art

copyright galore

i’ve been meaning to write this for so long. like. so long. probably close to 18 months, but i’ve never known how best to approach it.

it stems from an event that happened a couple of years ago. remember when i used to paint onto driftwood? remember when i did a few avengers pieces to mark the release of one of the films?

you might not, it goes back a long way. so you probably also don’t know or remember that as a result of that i have a cease and desist from the legal team at marvel comics for painting iron man’s mask onto a piece of driftwood. seems petty to do it for a single item i was charging £2 for, but marvel is kind of known for doing this on sites like etsy.

did this impact me? not really. i took the piece down and managed to sell it elsewhere. it was, after all, only one item that wasn’t easy to reproduce (not like a print, mug or phone case). and i had a number of original designs and pieces to fall back on.

i usually split my work into two categories: attention pieces and sale pieces. an attention piece is self-explanatory, it’s something that is visually striking and often large and expensive. something like my violin and ukulele pieces. they may not sell quickly but they draw eyes over to my work and can lead to me selling other items, my sale pieces. a sale piece is something like a print, mug, phone case etc. an item that, once i’ve finished the design, doesn’t require much effort to reproduce and i can sell for a modest profit. the profit margin doesn’t have to be high because i tend to sell more of them and they can be quickly and easily re-ordered or manufactured.

but if my business was based on marvel characters on various products etc, i’d have been screwed.

my point here is that marvel was right to issue that cease and desist to me because the image i used wasn’t mine to profit from. i was just fortunate that i had a portfolio of other original pieces to fall back on, which some people don’t consider doing (or for whatever reason aren’t able to do).

with christmas coming there’s sure to be a number of companies selling “knock-off” products from big companies which is understandable, we’ve all got bills to pay and things like that can really help. but what i’m really trying to encourage is building your own brand rather than relying on other images.

when i first started out i did that. i wanted to sell things so i made what i thought people would buy because it was familiar to them. it was all twee and trying to be cute but it wasn’t very “me” at all. it’s only been a couple of years of focusing on my own stuff and i already have people coming to me for my style and being able to recognise my work. replicating other popular images is ok if you want to make a bit of quick cash then have your etsy account deleted and claim the industry doesn’t support indie artists.

the longevity depends on your originality and your ability to stand out among so many other people trying to do the same thing.

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patience.

i’ve been thinking recently. a lot of people i know in real life and through things like twitter are regularly saying things like they’d like to do one thing or another but they’re scared it’ll fail or be shit. they’re basically letting their insecurities take over and prevent them from doing something they’re clearly passionate about.

so here’s the thing. when you see a successful artist, author or business you’re seeing what worked. you’re not seeing what they’re keeping hidden: the stuff that didn’t work. it’s very rare that you find someone who does something perfectly the first time, but they improve by doing it more often and learning. maybe your first attempts will be awful but if you’re enjoying it and improving then who really cares? if any of your projects ever make it big it’s unlikely it’ll be the first project you ever took on because, since then, you will have done more and improved vastly in that time.

learn, grow and expand.

i exhibited at a ‘yard sale’ of sorts over the weekend and the turnout wasn’t as high as the organisers had hoped and they came over at the end to apologise, but it was their first time. these things take time to build momentum and word of mouth. their confidence was knocked and i understand that but it reflects so much of what i’ve been saying on a very small scale.

it’s very easy to try something for 6 months to a year and have a level of success that doesn’t match what you’d hoped for, then think it isn’t working and drop it to try something new only for the same pattern to repeat itself. even more so when you do something once and it doesn’t meet your initial expectations.

be patient.

i tweeted the other day that my monthly income vs outgoings have finally started to balance out. it’s been just over four years. for some people this will take even longer. it depends on the industry in which you’re operating and your own personal outgoings. take those things into consideration before giving up and trying out something else. if you’ve got the support and finances you can even try to do a couple of things at the same time.

keep reminding yourself how much time you have.

snippets

recently i’ve been a bit slow on posting everywhere, mainly because i’ve not had many fully formed ideas. so rather than leave it any longer i figured i’d just post a few musings here for the time being.

1. taking time for yourself.

something i’ve wanted to talk about for ages is the idea of how people think if you’re a creative or self employed that you always have to be moving and making new tangible stuff. all about the output rather than the value of your brand. i always hate referring to myself and my work in the same breath as a brand but if you do anything yourself and put it online you’re basically creating a brand identity, and i see mine as including podcasts, videos and blogs alongside my art and merch projects. one of the joys of doing this is i get to do what i want when i want and as long as it’s all linked together properly it all forms the brand and therefore everything compliments everything else and adds value to what i’m doing (or at least that’s the plan).

so we have the idea that what looks like inactivity to people outside of your business/head is a bad thing. you’re not making things or adding value, simply because people can’t see a pattern or process developing. i’m not very good at writing plans or making full cohesive strategies but i do have a firm idea of what i want to do and how i want to do it. i spend a lot of time thinking and reverse engineering, i like to solve problems and analyse information but i rarely write or talk about it because to me it’s something that happens in a split second in my head. writing it down slows the process down for me. i place a lot of value in taking some time away from posting everything on social media and making new pieces of work all the time (not to say i don’t enjoy that, back in april i made 32 new pieces in a month) to focus on where i can grow and ideas i can look into. i’ll write projects and ideas down but a lot of it is very conceptual or involves a lot of reading. sometimes i spend my time walking around just visualising what a finished project will look like, and when i get home i’m able to put what i have in my head into a finished item. it’s the same with podcasts; i’ll quite often practice more or less the whole thing in my head first then make some quick notes to give an idea of order and to make sure i don’t forget anything.

2. technology & art.

recently i’ve seen some ridiculously clean lines in tattooing and a lot more tattooists seem to be planning their linework using ipads etc. i’ve seen it in the work of other artist as well and it got me thinking about how some people within the art community have moved further from using technology, almost rejecting it for the time being. i get the odd urge to make a fully digital piece every now and then but the majority of the time it’s saved either for editing/layering or left completely out of things. could it be that advances in technology are encouraging some artists to move away from it? that we used to want to aim for perfection, but now that’s far more possible we now aim for organic imperfections?

3. my old job.

would i rather be back in my old job (or one like it)?

not at all. i’d take the uncertainty and difficulties that come from running my own business over that any day of the week. the circumstances which led to me leaving my old job and the journey that has resulted from that has exposed me to flaws and problems that may have otherwise been buried or gone totally unnoticed. yes money is tight and yes my motivation fluctuates and yes i sometimes work very long days, but i feel so much more ‘me’ compared to how i was in my old job. i always joke about how the version of me at uni wouldn’t recognise (or would hate) who i am now because i’ve changed so much. the truth is that transformation truly began when i left my job to set up my own business.

i still feel like i can do more, but i always do, and nothing will ever feel like enough for me. that’s how i know i’m on the right track, because i’m still trying to make things work. nothing feels formulaic or textbook to me. i’m trying to do more with what i’ve got and (as you’ve probably seen) i’m consistently attempting new things and releasing new one off pieces.

i go through obsessive phases, which is in part possibly due to my mental health, so you’ll probably see me release a whole load of one type of item or a certain style before moving onto something new. then it kind of gets left in the “one day i’ll do more of this” pile while i do something else.

that’s it.

that’s all of them. flash thoughts i wanted to write down and flesh out but never got round to it so enjoy those and maybe ask me some questions if you want more information!

Allowing Yourself To Rest

 

Going back about as far as I can remember I’ve struggled with sleep. I’ve never given it much thought because I always just kind of got on with things regardless of how much (or how little) sleep I was getting.

Through therapy I discovered I might have a phobia of sleep. Anyone who follows me on Twitter will regularly see me awake and posting until I basically can’t stay awake any longer. I fight it for as long as I can and I find my anxiety levels massively increase if I reflect on how long I was asleep when I wake up. This is exacerbated pretty intensely by my medication making me drowsy and needing to nap quite regularly. It resulted in a small crisis the other night when I felt like I was letting myself down by not being awake at the most opportune times for me to advertise work to people (I’m yet to find a free Twitter and Instagram scheduling app that I like using).

For months, maybe even a couple of years now, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of not needing sleep because it somehow means I’ll be less successful if I sleep as much as I need to. Reinforced by the amount of people on social media who talk about how they’re always grinding/hustling/working, I find myself comparing my perceived work rate with how those people present themselves, which is very understandably detrimental in both how it impacts my mental health and my overall motivation levels.

Shortly after my crisis, I was awake and writing the blogs I posted on Thursday and Friday until around 4am. I tweeted after finishing those that I’m starting to realising it’s more to do with how we use our time when we’re awake. The next day Gary Vee posted the image below.

gary-vee-motivational-sleep-quote

This made me realise that, at times, sleep isn’t “avoiding The Hustle” but is instead part of it. How useful am I to myself, to my creative process, to my marketing approach, if I’m depriving myself of sleep? Constantly being awake doesn’t somehow result in success. If you’re awake for 20 hours a day and can only manage to concentrate well enough to complete four high-quality hours of work, then by many people’s definition of The Hustle you’ve not utilised those remaining 16 hours.

At present I’m sleeping around 8-12 hours a day but still managing to fit in 5-8 very high quality hours of work-related output. Right now it isn’t always things my customers or followers will see, I’ll be making lists, researching new distribution channels, new suppliers, new product/packaging ideas. I’ll sometimes spend a whole day just thinking about how to act next. To me, that’s adding value to my brand. The changes I made, which I detailed the other day, came from social media engagement and a whole day of thinking of ways to act on the responses I received and conversations I had.

It’s taken me a while to reach this point, but I’m trying to remind myself not to shoehorn myself into a routine that doesn’t suit me just because it works for somebody else.

As always, if you want to support me you can do so by subscribing to my Patreon page, where you can pledge from just $1 a month (around 80p), donating via PayPal or by purchasing through my store.

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Future Plans For Mr Crypt!

Here’s something I haven’t mentioned on my store yet! My future plans for Mr Crypt’s Curiosities.

Let’s go with the obvious stuff that I’ve discussed previously. I’m currently planning a podcast with my mate, Paul. We’ve had a few chats about it and we’re slowly working out what we need and getting everything lined up for it. At the moment it sounds like we’ll loosely try to stick to a topic while Paul gets increasingly frustrated at me for constantly going off on tangents. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

The details of this blog post as well as yesterday’s will end up as a series of videos up on YouTube too. Each section will have it’s own specific video so you can watch whatever’s most relevant for you rather than skipping through to try to find the right part. I’ll also be uploading the same videos to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I plan on making more video content like time-lapses of me making new products. I’m still getting used to it but expect more soon!

As for products, I’ve got some ideas for bamboo and wooden items that have been laser cut and engraved. These include phone cases, keyrings, toothbrushes and even some “prints”. Some of these items will be limited in number but I’m very excited to get them made. I’ve spoken to my potential supplier about providing me with some engraved faux-leather wallets too, but that needs some more research.

On top of those, I’m also looking into getting some patches, pins and badges made. It’s generally a matter of affordability. In an ideal world I’d be able to order everything in at once for a totally new range but we’ll see what happens there.

And finally, I’m looking into improving my packaging situation. I currently send items out in plastic postage bags with loads of sellotape etc and I hate it. At the moment it’s the most cost-effective way to do it so I’m using those up while I look into more sustainable packaging options. Any help in regard to that would be much appreciated. My aim is to be totally plastic free in terms of products and packaging by the end of 2018!

If you want to support these plans and ideas you can do so by subscribing to my Patreon page, where you can pledge from just $1 a month (around 80p), donating to via PayPal or by purchasing through my store.

I’ve Updated My Store!


If you follow me on Twitter may have noticed I’ve mentioned some updates on my store recently. As well as them being there I figured I’d give a brief rundown of the main things I’ve added and the reasons why.

I’ve found Eric Thomas’ videos and stories hugely motivational and driving for me to improve and find ways to succeed and thrive in all aspects of my life. Knowing January was around the corner I started to think of how best to utilise the time I’d have available and remembered one of the first videos of his I watched. The title is “Work On Your Work” and is available below.

Having seen that, and with that phrase resonating with me for so long, I decided to take a step back and evaluate my brand. What am I doing well? What can I improve on? And, perhaps most importantly, does my brand reflect me as a person? What can I do to make my brand stand out that isn’t just chucking some swearing on a mug?

Payment Options & Reserving Items

The first thing I thought of dates back to a thread I did on Twitter in August. I feel like that page and the thread sum things up quite neatly, but if you don’t want to click away here’s a quick rundown of the feature.

– I’m happy to take payments via PayPal or bank transfer, but at present I’m not sure how to implement a way to make nominated payments using card details. I need to check safety measures with Big Cartel first.
– This function is available for ALL products available at Mr Crypt’s Curiosities. Want to send £10 a week to pay for a £100 woodburn? Go for it! Want to send £2 a month to pay for a mug or phone case? Send away!
– All payments are non-refundable apart from in exceptional circumstances.
– All conversations will be kept private and I’ll attempt to tailor things to meet your requirements.
– I don’t post anything out until I’ve received the full payment, including postage. This is simply to cover myself, as when I first started this business I used to do commissions without taking deposits and had three people ask me to make them something but they never paid.
– Underneath each product listing on my store (and elsewhere) there’s a tab clearly marked for PayPal contributions. Once you’ve sent the payment I get an email detailing who sent the funds and how much they sent. I don’t get any notification about which item it is in regard to. Please contact me to let me know what you want to reserve and I’ll mark it as sold out so nobody else can order it before you’ve paid for it!

One of the major benefits of this function is that, as a small business, I’m able to make my work as accessible to people as possible. This includes people who, for whatever reason, have limited finances. Everyone deserves to own stuff they like and want and I’m hopeful I can make that happen for more people by introducing this!

Commissions & Custom Orders

This one feels fairly straightforward but it bears repeating. For the time being, all my printed items (mugs, phone cases, coasters and keyrings etc) are customisable to a degree. There’s already an option to order a custom keyring, but not for the other items. However, if you have a custom phrase or idea that you’d like me to make for you just let me know and as long as I have time I’ll be happy to work it out!

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Some of the more complex designs for phone cases and mugs might come at a higher cost if it takes more time for me to finalise. Probably best to ask me about that and we’ll discuss it before you commit.

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As for commissions, you can see all the stuff I do and make over at my Instagram page. My commissions open/closed information is usually displayed wherever I remember to change it on social media. I only close it when I get too busy with additional projects, if my list gets too long, or if I somehow find myself on holiday at some point!

If you’d like me to draw, burn or paint something for you, drop me a message with your budget and your idea and we’ll take it from there. I’ll usually request 50% of the quoted price as a deposit before I begin working on anything.

Name Changes & Dead Names

This is my favourite new addition because it’s such a simple thing and it can mean so much to people. Simply put, if for any reason you want or need to change your name because it doesn’t match your payment information (particularly in the case of people who may not be able to afford, or may not be old enough, to legally change their name) then just message me.

You can contact me to update it via your preferred social media channel, through the contact tab on my store, by updating your billing information or by making use of the order notes as you complete your payment!

For some of you it might be the first time you receive something in the post with your changed name on it, and although this is in no way about me it would still be amazing to be a part of it.

Support

If you want to support these plans and ideas you can do so by subscribing to my Patreon page, where you can pledge from just $1 a month (around 80p), donating to via PayPal or by purchasing through my store.

Thrice – To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere

It’s been a while since Thrice last released a studio album, almost five years in fact. So today is a day I’ve been in anticipation of for quite some time. They’ve always been my favourite band for their drive in pushing forward and trying new sounds and approaches to songwriting and To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere is no exception.

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I was tempted to write this as a track-by-track but we’d be here for days so I’ll just go over the main highlights.

The most noticeable singular element of almost all of Thrice’s more recent work has to be the guitar tones, and TBEITBN follows suit. The cleans sound so crisp, bluesy and piercing without drawing your attention from the rest of the song, and the heavier tones feel like a warm musical hug, but not in a way that drowns out the more subtle elements. If you listen to The Window and Black Honey you’ll understand. And the vocals. Oh, the vocals. I’ve been in love with Dustin Kensrue’s voice for around 14 years but it seemed to reach a new level on Beggars and Major/Minor. It’s all gravelly and lovely. Blood On The Sand and Death From Above are my favourites for showcasing exactly what I mean.

They’re lyrically just as strong as ever too, I’ve been sat here for ages trying to pick some of my favourite examples but I can’t. They’re all just so so good. There’s such a wide variety as well, with some political songs such as Death From Above (which seems to be written from the perspective of a drone pilot) being a clear contrast to Stay With Me, the track directly before Death From Above and is more like a love song. Songs like Stay With Me show how incredible Thrice consistently are at constructing songs, there isn’t a single dull or out of place chorus on the whole album but the thought that goes into the writing is so evident in Stay With Me. They know when to keep it simple and when to play with time signatures of structures, and do so in other songs, but Stay With Me is fairly straightforward but not lacking in brilliance.

From watching the studio updates on YouTube, they said they were bringing in new music but trying to shine light on various eras of the band’s duration and it’s been so carefully done to make it seem either accidental or casual. In places it feels like an amalgamation of the best bits of the albums following The Artist In The Ambulance that you’d only really notice if you had them pointed out to you or if you’re a Thrice nerd like me.

The chorus for Death From Above brings about memories of Silhouette though I can’t place way (probably the time signature and general heaviness), and Whistleblower would fit perfectly on Vheissu, but by far the easiest one to point out is Salt And Shadow. It’s such a perfect album closer, reminiscent of some of the tracks from the Air chapter of The Alchemy Index. It almost feels like a lullaby, with the multi-layered vocals lending themselves to probably the best ‘light’ song Thrice have ever written. I also love the way Salt And Shadow ends, it’s a very subtle hark back to the “You’ve got to play it again” from The Beltsville Crucible from The Illusion Of Safety but it’s so expertly done that it’s easy to miss.

I had high expectations for To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, as I do with every album by every band I love, and I’m so pleased to say they’ve all been exceeded. I know a lot of other amazing albums have been released this year but TBEITBN has shot to the top, with most of the songs mentioned here being among the best songs I’ve heard for a long time.

Attention Artists and Small Businesses!

I have news!

I really hope this is of use to some of you. I’m sure it will be.

You know at the start of this year I was sorting things about buying equipment to start manufacturing myself, and as a result also being able to manufacture for other small businesses and independent artists? If you didn’t, you do now. Well I’ve been working on things and have finally started producing my own mugs and tote bags. This should speed up delivery time for those items, and a few others that’ll be developing soon. For the moment I’m not going to be making phone cases myself as it means having to guess the number of blank cases I’ll need for each model and I don’t have the storage at home to accommodate them at the moment.

This means two things. One, I’ll be able to make stuff for brands, bands and artists. Either in bulk or to order. I’m still working on prices as it’s fairly new but from what I’ve seen it’ll be pretty competitive. I already have the mug prices worked out. I know a few people have been looking to add some items to their stores but didn’t want to pay for a lot of items etc in bulk. That’s not a worry now! I can make them for you as the orders come in, and even send them direct to your customers if you like.

Before moving on to number two, I’ve also recently purchased a lovely thing called a light tent for my product photos. Once I’ve got that fully sorted and worked out I’ll also be offering pictures of the items I make for you as part of the package. That’d be especially useful for anyone who’d prefer for me to send items straight to their customers.

Second, I’ve started work on a new set of products to sell under a different brand name under the Mr Crypt umbrella. A few of my designs are vaguely linked to the BDSM/kink/DDlg community (my Daddy’s Little Princess being one of the most notable) so I decided to roll with that and make a few more. I’m working on the same sort of items as I sell through Mr Crypt alongside new products that I’ll soon be introducing to both brands. The new brand is called Little And Hyde and at the moment largely works around pet names and terms of endearment used for partners. Very soon these will be customisable for people who have less common names for their partners. There’ll also be a range of colours etc too. It’s all very exciting!

In other news I’m looking to do more big pieces, particularly ukuleles and woodburn projects. I already have two ukulele plant pots that need painting and finishing off and you kindly picked a theme for a skateboard deck by voting on Twitter. There’ll also be pint glasses coming very soon to mrcrypt.bigcartel.com. In the meantime, head over and get some lovely stuff!

Blink 182 – Bored To Death

I know there are no doubt thousands of people writing in reaction to the new Blink 182 song but I’ve been waiting for this for a long time so I’m adding one more to the mix.

I’m not going to dissect the whole song and discuss each tiny element, and I’m also going to try to avoid direct comparisons between Tom DeLonge and Matt Skiba because, in all honesty, that kind of thing feels a bit lazy. However it has to be noted there are obvious differences that serve to highlight the influence each has had on the songwriting process. This is also Blink’s first time working with John Feldmann, so it’s hard to say which elements are present because of his and Skiba’s involvement, or simply down to Tom not being there.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of “spacey” guitar effects, not that I hated them on some of the more recent Blink releases but I find this song to be far more direct in terms of tone, and it’s also worth mentioning how quickly the vocals come in. The whole thing feels very condensed; almost all of Bored To Death has vocals in some form going on. The whoa-oh bits drag on a bit but I understand it. It gives Travis a time to do what he does best and drum the heck out of everything. There’s also a fair bit of whoa-ing on recent Alkaline Trio albums, so that could be Skiba’s influence shining through.

While we’re on the topic of Skiba, I’ve been a huge fan of Alkaline Trio (and their associated projects) for years, I think I bought From Here To Infirmary around 15 years ago. As soon as I found out he was going to be working with Mark and Travis on this album I was so excited, more excited than I probably was for Neighbourhoods and Dogs Eating Dogs. His introduction seems to have given Blink a new energy. Not necessarily better or worse, as people are so often drawn to say, just different. I’m also excited to see the impact it could have on bands who are either friends with Alkaline Trio, or involve Dan or Derek (The Lawrence Arms, The Falcon and Hot Water Music to name just three).

I’m kind of rambling and just throwing random thoughts into this so I’ll round it up before I get too heavily into it, as that’s something I’m trying to avoid. It’s 10 years since Mark and Travis released When Your Heart Stops Beating with +44 and Bored To Death sounds like a kind of natural progression from that. It has a certain urgency about it, Mark’s vocals are as good as they’ve been for years, Skiba’s vocals are probably as good as I’ve ever heard them and for the first time since Take Off Your Pants And Jacket it genuinely sounds like everyone involved is enjoying what they’re doing.

Anyway, I’m finishing this here. There’ll be a drawing based off the lyrics for Bored To Death coming soon but I wanted to upload this in the meantime.

Heavy Music

We’ve all described a band as “heavy as fuck” because they play really fast and loud, the vocals are indiscernible and the drums are mainly blast beats and double bass pedals. Heavy heavy heavy. Fast fast fast. Shouty shouty shouty.

Based on these criteria it’s really no surprise that people tend to exclude the likes of Radiohead and Björk in their lists of heavy artists. However, if we reconsider what it takes to make music “heavy” then they definitely can be at times.

In_Rainbows_Official_Cover

When I saw Refused (I’ll try not to mention this much but I’m still buzzing from it) they were supported by Anna von Hausswolff. I wasn’t sure what we were expecting, having never listened to her before, but her performance was certainly an experience. In hindsight I did really enjoy it but at the time it was all a bit of a shock to the senses. I’ll try to describe her style of music as best I can. Say, for example, you’re watching a horror film. It’s set in a forest. It’s just starting to get dark and the main characters are about to encounter a whole world of awfulness. A song begins to play to add further tension. You think to yourself “Oh shit, someone’s about to die in this film.” One main character watches another die and survives to carry the burden of what they’ve seen with them for the rest of their life. Even this doesn’t do Anna von Hausswolff’s music justice but I’m sure you’re at least part of the way with me in understanding. My brother described it as “Disney doom.” It carries hope and loss at the same time, the sort of music that could be played to lament a loved one.

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It was heavy as fuck. Drone-y, in a good way, and at times the tone of the organs and keyboards filled me with a dreadful weight. That weight in itself is what I sometimes refer to when I say a band or musician is heavy, which is what I mean when I say Radiohead and Björk have their heavy moments. Their songs have a tendency to create tension and inspire an internal sense of longing and dread, and that’s far heavier than any blast beat can be. I’d class Videotape by Radiohead and Sæglópur by Sigur Rós as two of the heaviest songs I’ve ever heard (I’m sure I’ll think of others later on but for now these two demonstrate what I mean pretty much perfectly).

Sigur_Ros_-_-Sæglópur-

Despite this kind of music requiring a more focused form of listening (I find I can’t just have it as background music, it demands my full attention) I’m always looking out for more of this style. I guess you can also count Explosions In The Sky, This Will Destroy You and some pieces by Sigur Rós in this bracket. So please recommend songs or artists/bands to me. I’d love to have my mind blown and my head fucked a little more.