they've been listening to since they were teenagers. Its not uncommon to see how old favourites, due maybe to nostalgia, remain at the top of many peoples lists. If one reads the commentaries on Amazon you'll soon notice how people don't appreciate an artist who changes direction!

Naturally, not all people stay with their teen and university years listening habits. Many develop further by becoming (as an example) jazz fanatics, classical buffs or maybe folk and world music fans. But, for the majority it has been hard to understand the success of the X-Factor generation of music celebrities, be they good musicians or not. It's interesting to note that much of today's - popular - music business is based around the individual. If one looks back at the seventies and eighties lists of top 20 stars there seems to be 'in general' more bands, rather than individual stars. We do have Maroon 5 and Pentatonix, but they are the exception rather than the rule. For those interested take a brief look at the website Weekly Top 40 (*) and click on any year between 1970 to 1989, then compare with (ex) 2012. You immediately notice the difference in the number of individual stars as opposed to groups in the 70s and 80s. But even so, today's idols such as Katy Perry, Rihanna, Justin Bieber or Kanye West, to name but a few, are a long way musically from the past glories of David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Annie Lennox or Aretha Franklin. 

Smash Hits (circa 1983)

Anyhow, I'm not here to judge such artists, and they don't appear on any of my top albums of the year. The reason in general is that they (in my humble opinion) lack a certain inventiveness and individuality. That doesn't mean that all today's stars are blank pieces of paper, CeeLo Green (aka Gnarls Barkley) or the excellent Hozier both have not only great voices, but also mature and strong material. However, many, as far as I can see, are more busy making mainstream music which follows fashion rather than looking for creative directions which push at the boundaries. However, having said that I guess the series 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die wouldn't agree!

The idea of my 'Music for Adults' is to introduce, in a short presentation form, some albums of artists working today who produce music that although not necessarily mainstream (in some cases), gives the listener something to savour musically and intellectually. It is also a list of suggestions for those who are still interested to find alternative but satisfying musical directions other than that of their past teenage years heroes or heroines. So, without further ado I'd like to start with a recent album (which interestingly my brother introduced me to - that's what are older brothers are for):

Darlingside: Birds Say (2015)

I chose this as the first record to present, probably the most recent record (and group) I've heard that conjures up the past by its sound and subject matter. Darlingside is a quartet who sound somewhere between the Beach Boys meet Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. That isn't a put down, in fact I'd say in this case it's a recommendation. Darlingside have produced a record with very catchy folk-rock melodies and tight harmony vocals that - as I said - hark back to another period yet remain thoroughly modern.

The bands sound is made up of a very simple line up (instrumentally), which is probably what makes the music sound so pure. With the various members just using acoustic instrumentation, except for a bass guitar, the group keeps everything down to a bare minimum - I particularly like the idea of someone stomping on the bass drum like a one-man-band. The album is full of great catchy melodies, check out "White Horses", "Birds Say" and "Harrison Ford" to get an idea of the sound and melodic direction of Darlingside.       

The band: Don Mitchell (guitar, banjo, vocals), Auyon Mukharji (mandolin, violin, vocals), Harris Paseltiner (guitar, cello, vocals), David Senft (bass, kick drum, vocals)

The band website can be found here: 

* = An excellent site with plenty of interesting figures such as album charts, top artists of a period, etc.

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