I don't know what it is, but British artists continually show a better sense of melody and structure than American ones. American artists seem to get pigeonholed easily: if they're pop it's either bubblegum or seductive; if they're rock it's either metal or confessional grunge-type stuff; and then there's hip hop, which I don't need to discuss. Indie is all over the map, and some of it is great. But indie can't be compared to what happens in Britain because it's not very commercially successful, and it's hard to trace any sort of development or tradition there. . . .
There's this broad middle ground in British music where artists can blend elements of the above and be both commercial and artistic at the same time. That's what American music needs. But I'm not sure if you get it just by giving artists more artistic freedom. There may be a genuine cultural difference in the ability to produce and appreciate good melody.Anyway, here are some songs that I recently heard on Sirius/XM's Alt Nation, which is where I come across new music these days. Many are British, which is what gave rise to the above:
1. Noel Gallagher, "If I Had a Gun". When I first heard this, I was vaguely reminded of Oasis, which is no surprise.
2. A Silent Film, "Driven by Their Beating Hearts".
3. Morning Parade, "Headlights". This band is from Essex, and their first album came out in March. Musically reminds me of Coldplay a bit.
4. The Joy Formidable, "A Heavy Abacus". A Welsh band whose debut album came out last year.
5. Death Cab for Cutie, "Crooked Teeth".
6. Radiohead, "Lotus Flower".
7. Purity Ring, "Obedear". A little more electronic than the stuff I usually like, but reminded me of Andain.
8. Beach House, "Myth".
9. Editors, "Munich".