Everything old is new again, and again, and again

Never was a metaphorical sword so dangerous to its owner as nostalgia. We remember our childhood (or nation) through a golden haze of “the good old days,” and even more surely judge music when thinking of the songs that played over the intense emotions of our youth. I repeat this mantra to help keep myself clear-eyed when ruminating on some of the musicians who are reviving the sounds, techniques, and feel of 1970s rock and soul.

Some of these are just the continuation of longer-term trends like stoner rock. Find some way to get Wolfmother or Blood Ceremony onto an 8-track and pass it to a hesher in 1976; they’ll be completely fooled. But the past few years have also seen a resurgence in ambitious, complex soul/fusion from geniuses like Janelle Monae, Brownout, and Thundercat. There’s also an interest in the gentle, gorgeous sounds that emanated from Laurel Canyon–First Aid Kit and Fleet Foxes are both international sensations.

This kind of music always runs the risk of slavish copying–well done and enjoyable in its own way, but ultimately pointless, endlessly circling an artistic cul-de-sac laid down long ago. That’s why I most admire acts who take the spirit and techniques of those times and do something totally new. Jonathan Wilson and Midlake make albums that are producer-centered, evoking a time of dropping the needle on pristine vinyl, playing it in your bedroom with a friend or two and a joint to keep you company, lying back, and listening. Troker starts with an unlikely combination of party funk and Zappa style freakout, then adds sampling and hip hop elements. Russian Circles make post-rock (itself just a sneaky way for indie kids to avoid saying they like prog) and injects a hard-edged energy to get heads bobbing in the concert halls.

As per my usual strategy here’s a playlist of some music that I think falls into this modern revival. By all means let me know if you want to recommend more, or if you disagree what’s here!

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