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A Will Cleveland Pop-Ed: Giving Drake a Chance

Music (and our appreciation of it), in the majority of cases, is context dependent. Depending on the mood and circumstances, music that once failed to connect with me becomes something completely different, something completely revelatory. You can be in a shitty mood one day, causing some music to sound like shit. And obviously (in my experience), the inverse can be true. I have noticed this to truer for me in the past few years. Before, I couldn’t stand heavy metal (or anything with screaming). I was a thick-headed dumbass. By painting this music with a thick brush, I missed out on so much. I never realized that heavy metal is a huge umbrella. Strangely enough (duh!), not all of this music sounds alike. As I have become older, I have been better able (and more willing) to identify my faults (and to the surprise of absolutely no one, there are many). My impatience hinders much of my potential music discovery and enjoyment.

Here are a few bands/artists that I whiffed on …

1. Kowloon Walled City
Strangely enough (there that phrase is again!?), a baseball podcast ( completely changed my musical outlook, especially in terms of heavy music. It’s not all the same and these guys, the Productive Outs — Ian Miller and Riley Breckenridge — alerted me to this fact. Weekly, they pick a podcast cast musical guest. The music often tends to run toward the heavier end of the spectrum. And since Miller has a history of playing in heavy bands and Breckenridge is the drummer from the fine post-hardcore outfit Thrice, the music is always curated wonderfully. Miller plays bass in Bay area sludge metallers Kowloon Walled City. The music is down-tempo, riff-heavy and sludge-y. I ashamed that I didn’t give it a chance sooner. Their 2012 effort Container Ships ranked as one of my favorite albums of the year. They are back in the studio. The attached video is one that I shot at their Albany, N.Y., show last year. And believe it or not, the live version of “The Pressure Keeps Me Alive” manages to be slower and awesomer than the album version.

2. Robyn
Remember when this Swedish singer invaded the US in the 1990s with “Show Me Love”? I do. That’s why I wrote her off when she re-surfaced about 10 years later. I was highly skeptical. I figured that it was more of the same shit. And as we have previously established, I can often be wrong. I was in this case. This “Fembot” has re-emerged as a cheeky, dancing bundle of tiny Swedish awesomeness. Her series of Body Talk EPs were fantastic. And there are rumblings that she will release some new music in 2014. #fingerscrossed

Now that I accept the fact that I love well-constructed, well-executed pop music, my eyes have been opened to the likes of Katy B (new album drops this month!), Lorde, Sky Ferreira, Charli XCX and others.

3. Jason Isbel
Most modern country is saccharine crap. I can confirm this, because I have a certain family member who devours this trash. Modern alt-country rules. Uncle Tupelo rocks my face off. The Drive-By Truckers rule. But before I discovered this fact, I neglected country music. When people would ask me what I liked to listen, I would state, “Everything but country.” Again, I was a dumbass. Not all country is shit. Jason Isbell, formerly of the Drive-By Truckers, is evidence of this. His music is heartfelt. His lyrics are insightful. I highly recommend his 2013 album Southeastern. I initially overlooked it. Here are two videos — two songs from complete opposite ends of the country spectrum — that I shot last week at his kickass country.

4. Drake
Ever notice how all of my posts include Drake? For once, I have a good reason to include this Canadian prince. When his Room for Improvement mixtape surfaced in 2006, I wanted nothing to do with it. I figured, like a dumbass, that Aubrey Graham was a complete gomer. How could the paralyzed basketball player from DeGrassi possibly make good music? He did. He still does. With his constant companion, producer Noah ‘40’ Shebib, Drake has continued to emerge as this generation’s hip hop voice. I just wish that I had discovered this earlier.
A Will Cleveland Pop-Ed: Giving Drake a Chance Reviewed by Will Cleveland on 2/06/2014 Rating: 5

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