That raises two more questions: 1) Why don’t I like other artists who are similar to the artists I like?; and 2) Who else might I like if give them a chance?
I spent awhile cross-referencing music websites, Googling different genres, following genealogical patterns on AllMusic.com, trying to come up with a list of artists who fall into the same genome combinations I’ve described this week.
Who are some other ‘melancholy folk/pop’ artists? Any ‘country-plus’ piano players out there? I even found a whole website dedicated to melancholy music — clearly run by a kindred spirit.
I wound up with a long list of promising leads. A few of them I have listened to and dismissed at some point, and I’ll try here to figure out why. Others I know by name and reputation but have never really explored. And some are brand-new to me.
I should add that I discovered many artists who do show up in my music collection but didn’t make the cut when I narrowed my favorites down to 35. I have a couple hundred performers represented and I obviously like them all enough to own their music. Some of them I’ll list here because I own only one or two albums of a much broader discography. Others I didn’t bother listing.
First, I’ll look at the artists who I’ve consciously decided don’t deserve more of my attention: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, and James Taylor.
I feel a little bad about dismissing Young and Mitchell. They are legends who have influenced scores of artists I love. They are among the finest songwriters to ever strap on a guitar — I get that. But I do not like listening to their voices. I literally cringe when I hear either of them. I know this sounds funny coming from a huge fan of Bob Dylan (and Rufus Wainwright, and Morrissey, and several others whose voices have turned off many a listener) but it’s true. I’d probably very much enjoy a covers album of either of their work.
Tori Amos just annoys me. She is more artifice than art. She reminds me of one of those performance artists who stands naked on the sidewalk covered in red paint and doll parts. Yes, we notice you… no, we don’t care. (Disclaimer: I fully admit that this perception is based on a very small sample of Amos’ music.)
I do like James Taylor. He has a beautiful, soothing voice. He has written a handful of classic songs that I love. I just find his albums a little too sleepy. It’s the distinction between melancholy and mellow… I don’t generally go for mellow music (not exclusively mellow, anyway).
Next, I’ll look at the artists with whom I have some passing familiarity but probably deserve more attention.
I mentioned Elton John earlier this week. He definitely embodies a cross-section of my musical genome, perhaps more so than any other individual performer I’ve mentioned. I’m a John fan, and I own three or four of his albums, but I’ve never spent a lot of time listening to him, and he has dozens of other records I’ve never heard.
Jackson Browne is another artist who should appeal to me. I love Running on Empty and I’m Alive, but haven’t really listened to any of his other albums. My research suggests I should at least check out his self-titled debut as well as For Everyman and Late For the Sky. I’ve heard good things about Lawyers in Love and The Pretender as well.
Conor Oberst is the only contemporary artist in this group. I very much enjoyed his collaboration with a few other mellow indie rockers on the Monsters of Folk album, but I haven’t given his solo work any attention.
The Kinks and The Byrds are two bands that have influenced literally dozens of my favorite artists, yet I’ve listened to only a smattering of their material.
I bought Nick Drake’s Pink Moon and was impressed by its sweet simplicity (in many ways he was the original Elliott Smith). I haven’t sought out any of his other work, though. Not yet.
Cat Stevens’ Tea For the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat are excellent folk/pop collections, but for some reason I never branched out to sample his other work.
Finally, I’ve always admired Leonard Cohen from afar. The one album of his I’ve owned was 1992’s The Future, featuring the beautiful, ghostly track ‘Waiting For the Miracle‘ and several others in the same vein. But Cohen has released a dozen albums, and most of them (particularly the early ones) have been wildly acclaimed.
Next week I will start diving into the list of artists who fit my genome and have somehow escaped my radar.