Music fans, more and more, are respecting their elders in the search for something a little…truthier. Often, when looking at current music trends, we forget to look at the whole picture, and end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater, opting for a simplistic, negative generalization rather than a comprehensive view. With many popular music blogs and sites projecting an over-obsession with youth to the point that they insult any artists who may be “over the hill”, it’s easy to be fooled into the “you need to be young to be relevant in music” mantra. To see what I’m referring to, check out this piece Stereogum wrote critiquing Rolling Stone’s “Best 50 Albums of 2012” list. Beware of the oldsters, apparently!
And yet, more and more, and now more-so than ever before, I’m seeing a more balanced trend happening. The elders have invaded, and they’re offering something very valuable; wisdom and soul. From Charles Bradley, Neil Young, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan and Jimmy Cliff to Dr. John, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and Bobby Womack, you may have noticed that many of 2012’s most critically acclaimed albums are by “oldsters”, as Michael Nelson from Stereogum referred to them as.
Don’t get me wrong. All ages are necessary, and there is extreme talent in youth today. From Grizzly Bear, Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean to Cloud Nothings, Flying Lotus and Animal Collective, there is plenty of experimentation and wisdom happening within younger circles.
However, we listen to different music for different purposes, and that’s ok. No need to shut off part of our nature for the sake of the “ultimate hip”. Why can’t we listen to ASAP Rocky AND Neil Young?
For some, the trendiness of the indie phenomenon (indie rock, indie pop, indie folk, electro-indie, 80’s indie, etc) has waned, and led them to turn elsewhere. The repetition has become painful and the kicks aren’t there any more. Enter the story tellers. The wise men and women. The ones who have witnessed more of life while in this particular body. And ironically, they seem to be so much edgier than many of the younger artists.
So the purpose of this article is not to prove a particular point. It’s a happy observation I made while going through the most impressive new music of the past few years. Much of it was not only from older artists, but from older artists who sounded absolutely inspired and rejuvenated. These artists have all inspired me, and I hope they provide the same for you.
Charles Bradley stormed into 2012 like a man on a mission, and pretty soon he was playing just about every music festival in existence, attracting thousands of young fans, bringing soul music to the mainstream, and becoming a surprise entry on many of the year’s top 10 lists. Watch “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)” below and ask yourself “who else is doing this at the moment?”:
At 72 years old, New Orleans blues/funk/soul great Dr. John released one of the best albums of his career with the sharp and insightful “Locked Down”, a release that was actually produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. Luckily Mr. Auerbach didn’t make the man sound like the Black Keys; there’s a place for their blues pop, but the right choice was to let the grit shine through. “Locked Down” received top reviews across the board. Check out “Revolution” below:
Neil Young needs no introduction, of course. What took some people by surprise, though, were the not one but two new albums released with Crazy Horse, both that displayed a whole lot of distortion and beautiful noise. Check out “Walk Like A Giant” from the critically acclaimed “Psychedelic Pill” album below:
Many younger music fans didn’t know anything about Bobby Womack until the press machine got going for his 2012 release “The Bravest Man In The Universe”, and by then it was too late. How could such a fresh sound come from this 68 year old R&B/soul singer? If you stick to the hipster blogs, you may not have caught wind of him, so please enjoy “The Bravest Man In The Universe” below:
Among the revitalized and renewed comeback artists were Jamaican ska/reggae legend Jimmy Cliff with his 2012 release, appropriately titled “Rebirth”. Check out “One More”, one of my personal favorites from the release:
Tom Waits has been known to attract fans from all walks of life. Metal fans respect him. Punk fans love him. Young and old alike, the main is admired for being a true original. He’s also a perfect example of someone who rocks about 10 times harder than your favorite death metal band. Why? Because they’re trying too hard, and this man does what he does effortlessly. It’s quite obvious that in 2013, appreciation and buzz for Tom Waits is at an all-time high. That really says something positive about where we’re at, so quit complaining about Rihanna and look at the whole picture! “Hell Broke Luce” is the best video he’s ever done. A masterpiece:
The stand alone artist, Bob Dylan showed an impressive return to form with “Tempest”, a dark and gripping album which was very well reviewed. Check out standout track “Early Roman Kings” below:
Patti Smith is an icon of rock and roll, punk, spoken word, and a genuinely lovely human being. 2012 saw her releasing “Banga”, an unsurprisingly brilliant album with a mixture of full-bore rock and roll and shamanic folk storytelling. Watch her perform the title track on David Letterman:
DEAD CAN DANCE
Though possibly not old enough in age for this piece, Dead Can Dance exemplifies the wisdom that I’m talking about in this piece, and they had a very respectable return in 2012 with “Anastasis”, an album which I hope marks the first of many more new releases. The duo sound rejuvenated and connected, and it’s a highly recommended release. Once again, I ask the question “Who else makes music like this?”:
With politically and spiritually charged hip hop taking a backseat to the ever-determined topics of purple drank, bitches, and swag, this may be pretty much what we get going forward if we keep asking for it. However, it’s good to know that there are still groups like Public Enemy raising their fists and not bowing down to the brainwashing. Check out “Get Up, Stand Up”:
The best music news I’ve heard in 2013 thus far was the announcement David Bowie made about his upcoming new album, which he’s been recording in secret for the past two years. The first single is beautiful, with matured song writing and extremely vulnerable vocals. Check out “Where Are We Now” below:
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