Here, Take This Rabbit Hole

People who 'don't like music' are probably all serial killers, right? To me, music as just as universal a language as math, and definitely more universally liked. Which is very true to me, as most of the music I have been enjoying lately transverses the language barrier.

I like things. As we all do. And my opinions on those things are neither right or wrong, they are just there. Just like my cinema rantings and ravings, that's what I think, and you're allowed to thing different. I guess this precursor stems from growing up in a musical household, musical family and generally always being a music snob. I suppose I'm a movie snob too. Am I just a regular ol' snob? Anyway, I guess I've always had reservations about admitting the things I really like. Because POP is one of those things that I kinda really like. Without getting too deep in gender politics, pop wasn't something boys were supposed to like. But man, a catchy tune is a catchy tune. But that's not all, I found out that I truly liked everything! (Not as much hip-hop or country at this point, mainly due to lack of exposure). As friends were discovering hard rock and metal, they took me on that journey with them. MuchMusic was still a respectable television station focusing on music and that helped further my education. Even my dad was trying to introduce more and more - I grew up mainly on The Beatles, Hendrix and Leonard Cohen, but more blues and jazz influences started popping up as I became older (aka more aware of what was going on around me).

For someone who has a minor in music, took music classes throughout high school and the last few years of elementary school, who has taught at a theatrical day camp, who has played in bands and recorded records - I've always been confusingly self-conscious about my musical tastes. I don't really know why. There's nothing to be embarrassed about. It's music. It's all taste.  Some aural scientist could engineer the most pleasant sounding song possible and I'm sure there will still be people who don't like it (and would be quite vocal about it on Twitter). For some reason, I feel like I should be better than my tastes, "I'm a scholar, dammit!"


Like what you like and accept no judgement. I've been front row for Megadeth and Dream Theater; I've taken my mom to the Dixie Chicks and Backstreet Boys; I've sat on a lawn for Rammstein; sat in a tiny movie theatre for Harry Manx.

My dad tried to teach me something growing up: guitar (rim-shot! *dodges tomatoes*). Seriously, yes, he taught me guitar, but he also tried to teach me something grander about music. He always used a Stevie Ray Vaughn quote: "If I listen to a guitar player and don't hear something new, I'm not listening hard enough." I took it to heart then, but have let it drift away since, it seems. I think that quote is true and applicable to ALL music. There's something new in all of it. We just have to listen for it.

The classics will always be classics: The Beatles, Hendrix, Beethoven, Wagner. I'm not sure they should ever be included in "My Favourite Bands" lists. Those, among many, many others, are the pillars modern music is being built on. So when people ask, "who is your favourite 'blah-blah-blah'?" I tend to stick to modern stuff, or still active artists. Daft Punk (fingers crossed for a 2017 tour), Danko Jones (new album out last week, just got my vinyl in the mail, stoked to put it on after I hit publish on this), BT (one of the finest composers of our generation, massively underrated because his work is in electronics) and Rammstein (I think there's rumours around that a new album is in the's hoping!). A bizarre mix, sure, but those are four people that I could listen to anytime, anywhere, any song. 

That meandering preface leads us to now. And now, is where I talk about what I've been listening to way too much over the last few years -- Number Five in my top five. I like having a rotating slot in my top five. My big four have been there since I discovered them (Daft Punk pun!) and each release since has solidified that. But five has always been rotating. System of a Down and Dream Theater for awhile through high school, various DJ's and electronic composers through University, lots of dubstep in my brief stint in Vancouver, and world music since moving to Hamilton.

Aside - "Dubstep." I get why people don't like it. Most of the time I wonder to myself why I even like it. But the more I really thought about it, the more I realized, it was the perfect bridge I needed from live instrumentation to electronic. As you will read shortly, Hybridization of sound is something that fascinates me. And for the time in my life that I discovered dubstep, it came to me as I was drifting away from a love for Heavy Metal and discovering a passion for composing in a digital landscape. Though, if someone from England reads this, I'm sure I'll get flak for referencing what they tend to call 'bruvstep' which is the American bastardization of what had been popular across the pond for a decade earlier, but that's what I found and that's what I liked.    

Five Fives: here are five artists that I've been rotating in and our of slot five, for the last five or so years.

I'll start with Israeli duo, Infected Mushroom. In university, I was in a quasi-band with a roommate. We both had this affinity for dance music especially when live instrumentation was involved. He showed me Cities of the Future. It was different. It was simply built and well executed. I thought, I need to explore this. In a strange twist of fate, I Googled them to discover that they had a new album coming out soon: Vicious Delicious. That record changed it all. If you're looking for hybridization, then the opening track of that record should be right up your alley, all the way up your front path way and is knocking on your door trying to sell you something you may not need, but will assuredly buy: Becoming Insane. So you have my discovery and my hook. What kept me around? Literally the rest of the record. My first listen through of Vicious Delicious was a seminal moment in my music fandom. 

Recommendations: Suliman, Heavyweight, Dancing With Kadafi, Send Me an Angel, Pink Froid, Saeed.

The next artist is a French Canadian pianist, classically trained. Then he discovered hip-hop and things changed for him. He's worked with Boyz Noize, Feist, Drake and Daft Punk - which is how I found him. He is Chilly Gonzales. I loved the feel he brought to his track "Within" on the last Daft Punk album, heard the interview I just linked to and had to search out "Ivory Tower." Again, the opening track, Knight Moves, hooked me from the moment I pressed play. And yet again, the rest of the record failed to disappoint. So, further down the rabbit hole I went and found a record that is bizarre, wonderful, hilarious, moving and just... unique. The Unspeakable Chilly Gonzales is a desert island record for me. 

Recommendations: Beans, I Am Europe, Tap Dance, SIren Song, Bongo Monologue.

The next three artists I found by falling down a weird Wikipedia like spiral on a service called SoundCloud. A few years ago, it was an ad-free music streaming service with more of a YouTube feel than anything else. Of course, rather than video, it's for music. Or podcasts. Like Jrunk Jeopardy... Anyway, somehow I came across a folk music festival page and it had one song from all the artists on the bill. This where the spiral began and the next two artists came from: United Vibrations and Treacherous Orchestra.

United Vibrations has an amazing sound. It's part jazz, part hip-hop, part Afrobeat, part unexplainable. Rather than get into my own in depth history, I will say this: listen to London Bridge. If that catches you, check out the rest of that EP. If you're hooked as I was, go their Bandcamp and buy Myth of the Golden Ratio. What a record. 

Treacherous Orchestra I love because I love celtic instrumentation. I love bag pipes and tin flutes and banjos and bodhrans. So, take Celtic orchestration and make a folk-metal band? Well, Shut Up and Take My Money. I found them via Superfly. Then I bought the album. Yup, one track, bought the record. Was not disappointed. Then they came out with a new album and I bought it too. And it's better. It's called Grind, and the opening two tracks piece together as a wonderful way to spend 11 minutes.

Finally, Captain Planet. This has been it for me. Between Treacherous and Planet, I haven't really listened to a whole lot else recently. He just put out a new record with Chico Mann of Antibalas, and it just arrived in the mail a few days ago and is fantastic. But for me, my number one desert island album (bold statement i know, but I mean it - if I could only listen to one thing for the rest of my life, it would be this album) is Esperanto Slang. A mix of many sounds from around the world - latin grooves, african beats, New York mindset. I can't say enough about this album, so I won't say anything. Give it a listen for yourself. 

Honourable mention - Antwerp Gipsy Ska Orkestra - i lumia mo kher and Gypsy Hill - Our Routes. Both fun dance records with roots in Baltic folk music, but both haven't had stellar follow ups, so as artists, they still need a bit of work, but those albums are great and you should listen to them. 

So that's that. There's my rabbit hole gift to you. I hope you find something new that you like, and if these bands don't do it for you, I hope you have your own Wikipedia link clicking spiral and find something that you can show me.

Happy listening.