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Thread: Which new artists are today's flagships?

  1. #251
    Member Jay.Dee's Avatar
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    Not particularly prog-oriented, but a thought-provoking read on the state of "flagship" music these days:

    I had reviewed a fairly large number of aspiring young artists who came into the public eye in the early or mid 2000s, and since many of them were obviously not going away any time soon, every now and then I had to catch up by reviewing their latest releases — 2012, 2013, 2014... all the way to the end of the centuryʼs second decade. It was then that I began to notice the problem: for many, if not most, of these artists it was hard for me to put their latest record in context because... I did not remember the first thing about what any of their previous albums sounded like. Seriously, I found myself scratching my head, going back to my first reviews of their records — including those that were, quite often, written about with fondness and respect and highly rated — and realizing that, at best, I only have a vague, abstract idea of what that music sounded like. Even a quick re-listen to select sound clips did not always help: it was as if my memory cells were rejecting this music altogether, throwing it out without much ceremony. [...]

    Yet another realization that eventually struck me as I was browsing through the relatively large list of 21st century artists, and found reliable statistic confirmation, is how many of those people were essentially one-shot wonders — so very often releasing a first album that was really, really fresh and exciting, and then retreading farther and farther into self-repetition and predictable mediocrity with each subsequent release. Even my beloved Arcade Fire did not escape that fate: as far as I am concerned, they never topped the consistency, energy, and maniacal inspiration of Funeral (and as of 2019, it is fruitless to expect that they ever will — fifteen years is already twice as long as the Beatles had existed as a creative force).

    To the best of my memory, this was definitely not the case even with a decade as recent as the Nineties, when you still had artists like Radiohead or Björk expanding their vision or even radically redefining themselves with each new record. Now, on the other hand, it seemed that artists were praised for and expected to just keep on being themselves for as long as possible — I mean, regardless of which Beach House album you personally consider to be your favorite, it is useless to deny that in the grand scheme of things, they all sound very much the same, and are only distinguished by nuances that have as much subtlety as nuances on any given AC/DC album. (On the other hand, it may at least be argued that it took Beach House a few tries to arrive at the peak of their consistency — if you agree with me that Teen Dream is probably their peak — the absolute majority of their peers just blows the entire wad first time around).

    And thus it was that step by step, inch by inch, this good will credit provided to me by the good fairy of Total Availability found itself dissipated. Perversely, the more I tried to immerse myself in the active goings-on of 21st century pop culture, the more I became attracted to the music of the Nineties and even the Eighties — decades that I used to altogether despise while living through them. All of those twenty years, set against the experience of the most recent twenty years, now seemed like an endless, unpredictable, and often daring and provoking period of pushing forward boundaries and defying expectations; no, still nowhere near as jaw-dropping when you think of the many wonders of something like 1967, but nevertheless a period when people were still actively busy creating different formulae rather than simply following them. It just so happened that back in those days, I did not like these formulae — first and foremost, because of the triumph of electronic means of production over "real" instruments — but this time, it was no longer just a matter of personal subjective preference. On the contrary: I found that many of the 21st century albums that I honestly, sincerely liked upon the first few listens (and, accordingly, reviewed quite positively) made a quick and total retreat from my memory as soon as the review was finalized — while quite a few records from the Eighties and Nineties that I had scorned in writing were actually alive and thrashing within those memory cell walls, sometimes asking to be extracted and reevaluated from a new angle.

    In the end, I panicked. Here are two new albums by Black Lips and Blitzen Trapper, and I know for sure, goddammit, that I confessed to liking both of these bands — I gave some of their records a thumbs up, didnʼt I? I certainly did. But here are these new albums, and my obsessive code of honor demands that I write about them, yet I cannot write about them without putting them in the overall context of their careers... except I do not remember the tiniest smidgeon of information about them, do not feel the slightest tinge of emotion when stupidly glancing at the track listings of their allegedly very best albums. Is it just because my brain is going bananas? But if it is, why do I still remember, so clearly and distinctly, Adeleʼs 21, or Andrew Birdʼs Swimming Hour — a small handful of records released in approximately the same time period? Surely it is not because they are more "old-fashioned" than Blitzen Trapper... in any case, "old-fashioned" hardly ever matters to me: I mean, it is hard to find more "old-fashioned" bands these days than the Avett Brothers or Band Of Horses, but they have the same problem — good guys, good music, worth some friendly reviews, and then... out of sight, out of mind.

  2. #252
    Member Jay.Dee's Avatar
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    While I cannot vouch for certain that todayʼs record industry has been completely deprived of people of vision, it is somewhat telling that I intuitively view it as having become completely depersonalized — more of a well-oiled algorithmic system in which individual opinion, taste, and strategy no longer matter at all. How many talent scouts or industry bosses do we even know by name, and how many of them have been known to willingly take risks and experiment? The very size of the labels — with the majority of commercial brands now united as The Big Three — implies that individual responsibility has been reduced to negligible proportions. Marketology is now dominated by rapidly advancing statistic algorithms; very soon, big data-based machine learning will be generating optimal strategies that will be followed to the letter since they are strictly-scientifically aimed at maximizing profits at the expense of population majority. "Risk taking" is no longer an option — not because the major labels can no longer afford risks (they most certainly can), but because they no longer believe in taking risks — which may both have to do with "The Mind Has Its Limits" (see below) and also with the perceived uselessness of this strategy: why entrust something to the clearly fallible hunches of the individual mind when you have perfectly viable recipes generated by rigorous analyses of tons of data?

    Naturally, in this situation it would probably make more sense than anytime before to put oneʼs trust in the small communities — little indie labels whose purpose has always been stated as putting art before money (at least big money). Even those of us who have not lived through that time, or, like me, spent it behind the Iron Curtain where the situation was altogether drastically different, can easily read up on the emergence of a sharp line between the major commercial labels and the small independent enterprises that began to take shape around the New Wave era and became particularly flashing in the Eighties — back when the "masses" were happy enough listening to Bon Jovi and Asia and Kim Wilde, whereas the "culturally refined" people (mostly college students, of course) could find solace in the indie underground and college rock radio and Sonic Youth and whoever was still interested in keeping music socially and artistically relevant, progressive, and at least vaguely "dangerous". Even after the much-mythologized event of how "Nirvana sold the underground out", the distinction between mainstream and indie persisted well into the Nineties and the early 2000s: I remember distinctly and perfectly well how each of my "modern music sucks!" invocations on the early Internet was immediately repudiated by a dozen remarks of the "nah, youʼre just not listening to the good stuff! you have to be on the active lookout for the good stuff!" variety. And to a large extent, it was true — I could complain about the Backstreet Boys or Mary J. Blige, and people would counterattack this with MP3 gifts of the Flaming Lips or Wilco, and it made me shut up for a while. [...]

    The first signs of this alarming nivelation of the difference between market-approved and market-resistant, the way it seemed to me, appeared around the late 2000s — about the same time that I once again resurrected my reviewing schedule — with the nostalgic Eighties boom. I thought there was nothing inherently wrong with this: after all, the new emerging musicmakers were precisely the Eighties generation, and they must have been inspired and energized by the sounds of their childhood much like Paul McCartney had drawn inspiration from the British music hall ditties of his childhood. It was a bit alarming that much, if not most, of that nostalgia somehow ended up centering on the popular sounds of the decade — all of a sudden, synth-pop and electro-pop were being dusted off as if we suddenly had this consensus that the Eightiesʼ greatest musical achievement was getting people to do stupid futuristic dancing. (Rude hint: it wasnʼt). But then again, said I, British music hall circa 1950 wasnʼt exactly the epitome of musical progress, either: we all grow up with what we hear on the radio (well, used to grow up), so if you happen to be subconsciously motivated by mullets, fishnet gloves, and Casios rather than hard-to-generalize underground attributes, you only have regular human nature to blame for that.

    The problem is not that the nostalgic Eighties boom happened, and not even that it somehow refuses to end (even if itʼs long past its bedtime, and I am not yet seeing distinct signs of Nineties nostalgia replacing it). The problem is that the popular, critical, "institutional" acceptance for Eightiesʼ mainstream has somehow mutated into the same kind of acceptance for many other, if not all, forms of popular music that had earlier been deemed "uncool". Appreciation — among the young, allegedly ought-to-be-rebellious music lovers — has risen for everybody from Bing Crosby to the Carpenters to Barry White, though, interestingly enough, this sudden affection for middle-of-the-road artists has largely evaded arena-rockers: Hall & Oates may be easily granted immigration visas into the consciences of todayʼs youth, but Foghat and Black Oak Arkansas are about as welcome there as a destitute Mexican in Trumpʼs America. This latter is also a part of the accompanying trend where quintessentially "rock" music loses its cool, partly because bands like Nickelback did so much to uphold the genreʼs reputation, but partly because "rock" is so often associated by millenials and Gen-Z-ers with their boomer (grand)parents and, therefore, has to be rebelled against according to natural law of generations.

    Itʼs all fine and dandy, youʼll say, but where does corporate calculation actually enter into this? Well, arguably the worst consequence of modern generationsʼ (note that I am talking about the best representatives of these generations — smart, active, musically curious people) readiness to embrace the kind of music that their parents typically scorned is that indie and corporate music-makers have, to a large part, become indistinguishable from one another, to the point that the old opposition no longer has the same viability in 2019 as it had fifteen years ago. Because if you are young and smart and if you want to listen to music that will piss off your old and allegedly not-so-smart parents and if it is pretty much the same music that corporate culture was pushing upon the world thirty, fourty, fifty years ago... hey, happy times! [...]

    "Selling out" is a classic term that we have always used, and continue to use for, say, the likes of Eric Clapton, or Aerosmith, or all those progressive rock bands in the 1980s. The difference is that, to the best of my knowledge, nobody ever describes the difference between Adele's 21 and 25 as "selling out". In fact, nobody ever describes anything any longer as "selling out"; the term has officially been retired, because it implies the existence of an invisible, but actual wall between two different musical camps, which is no longer there. Imagine, uh, letʼs say, Olivia Newton-John doing an album with, uh, The Clash circa 1978. Impossible, right? Now skip right ahead to 2015 and we find (former) indie darlings Flaming Lips doing an album with Miley Cyrus, literally one of the symbols of corporate commercialism. Nobody is batting an eye (well, actually, the album was so crappy that everybody had to bat an eye, but the very fact of such a collaboration hardly raised any outcries — because how dares anyone but the most elitist prick in the world say that a teen pop queen / sleazy shock diva is somehow "inferior" to one of the most inventive and daring art rock bands of the past three decades?). [...]

    In propagating this absurdist historical revisionism, people are not simply mistaking black for white: they are unwittingly playing into the hands of the corporate industry that is manipulating their feelings and making them feel as if, by "rectifying" the history of art in this way, they are actually doing some important thing for The Cause. Thus, "rock" music, which used to be perceived as flying provocative and rebellious colors by default, is now increasingly viewed as a rudiment of conservative, sexist, racist forces — who knows, maybe this is the way it is today, but it definitely was not that way in the sixties or seventies. "Pop" music, on the contrary, is being promoted as the gold standard for empathy, tolerance, unification, even psychological depth — which, again, is perfectly fine for the music industry, which has always found it easier to deal with more predictable and malleable "pop" artists than the generally rowdier "rockers". It may be argued that the original rise of "poptimism" in the early 2000s was a natural process, a healthy counter-reaction to the over-the-top expansion of "alternative rock" in the previous decade. But in the end, the "poptimistic" approach played right into the hands of people who would be perfectly happy to have your brains turn to mush, to have your sense of history completely atrophied, and to have your perfectly natural and admirable drive to do good in this world reduced to not forgetting to buy tickets for the nearest Ed Sheeran concert (okay, low blow, but within a text this large, it is hard to finish each paragraph with a tasteful banger).
    http://only-solitaire.blogspot.com/2...eading-to.html

  3. #253
    I'm here for the moosic NogbadTheBad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poisoned Youth View Post
    , but I have to tend to agree with Facelift in that there are arguably no flagship artists in progressive rock today.
    Quote Originally Posted by Facelift View Post
    Yeah, that's it
    Oh I agree with both of you, though I'm still going to push Schnellertollermeier just in the hope I get someone to listen to them
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  4. #254
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NogbadTheBad View Post
    Oh I agree with both of you, though I'm still going to push Schnellertollermeier just in the hope I get someone to listen to them
    Someone's listening. Look at the size of that crowd.
    Just not people here.
    and who cares?

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  5. #255
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve F. View Post
    Someone's listening. Look at the size of that crowd.
    Just not people here.
    and who cares?
    Ladies and gentleman: the nutshell
    Ephemeral Sun - because I gotta do something about these boxes of CDs in the basement: http://www.ephemeralsun.com

  6. #256
    Moderator Poisoned Youth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by battema View Post
    Ladies and gentleman: the nutshell
    It supports my assertion that "local band plays bit role in large festival" can be perceived here as "look at the size of that crowd" on sites like PE while taking a swipe at the membership in the process.
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  7. #257
    Moderator Poisoned Youth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay.Dee View Post
    Not particularly prog-oriented, but a thought-provoking read on the state of "flagship" music these days:
    Excellent read. Thank you for posting. I'll get around to reading the full essay at some point.
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  8. #258
    Moderator Poisoned Youth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Facelift View Post
    In short, it's a subgenre of a genre that is going through a rough patch itself, in terms of cultural relevance,
    Interesting points. The article Jay Dee posted seems to cover this as well.
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  9. #259
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poisoned Youth View Post
    It supports my assertion that "local band plays bit role in large festival" can be perceived here as "look at the size of that crowd" on sites like PE while taking a swipe at the membership in the process.
    Phew. You sure took my post the wrong way and not how it was intended.

    But if you're really looking for 'prog rock flagship acts' in 2019, maybe you would tend to be a bit defensive....
    Steve F.

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    This space for rent: Well established location. Perfect opportunity for an up and coming smart-ass to benefit from our years of provocation!

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    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

  10. #260
    Moderator Poisoned Youth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve F. View Post
    Phew. You sure took my post the wrong way and not how it was intended.
    My sarcasm detector must be damaged.
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  11. #261
    Interesting things are afoot - In the past few months I have been playing in small Clubs locally, and I do music that no one else is doing. My own originals, and covers of 70's style bands like Moody Blues, Zeppelin, Yes, Genesis, Tull, Rush... Others, but almost nothing that might be considered mainstream 70's and 80's.

    Now there are 2 or three younger artists who have started playing that older music as well, not just old music in general, but the exact music I have been playing, and have been bragging that no one else is playing it anymore. Its weird. Its purely a local thing, but it appears like by trying to do something no one else is doing, You become just like everyone else. I want to sit down with some of these younger artists and find out what is going thru their heads. Are they just trying to find some way of being unique? I think the owners ofthe places I play are comenting on how I seem to be pulling down some pretty good tips... Maybe its just that simple...

    I have often pondered what causes someone to aspire to the Arts.... Is it expression, or is it a quest for fame? I have come to the conclusion that Humans are pack animals, and there is really no such thing as a unique idea. If I want to express myself, then on a worldwide basis, perhaps 500 other people have the same idea. I have decided if these young'un's can start playing old tunes and make them their own, and in addition play their own music, then I really have no reason to do play live music any more. what started out as a unique idea, has turned into a not so unique thing.

    I wonder if that is why new bands have such a hard time setting themselves apart from other bands. You have to have some level of conformity, but still be unique enough to stand out and be fresh. Some of the samples Ive heard of bands in this thread, have quite honestly disappointed. I expected that they would get me out buying new stuff, but not so much. I do not hear anything in these bands that is either new sounding, or fresh.

    Here are my observations: Some of these bands seem to create a vibe - be it a chord progression or a rhythm and then contradict the vibe - and or rhythm at unexpected intervals. I'm not sure how much passion and thought goes into that. Its composition, and then decomposition. Now perhaps I am just not picking the right songs or artists - because I didnt listen to them all. But it does seem like a common theme in new prog is evolving in my mind. When I compare that structure to say Close to the edge, there is a brilliance in that construction, that takes you in unexpected places, but it is not decomposition, it is free flowing in nature. I really like that and its a hard thing to quantify, because, it is somehow un-quantifiable. It sounds like I am speaking nonsense, but I hope I getting my thoughts across. Musical genius is co-opted by a different Genius. Not contradicted by non-genius.

    Geeze my brain hurts, and I will revisit these artists again, because I think it is important to understand what is uniquely brilliant, and what is just contradictory, a blaring wank, versus a "before you get too comfortable... lets take this someplace else for a while..." style of music.

    If anyone takes offense at my observations... read my Sig. I am NOT responsible for anything I say... And its all in good fun anyway right? No one is losing their mind or livelihood by my comments right?...
    I got nothin'

    ...avoiding any implication that I have ever entertained a cognizant thought.

  12. #262
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poisoned Youth View Post
    My sarcasm detector must be damaged.
    It's probably auto-set too high whenever dealing with me!
    Steve F.

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    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

  13. #263
    Member SunshipVoyager1976's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve F. View Post
    It's probably auto-set too high whenever dealing with me!
    Maybe if you wouldn't "go out of your way to be a jerk" so much this wouldn't be a problem.

  14. #264
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SunshipVoyager1976 View Post
    Maybe if you wouldn't "go out of your way to be a jerk" so much this wouldn't be a problem.
    bada BING!!!
    Steve F.

    www.waysidemusic.com
    www.cuneiformrecords.com

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    This space for rent: Well established location. Perfect opportunity for an up and coming smart-ass to benefit from our years of provocation!

    "You run a great label, but sometimes you go out of your way to be a jerk." - Jed Levin

    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

  15. #265
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yodelgoat View Post
    Here are my observations: Some of these bands seem to create a vibe - be it a chord progression or a rhythm and then contradict the vibe - and or rhythm at unexpected intervals. I'm not sure how much passion and thought goes into that. Its composition, and then decomposition. Now perhaps I am just not picking the right songs or artists - because I didn't listen to them all. But it does seem like a common theme in new prog is evolving in my mind.....

    ......"Close to the Edge", there is a brilliance in that construction, that takes you in unexpected places, but it is not decomposition, it is free flowing in nature. I really like that and its a hard thing to quantify, because, it is somehow un-quantifiable. It sounds like I am speaking nonsense, but I hope I getting my thoughts across. Musical genius is co-opted by a different Genius. Not contradicted by non-genius.
    What you're saying is that "Close to the Edge" may go to unexpected places a number of times - for example, the second verse is substantially different from the first verse - yet those always sound like the places the music has to go to and should go to. You don't even notice that it's different from what anyone else would do, and anything else you've heard, because it sounds right. Whereas modern bands sometimes almost come off like cartoon music, or disconnected bits of separate songs spliced together, or turning a radio dial at 3:00 AM down in the college stations; and those changes don't sound like they had to happen, or they had to be that way, or there's any more thought behind them than, "I'm bored, let's do something different."

    I should add that I consider Yes a poor model for how to put songs together. Not because they wrote poor songs - they could and did write great ones. But because they broke so many of the usual rules of taste, focus, and continuity, yet made their music work anyway through sheer inspiration.

    And I should also add that the more choppy, less flowing structures of recent prog may reflect more recent influences - John Zorn in particular, plus Zappa, plus Mr. Bungle, plus the grunge quiet-to-loud approach, plus the general cut+paste postmodern aesthetic.
    Last edited by Baribrotzer; 1 Week Ago at 04:24 PM.

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