Monday, May 27, 2013

Musings: Are My Musical Tastes Maturing? Or, Alternatively, My Thoughts On The New Bonobo

Though I know I'm a bit late to the party on this one, the (relatively) new Bonobo album, The North Borders, is amazing. It's just under an hour of dizzy, soulful trip-hop brilliance which dips just far enough into garage and formless downtempo to be interesting the whole way through. It's also something I doubt I would have listened to at all, much less enjoyed as much as I did, if I'd found it six months ago. The album's quality would probably have been lost on me if it had come out then, as at that point I mostly listened to music for the raw entertainment value. It's the classic case of an American teenager, recently recovered from being blindsided by the likes of Skrillex and Flux Pavilion, figuring out what exactly "serious" music means, why people enjoy it when there's far more interesting music out there, and whether he'd ever be like everyone else in liking it.

I think the main flaw in my mindset months ago was that I assumed that I wouldn't be a "true" music fan until I stopped treating music as entertainment and started appreciating it as art. Of course, that outlook misses the point that music is meant to be enjoyed - why would you listen to something if you didn't enjoy it, especially if you were trying to get something out of it that you didn't understand? Rather, The North Borders specifically showed me that the best kind of music is the kind to which you can make an emotional connection. Screw pretentious artistic values and snobbery - the point is that you can really lose yourself in the best music. Take the new Bonobo, for example: sure, I was blown away by the intricacies and woozy beauty constantly present over the course of the 59 minutes, but what really changed the album from good to great was when I could fully identify with the loose keys, clinking glasses, and beautiful string arrangements. It's difficult to describe, but the connection forged between me and those 13 songs made the music all that much more special.

I don't think this was my first serious emotional connection to music. I've had countless others, whether it was Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory in middle school, KOAN Sound's Max Out EP two years ago, or Naibu's Fall EP earlier this year. However, I do think this was the first time I actually noticed my thoughts fully in tune with the music. Maybe that means my tastes are maturing: the fact that I could recognize that the album meant something more to me than the average consume-and-toss release demonstrates that I may be becoming wiser about music. I obviously have a ways to go: the only ones who think they fully understand music are wrong, and the wisest listeners know they know near-nothing in the grand scheme of things. This is an important step, though, and it means a lot that I've realized I made it.

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