Today’s Music That Is Good has an underlying theme. For a long time, I would get anxious when talking about music that I didn’t think I understood. It didn’t matter whether I enjoyed it or not, I wouldn’t want to write about or recommend it because I was worried about being called out as a fraud or for jumping on the bandwagon. I’ve decided, however, that that’s daft. Music is music, and whether you analyse the intricate technical aspects of it or merely like the tune, your opinion can be valid. So, let’s talk about some stuff I don’t understand.
I am totally unqualified to talk about this album. It is, according to the internet, progressive folk and what I know about folk (nevermind the progressive stuff) could be tattooed on your eyeball, and you’d still have plenty of space for some tribal patterns to go around it.
Yet, I’m going to tell you to listen to it because this album makes me happy. Unlike 99% of the music I write about it’s not punk, metal or even rock. What it is, though, is an almost dreamlike adventure. Inspired by The Kingkiller Chronicle, the music that Johanna Kurkela, Tuomas Holopainen and Troy Donockley (Holopainen and Donockley are members of Nightwish) concoct is just as epic as the stories told those in books. You feel like you’re being dragged into their world, and once there, you can luxuriate in the almost cinematic textures of their playing.
Look, if you live and breath this genre there is every chance you think this is utter bollocks. If that’s the case, please point me in the direction of something that is superior because I’d love to hear it. For me, though, I put this album on and get to vanish into it for a while. I don’t have to know anything about it to know that I enjoy that.
Continuing the theme of talking about something I know nothing about, Hugsjá. Once again this is a collaboration, this time from Ivar Bjørnson of Enslaved fame and Einar Selvik who is better known for his work in Wardruna. Although if you’re coming in expecting Enslaved prepare for a shock.
Hugsjá was commissioned by the Bergen International Festival in 2017 and is inspired by Norse history. Drawing on myth, legends and poetry, it creates music that aims to bring to life their past. Alongside the expected guitars you have goat horns and lurs, ancient instruments being tied in with the modern and, at times, the sounds of the world at large as rain and the crackling of fire add to the atmosphere.
Because much like Auri this is an album designed to take you on a journey. What that journey is, I don’t know. Despite my last name, I speak no Norwegian, and it’s sung entirely in that. However, it doesn’t really matter. For you’ll walk that path even without understanding the words. I listened to this for the first time while climbing a hill on a grey day in Edinburgh and it entranced me, taking me somewhere I didn’t expect to go. Once again, you don’t have to understand it to love it.
With Animals is an album where the silence is as important as the noise. For it, Mark Lanegan has teamed up with Duke Garwood, and yet it’s clear that Garwood understands that the crucial piece of this puzzle is Lanegan himself. His presence on this album is designed to enhance Lanegan’s voice, his music is stripped back and at times merely provides a structure around which Lanegan’s vocals can shine.
And my God does it work. Lanegan’s bluesy vocals entice you into his world and keep you there. Even if you don’t have a smoky room, opener ‘Save Me’ will conjure one into your imagination. The tendrils of music snake out, wrapping themselves around you and immersing you in the music. ‘Lonesome Infidel’, meanwhile, only sees its emotion enhanced by its simplicity. A throbbing backing and at one point the sound of Lanegan whistling being all that surrounds his heartwrenching words.
We’ve got a lot of collaborations going on in these recommendations, but even more so than the other two, this is one that just works. It’s two musicians who appear to bring the best out of each other. And like the other albums I’ve talked about, they take you on a journey. You slip into the world of this album and wake up for over half an hour later not entirely sure what has happened, but knowing that you want to do it again.