Originality is often seen as a mark of musical genius.
David Bowie is cited by so many as he takes pop music to places it never imagined it would end up. Pioneer producers/musicians such as Damon Albarn & Brian Eno continue push the boundaries. I remember the prophecy several years ago that at some point in the near future (around now I guess) popular music would run out of original tunes. Everything would have been done before.
That’s a worrying thought. That’s almost like saying there is no point writing a song as it has already been done. All creativity could suffer at the same time. No original story plots for books. No original poetry, film screenplays, paintings.
I believe mathematically the variables for creative originality are huge so we are probably safe. Musicians and songwriters have always borrowed or have been inspired by others. Bob Dylan was heavily influenced by Woody Guthrie, Noel Gallagher and Oasis by The Beatles and glam rock legends such as Slade.
New young talent such as Jake Bugg are avid fans of such performers such as Donovan, Don McLean, Jimi Hendrix and country music legends such as Johnny Cash. They still manage to be original but you can see where their influence comes from.
I am drawn to a particular sound at present. I find those new performers that have tapped into the 60’s west coast sound to be very appealing. Not all of an album would be in that style but certain songs really appeal. The following artists have released new material in the last 12 months that all more than nod to the music of the past.
Beck has released his first new album for six years recently. He has been around for approaching 20 years often releasing hard edged original music. He came to fame chiefly through the track ‘Loser’ which attracted international attention.
Morning Phase is a very gentle, dreamlike album. The sound is evocative of warm summer days and days gone by. It has production qualities of a Brian Wilson or Phil Spector production. Big, layered and soaring. It is a beautiful album that is a joy to listen to.
Damien Jurado really crept up on me. His latest album Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son (Secretly Canadian) is his eleventh album release. Based in Seattle Washington, he started on the music scene in the mid 1990’s, around the same time as Beck. His style has veered between and folk and rock. This new album is fabulous, complex and yet again evocative of west coast 60’s music. The stand out single Silver Timothy is a masterpiece conjuring up walking through deserts and deserted roads. Interestingly when I finally got to see the video, this was exactly the look they went for! I urge you to go and buy this album. Its brilliant!
Midlake released Antiphon their fourth album in 2013. The folk rock band from Texas have been producing fabulous original work since the turn of the Millenium. This latest album has a psychedelic almost progressive rock sound to it. If anything it bucks the trend rather leaning more towards Pink Floyd or early british prog rock such as Caravan or Camel. They have released a few tracks as singles Antiphon, It’s Going Down and my favourite, The Old and the Young. another sound investment that tips its hat to the sounds of the late 60’s early 70’s.
The British band Temples have been championed by BBC 6 Music as well as Noel Gallagher since their emergence onto the music scene in 2012. Their debut album Sun Structures was released in February this year. The sound is plucked out of the late 1960’s but very new at the same time. They produce excellent tunes with depth and a fantastic psychedelic feel to them. Yet again, another recommendation. I hope they go far. They remind me of two other favourite bands of mine , Cashier No9 and Treefight for Sunlight.
Singer songwriter Kurt Vile from Philadelphia has been producing interesting and engaging music both as a solo artist and as a former member of the band War on Drugs for over 10 years. His latest album Wakin on a Pretty Daze was released in 2013. It nods its head to late 60’s and asks the listener to engage with the music. Well worth a listen. The track ‘KV Crimes’ is reminiscent of early 70’s rock tracks by Argent and even Bowie in his Rebel Rebel era.
These five artists are active musicians making original multi layered music that works in 2014 but often harks back to the 1960’s and 70’s. They are no less relevant for paying homage to acts of yesteryear.