More music recommendations sought - what music are you passionate about?
August 8, 2014 7:00 AM   Subscribe

I find that I tend to like new music most when someone explains to me why it's interesting and important. That is, I'm more likely to enjoy [random genre for which I have a narrative] than [more music like what I already enjoy, but without a narrative]. And most of my favorite music is stuff that was shared with me by someone who really, really liked it. What do you really, really like right now? And why?

I'm looking for music recommendations in any genre, and to almost any degree of specificity - artist, album, song, genre. I'd also be interested in critical writing about what you recommend.
posted by Frowner to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
This may not be quite what you're looking for, but this is the exact reason that I listen to NPR's All Songs Considered.
posted by tooloudinhere at 7:16 AM on August 8, 2014

I love the shit out of contemporary klezmer, especially when it's punk- or dance-influenced, as a lot of it is. If you want to get started:

Geoff Berner - Klezmer Mongrels - "Luck in Exile"
Russkaja - Kasatchok Superstar - "More"
Golem - Citzen Boris - "Yiddish" (not on album)
Rotfront - Visa free - "Gay, Gypsy and Jew"
Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird - Partisans & Parasites - "Borscht Revisited"

A friend of mine likes Nayekhovichi quite a bit, but I'm not too aware of them so I can't recommend anything specific.
posted by griphus at 7:23 AM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

How do you feel about music that is itself narrative? It's not common any more but back in the day, Harry Chapin wrote almost exclusively narrative songs. WOLD, Taxi, and Better Place to Be are the only songs that stick in my head the way novels do -- whole worlds, whole environments, whole lifetimes sketched from just a few minutes of lyrics.

And if you want the narratives about where the narratives game from, because Chapin wrote his own songs and nobody produced them to death, there are stories about where the stories for songs like WOLD, Taxi and Better Place came from came from. In the live album, Chapin tells these stories, well... live. If you can get ahold of a physical album, the liner notes are a treasure.

I know it's all very old school now, but the man was a master storyteller. The day he died was the first time I ever saw my dad cry.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:34 AM on August 8, 2014

Oh, and, as far as why I like this sort of klezmer: it reflects a lot on my own cultural, ethnic and immigrant background which, honestly, basically very, very few forms of media bother to represent past the Ellis Island days. The lyrical themes are often about the secular aspects of life for eastern European (especially Russian) Jews who are straddling cultures, and straddling countries (the process often begun during an incredibly hectic and transient childhood) which, again, is a very rare thing to encounter. This is also party music: it's not devotional, it's irreverent. There are songs that border on political, but the message nearly always ends up being not "we're right" or "they're wrong" but "no one's hands are clean and we need to make the best choices we can." There's an ambiguity to the politics of diaspora culture there that you don't see a lot, especially when Israel is in the picture.
posted by griphus at 7:52 AM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Here is what I'm totally into right now

As griphus said above - Klezmer and Gypsy punk totally rock my socks off! A good way to find stuff is to find recommendations on Pandora, or Spotify. A few of my favorite artists are
Balkan Beat Box

In other genres - I also love Symphonic Metal - check out this subreddit for recommendations. A few notable artists here include -
Within Temptation

I've been on a 90's Eurodance binge.
La Bouche
Ace of Base
Haddaway - What is Love
Aqua - Yes Barbie Girl too
Sash - Ecuador
Culture Beat - Mr. Vain
Dr Alban
Robert Miles

If you like metal and industrial music, you might also want to check out the following few artists
And the ever eternal Rammstein

The other extreme is more contemporary minimalistic/ambient stuff. A few notable artists in this genre include -
Max Richter
Phillip Glass
Ludovico Einnaudi
Ryuichi Sakamoto
Olfaur Arnalds

I also love's Suburbs of Goa channel - new agey indian/worldbeat music.
Notable artists in this area include
Karsh Kale
Talvin Singh
Midival Punditz
Bombay Dub Orchestra
Badmarsh and Sri
Transglobal Underground
Asian Dub Foundation

That should keep you occupied for eternity I hope :)

Specific song suggestions - please let me know. I am on spotify if you want to follow me as rippersid.
posted by rippersid at 7:52 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I find that whenever I watch a rockumentary (there are many on Netflix), I feel like I've gained some interesting new context when I listen to that band afterward. "A Band Called Death" is a great example.
posted by evisceratordeath at 7:59 AM on August 8, 2014

Gabo Ferro. He is an amazing musician and songwriter with an exceptional voice. My roommate from Argentina would play Gabo all the time while he painted, and for the longest time I thought it was a women singing alto. There is very little, if any, writing in English about him, so I can't offer much on the information front. Discovery for yourself! Many of his albums are available on Youtube at the moment. They are all mesmerizing:

Canciones Que Un Hombre No Debería Cantar (2005)
Mañana no debe seguir siendo esto (2007)
Boca Arriba (2009)
El hambre y las ganas de comer (2010)
La aguja tras la mascara (2011)
La Primera Noche Del Fantasma (2012)
posted by ageispolis at 8:16 AM on August 8, 2014

I'm terrible at writing anything about music (especially about why I like something) but I find a decent amount of the stuff I listen to by either trawling through people's profiles or looking at people's collections on Bandcamp.
posted by Gev at 8:33 AM on August 8, 2014

Here's a bit of writing about the Fiery Furnaces' Rehearsing My Choir (2005), which is an album I didn't like at first but now love. The essay has a bit of music theory, but not so much that it lost me.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:10 AM on August 8, 2014

It's not new, exactly, but I can get myself all wound up listening to Josh Ritter because his lyrical exactness and pleasure in wordplay (as in The Temptation of Adam or Bandits or Leaves and Kings).
posted by ocherdraco at 9:11 AM on August 8, 2014

I don't know how popular they are out in the real world, but I really like Ozomatli. First of all, their name is taken from the Aztec god of dance. Secondly, they are from east L.A. and are amazingly multicultural (though they need a woman to join up, they have worked with rapper Medusa, one of my favorites). Their shows attract people of all ages and the times that I've seen them, they begin and end their shows by playing in the middle of the audience. They sometimes play on instruments they found in thrift shops. They incorporate all kinds of influences (marching band, traditional and non-traditional Spanish/Mexican music, rap, rock and roll), similar to 3 Mustafas 3.

My favorites CDs from them are Street Signs, Embrace the Chaos, and their self-titled CD.

If you like a Latin@ element to your music, Quetzal (with the remarkably-voiced Martha Gonzales) is amazing, as is the young Mexican-American singer Lila Downs.

And if you like feminist punk rock, Kathleen Hanna's new project The Julie Ruin (RUN FAST) is worth a listen, and the documentary about her, The Punk Singer, is on Netflix and worth a watch (as is the Le Tigre documentary, Who Took the Bomp?).
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 9:20 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I mostly appreciate guitar-oriented country blues and Americana. There's is something magical in the "complexity" found within "simple" people's music. Let me try to say it this way: while the musical parameters are far more constricted than classical compositions (say, Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, et al... whom I also like very much) the stripped-down nature of some old-timey music has an almost ineffable quality that seeps through the bareness of many of those songs. Whatever that ineffable-ness is, is what grabs my soul and speaks to me directly. I'm still not describing it well, but anyhow, most recently I have been obsessing over this particular Ramblin' Jack Elliott tune. It haunts me. It's in my head. It's in my heart. "If I Had a Carpenter" (album and live) SLYT
posted by CincyBlues at 10:53 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here are some local (to me) persons/groups that I have been jazzed about recently (no links right now b/c I'm writing this using a text browser and it's kind of a PITA but I'll add some later, in a further comment, if desired):

- The Holly Martins and generally anything Lorin Benedict is involved in (it's quite possible that the Holly Martins is the only such thing with recordings, though). Guitar/sax/vocals trio in which the vocals are exclusively scat-singing, nonsense syllables that are produced with incredible, impressive fluency. Interesting in part because it sort of straddles the in/out line in improvised music; they cover standards (including "Embraceable You" on the album, e.g.) but the singing style is decidedly nontraditional.

- Kyle Bruckmann's Wrack, which just released an album of music based on the songs in Pynchon novels, and I WAS THERE at the premiere performance!!! Jazzy with unusual instrumentation (viola, trombone, oboe, trumpet, bass, drums, bass clarinet on that album, "Awaits Silent Tristero's Empire".)

- Makeunder, a band that plays music that is (to me) pretty Dirty Projectors-ish, at least on record, which is no bad thing (esp. if you like the earlier DPs). Live is somewhat different which doesn't help you, obviously; they have an EP you can listen to on bandcamp, thouh.
posted by kenko at 11:44 AM on August 8, 2014

Two completely different bands I still get chills when I listen to, and I've listened to a lot:
Bruce Peninsula - raucous, dramatic rock gospel from Toronto
B-Ju - steppy, swaggering electronic that somehow pushes all the right buttons while still being incredibly interesting

Feel free to check out my Bandcamp fan page. Just don't expect any consistency of genre.
posted by ropeladder at 12:36 PM on August 8, 2014

My favorite thing recently has been Hi Fashion's "Amazing". Please mail me for other stuff.
posted by bile and syntax at 3:49 PM on August 8, 2014

I've been enjoying Hot Jazz, both the original recordings and the recent revival.
posted by fings at 4:36 PM on August 8, 2014

I love Aimee Mann in a way that is painful, because her lyrics are so raw and also so intelligent and poetically sharp that they don't seem to be from the same planet as most other songwriters. Lost in Space is one of my favorite albums of hers.

I also love the Eels for many of the same reasons.
posted by emjaybee at 12:19 AM on August 9, 2014

I dredged up some good articles and interviews about folk metal bands for this recent post, in case you missed it.

Ensiferum: "The lyrics written by the band present a Viking-themed protest against the Christianizing of the North; this theme of rallying for battle (whether a defensive or offensive one) pervades folk metal. The verses are growled, but the choruses are sung in a call and response pattern to a simple folk melody by all the band members; the leader calls out to his army and they respond, 'In my sword I trust.' These sung choruses contribute immensely to the creation of a folk music ambiance, as they emphasize the group over the individual vocalist and provide a counterpoint to the screamed vocals in the verses that are more typical of metal music."

Turisas: "'Konstantinopolis!' might not be a cry that one would expect to cause a hall full of metalheads to erupt. But when Turisas belt it out in the chorus of their eight-minute saga 'Miklagard Overture,' it calls forth the wonder that captivated eleventh-century Norse travelers as they first beheld the temples and halls of the Byzantine capital. It is, simultaneously, a celebration of the Vikings' triumph after braving the portages and rapids of the long rivers of Rus and an invocation of their future glory as members of the Romaioi emperors' Varangian guard."
posted by gueneverey at 7:43 AM on August 9, 2014

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