I have a confession. There was a time where I refused, or maybe was just too lazy, to seek out new music. By new music, I mean current modern music. I used to sit in this rut and believe that there was no longer music that I could connect with being released nowadays. I had a set of bands, which I constantly listened to over and over. If I wanted to hear music I hadn’t heard before, I would dig deep into the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s catalogues. I introduced myself to blues, jazz and classical music as I was so bored and frustrated with modern music.
That’s not necessarily the worst thing, though. I found a love for genres that I never imagined possible. I went deep into albums from blues legends B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Joe Bonamassa, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Sonny Rollins, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and so on. I found jazz artists which constantly inspired me in Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Red Garland, Chick Corea, Bill Evans, Wayne Shorter and so on. These guys are the pinnacle of players of their respective instruments and it definitely did not do any harm to focus on music from the past.
However, it’s a shame it took me so long to open my eyes to modern music, because if January 2017 has taught me anything, it is that modern music is very much alive, and doing extremely well.
In the first month of this year alone I have heard some absolutely fantastic records by bands/artists whom a year ago I would not have even heard of, let alone taken the time to enjoy. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are unknown, or obscure by any means – just not bands that I would have actively listened to. It makes me wonder about all the albums that I have missed over time, simply by ignoring current trends or seeking new bands, as I have done for the past year. We have tools like Spotify, SoundCloud and Apple Music to help us with this. Taking advantage of recommendations from these music services opens the door to completely new music every single day, and it’s something that I definitely take advantage of. The other is discussion. I can’t even begin to explain how many great artists I’ve been introduced to through conversation with friends and family.
These are some of my top picks of the year so far:
- Sampha – Process. Great album. There’s nothing else to say. It’s a deep, thoughtful, pensive and completely unusual collection of tracks, but that strangeness is where the best parts lie. Sampha has spent a long time on this record (over 4 years) and the intricacies certainly reflect that. Everything is there for a reason, and it all works together to produce what I think could be album of the year.
- Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – Modern Ruin. I gave this album a listen on a complete whim, having never heard of them before. It’s an upbeat, energetic and catchy British rock album with some great riffs and fantastic vocal melodies from the former lead singer of punk band Gallows. It’s reminiscent of Arctic Monkeys and Royal Blood and it’s one of the better rock albums I’ve heard recently.
- Bonobo – Migration. Electronic artist Bonobo delivered an incredible album in the first two weeks of the year. Impeccable production and some memorable beats, with highlights including ‘Outlier’, ‘Bambro Koyo Ganda’ and the brilliant ‘No Reason’ featuring guest vocals by Nick Murphy (aka Chet Faker).
- Mother’s Cake – No Rhyme, No Reason. I had to laugh when I saw the name of this band, and really didn’t expect to enjoy the album as much as I have. Another upbeat rock album to kickstart the year, with a little more experimentation and improvisational sections than you would expect to hear. A good album which is definitely worth the listen.
- The Marcus King Band – The Marcus King Band. I’m going to cheat and throw this one in there. The album actually released in October 2016 but I haven’t listened to any other record as much as this one so far this year. Dirty, gritty blues/country/rock with lead singer/guitarist Marcus King‘s gravelly vocals soaring high above all the brilliant music technicalities. Produced by the unstoppable Warren Haynes (who features his amazing slide guitar abilities on ‘Virginia’), this is an album that will please anyone who enjoys blues rock. If you only listen to one track – try ‘Devil’s Land’.
On top of these great albums, there’s been new full length releases by Sohn, Parcels, The Menzingers, Japandroids, AFI, You Me At Six and Refused. We’ve heard new singles/EPs from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, John Mayer, Mastodon, HVOB, Fractures, Asgeir, and David Gray amongst others. This year has just been outstanding already and we’re only just getting into February.
Music is alive and well, and if I can give you any advice, it’s to actively look for the music you crave, because it’s out there and waiting for you to fall in love with it.