Ed's Note: From loyal reader, to guest poster, to full-time contributor, please welcome to TVD Ms. Urban Gypsy who'll take the reins here this week with some rather off-kilter pairings for you to consider:
This week on TVD, we’re taking a look at some interesting examples of hybrid musical genres. What is a musical genre, anyway? Is there any reliable, rational way of classifying music into neat little categories? Music is such a pliable art form with so many influences and changing contexts that it’s impossible pin down every artist with a simple label. But genres can be useful, even if only as a system to organize albums at the record store. Some of the most interesting musical styles are created when the artist yanks together two or more radically different genres and melds them together into something totally innovative and inspired. We’d love to hear your comments on the music featured here this week. Do you agree with how we’ve described and classified this music? Did we miss one of your favorites or include someone who doesn’t deserve the mention? Let’s have some feedback!
First up on the agenda is what music writers call “freak folk,” though many of the musicians themselves prefer the term “naturalismo.” The weird dreamy music in this genre can fall anywhere along the continuum of “sweet and pleasant” to “fingernails on blackboard.” It’s rarely an easy listen, but once you’ve acquired a taste for it, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. When my friend Nechama first heard the voice of Joanna Newsom while listening to her ipod in a public washroom, she was so startled that she jumped up and banged her head on a metal shelf. This is a common response of first-time listeners to the eerie vocal stylings of these musicians, so consider yourself warned! If you persevere and overcome this barrier, you will enjoy the inventive use of unusual instrumentation, whimsical lyrics, and psychedelic yet folksy soundscapes this genre has to offer. The wacky postmodern flower-child lifestyle isn’t really my cup of tea, but what I love most about “freak folk” songs are the intensely poetic lyrics, often so masterful that they can stand as works of art on their own. At its best, “freak folk” transcends the sonic limits of good taste and borders on the sublime. Prepare to assail your ears and uplift your soul with these songs:
Holy Modal Rounders - Down The Old Plank Road (Mp3)
Joanna Newsom - Three Little Babes (Mp3)
Devendra Banhart - Sea Horse (Mp3)
Incredible String Band - First Girl I Loved (Mp3)
Sufjan Stevens - The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts (Mp3)