Chilly Gonzales on the future of music

A reflection on the music that represented my soundtrack for 2018.


Depth of Field (Sarah Blasko)

Although Blasko’s use of synth bass and programmed beats with this album leads to comparisons with artists like Goldfrapp, Depth of Field never quite reaches the same dancefloor intensity. Instead the mix often creates a feeling of fragility. In listening I was reminded in part of LCD Soundsystem’s american dreams, as the more I listened, the more the choice to hold back on certain elements seemed to make more sense. Overall, I found it one of those albums that never seems settled and subsequently hooks you in because of it.

I would place this album between Goldfrapp and Lamb.

Lilac Everything (Emma Louise)

Lilac Everything is a captivating album. The decision of Emma Louise to definitively augment her voice makes for an intriguing listening experience. Where some may be critical of the artificial nature of pitch correction, the use in this circumstance is novel and critically challenges the notion of identity and belonging. There is just something uncanny about listening to a female artist taking on a male voice.

I would place this album between Father John Misty and Jeff Buckley.

 

Isaac Gracie (Isaac Gracie)

The strength of Isaac Gracie’s self titled album is the rawness of his voice. In a world of lush productions, this album cuts things back to basics. Many of the tracks consist of drums, bass and guitar. This simplicity allows Gracie to stand out. In some ways this reminds me of acts like Beach House and London Grammar, who fill out their sound with less rather than more.

I would place this album between Art of Fighting and London Grammar.

Wildness (Snow Patrol)

It is interesting listening to artists who I grew up with, but have not necessarily listened to lately. They change, the world changes, music changes, I changed. The one thing that remains the same with Snow Patrol is Gary Lightbody’s distinctive voice. There is nuance with this album with a continual battle between acoustic and electric. Although some have argued that Jacknife Lee’s polished production is to the detriment of the album, I found that once I stopped comparing the album with the past it grew on me.

I would place this between Radiohead and Collective Soul

MassEducation (St. Vincent)

I loved last year’s MassEduction, but the rawness of Annie Clark’s voice accompanied by Thomas Bartlett on piano takes the music to a whole new level for me. Even though her music is relatively structured she manages to find creativity within constraint in this reworking. This is epitomised by a track like Slow Disco, which she has played supported by Bartlett’s piano, strings on the album, acoustically for NPR Tiny Desk and electroically in the Taylor Swift inspired reworking as Slow Fast Disco. Other artists to peel the layers back this year were Kimbra and Chilly Gonzales.

I would place this between MTV Unplugged and Chilly Gonzales

BONUS: Beckstrom Holiday Extravaganza Volume X (Chris Beckstrom)

Christmas is always an interesting time of year when it comes to music. There are those like Michael Buble that have carved out a niche. Last year Sia created an interesting album of original music. With all this said there is something truly joyful about Chris Beckstrom’s ‘Holiday Extravaganzas’, where each year he electronically reimagines a collection of Christmas classics. The pictures are also a useful reflection of the effort involved.

I would place this between Daft Punk and Aphex Twin


Some of the artists that stood out for me this year, but did not make the cut include The Presets, Amy Shark, Guy Pearce, The Wombats, Nils Frahm, Missy Higgins, Dreams and Aphex Twin.


Looking back it feels like the year of imagining, whether it be different versions (St Vincent) or new ground (Emma Louise). So what about you? What music has caught your attention this year? What albums and artists have you had on high rotation? Is there something that seems to tie your year together? As always, comments welcome.


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A reflection on the artists and albums that represented the soundtrack of 2017.


Music is important to who I am. Although I listen to a lot of podcasts, books and converse with people via Voxer, it is still music that I fall back on. Here then are some of the albums and artists that have caught my attention this year:

LCD Soundsystem

But out of the little rooms and onto the streets
> You’ve lost your internet and we’ve lost our memory
> We had a paper trail that led to our secrets
> But embarrassing pictures have now all been deleted
> By versions of selves that we thought were the best ones
> ‘Till versions of versions of others repeating
> Come laughing at everything we thought was important
> While still making mistakes that you thought you had learned

tonite

I have a habit of hearing a particular song and writing off an artist’s oeuvre based on it. I did it with ‘Over and Over’ by Hot Chip until I discovered Grizzly Bear’s cover of Boy from School, I also did it with ‘Daft Punk Are Playing at My House’ by LCD Soundsystem. It was only after a different me returned to the music with new ears that I realised what I had been missing. With LCD Soundsystem, it was James Murphy’s production of Arcade Fire’s Reflector that had me reviewing my assumptions. However, it was not until american dream that I finally dived in.

I came upon american dreams via Austin Kleon’s newsletter. My first impression was that the long flowing bleeps and beats seem to float on by. However, on repeated listens the seemingly careless tweaks seem to take on shape. You started to realise that what felt like a jam was very purposeful, especially in regards to the lyrical content. I had a similar experience with Radiohead, in particular, Kid A. Some music takes time.

Lorde

In my head, I play a supercut of us
All the magic we gave off
All the love we had and lost
And in my head
The visions never stop
These ribbons wrap me up
But when I reach for you
There’s just a supercut

Supercut

Earlier this year, my family and I spent two weeks in New Zealand. During that time, ‘Green Light’ had just been released and was on high rotation. The song and subsequent album are intriguing. I feel that it is ironic pop – if that is even a genre – in that it has many of the ingredients of popular music, whether it be four to the floor beats or lush layers, juxtaposed with unapologetic angst and honesty of someone reflecting on life at 19. This comes out in Lorde’s dissection of ‘Sober’ on the Song Exploder podcast.

The more I listen to the album the more I am baffled about what exactly draws me in. 19 year old me has long gone, yet there is still something that hooks me. I wonder if it is Jack Antonoff’s production, but I also think that it is rawness of the lyrics as well. In an interview, Antonoff describes Lorde as the Bjork and Kate Bush of our time. I guess we will see.

Arcade Fire

Well you’ve got one choice, maybe two
You can leave with me or I’ll go with you
I know you haven’t even met me yet
But you’re gonna love me baby when you get to know me

Chemistry

Another ironic album is Arcade Fire’s Everything Now. A fist pumping critique of fist pumping. It is one of those albums that has all the lyricals hooks and riffs to mindlessly sing and dance along too at an outdoor festival only, yet when you stop and look and listen, the music feels like a critique of that, instead calling for some kind of awakening and realisation of the world that we are creating.

Along with The National’s dark Sleep Well Beast and LCD Soundsystem’s american dream, if feels like these albums offer an intentional comment on the current climate. Having said this, I also find it interesting to listen to something like The Bleachers’ Gone Now from a political perspective. For at the end of the day, everything is ideological, or as Jack Antonoff suggests “music is a mini documentary of that moment“.

Ryan Adams

Ten months sober, I must admit
Just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it

Clean

I am always intrigued by automation. Earlier this year I was driving back home across town and decided to put on some random driving playlist that Google made me. A few songs in this track started playing. It felt familiar, yet I had never heard it. The song was Ryan Adam’s cover of Wildest Dreams. I can only assume that Google thought I would like it based on both of my daughter’s obsession with Shake It Off. Well Google was right, I loved the whole album.

I remember watching an interview in which Adams explains how he chose to cover Wonderwall to annoy an ex. This album though seems more purposeful. A case of Bruce Springsteen meets The Smiths, Adams brings something different out with his reimagining of the songs. It was also fascinating a few months later, listening to Taylor Swift’s original album and comparing the two. Felt like comparing a book and movie adaptation, where you feel as if they are both capturing a particular tangent, yet neither quite captures the full circle.

Reuben Stone

Another plane, another train
I’m checking in and checking out again

Push to the Limit

This year, my daughters and I have regularly ventured into the city on the weekend in an effort to get out and about. This usually involves visiting one of the many parks or buying dumplings and donuts at the market, but it has also come to include listening to the many buskers that fill the streets. Some artists that come to mind are Amber Isles and their ability to fill.the sound of a full band even with the makeshift drum kit, as well as Gareth Wiecko and his layered piano concertos. However, the major highlight was Reuban Stone.

A self proclaimed samplologist, Stone builds songs from scratch, beginning with the beats, then layering this with various instruments, including vocals. Although his recorded material is good, his performances are something to be experienced. He manages to adjust to drag out tracks without feeling at all tedious or repetative. It seems mandatory to have a looper when busking these days, however Stone takes it to a new level.


So what about you? What music has caught your attention this year? What albums and artists have you had on high rotation? Like my discovery of all things Jack Antonoff, is there something that seems to tie your year together? As always, comments welcome.


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With the recent death of Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden, I was left remembering of my youth. Whether it be buying the cassingle of My Wave or purchasing the music book for Down on the Upside at a Brashs closing down sale. However, the memory that stands out the most was playing Spoonman as a part of my Year 12 music examination.

One of the suggestions in developing the short set was to include a breadth of genres, as well as incorporate different time signatures. Once you dig down, there is little that is uniform about Soundgarden’s music. Whether it be open tunings or odd time signatures, there is always something going on. So I chose Spoonman after initially toying with Go by Pearl Jam.

It was a real chore, although we had a front man who successfully mixed his time screaming metal tracks and singing musical theatre, there was a complexity that I just struggled to get my head (and fingers) around. The problem in hindsight was that I was trying to replicate the lead guitarist Kim Thayil. In particular, I had tried to play note-for-note his wild solos. My guitar teacher tried all he could to get me to simply play around with the scale, but it never felt right. I felt I had to play it how it was on the CD. This no doubt says as much about me as anything. Times have changed.

Nowadays, I rarely play other people’s songs and If I do it is to add my own bent. Over time I have become fascinated in the idea of the cover. I think that in part this is a consequence of my interest in the deconstructionists and reader response theory. Some examples include Johnny Cash’s American series and Triple J’s Like a Version series.

Another example that I came upon recently was Ryan Adams cover of Taylor Swift’s whole album. I had never actually heard the original, other than the singles. What was interesting was that when I finally heard the original in full recently, I was actually disappointed. Not because I thought that Adams was a better artist, but I because I felt that I would have made different choices with the songs. Plucked out different sounds. Emphasised different elements. Here I was reminded of Brian Eno who when interviewed about U2’s the Joshua Tree explained how with a few tweeks that it could have been a Depeche Mode album. Just as Adams was inspired by a mixture of Bruce Springsteen and The Smiths, I was fed by my own experiences and imagined my own song.

It can be easy to get caught up in the creation of the perfect representation. Copying originals. Taking away all context and purpose. It feels like this is what happens in education. Teachers come in with the hope of making everything sound like the latest hit, with their long list of effect sizes. The problem is that this denies the context, the choices and the nuance. It feels like trying to copy Kim Thyall when he himself plays it differently each and every time anyway. We are then faced with the question, how might we let go and become attuned to the moment at hand? Maybe I am wrong, but feelings and emotion come through interpretation, not mindless reproduction?


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