Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Physical Graffiti

One of my core music related pursuits, in this age of Spotify and the seemingly unlimited availability of music, is to scan through new music on a daily basis in order to find those rare gems that are worth re-listening to. By now this is done in a very slick, mechanical like manner: I have my regular sources for identifying new music, and I just go through most of their offerings one by one.
I guess it is almost like an obsession. I dedicate so much of my time to finding good music and less of my time to actually listening to the good music I have already found. All the while there is this lingering fear: I must listen to this and that pieces of music, because Goddess knows what would happen if this best album of the year would slip right between my ears. And it's not like I do not discover, quite frequently, there was this great album that I have missed which was released a few months back and really stands out.
One can easily see that this pursuit of mine is doomed. By virtue of the filtering process itself, it is hard for music to stand out before my ears. Perhaps this is the reason why, lately, I can't get no satisfaction. Finding good new music is hard, and lately a generally disappointing process.
But there are exceptions to the rule. This post is here to tell you of my favourite new music.

First comes an album from a band you might have heard of. It's called Pink Floyd, and a few months back they released their first album in like 20 years, The Endless River. Perhaps the most notable feature of this new album is that one of the musicians taking part, Richard Wright, has been dead for almost ten years now.

Yet, for this Pink Floyd fan, the album sounds good. More than good, it's great. I did not like the Floyd's previous album, 1994's The Division Bell; indeed, it is the only Pink Floyd album I dislike. But Endless River is good; it is classic Floyd. An album whose greatest achievement was to make me skin shiver the way it hasn't shivered in the decades since I last heard a Pink Floyd album for the first time.

The Endless River, however, is not my favourite newly released album. That title goes to a bunch of new albums released by a guy called Jimmy Page. This Page guy has been busy lately, going through the archives of this band called Led Zeppelin and releasing deluxe editions of its albums. Mr Page has been going through them one by one, from Led Zeppelin (the first album bears the band's name) to - as of this point in time - Houses of the Holy.
The result? Some of the best releases of recorded music in history, period. Personally, I cannot wait for Page to get a move on and re-release the next album in his pipeline, Led Zeppelin's best - Physical Graffiti. [No, I won't argue with you too much if you were to claim Led Zeppelin IV is the best; but one has to agree that songs like In My Time of Dying and Kashmir pack a mean punch.]

You can dismiss this post and the claim I have made in the previous paragraph as the words of an old person stuck with 50 years old music. Hey, I'm a firm believer in freedom of speech, so yeah - go ahead and say it, if this is how you feel.
Yet, for me, it is definitely a case of "they do not make them like that anymore". The surprising thing is that neuroscience had caught up with the world of music geezers such as yours truly and is now offering an explanation for this phenomenon. I'm talking about the phenomenon that makes people, everyone, claim that the music they grew up with is so much better than the new trash that passes for music nowadays.
Apparently, chemical processes in the brain solidify the music you have heard through your teen years so that this music becomes your baseline. In my case, that music happened to be composed of primarily of Pink Floyd with Led Zeppelin claiming a fair share. Your own mileage will vary.

Science aside, I think there is more to it. I really do think that today's music isn't half as good as that of Led Zeppelin, and the evidence I bring to the table is in the above video of Led Zeppelin performing Stairway to Heaven live at Madison Square Garden.
Fast forward to 6:30 minutes in and witness the above mentioned Jimmy Page play guitar.
Now, I'm sure you're familiar with recent theories claiming that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to make a person into an expert in something. Well, watch the video and you will witness an expert at work: it stops being Jimmy Page playing guitar and it turns into Jimmy Page being a guitar.
It's not just Page; the same can be demonstrated for band members John Bonham and John Paul Jones. Listening to In My Time of Dying, either in its original album release or the recent 2007 performance through my headphones powered by my USB DAC makes that very clear.
So yes, best music ever.

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