Listen and learn

Music can be a great tool to find inspiration.

I often get ‘visions’ of scenes or stories when I’m listening to music, and I’ve heard others say the same. Like I know what would go good with this music, visually speaking. It’s like music triggers your mind to pierce through the mist in the back of your head and offer you a glimpse of what could be.

In his book The War on Art, Steven Pressfield describes inspiration as something ever-present around us, inconspicuous to the untrained eye (or ear). Only those skilled in the craft can pluck it out of the air and shape it into something extraordinary. They’re not yet finished product by any means, just concepts and ideas that could become something more in the right hands.
I like that metaphor, mysticism aside. You could argue this is an almost religious approach to something as ‘simple’ as creativity, but it’s comforting in a way, looking at inspiration as something ethereal that is always there for the taking -under the right circumstances-.

Ok, that was basically a roundabout way to justify talking about music on an art blog. Sure, music is art too, but not in my definition. Well, it is, but I mean when you say “art”, I think of illustrations. But that’s something for another time.

I’m hooked. Hooked on ‘semi-indie’ music. I’ll explain that term in a second.

My relationship with music is not like most I don’t think. Like I described above, music can strongly influence my mindset. Perhaps that is why I can appreciate so many varieties of music (excluding stuff like trance etc); I value songs primarily for the mood they evoke. Lyrics play a big part in this. It’s a public secret pop music these days is little more than an empty shell to entertain the masses, there is no substance in these songs anymore, not like there used to be in yee olde times (circa the ’70s). I can still appreciate these songs, either because lyrics happen to be well-written or because the melody ‘goes well’ with a certain mindset or activity, but it’s not like I can relate much to tales of ‘bitches’ and ‘bling’.

So I’ve been looking to less mainstream-ish artists. You’ve got your aforementioned classics for the last century, but those get old(er) fast. So I’ve been exploring the indie scene. And I found a few gems recently. I mentioned the term semi-indie above, because these artists aren’t really indie anymore. It’s a new generation of singer-songwriters who have just broken into the music industry, more often than not after acclaiming fame via the Interwubs. I follow a few artists on YouTube, but the one who really turned me in this direction was Colbie Callait. She started out singing into her webcam on MySpace. I’m sure you’ve heard her song many times on the radio or on some mutation of MTV. Bubbly is a very solid song, and the rest of her repetoire is fairly decent. But my two recent favourites are Jamie Scott & the Town, and A Fine Frenzy, and ofcourse there’s bands like One Republic and Plain White T’s.

Jamie Scott is a British artist in the line of James Morisson, John Mayer, James Blunt, Paolo Nutini, Adam Levine etc. It’s hard to describe, he writes very soulful, melancholical ballads that at times remind me strongly of Maroon 5.

And then there’s A Fine Frenzy, aka 22-year-old Seattle-born self-taught singer-songwriter Alison Sudol (that enough prefixes for ya?). I am absolutely in love with her music (and she’s not too bad herself either). If you watch music channels, you’ve probably been bombarded with her new video for Almost Lover.

Her music is often described as heartfelt and hypnotic, and I underwrite those connotations. She writes such profound, magical lyrics and evocative melodies. I was so enamored with this song I picked up her debut album, One Cell in the Sea, and I’ve been listening to it continuously the last few days. Just looking at the tracklisting is a treat. The songs are almost exactly what you’d imagine when you read their titles.

When I started listening to the first track, titled Come On, Come Out, the sun just started shining in through my window as she sang

Come on, come out
The weather is warm
A spot in the shade
Away from it all
Watching the sky
Watching a painting coming to life
Shifting and shaping
Stopping the time
Rushing, waiting
Leave it behind
It all goes passing by

And I felt just like it was summer.

Just wanted to put that out there.

An additional bonus to these types of artists is that they are much more accessible. Alison is even on Twitter and Flickr! They just seem much more ‘friendly’ that way, more earnest perhaps. They ‘made’ themselves. And for that they have my respect.

I hope you enjoy these artists as much as I do and find some inspiration through their work.

4 thoughts on “Listen and learn

  1. Timothy.. I’m sorry, but I don’t really agree on the whole “It’s a public secret pop music these days is little more than an empty shell to entertain the masses, there is no substance in these songs anymore, not like there used to be in yee olde times (circa the ’70s)” thing. It’s to easy stating that music was better in the ’70s. Music back then was just as simple as it is right now. The only thing is: these days, the producing of music can be done much quicker and easier. And a lot of it sounds the same (i know). But stating that music was actually better in the ’70s… Now way, pop music has always been an empty shell to entertain the masses. That’s why it’s called POP music. As in popular, for the masses.
    Ow I’m sorry, it’s nothing personal , I just hear these type of remarks all day from people who think it was so much better in the old days. =D Vroegah!!! Don’t think I don’t agree with you. I just think it’s a little easy stating that pop music was better in the old days. But then again: you know me. I’m always making these kind of remarks just to get people thinking about their beliefs even if I do agree with them. =D
    Ow, bitches and bling…. That’s not everything their is about hiphop (but then again, I may be taking it a little too personal). :p
    love and kisses
    Marcus McBride

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  2. Well, you certainly have a point there, and maybe I just wrote it down a little black & white, but It’s not like I hate all pop music and love everything from the 70’s (far from it actually, just look at my iTunes library). The idea is more that music from back then (60s, 70, bit of 80 maybe) was often about something. Now that we’re more content with our Western society, the MAJORITY is about commercialism. I mean, there’s guys in suits writing songs for 16 year old girls. It’s become a machine. If you can’t hit those high-notes, just run the track through Auto-Tune.
    That’s not to say that all music is like that. I mean, just look at A Fine Frenzy or Jack Johnson for example, they are the real deal. Their songs are really about something and they write them themselves. But often they don’t get the attention they deserve.

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