Music of 2017 — Side 9/12
Lately, I’ve noticed an increasing number of times where people are using the word craft. That certainly is the case among my peers — people involved in design, but it’s spreading further than this pixel perfect world of ours.
It’s a beautiful word and I feel it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It shouldn’t stay in the realm of children’s art exercises, but I also hope we don’t overuse it and put it in the same basket with rad and dope. Careful you occasional brewers.
So, what is so special about this word to me? It’s that level of extra care, thoughtfulness, attention to detail, going that extra mile, in the work you’re doing. It’s that nuance between something being finished, and something being crafted.
When something is crafted, it doesn’t only serve the purpose, it emits care.
I don’t give away the ‘craft’ label easily, I have my craft police on duty at all times. They are running in the back of my mind as I check every website, app interface, video, coaster, hand watch, vase, lamp, and/or just a colour I come across.
This applies when I listen to music as well. Especially, when it comes to albums. See, a song can be crafted as well, but the real value of an artist comes through their longer releases. Then I can better judge if an album has been crafted, or just finished.
There’s one band always going that extra mile, paying attention to every detail, and doesn’t let anything go unnoticed.
The National. I’ve mentioned before, I’m always nervous when my dear bands and artists are releasing new music, and I’m so at peace with The National’s seventh album. ‘Sleep Well Beast’ is an effort that challenges the band creatively. They expand on their signature formula, and add even more layers to an already complex sounding band. In this album we hear some experimentations with electronics, heavier guitar riffs, a bit more gnarly sounding vocals (albeit that’s not new for the band), and more potent song writing… They are not afraid to experiment, they don’t accept complacency and they constantly continue to improve.
This time, their craft doesn’t lay in the music of the album alone. It lays in the fact that they created a full blown corporate identity to support the promotion of the album. Two of the band members have backgrounds in graphic design. Scott Devendorf worked at Pentagram when the band was formed. They teamed up with this agency and developed a beautiful Ntl. identity. It just shows the care the band puts in everything they do. And I can’t wait to see how they bring all of this live later in October when they come to Amsterdam.
I should have picked up on the hints from All Songs Considered podcast when they played Big Thief’s Masterpiece early in 2016. But somehow, I didn’t. I’m rectifying that this year. I somehow ignored this band until I heard Mary — penultimate cut from their second album ‘Capacity’. It’s one of those songs that make you stop whatever you’re doing and ask yourself: what’s this? I don’t think I’ve heard another song with such a long chorus.
After I caught myself asking this same question multiple times over the last couple of months, I finally got to listen to the full album.
This Brooklyn based indie rock outfit are not the in-your-face type of band. They are unobtrusive, they sit quietly waiting for a chance. And the moment they get it, they are already under your skin… They make captivating, mellow, sweet and honest songs. The stunning voce of Adrianne Lenker, the crying guitar riffs, and masterful song writing make for a really unique and fresh band.
Last year’s Not to Disappear was one of my top 5 albums of the year, and was really surprised to hear new music from Daughter this year. Albeit not a regular full-length album, they released new original music they made for Life Is Strange: Before the Storm. They made a soundtrack for a game. Yes. That is a thing now. I haven’t played any epic games in many years, but if something inspires me to play again — a soundtrack from Daughter might be just what I need.
If you checked my last month’s banger, you’ll remember that I banged about Burn It Down. It’s definitely one of the songs of the year, but it’s doesn’t really represent the music on the album. That’s what I really love about this 50 minutes long piece. It’s experimental with some long and sprawling instrumental patches. There are some signature Daughter dark sequences as well. Elena’s vocals when present are striking as always. At the moment of writing, my favourite bit of the album is the arrangement of Dreams of William, there are beautifully unexpected things on this cut.
I’m so excited about what Daughter will do next.
I spent quite some time listening to the new Odesza album, A Moment Apart, while working. It fit nicely in the back of my head as I was dragging anchor points and mashing gradients while designing. Little did I know that they are currently one of the Top 200 artists on Spotify, and filling up some of the biggest arenas around the world.
It makes sense. It’s not intrusive music. It nicely incorporates the trendy EDM, trap, chillstep and chilltrap (?) influences and is really accessible. For me, it works well as my working day soundtrack.
The list of repeats this month is completed with the latest release by Mount Kimbie, Love What Survives. Unlike Odesza, Mount Kimbie require more attention. For more than 5–6 years they are being labelled as the pioneers of the post-dubstep (yeah, I know, weird stuff) but their latest release is much more. The usual collaborators are featured again — King Krule, Micachu, and double appearance by James Blake. These songs were all released as singles, but I tend to enjoy the instrumental ones a bit more, with Audition and Delta leading the way for now.
Ibeyi are smashing with a rage-filled political banger.
Annie Clark’s plastic infused synth pop rock arty disco banger.
My favourite 2015 discovery dropped the falsetto and added riffs.
Song that can’t be taken seriously, but it’s a banger nevertheless.
I’m Darko Krstevski, The Hague based Brand Designer. I’ve taken on the challenge to publish my monthly music highlights during 2017. There are three reason for this:
• To improve my writing and articulation
• To experiment with web/mobile editorial
• To celebrate the music artists that help me create, work, enjoy and exist
This article was first published in September 2017 on ReadyMag.
Written and designed by Darko Krstevski