When it comes to musical choices, it can be incredibly easy to become stuck in a rut. There have certainly been many occasions, when, if you were to look at my playlists over several days, you’d think we were still in the 90s. Oh hey Eddie Vedder, fancy seeing you here?!
Sometimes, it can be your current life circumstances that affect the music you find yourself reaching out for. You know how it goes: naff week at work = Nirvana on repeat. Should we add in some Foos? Oh go on then. How about some lively, early 2000s pop rock to cheer us up?
No thank you, how dare you even suggest such a thing? Let me be miserable in peace.
Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s really important to mix up your musical influences and occasionally step outside of your usual comfort zones. There is always something new to be discovered, and being fairly closed-minded is the easiest way to miss out on the good things in life. If you were to ask me what kind of music I like, I’d naturally head in the direction of rock and alt. rock, indie, Britpop and so on. With this having been said, there are artists I’d list in my top-listened-to-loves, that don’t fit my usual ‘type’ – this is something I want to explore a little more with you.
Let’s take a globally well-known example of Amy Winehouse; a beautiful soul who gave us lyrics and melodies that will never fade, no matter how many years pass. I challenge you to listen to the Back to Black album and not feel anything- go on, have a go. You don’t have to understand music composition or chord structures to appreciate what’s going on with her music, you just know that the harmonies and unapologetic honesty make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Her music spans several genres; some might describe it as soul, some might say that she was more of a jazz artist. Therefore it’s interesting, that I wouldn’t list jazz and soul as genres I enjoy listening to on a regular basis, yet she appears on many of my day-to-day playlists.
With all this in mind, let me move on to a gig I recently went to with a friend of mine. It was an acoustic set by The Slow Readers Club, who are another brilliant product of Manchester that I can’t stop listening to – more on these boys later! The friend I saw them with is very much into her soul music, and should probably have been born in a different decade. She told me about a band that was touring- one I’d never even heard of, let alone listened to. St Paul and the Broken Bones- an 8-piece, soul filled, brass backed, generally jazzy group of guys from Alabama. They would be supported by The Americans; think roots rock, folky guitar riffs and banjo parts that make foot tapping compulsory. Several gins went by and we made plans to go to their gig at the Albert Hall a couple of months later.
I didn’t really know what to expect, but didn’t think it would be my cup of tea. How wrong I was. That gig turned into one of the best I’ve been to this year. Let’s bear in mind that so far in 2018, I’ve been lucky enough to see the Foos, Iggy Pop, Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys, Wolf Alice, The Hives to name only a few… so this is a pretty big claim.
The Albert Hall in Manchester, is a beautiful setting for any concert, but it fit this band perfectly in so many ways. The eerie purple spotlights lit up the stained glass windows and church-like alcoves in all their glory. The band emerged, lead singer Paul Janeway adorned in a sequin cape.
The brass backing burst into life, the guitar and bass following closely- a scene and a sound that instantly brought a smile to my face. When the vocals kicked in, it was something else altogether- this was so far away from my usual go to musical style of choice, but on hearing songs like ‘Call Me’ and ‘Apollo’, I found my whole body covered in goosebumps. The musical talent on display was difficult to absorb all at once, but in the best way possible. It was so clear to see that this was a bunch of established musicians, both in perfect control of their own instruments as well as understanding the broader musical field. Yet, this was unquestionable soul. Soul isn’t ‘my type’. How could I possibly be enjoying it?
I should probably get to my point- I know you’re a busy person with a life to lead. Here it is: if Alan Carr’s Doppelgänger in a sequin cape (no really, Google him), along with an incredible band, who don’t fit into my go-to genres in the slightest, made for one of my best gigs of the year, what does that mean? It means, that we should all make the effort to broaden our tastes, because it might be that a band that you’d never think to listen to, will be the one to lead you down a path you never thought was for you. Think about the genre you listen to most. Now think of an artist you like, who doesn’t necessary fall into that genre…Got one? Let’s make a deal- next time you’re listening to them, look at the ‘related artists’ on Spotify and have a cheeky gander, or maybe skip through a few of the related videos if you’re on YouTube. You never know who or what you might find…
Now please excuse me, but I’m off the listen to more St. Paul on repeat.