I hate soap operas. I hate chick flicks. I hate reality shows, D List-celebrities-learn-to- dance/ice skate/cook shows and audience participation shows hosted by a wanna-be psychologist who pretends to want to help but is really looking to exploit the vulnerable with the shiny bait of 15 minutes on TV.
Worse still, I think Hell has a special place reserved for the X Factor and any show that needs me to phone in now to make sure my favourite contestant makes it through to the next round/will sing in next week’s live show/is not sent home tonight.
Make no mistake, dear readers: I love music. Hence when my wife or kids at home turn on any (or all) of the aforementioned shows, on go my headphones. I can blank out the blurry background of the tv in our front room. Simon Cowell can ‘ummm’ and ‘ahhhh’ all he likes. He can flick through the tabloid newspapers to see if his latest manufactured beef with a fellow judge has pushed Afghanistan off the front pages to his heart’s content. The simple act of headphones over my ears and I can listen to what I consider real music, music that says something. Rest assured it won’t be some re-hashed Motown cover sung by some crying Doris from Derbyshire whose grandmother died 20 years ago and ‘just wants to make her proud.’
To me music is art. Art should hold up a mirror to society. It should tell us something we didn’t know about ourselves. It should ask questions of us, even if we cannot answer.
Personally, I love lyrics more than melody or rhythms. Like everyone else, there are catchy, rhythmic songs that if played, I will tap my foot along to or even get up and dance. But for the whole, if it is ME music, it will be because the lyrics are powerful, even poetic.
Bob Dylan, Neil Young: both are good default settings if in need of strong lyrics. Recently there has been a bit of a mini-revival of the folk music scene here in London. It has been artists from this revival that form most of my head-phoned world at the moment. Below, I include clips from a few artists you may or may not have heard before. Enjoy as you see fit. However, be pre-warned that they are not what are universally called toe-tappers. They are challenging in the questions they ask, they hold us a mirror. Click on the links to make up your own mind.
Keep the Faith,
I will start with LAURA MARLING. Not so unknown over the past few months following her triumph at the Brit Awards in March. Her voice reminds me of an older Joni Mitchell. Her words give me an insight into that age old question; What are women thinking? She is only 21 years old. I expect big things.
JOHNNY FLYNN is a young British artist who cites Shakespeare as one of his lyrical influences. I just love the line: Sweep my mess away, leave my body, leave my bones, leave me whole and leave my soul, leave me nothing I don’t need at all, nothing I don’t need.
JOSH T PEARSON: a singer song/writer from Texas. Those who know me well, relax. Let’s just say he is a good thing to come out of Texas. He has spent the past decade living in Paris and Berlin so his stuff is tempered with a European twist. His songs and voice are racked with pain so not an easy listen.
JOSH RITTER is an Idaho hermit who writes in a secluded cabin in the American wilderness. His songs ring of isolation and self-reflection. This one has a slightly more upbeat tempo but the words are still a knife in the heart.