Critical Mass

Published

My flatmate said something really clever not so long ago, which was, there is really just too much music. He’s almost certainly right. Musicians and producers the world over should really take a year out and let everyone catch up. I can just see lovers the world over locking themselves up in cheap hotel rooms, equipped with suitcases full of last year’s releases. I can see friends taking long road trips lacking in destination, armed with painstakingly composed year old playlists to bang on the way. And maybe, just maybe, the more insecure among us could just relax, safe in the knowledge that no one out there is spending hours a week trawling obscure blogs for new sounds to reduce your own limited taste to tatters.

Unfeasible fantasies aside, it did occur to me that there must be processes at work that determine what makes certain works ‘obscure’ and similar works ‘accessible’. Quite a lot of the time, when people talk about ‘a particularly good year for music’, or even ‘a good year’ for such and such a genre, they’re usually inadvertently referring to concentrated media interest in things like a home-grown scene that’s been around for years, an independent artist already adored in his/her hometown, or a group of friends who, really speaking, are just trying to have some fun, and are in no way trying to make some sort of grand gesture through their music.

Before you get indignant, I’m not suggesting that the music press has somehow disseminated itself throughout your consciousness and hijacked your opinions. My point here is that in fact, I think music is a remarkably consistent thing in that records across every genre with the ability to change your entire outlook are released every year. There are bedroom producers and garage bands hidden all over the place, secretly pushing the envelope. Admittedly, (and obviously, I would hope), the press do occasionally pick up said records, but then in doing so, they immediately establish a somewhat unavoidable bias that works in both directions – either you’re gonna get snobby and reject the artist, or you’re gonna decide you quite like that particular artist and get angry with all the former. Or you could be like me and get gratuitously angry at the whole affair! And thus we all alienate each other just a little more. Wonderful.

As mentioned in our review of the particularly fantastic James Blake, an infuriating selection we get every year is the BBC’s Sound of the Year award, winners of which include path breakers like, Keane? Little Boots? Mika? I daresay the most elaborate practical joke that Lebanon has ever played on the international community would have a pretty difficult time capturing the essence of a single day of anyone’s life, let alone a year. Sniping at easy targets you say? Me? Surely not.

Jean-Xavier Boucherat