All entries for Sunday 20 December 2009

December 20, 2009

Five Pieces of Music You should Listen To Over the Festive Season

Its official – Rage Against the Machine owned X-factor. Its an interesting campaign, one that I agree to in principle, but I chose not to buy a copy of Killing in the Name of. Why you ask? Well initially I didn’t expect it to have much success, and didn’t wish to be associated with the failure. As more details emerged I realised that there was a good chance of success, but unfortunately that one would still be giving money to Sony BMG, of whom Simon Cowell is a shareholder (well its technically Sony shares, but anyway). Further more Killing in the Name of is one of the world’s most overplayed songs. RATM have loads of great songs, especially surprising for a band with only 3 original albums, but its usually Killing that gets played.

Most fundamentally though – this battle has re-invigorated the singles charts – charts who I very disagree with the premise of. I don’t want to use popularity as an excuse to promote already popular songs. I generally don’t enjoy most of the music in them. By ‘beating them at their own game’ people have made a point, but its validated the idea of the christmas number one as being meaningful in the process. For all my dislike of Xfactor – they’ve made the Christmas number a really boring race – something I can avoid taking an interest in, something I can more easily dismiss. And this is before we get onto the inherent heresy that singles are. The best albums comprise no mere set of songs, they are interwoven thematically and sometimes musically.

Analysis aside, there’s quite a few pieces of music that I think in many ways are worthy of listening to, but don’t get enough discussion or playtime. Here we go …

1. Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come: A Chimerical Bombination in 12 Bursts
An innovative album from the late 90s, trying to maintain a fundamentally Punk ethos, whilst altering the audio aesthetic fundamentally. The band’s left wing ideology is espoused strongly, furthering the idea that this album is revolutionary, rather than evolutionary.

You could also listen to: The Shape of Jazz to Come by Ornette Coleman. An album that takes a similar approach and is an early exampel of the Free Jazz movement. Lonely Woman is a particular favourite of mine.

2. Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
Slightly overshadowed in many eyes by his other by 1959 release, the pretentiously titled, “The birth of the cool”, Kind of Blue represents a pinacle of jazz achievement to me. An attempt to move away from the more rigid rules of Bebop without moving into Coleman’s free jazz territory, Kind of Blue positions itself as the archetypal jazz album: bold, and still very smooth. To quote the Fast Show sketch: “niiiice!”

You could also listen to: The birth of the Cool by Miles Davis. Does what it says on the tin.

3. Henryk Gorecki – Symphony No. 3
This symphony has an interesting history – composed in the mid 70s and ignore by people outside of the Polish Avantgarde music circle (which is probably about 3 people), then re-recorded in the early 90s and going on to comparatively widespread success. Compositionally this is a transitional piece, coming from Gorecki’s earlier compositions which are highly dissonant, and his later compositions, that are slower and a lot easier to listen to. Thematically this piece of music is about the separation of mother and children during a time of war – something that particularly resonates with me at Christmas time, since it is nowadays the longest period of time when I see my immediate family.

You could also listen to: Different Trains by Steve Reich. This juxtaposes the train journeys that Steve Reich made visiting his seperated Mother and Father with those that Jews in Europe were making on their way to Concentration Camps. The thing I like to reflect on with this, especially during my journey is that the worst I have to contend with is the poor standard of public transport – whilst my grandparents generation had more important challenges to contend with. Perhaps this is less important to people without Jewish grandparents.

4. At The Gates – Terminal Spirit Disease
Everytime I listen to the “The Swarm” I become convinced its the BEST … melodic death metal track … EVAR. That aside I think this is a strong album, more focussed and simpler than some of At The Gates’ other work it really stands out to me as a straight to business metal album that really gets on with its task at hand.

You could also listen to: Ride the Lightning by Metallica – a classic from the thrash metal era, another straight to business album. And seriously – who doesn’t like Creeping Death?

5. Roy Ayers – Everybody loves the Sunshine
I really wanted something fun for this list – and this fits the bill perfectly. Whilst writing this blog post I’m stuck in the midlands, lying in bed wrapped in a douvet because its the only place warm enough for my liking, with snow outside. I do love the sunshine. I do love it!

You could also listen to: International Thief Thief and Everything Scatter by Fela Kuti. These are both short, so I chose 2 of them! Afrobeat is in a bit of a revival nowadays and why not? Even I want to dance to these rhythms, and I hate dancing. Combined with the jazz and funk infusion. Another one to warm the heart.

Honorable Mentions: Beethoven’s 6th Symphony – I love the first movement, it makes me so happy, Anything By Meshuggah – Polymetric face melting metal.

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