Cattle and Loveplay

I'm not sure I've ever been as disconnected from popular music as I am now.

Sure in my angsty-est of teenage days there were periods where I only listened to like 4 bands, but I was still largely aware of what the popular kids were dancing to at the time. If anything, knowing the specific machine I was raging against only made me more dedicated to my belief that all of my efforts to keep "real music" alive were vital and important.

Truth be told, I don't have that much of a problem with pop music. Dancy beats and solid hooks work on me just as much as the next guy -- which is probably why I'm kinda addicted to singing along with Cardi B's remix of Bruno Mars' "Finesse" whenever it pops up in my Spotify.

What I have the biggest problem with these days is manufactured music.

What I mean by that is the current glut of generic mid-tempo would-be anthems that get pumped out as the record companies try to chase the latest trend or worse -- take something raw and urban that's really starting to turn heads and then essentially attempt to gentrify it by putting a more palatable face on it and a huge marketing push.

This is by no means a new problem in the music industry, but we're unfortunately living in a time where this seems to be more painfully blatant than it's been in a while.

With the decline of rock and roll as a viable crosscurrent in pop culture, a large section of producer-driven music styled to create hits in both pop and pop country music has all but abandoned their efforts to even hide the formula anymore.

They steal popular tropes and gimmicks from the current cultural crosscurrents (hip-hop, EDM) and then sprinkle them liberally over their proven songwriting templates, knowing that anyone who relies on Pandora, YouTube, or Spotify as their vessel for new discovering new songs is likely to seek out artists similar to those they already like (assisted by the algorithms on each platform dedicated to providing them with available lists whenever possible).

This isn't hating on your favorite artist, it's business. 

The good news is that after a long time of chaos, the very same platforms that the record labels once wanted to kill are becoming their preferred avenue to find their way back to relevance. What better way to maximize the power of the hit single than by making it the potential centerpiece of its own radio station that you can track and analyze endlessly?

After all, how much more proof do you need that everyone loves Post Malone (whoever the hell that is) if Spotify's detailed tracking systems can quantifiably prove that of all eleventy billion songs on the platform across multiple genres that Spotify's over 100 million registered users could access with just a click, they're listening to his song the most in a given week?

All the better though that this is happening on software platforms that aim to house the largest libraries of all the other styles of music in the world too?

All things considered, I think it's the best possible outcome we could have hoped for as listeners.

The thing is though, I still love to discover new music. Which you would think would be super easy given the breadth of these platforms -- and while I do spend a fair amount of time browsing through the suggestions I'm offered and the new artist playlists available, what ends up happening more often than not is the bad part of the bargain that I was just praising above.

Spotify's algorithms are so designed to feed me more of what it assumes I like that they'll frequently suggest artists I've already heard of or worse, offer variations on the artist they originally based the suggestion on.

"Oh you like Prince? Then you might also want to try Prince and the Revolution."

Well-intentioned it might be, but that's not really much help. So I tend to find myself seeking out different ways and means to find new music all the time.

Which is why is was so cool to trip across something really interesting and new from an unexpected place. A BBC film critic I really like named Mark Kermode was watching a new movie called Hostiles (which I'm pretty interested to see) and he found himself fascinated by the soundtrack. Particularly some of the ambient textures used to create background noises. Turns out a lot of the soundtrack was created on a unique instrument called a Yaybahar - of which there's apparently only one of in the entire world.

Now a couple of things here -- First and foremost, how cool is that thing!? It's like it's got its own built-in echo chamber. Plus it's like a percussion instrument and two different string instruments combined, just really really cool.

But second, just watching this video I kept thinking to myself -- the guy is playing this unique instrument in what is clearly an upstairs room. All that wood paneling and high ceilings are probably adding to the depth of the sound -- but is it like, an apartment?

Does this guy have downstairs neighbors?

I mean, it is a cool sound and all, but holy crap -- how would you like that noise raining down on you from above while you're trying to sleep? I mean seriously, how much of the haunting sound of this instrument comes from its resonant strings, and how much comes from the dude in the room below him banging a broom handle on the ceiling? How about when two show up to the apartment mailbox at the same time after a long night of "practicing?"

..That's gotta be awkward.

[Now Playing:  Charles Mingus "Orange Was the Color of Her Dress Then Blue Silk" ]