I doubt you could find anyone who would argue that all of the new music being produced today is timeless. With the constant reverberation of generic formats used to spike singles to the top of charts (from The Beatles’ “All My Loving” to Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass”), it’s nearly impossible. But in the case of collaborations-something the past year alone has been generous with - the industry may be saved. It seems musicians have found the easiest way to revamp their work is to join forces. After all, two brains should lighten the load but double the creativity.
So when a 20-something - year-old dropped the whole “There’s no good music anymore” line on the T the other day, I was annoyed. Who knows if he views the peak of music as being the early 2000s, the guitar wails of classic rock, or the precision of everything pre-1900. No matter his stance, he’s obviously unaware of these modern collaborations that are mixing flavors into innovative favorites.
Special performances of older forces merging with the new are popping up faster than ever. Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo sang with experimental group Delicate Steve last summer; The Allman Brothers and Santana played several shows and songs together this July; Yoko Ono rightfully joined her freak-folk child tUnE-yArDs for a yelping sing-a-long in Iceland. With new generations comes new eyes, ears, and mouths to push the boundaries of previously written songs.
Perhaps people struggling to find the good in new music are looking for something a little more permanent: a new album rather than a single evening of revisited sounds. That’s why Annie Clark, who goes by the stage name of St. Vincent, began working with the Talking Heads’ frontman and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member David Byrne after the two saw an interesting combination of musicians, Björk and the Dirty Projectors, put on a benefit concert for their own collaboration record.
Shortly after, Byrne and Clark began creating Love This Giant, a brass-heavy, vocal-gnashing, orchestrated album that begged each to twist out their hidden musical zest; Byrne got a little more funky while Clark’s charming vocals teetered on soul for a change. Listeners were swooning over the music. Critics were applauding. The result was a line of adults in lawn chairs and college students with coffee mugs outside Boston’s Orpheum Theater for tickets to their show this upcoming Sunday. Yes, these fans probably would be waiting in line just for one of the two, but it was the chance to hear this successful compilation live that gave everyone jitters.
Even people who prefer swelling strings to electronic beats have remarkable new works to check out. Rameau and Beethoven won’t be showing their faces anytime soon, but modern composers are still making the rounds. Indie folk icons Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner of The National, and composer Nico Muhly (who has written over 100 classical works) came together at The Barbican in London for their creation “Planetarium.” The “work - in - progress” suite of songs celebrated our solar system and was backed by an entire orchestra. The three men didn’t stop the planning there; a giant, black orb floated above the stage while each planet got its own emotional piece. Reviews shot up, speaking of the arrangements’ magical sounds, the beauty of the atmosphere, and the evening overall was “the most bombastic symphonic celebration” according to ClashMusic.com. These newer artists linked arms to draw tears from their audiences with their music, clearly another collaborative success.
The next time someone tells you there’s no good music anymore, ask them what exactly they’ve delved into recently. Whoever isn’t happy with these power forces teaming up and fashioning new songs from their own diverse styles may be holding out for Doc, McFly, and the Flux Capacitor to spring from Back to the Future and bring back generations of timeless musicians. Radio-charting boy bands may flood advertisements, but older musicians are sweeping back into the scene for extra innings. All we have to do is pick up their albums and give them a spin. Who knows - give it two decades and they could be the timeless tracks our own children wish they were alive to hear live.