I like to think about myself as knowing quite a few things about different kinds of entertainment. I’m a huge movie buff above all else but do know a lot of music as well, however, very little of the mainstream contemporary music. Rag’n’who? Yes, I’ve heard “Human” before. Oh, so that’s the guy’s name, cool. Actually, maybe a bit of a bad example because I do like the song, I just think it’s incredibly overplayed which is my main gripe with listening to radio stations. Yes, I’m sometimes one of those “I knew it before you” people. The justification for that behaviour is because I’m rather fed up with how formulaic most popular songs are. I will never deny Beyoncé is hella capable of singing, but couldn’t she, you know, sing better songs? Not that all songs are like that, of course. “Human” is a good enough example. Mumford & Sons is (mostly was, by now) relatively popular too. But for every of your Ariana Grandes and Rihannas, I’m wondering, where is Kongos or Poets of the Fall? Where is Katzenjammer? Or even Gabrielle Aplin? I’m not even asking radios to play the more niche bands I know like Faun or Blind Guardian, just more variety of any sorts. Why isn’t there more Queen on? Or Tom Waits? It’s been ages since I heard a Creedence Clearwater Revival song on the radio, or the bloody Rolling Stones! Even Muse isn’t on the radio all that much from as far as I can tell and then it’s only their most recent stuff. Of course, you can’t give every band in existence some time in the limelight, but I feel that the oversaturation of the same songs playing over and over again is just too damn high. Now, I realise this all depends on what radio station you listen to, and that would differ from country to country as well, but the general pattern is there everywhere. And yes, I guess this is just a matter of opinion as well, but there’s got to be some truth to what I’m spouting here, right?
Anyway, I’m here to tell you about my musical journey. There was a time that I wasn’t interested in music at all. Then again, there was a time that little Simon had never seen a movie before either, and that quickly changed. For music, it’s a bit more of a late development, but the speed by which I picked up new bands since then has been, frankly, astonishing. During childhood, I got into some contact with music through my dad and there are a few CDs that were almost always playing because I liked them so much. One of these was “Hè hè” by Jan De Wilde, a Belgian artist. Another was called “Bal du Rat” by the band Mandragora. Again a Belgian group, which only produced one cd and it’s incredibly hard to actually find it, I can’t even find one song on the internet by them. It’s a folky band, singing in Dutch, French and English. I played that cd so much that I knew the lyrics by heart even though I had no knowledge of French or English yet. I even knew the exact time of all the distortions in the cd (it was a ripped version of a library copy. Naughty, I know). There was also Mari Boine, a Sami performer with a distinctive style of singing. Those people made up most of my childhood music.
The real adventure started because of a viral video (in the earlier days of the internet meme culture) made by Snoken. It was a machinima made in Battlefield 2 called “Mine”. It was mostly just comedy sketches (Monty Python in particular) being acted out with characters in game. It was one of the greatest things I had ever seen at that time. Some time later, they made a second video, called Mine 2. During the credits of said video, was the song playing that got it all started. I couldn’t make out much of the lyrics but the credits showed me the name. It was “Drunken Lullabies” by Flogging Molly, and anyone knowing 16-year old Simon knows how much I loved that band. Still do, still know most of the lyrics, but my horizons have broadened a lot since then. Flogging Molly however, will always be my real first.
At that time, I was really into anything to do with Lord of the Rings as well, and was reading the Silmarillion. One of my favourite characters in there is Fingolfin, High King of the Noldor who rode out to fight Morgoth himself one on one. I somehow found out there was a song written about him by a band called Blind Guardian. The song itself was called “Time Stands Still (at the Iron Hill)” and I can’t say I was a huge fan of that particular song, but it was part of the cd called “Nightfall in Middle-Earth” with every song about some part of Middle-Earth’s history. And I listened to that album again. And again. And again. That is how I got into the world of metal music.
The rest of this article is mostly a list of bands I really like. The main purpose is for you to hopefully find a few bands you like that you didn’t know yet, so treat it as a source for whenever you feel like listening to something new. If you’re less interested in a particular genre, like metal (it’s ok, I understand), you can skip right to the next paragraph and maybe find something you like more. Everything is somewhat divided in closely related styles, but of course these lines are arbitrary and never completely clear. I’ve tried my best to give it a good compartmentalization, but it’s not perfect. Each link leads to a song of that band, usually one I like best, but not always necessarily representative for the band as a whole (some do have different styles throughout their career). For bands which are well-known for one particular song I’ve tried to find an alternate one to let you see that not all of them are just one hit wonders, unless that particular song is actually their best by far. I know this might not be the most interesting thing to actually read, but I wanted to share some of my knowledge in both the music I generally like as well as getting you to know some lesser known bands in a genre you might like. So, here’s to hoping my work isn’t completely going down the drain.
I’ve dabbled in most subgenres of metal, but am not going to dedicate too much time on it. I never liked the heaviest genres like death and black metal, or even trash metal (excluding a few of Metallica’s songs). Vocals didn’t have to be clean for me, at all, but I had to at least understand it a little. The heaviest bands I still enjoy greatly would be In Flames and Amon Amarth (another Middle-Earth inspired name). Today, there’s a few styles I still enjoy listening to, including power metal (Blind Guardian, Sabaton, Iced Earth, Hammerfall, Helloween, Edguy, …) A big name in there for me was Sonata Arctica, a band I still absolutely love to this very day. Sonata Arctica can also be seen as a symphonic metal, another subgenre with relatively great interest to me. Nightwish is an obvious example, so is Within Temptation as well as Kamelot and Avantasia, my personal favourite out of all of these. Children of Bodom and Equilibrium are two bands a bit more on the heavier side of that genre. And Bullet for my Valentine for your added emo needs. A third and probably my biggest subgenre in metal is folk metal. I’ve always been particular to folk music, so discovering folk metal was great. It was everything I already liked with some added oomph. Incidentally, that’s also a metal band, but not really my thing. Big names in folk metal are Korpiklaani, Eluveitie (another example of “I know every word without understanding fuck all”), Alestorm, Finntroll, Heidevolk, Turisas, Skiltron, Tyr, Subway to Sally and Ensiferum. I’ll include Skindred here as well, they’re a bit of an odd one out everywhere. This is not a complete list, of course. The listed names are, however, by far the best. Oh, wait I totally forgot about Dream Theater. And Liquid Tension Experiment! And Disturbed! And Avenged Sevenfold! And System of a Down! And Apocalyptica! And Tool! And Volbeat! And Diablo Swing Orchestra! And Coheed & Cambria! Ok, I think I’m done for metal bands now. I still listen to metal from time to time, but the period where I pretty much listened ONLY to metal is over. The age of rock was next.
It’s a rather obvious transition, I would think, and there’s little reason for me to go and tell you about bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Fleetwood Mac, Jefferson Airplane, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Dio (I still consider these way more rock than metal), Dire Straits, R.E.M., Primus, Oasis, Supertramp, Warren Zevon, Red Hot Chili Peppers, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Journey, Billy Joel, Scorpions, Rush, Frank Zappa, … The top three spots among older rock bands go to Tom Waits, The Rolling Stones and Queen. The list is, once again, far from complete and just a quick collection of bands I can think off and therefore probably like best. There’s definitely more, but this is enough of an enumeration as it is. I also realise “rock” is a very encompassing term, but it’s the best usable under the circumstances. I’m not here to debate on labels too much.
Those already mentioned are older rock bands though, but the genre hasn’t died just yet. More recent examples of rock bands that I really like are Arcade Fire, The Black Keys, The White Stripes, Battles, Wolfmother, Stone Sour, Modest Mouse, Kongos, The Heavy, Cage the Elephant, Muse, Joy Formidable, The Naked and Famous, Cosmo Jarvis, Dorothy, Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, Admiral Freebee, Queens of the Stone Age, Black Stone Cherry, Nico Vega, Gogol Bordello, the Yoshida Brothers and Alabama Shakes. Top spots here go to Blood Red Shoes, Walk off the Earth, Poets of the Fall and Halestorm. There was a time I was into “alternative” rock bands like The Killers, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Noah and the Whale and Paramore, but never really got into it all that much. Except Paramore. Pretty much all grunge fits in here as well, I guess, but there’s very few grunge songs that I actually like and is why I don’t mention any.
And of course, as already mentioned before, I’m into folk. Bob Dylan, yes, but also The Pogues, The Dubliners, The High Kings, Gaelic Storm, Laura Marling, Ben Caplan, Tracy Chapman, Wintergatan, Xavier Rudd, Faun, Manu Chao, DeVotchKa, Soldat Louis, John Butler Trio, Of Monsters & Men, Enter the Haggis and First Aid Kit. In here, Katzenjammer takes an uncontested top spot. Closely related, but not quite the same, there’s the more “world music”, the ethnic kind, like Hanggai, Mari Boine, Wardruna and Jonsi.
Post-rock and –metal. There was a time when I was listening to nothing but post-rock, but I went to a next phase rather quickly so am not up-to-date on these names anymore. Names I clearly remember are God is an Astronaut, 65daysofstatic, Boards of Canada, Maybeshewill, Collapse Under the Empire and Pelican.
There’s also a few geeky/humoristic bands I’d like to mention, including Tenacious D, Jonathan Coulton, I Fight Dragons, Weird Al Yankovic and The Lonely Island. I’ll put in The Dread Crew of Oddwood in here too, they’re pretty… special.
Then a few other bands that don’t really fit my usual pattern as they are exceptions within genres I’m not that keen on, mostly more poppy songs and electronic works. Names like Ronald Jenkees, Ellie Goulding, Pentatonix, Haley Reinhart as well as The Knife. And Regina Spektor, because I’m not sure where to put her. The Queen of this ragtag band of misfits would be Gabrielle Aplin and is actually one of my favourite singers. I’ll put Scott Bradlee’s PostModern Jukebox here as well as the essence of the project is popular songs I usually dislike, but stick in a much better jacket of jazz, funk and other more vintage sounds. He also works with Haley Reinhart from time to time, so yeah.
What else… Oh, movie scores. Who doesn’t like some Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Howard Shore or Danny Elfman? “Scott Pilgrim vs the World”, “Tron: Legacy” and “Get Him to the Greek” get an honourable mention. There are a few tracks in series that are particularly striking as well, including “Light of the Seven” and “Rains of Castamere” from Game of Thrones. And video games, of course. Okami, Undertale, the Trine games, Bastion, Transistor, To The Moon, most of the Final Fantasy games, Civilization’s “Baba Yetu”, Portal’s “Still Alive” and Battleblock Theater’s “Buckle Your Pants”. I apologise for the last one.
In the end, there’s not that much music that I don’t listen to, mainstream pop, rap, R & B, country, grunge (I don’t like Nirvana that much, deal with it), whatever they play at parties and new wave being the most notable exceptions, though always with their own exceptions as well. And I usually give them at least one shot. I can’t say I pay attention to lyrics all that much, but I will notice when half your words are “baby, oh, yeah, umbrella, single ladies, …”. When I know a band can really play well live, that’s a big plus too. Otherwise it’s mostly “I like the sound”. Complexity sometimes, but at times completely deconstructed tunes as well, simple melodies but with a good set of words to carry the song. There’s no pinpointing what exactly I like, which is exactly how I would want it. Maybe that’s the ultimate problem I have with pop songs, they’re all so much the same with no discernable traits to distinguish them from other artists.
My last.fm page shows I’ve listened to 1658 artists and while I remember most of them, it’s not all. There are probably some bigger names that I forgot to mention, but a musical journey isn’t about getting everything spoon fed to you. It’s about exploration, trying new things and finding those few gems that speak to you. In my case that’s seldomly a really big name. It’s that discovery that has been so addicting to me, and why I’ve come to know so many bands. Not all of them stuck around of course, but that’s part of the journey as well. But some will stick around, in my case actually a good amount did. This blog has been incredibly fun to write as it’s partly a rediscovery of some music that I almost forgot about. I know it’s not the best article out there, it being mostly just link after link after link, but maybe you got something out of it. And that’s all I was after in this case. If I’ve brought in just one new favourite band, even if for only a week or two, all this work was worth it, because there’s too much good music out there that goes unnoticed. Spread the word of your chosen group, make other people hear their glorious tunes. Be their evangelist. I’ve always liked a pantheon of gods more than one single supreme being. Especially if the gods can produce a good record.
This blog was brought to you by: … Do you really need another music link?