When the prestige isn’t quite enough

Let’s start by saying up front, this blogger occasionally displays something of a…shall we say a snobbish quality. We aren’t proud of it, but we realize and understand it. Especially when it comes to culture and more specifically pop culture. We don’t embrace mass tastes in television, in film, in theatre, in books, and above all else, in music. There are occasional popular, mass-produced acts we enjoy, the periodic Gagas of the world, the periodic Evanescences, and so forth, but generally speaking our tastes run to the more alternative, and like most who identify with the alternative movement (let alone the alternative electronic movement), there’s that little nugget of self-satisfied superiority when we turn our noses up at what constitutes the “mainstream”. However, even such a snob as this sometimes can’t go with the hipster douchebag holier than thou (TM) trends as much as we might otherwise like.

The AV Club posted a fascinating article asking the question: “What makes music boring?” We won’t recap the article itself, it deserves a few moments of your time via an attentive read, but bottom line, what we consider “boring” is entirely subjective but no less real for all that. The flipside is the consummate music snob’s need to go along with the movement of what is unabashedly cool and unassailable. We see it every year in many of the hipster blogs’ top albums/singles/concerts of the year, a common ubiquity among certain collectively accepted records that one is loathe to disagree with lest they be considered “other”, or lacking in fundamental music-cool.

We experienced this sensation three times in recent weeks listening to albums that excited us in theory but frankly ended up rather sleep-inducing. Albums the critics dig very much but we couldn’t make ourselves fundamentally like and frankly we felt really shitty about this. We were *supposed* to like these albums. These were critics albums. Those rare electronic albums that everyone who matters likes too. And so we tried, harder than would normally be the case to enjoy them yet with the utter subjectivity the AV Club decries, we found them wanting, and worse, dull as all hell. So even though Bjork is an artist we have loved since the late 80s Sugarcubes days, Biophilia feels pretentious and completely unrewarding to the listener. We acknowledge the considerable work that went into the whole multimedia project but the music itself is just so hard to listen to. So even though M83 is an incredibly talented and clever artist/band whose last album was a model of how clever, compelling, warm and terrific electronic music can be, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is a snore. So even though Apparat has produced some of the most excitingly challenging electronic sounds music has known in decades and even though Sashcha Ring was part of the wonderous Moderat project, The Devil’s Walk frequently makes us want to strike ourselves in the head with a large hammer to wake up. And to reiterate, all of the above makes us feel shitty. Really shitty.

This blogger takes some modicum of pride in being brutally honest with reviews, even when labels send us material for review and we’re grateful for the share. We never blow sunshine up the collective skirt of even those artists we revere. This blog’s mission is not to act as a fluffer to the electronic music industry, but to honestly assess the scene as we see it. And yet it feels somehow…wrong to not like the above albums. These are exactly the albums someone like Softsynth  is supposed to enjoy. It’s pretentious music but then so is Softsynth. We’re supposed to be in that rarefied air of those who “get” these kinds of albums. And yet they are so lacking in truly compelling musical narratives that we simply can’t go there. Sometimes even those records that we’re supposed to like just bore the fuck out of us.

(Now it needs to be said, each album cited above has its merits – Bjork brings us the riveting “Mutual Core”, as good and experimentally exciting as anything she’s ever recorded; Apparat gives us the likes of the terrific “Black Water”, which is gorgeously constructed and melodically sound at the same time; M83’s album features “Raconte-Moi Histoire” which makes this listener deliriously and inexplicably happy – like tears of joy happy – every time it comes up on the shuffle while driving [we suspect it’s the completely unaffected spoken word performance by the little girl sharing the story of the magical frogs and the way it makes us feel about the rapidly growing mini-Softsynths and the loss of their own unashamed innocence], and to be fair the far-superior “second disc” has its moments of shining fun, they are just too few and far between. These are not bad albums, they are just lacking that energy, that vitality that we seek in the best electronic music.)

We wished we liked these albums; we wish they hit us with the same impact they seem to have most reviewers who have taken them on, but sometimes one person’s genius is another’s heavy-nap-inducing bore. We’ll leave our music snob credentials at the door…

Watch: Apparat: Black Water

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