Monday, December 6, 2010

Idiot Listens to Jazz

The most fun thing in the world, to me, is listening to music from a genre I know next to nothing about- especially one that I'd previously handwaved as being "not for me"- and having my mind blown. Then I get to go down the incredibly rewarding path of being entry-level in a genre for the millionth time, eagerly snatching anything that's widely hailed as a classic in the style, past the wrinkled brows of people either wondering what the hell I'm on about or amazed that I hadn't been listening to that album since birth.

I'm not going to write a long review of On the Corner because the point of this post isn't that a Miles Davis album is good; and I'm not going to try to say that everyone should have an open mind towards all genres, because it's all like just music, man. The point is that you need to periodically give yourself the opportunity to be blown away by something different, even if it's something you previously thought was shit and don't know why people keep going on about it. If you're actively listening to different genres on a regular basis (as I like to think I am), you should be giving yourself different reference points. That King Crimson album might sound like wanking for grandfathers when you're 17, but if you come back to it after a long journey through the discographies of Sonic Youth, Can, Neu, and The United States of America, it might make a lot more sense.

To get pseudo-neurological about it, that's how the brain works; we have bits of information connected to other bits of information, so it's a lot easier to listen to music on opposite poles if you listen to all the in-between artists first. Or, to make an analogy more people on the internet will understand, imagine the main map in Super Mario World. Time/music works the same way.

There's nothing wrong with having genres you loathe, just be prepared to backpedal when you like just that one artist, then just that artist and a couple other two that are in a similar style, and on and on until you're an admitted fan of the genre. The only way to avoid this is to have zero genres you swear off (and god help you if you try to tell me that post-grunge isn't irredeemable), or to not be constantly expanding your taste into different styles. And if you're not doing that, you're missing out.

Back to the Miles Davis, anyone that's a fan of weirder funk or extended amelodic grooves should check it out. But that's pretty obvious, since I'm the last person on earth to hear this album.


Oh, and I got Herbie Hancock - Head Hunter halfway through listening to the Miles album, but it's way too "lite"/"bordering on pleasant background sounds" for my taste. So there's your VICIOUS PANNING for the post.

1 comment:

  1. Hi JM, I started reading your blog after reading your most recent article for Something Awful (the hip hop one? I think?) and I just want to say how refreshing it is to read your opinions on music. I've long avoided reading most music review sites after I decided that they were just fellating their own egos. But you tell it like it is and I appreciate that.

    As for this post, yes I agree that we should always keep an open mind. But for me I just can't seem to "get" certain genres like dubstep, and the more extreme shoegaze/shimmery tunes so prevalent nowadays. I try to listen to the recommended stuff, but I just don't hear the appeal sometimes.

    In the end it's still about what clicks on an (I would say) empathetic or emotional level.

    Cheers and keep writing!