“Dead Roots Stirring” doesn’t really get going until 3:33 in, but that’s what I love about Elder: noodly, jamming metal from a fantastic trio.
Elder gets labelled a doom/stoner metal band, but I think there’s a bit of prog in there, too. They’re one of those bands that I turn on and let play all morning: repetitive, great hooks, and meandering. That turn at 9:15 or so? It’s like another song buried in the larger song. So good.
There are institutions, professionals and organizations that would like you to believe that you don’t have much choice in the matter.
They want to take away your agency, because it makes their job easier or their profits higher.
But you have more choice than you know.
In our recent move, I’ve twice dealt with corporations and utilities that have made me feel like I have no agency. Most recently, Apple Support left me hanging on an Apple ID and iTunes issue. Apple! A company I’ve supported each of my adult years!
Call support centers are a form of capitalist nihilism. There’s no reason for any of the decisions made except to make the company’s situation better, and to help you feel powerless. It’s rare that a support interaction has a positive outcome – so rare, that we marvel at Creation when it happens.
My Apple interaction was especially galling. From 2005-2008, I purchased a bunch of music under an old Apple ID. From 2008 on, I’ve been purchasing music from a different Apple ID, unaware of the consequences, so now I have a bunch of music in limbo. The support center’s solution? “Switch Apple IDs each time you want to listen to that music.” Helpful! And silly. What they don’t tell you is that each time you switch Apple IDs in iTunes, it locks the previous Apple ID for 90 days.
Three months! Unacceptable. And completely arbitrary.
So now I’ll be sticking to downloading my music from companies with fewer arbitrary restrictions (as Godin writes, keeping the “ability to shop around”). It’s one of the reasons I don’t rely on subscription-based music services. There is, by definition, no agency involved in that transaction. If you unsubscribe, all the music goes away.
The larger point can be applied to creativity and photography, of course. There’s creative agency – that sense of not being held hostage by expectations and self-imposed pressure. On the technology side, by submitting our work to Instagram and Tumblr, you’re giving up a bit of agency. And if something goes wrong, your only recourse is a faceless call center, if that.
My one weak spot: Flickr. I rely on Ol’ Reliable for so much of what I do, including image hosting for this very blog. And I have a lot of time and infrastructure wrapped up in that website. If something goes wrong, I’ll be in a bit of trouble. It won’t be catastrophic, but it certainly won’t be fun.
When we keep our agency, in the form of hosted, backed-up websites and blogs, we have a bit more say in the matter. We can always pack up and put up our tent somewhere else.
Well, they came from somewhere: Spotify’s Progressive Metal list. As soon as I heard “Starburn,” I knew they were my kind of band. Dynamic, heavy, beautiful, different – VOLA’s Inmazes combines djent, prog, and electronics in novel ways. All of Inmazes is a treat. Standouts include the title track, “Starburn,” and “Your Mind Is a Helpless Dreamer.”
My album of the year. So good.
Big Big Train – Folklore
Another in the new-prog discoveries, Big Big Train makes pastoral progressive rock that’s a lot of fun. “Wassail” was my favorite from this album – and thanks to that song, I’m making an traditional wassail cider for the holidays.
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Boy, what a discovery “Milliontown” was for me. Twenty six minutes of pure prog glory. Frost* made a poppier effort with Falling Satellites: less prog epics but more prog experiments (ProgStep? It’s in there!). It’s been in near constant rotation since the fall.
The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it
An outlier for music this year, and even though I greatly prefer their first album, the 1975 snuck up on me. They’re the rare modern band that breaks through the noise and make themselves known (it helps that I follow a bunch of my former college students on Twitter). I like it when you sleep… is quiet a bit too often for my liking, but the upbeat tracks are a lot of fun in that grimy, party-hardy English way.
Haken – Affinity
More on the prog metal side of things, Haken’s Affinity is a nice callback to the mid ’80s in that rose-colored glasses kind of way that made Stranger Things such a fun series. I mean, just listen to that synth and guitar line in “1985.”
My favorite is “Earthrise” – a gung-ho prog romp if there ever was one. You can’t beat that opening piano riff.
The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem
Want to see me have a meltdown on Twitter? Just go back to earlier this year during The Hip’s final show. Man Machine Poem is a weird, beautiful, potential goodbye from Canada’s hometown band. “Machine” says “so long” in such a haunting way (“I dream like a bird”), it’s all you can do not to break down at the end. Or pump your first in celebration.
“I tried nothing, and I’m out of ideas,” Gord sings. I doubt that – but it’s a fine idea to finish things up.
Tycho, Epoch : Big surprise album from one of my fav electronic bands.
Speaking of music: Frost’s behind the scenes work on their song “Black Light Machine” was a lot of fun to watch. With all of these “here’s how the song was made” videos and podcasts, it’s great to see the musicians actually performing their individual parts.
And my gosh, that guitar section at 5:56. Beautiful.
Frost is becoming one of my favorite bands – and they’re a recent discovery, thanks to that Spotify / YouTube / Amazon connection. Great, poppy prog with virtuoso musicians. If you have a spare 26 minutes, let “Milliontown” wash over you. Every part and movement is perfect.
Lately, I feel like I’m exploring more and more musical acts, especially in progressive rock and metal. So many musical discoveries have come from a combination of Spotify, YouTube, Amazon, and following the bands I love. I feel like I’m awash in music, and it brings me a lot of joy.
Don’t get me wrong: I still purchase my music, usually in physical form. I give myself a monthly musical budget, and I’m not afraid to spend that money.
But music discovery? Spotify makes this so easy.
The steps go something like this:
Listen to a band I enjoy
Look at the “Related Artist” tab on Spotify and poke around
Check out YouTube to see if the artist has any music videos (remember those?)
Head to Amazon to see what reviewers say about their albums
Put an album in my Amazon wish list to reference later
Purchase the album
I don’t do like the kids do these days and use Spotify (or Apple Music, or any other streaming service) for all my music needs. But I do find that it’s perfect for experimenting, and for checking out albums that I’ve always wanted to hear before I buy.
(And thank goodness for YouTube. If an artist is not on Spotify, chances are someone has ripped and uploaded their album to YouTube.)
For those bands that have been on the periphery of my musical tastes, digital music venues offer me a free sample. It costs nothing, except a potential album purchase down the road.
I haven’t been this excited about music since around the time I was in college, when so much good stuff was coming my way from friends in school and college radio. Today, the material is almost overwhelming, because now the entirety of rock and roll’s catalog is at my fingertips. A lot of these newly-discovered artists have quickly become some of my favorites. That’s a fun feeling.
Supporting my favorite artists with actual money is so important. Thanks to these streaming services, I can find more favorite artists to support.
“Instead of slashing my wrists, I just write a bunch of really crummy songs.” – Peter Steele, Ink19 interview
I remember it like it was yesterday: Freshman year of college, walking to work at the local elementary, World Coming Down spinning on my portable CD player.
It was 1999, and Type O Negative had a new album out – a gloomy, doom-filled prophecy. It was hard to get in to it at first, especially after the glam-goth love songs of October Rust.
Take “World Coming Down.” It’s basically a dirge, in rock form. Very hard to listen to sometimes. It’s sonic depression.
I remember walking to my job at the school, shuffling through the leaves, trying to make heads or tails of this funeral in my headphones. Everything’s wilting around me, I’m having trouble adjusting to life at college, the weather sucks, and here’s Pete in my ears singing a suicide note.
But now, all these years later, I play this album every autumn, and those slow, death-march songs stick. If you survive eight minutes in, the payoff is just fantastic. Peter Steele really was a fabulous song writer.