There’s something about the music that comes from the UK. Often the Americans who come across it cling to it and elevate it above where they might place it if it was American. I assume this is because foreign is sexy. I mean, you might be indie if you like listen to Saddle Creek Records, but if your musical selection is so elite you have to go overseas to find anything good, then you must really have discriminating tastes, right?
That being said I personally would rather listen to music out of the UK than most anything you’ll find on Top 40 American radio. I hate cookie-cutter music and that’s all you’ll find on Top 40. Even branching out into rock stations you’ll find cookie-cutter music which quickly loses its appeal. When I first heard Three Days Grace I liked their sound. I had already been weaned off the radio so I wasn’t falling head-over-heels for this radio band but I liked what I heard. Now you can find 18 bands exactly like Three Days Grace. And truthfully Three Days Grace wasn’t doing anything new to begin with. I won’t swear off something just because it’s on the radio (Owl City is pretty great, and do I have guilty pleasures? You bet I do but I’m not gonna go off on that tangent). I just generally have no interest in radio music.
So I turn to alternative outlets. (No, hell no, I’m not talking about alternative rock. I believed I covered the Three Days Grace effect and I didn’t even get into how alt. rock refuses to evolve or progress). Generally I listen to bands which can be described as indie or emo. To find good music that’s not on the radio there’s generally some legwork involved. You aren’t fed music. You find one band, which leads to another band, which leads to another and so on. Some of these bands are quickly forgotten. Just a speck in your last.fm stats to remind you you’ve been there. Others find there way onto your playlists, burned CDs and streaming radio stations. They become a part of your musical taste make-up. Eisley was one of those bands for me.So was Shiny Toy Guns. They really got me to appreciate female vocalists. (Ryan has followed virtually the same progression as we pass along anything we find to the other. He referenced this in a 2008 entry.) The Dresden Dolls followed as did The Ropes. And in this way female vocalists led me to UK artists (along with another progression of bands like Passion Pit, MGMT. and Band of Horses). Mathangi Arulpragasam, also known as M.I.A. was born in England. Enter Shikari formed in St. Albans, Hertfordshire. Marina & the Diamonds is the stage name of a Welsh-born artist. And then there’s Polly Scattergood. I wrote all of this planning to write primarily about Polly.
Polly Scattergood’s musical style has been described by Billboard as “early 21st century electro-dance-pop of London proper”. That’s a mouthful and that’s the type of pretentious crap that pushes me away from UK indie. But I won’t let it get in the way of appreciating her music, especially considering the dumbass who said that also said that her song “Poem Song” was too indulgent. Her story is pretty interesting and I’d tell it here except I’d feel like I was plagiarizing if I just regurgitated everything I read from wikipedia. In short she’s a shining example of the difference of career paths between UK musicians and American musicians. Or at least that’s how it seems to me. I have a sneaking suspicion that comparing her career path to that of Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus or an American Idol contestant is a brutal miscarriage of justice, but in my ignorance I can’t help but compare their paths as I form my opinion. And sometimes ignorance is bliss. If you’re wondering why their career path matters to me it’s very simple and has to directly with the music they produce. If a budding musician is discovered by the industry when she is 16 and she is shaped and molded into a future star, her music will reflect the norms of the pop music industry. If an artist works in obscurity, perfecting their sound on their own, then what they produce truly has a chance to be unique. I feel as though Polly is unique. Just by hearing her voice you can tell it wasn’t all easy. She worked and suffered through disappointment and the music that has followed is pretty remarkable. It’s not cookie-cutter, it’s not perfect, and it hasn’t been picked through by some asshole with a closet full of awards. It’s music.