Much of today’s music works in tune with the 21st century vogue, celebrating the ego and promoting dull highs of living. This can especially be seen in the tracks that surface in the charts, centering on the semantics of dance-floors, mood-pushers and libido. At the top of the chain stand some aloof mega-stars fishing in our shallow waters with baits of revelry. Other voices are always there, but they are often ruthlessly overheard.
To put personal taste in music into a rather global perspective is a simplification that dissolves into nowhere. All that listeners can do is to dethrone lewd liars and capitalist PR kings that govern the industry’s development. Fortunately, February of 2017 has brought some formidable tracks to bear on Spotify. The bands Priests and Jane Bordeaux have released an album and a single, respectively. Both voices give an interesting resonance in the digital space, and most certainly a palatable listening experience.
The Washington D.C. foursome Priests can be broadly classified as punk rockers, but this category will not do for a style that is so far off cliché. The voice of female lead singer Katie Alice Greer is soulful and reaches all its capacities: from mysterious and distant, it can sliver into wild enthusiasm or hysteria, which reminds of the nineties Courtney Love. This nostalgic comparison to grunge rock seems appropriate, yet there are still more layers discernible in the album ‘Nothing Feels Natural.’ It also blends pulsing beats with aspects of indie-rock and Jazzy diva-funk, always poignant and in harmony.
Priests’ style seems a sharp retort against a suggested American sleepwalking trend both by sound and lyrics. Taunting herself and others, Greer sings whimsical lines like “The most interesting thing about you was that you smoked Parliaments, the babiest cigarettes – I thought I was a cowboy because I smoked reds.” The band’s songs entail stories about relations with friends, about love, and do not spare the American dream either, like in their song ‘Pink White House.’ With focused and at times cynical texts, Priests’ latest album offers ingenious insight and a fresh tone among musicians.
Israeli band Jane Bordeaux produced quite contrasting musical compilations, but equally as outstanding. A two-man and one-girl group from Tel Aviv, they have produced songs since a few years back, and have already been successful on the Israeli music scene. The band refers to their style as a cross-breed of Americana country and Hebrew folk music, but it has none of the loud and quirky traits that make people flinch when they hear ‘country.’ Their latest single ‘Ma She’chashuv’ is introduced with an acoustic guitar play that evokes associations with a quiet rainfall, and later merges drums, ukulele, and the enchanting voice of lead vocals Doron Talmon.
The translation of ‘Ma She’chashuv’ would be ‘What’s Important.’ The song tells how Talmon comes home one day to find that her boyfriend has left. The punch line of his departure is that he has taken a beloved sweater of hers: “The sweater is not in the drawer – my heart is breaking, now I will always be cold.” With poetic lyrics and three synchronized voices, the song carries mourning and tristesse even for listeners who do not understand Hebrew. It is a song that accomplishes foreignness and familiarity at the same time. The beauty of Jane Bordeaux’s sound is one that is uncoded and does not need to be translated into language: it captures emotions that go through the skin to the heart.
The values inscribed in the work of Priests and Jane Bordeaux encourage hopefulness while the year to come is likely to be a rough one on its wheels. Global affairs undermine the notion that society has a spot to offer for everyone, and improvement per se has revealed itself as a myth. Yet a backlash from the music industry is hardly to be expected unless one dives underground. This gives way to a serious reconsideration of the cultural potential that music acquires. The art of recommendation therefore takes on an increased importance, an obligation to share any gems discovered amongst the flood of trash.
Mina Jaff, Class of 2019, is a literature major from Germany.
Featured image: Baltimore City Paper