Steven Wilson has changed my perspective on how music is written and performed and how lyrics can touch the very recesses of a part of ourselves we think is lost. I can almost guarantee most people have never heard of this man and his many projects, but he is an unsung hero of modern progressive and art rock and really the purest example of a modern musical hero. Wilson is an English musician who started as the sole member of a “band” called Porcupine Tree. Later, this band became an established force in the modern progressive community, and today it is on the forefront of cutting-edge music. Wilson is the leader of at least five other bands, including the acoustic band Blackfield, which redefined the love song for me, and his own solo project under his name.
Wilson’s first band Porcupine Tree is the epitome of modern art/progressive rock and deserves to be at the front of the class for song construction and pure emotive songwriting. As the frontman of the group, Wilson has written every song and every lyric the band has ever produced, and as a whole, it is life changing.
The words are unlike anything I’ve ever heard; they both abstractly and directly cut to the heart of you at the same time. The music itself can range from the ambient and dark, to the dreamlike and acoustic, to hard hitting. There is literally something for everyone in this group, if you’ll just have a little patience and give a bit of effort.
Its albums often focus on concepts not obviously visible on first listen, but if you give it some time (as its songs tend to be long and many of its albums are meant to be heard from beginning to end), they could grow to be the best band you’ve ever heard. The album Deadwing is a great place to start.
Wilson’s “pop” project Blackfield was his attempt to change the way love songs were written, expressing his feelings in a simpler, yet no less beautiful context. This band is for fans of soft, acoustic music with amazing texture and with lyrics that center around relationships, attachments and loss.
His words and music, co-written and sung with Israeli musician Aviv Geffen, makes for an absolutely breathtaking listening experience. These songs are some of Wilson’s best yet most accessible songs, and this is a side project that may end up being your favorite of his work. My recommendation: Start with the album Blackfield.
Wilson’s solo project, made up of progressive albums through and through, tends to show his darker side. The songs are some of the most complex and intellectual of his collective work. Like the Porcupine Tree project, however, his solo work requires some patience and time but is perhaps his most meaningful and beautiful work. My recommendation: Try the Insurgentes album.
Wilson and his many projects may be under the radar for the majority of students here, but he is one artist above all others that deserves your time. His artistry and songwriting skills are unparalleled, and the musicianship is astounding.
It’s pure art and pure emotion, and I guarantee if you have a little patience and really listen – which is oh so hard to do in a world of bits and bytes – his music may be the most rewarding thing you’ve heard to in a long time.