My Nights In With Young, Modern Music Of The 21st Century

tiggerlion's picture

I'm still in my teens. Well, my forty-teens. Certainly, in my head, I'm still seventeen. But, to my horror, I discovered I'm behind the times and only like 'old' stuff. So, I asked the good people of The Afterword for advice to get me into the 21st Century.

I thought I'd report back on my adventures with young, modern music in the 21st century.

I did a baseline assessment and found that I do like some young, modern music. My favourites to date are Amy Winehouse - Back To Black (the sound of a vulnerable soul laid bare), Burial - Untrue (an oppressive urban nightmare, yet soulful and life-affirming) and Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (an opulent monument to a rampant ego with a tender heart at its core).

First, I gave guitar rock a chance. I revisited The White Stripes and rediscovered their magic. I dug out a couple of Hold Steady's that I'd set aside years ago, having not been that enamoured. I told myself I enjoy other 'talkers' rather than 'singers', such as Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen. I trained my ears to tolerate Craig Finn's nasal voice. That revealed a band playing with real alchemy and remarkably evocative, witty and heart-breaking lyrics. Hot Fuss by The Killers, Super Furry Animals - Dark Days/Light Years and The Black Keys - El Camino have all been sitting, neglected on my shelf. Listening today, they are all great heart-lifting fun full of actual, catchy tunes delivered with relish. I don't know how long they would have been collecting dust if not for The Afterword.

I haven't kept up with rock music in the 21st century, so the recommendations I bought were all new to me. The Shins and Interpol are perfectly produced, heart-pumping records. The Gaslight Anthem - 59 Sounds have a florid drummer who propels the music on with gusto. They remind me of The Strokes on Is This It (great album, by the way) but they can play properly. The Libertines's shambolic chaos was something of a relief after all that slick, professionalism, scoring points for charm and a couldn't-care-less attitude. Best of all, however, is Spoon. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is tight, intimate music. The songs are perfectly formed and the playing is beautifully judged. The listener does not witness a performance. The listener is actively involved with the band at the centre of the music. If you don't own this album, you should. DrJ and davidks were spot on.

So, to fire and ice, Anna Calvi and Agnes Obel. I've listened to both their debuts quite a few times. There are other musicians but I'm left only with a memory of their voices and their instruments. Anna is English but looks and sounds Latin, all red lipstick, slicked back hair and brash lip-stick with a guitar that sings of the desert, the swamp, blood and passion. Agnes looks prim on the cover and her songs are controlled and carefully articulated. she plays a piano with keys as pure as droplets of rain or snow. She's Danish. Philharmonics is exquisite enough to stop your heart. I love it. I'm not sure I would if I was seventeen, though. Mike Hull is responsible for this one.

Epic45's May Your Heart Be Your Map and JJ No 2 are both dreamy and engrossing. They are best obtained by the thoroughly modern technique of downloading (or expect to pay triple figures). Epic45 was championed by Word Magazine, featuring in its top ten of the noughtie decade. I hadn't noticed. It brings to mind a sunny day as a child lying on a hilly meadow with the grass on my back and the sun warming my face. Nothing to do but pass a care-free afternoon looking at clouds. It is rather loveable. Captain Haddock was the first to recommend this.

I can't say I'm particularly fond of folk but I still bought The Unthanks Here's The Tender Coming. It's stunning. It is deeply rooted in the ancient folk traditions but it sounds modern and definitely of today. The songs are brutal and beautiful. The instruments are warmly recorded and wonderfully played. Their Northumbrian accents are heavenly, especially when singing the word 'love'. This is music to melt the hardest of hearts. Except mine, aged seventeen. Never mind, my heart is melting now, thanks to Patrick Crowther & Captain Haddock.

Next, there is 'electro-pop'. Fever Ray is warped, deranged and foggy like an insomniac in the darkest hours of the night. Grimes Visions is sensual and disturbing, twisting and dancing around less well-trodden paths. Robyn's Body Talk is reckless and playful. She is one confident young woman. If she were my daughter, I'd be very proud, especially of track three (Don't F***ing Tell Me What To Do). It's pop music at its very best and, therefore, very young and modern. Bob certainly knows his pop.

Finally, a genuinely new phenomenon of the 21st century, cartoon rap, which may well owe its inspiration to De La Soul. However, Gorillaz was the first official collaboration between mankind and cartoons. Their middle album, Demon Days, is best because Damon Alburn's musings are given both a catchiness and a menacing punch by Dangermouse's production. His collaboration with MF Doom, Dangerdoom, is even more terrific. It treats its audience as sentient adults and is full of artistry and subtleties that reward repeated listens. The Mouse And The Mask is a classy album that is genuinely funny. Check out the YouTube clips, if you are sceptical, then you'll find yourself buying it! After that, blame bob and BigJimBob.

What does it all *mean*?

The music of the 21st century is wonderful and varied. There really is plenty new music for us all to fall in love with. There is a lot more music being released these days, it's difficult to keep up. But, help is at hand. The recommendations of fellow Afterworders are superb. Look at the threads. Click on the clips. Explore Spotify and other sites. I guarantee you'll find a lot to cherish and adore, just like when you were seventeen.

Plus, if you like your music pop or ethereal, Scandinavia is the place to be!

Suits people who...

Love music and are willing to explore more. That should cover everyone here.


The Unthanks. 'It is deeply rooted in the ancient folk traditions but it sounds modern and definitely of today.' Yes indeed.

to the Unthanks on Spotify. I remember saying in your thread that I didn't think they were my cup of tea. I was wrong. I only know this because of your description tigs. Thank you. And you, Captain Haddock!

My quest was to turn myself and others onto the young music of today. I never dreamt that would include folk music. Funny how things turn out.

However, the album you should really be seeking out is Spoon's!

You put us all to shame: I've been steered in the direction of so much great music by lots of different people on this site and the old site, but I'm guilty of a) forgetting who recommended something b) not always remembering to report back or thank them. So much music, so little time!
Not for the first time, your enthusiasm and your writing is refreshing and infectious. Now I'm off to dig into my "To Listen To" pile (and add a few more to it). Thanks for this.

That was absolutely terrific.

Particularly loved the description of Untrue. It's my second favourite album of all time and you totally nailed it, better than I've ever been able to.

Please write more of these. I'm going to spend tomorrow listening to these records.

*looks down, shuffling one foot over the other*

Thank-you, Drakey & Bingo, but if you are listening to new stuff, my work is done.

Let me know if you ever get round to Two Door Cinema Club, Biffy Clyro or The Vaccines ;) If you like Back To Black you will love this

"When Amy Came to dingle"

That's more money spent. I'll report back in due course.

I have to say, I didn't pay more than £7.50 for a single item & often less than a fiver. It was all well spent!

Wasn't Amy, at her peak, absolutely wonderful!

It's a really great thing you've done, you've finally convinced me on The Unthanks. If BBC4 ever show the Amy documentary again please try and see it (if you haven't already) Unless anyone here knows if it's available anywhere. She is simply incredible in it, it is so sad to see her before the drugs did their thing

It's a really great thing you've done, you've finally convinced me on The Unthanks. If BBC4 ever show the Amy documentary again please try and see it (if you haven't already) Unless anyone here knows if it's available anywhere. She is simply incredible in it, it is so sad to see her before the drugs did their thing

And you seem to have had a similar reaction to it to me.

When I first heard it it took me back to being eight years old, playing with my brother in the fields in Stocksfield. Building camps. Climbing trees. Riding our Raleigh Boxers. It made me cry.

I have not told my brother this, nor have I recommended the album to him. Everything is simpler when you are young, isn't it.

It certainly took me back to childhood. There are children's voices on it but I think it's more to do with the gentle undulations and sweeps of the music.

Of course, when I was a child, there were no mobile phones. On a weekend or a school holiday, I'd leave the house at 9 o'clock & my mum would only expect me back at tea-time. I lived on an estate but around it were farmers' fields, ponds, meadows, trees. I'd wander about, meet mates, fish in the pond, do nothing, lie on back with no worries whatsoever. I was very lucky. These days, kids are in their bedrooms playing shoot-'em-ups online. Their mums would have a kitten if they went out all day without a mobile phone!

Looking back now, it was a lifetime ago. Time's slipping away. Today, I learnt one of best friends from secondary school has died. I'm feeling tearful, too

Still. It's a wonderful record. It's not at all maudlin. It is really bright & cheery, despite our tears. Thanks for recommending it and for letting me witter on. It's amazing what good music can do to a person.

quite close to me in Stafford. So that's Dave Gorman, Jonathan Ive (schooled here), Neil Morrisey, Fran Healey, Izaac Walton and Epic45

And not just because several of my favourites and two of my recommendations are on there! Your enthusiasm just radiates off you, Tigger - it's lovely.

Whilst we are having a love-in, can I say how important you are to this site? There aren't many around with your perspective on joyful, modern pop music. Plus, your non-musical contributions are always interesting & pertinent. Keep up the good work. Some of us are listening closely.

That's a very kind post and much appreciated, old sock.

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