It wasn’t boundary-crossing musicians who would wind up blowing pop to bits. It was the internet and the MP3 and, eventually, the streaming-audio platform. (...)
One of the most singular of those results is a 23-year-old named Archy Marshall, the London singer and guitarist who has, over the last decade, risen to modest success and immodest acclaim as King Krule. This disproportion is understandable; his music is both exceedingly good and exceedingly strange. Marshall is part of an age cohort that grew up with no memory of a musical monoculture, or a world in which powerful record labels made sure that everything fit into a marketable cultural slot. (...) It used to be that musicians would combine different ideas deliberately and self-consciously, making music they knew we’d celebrate as intriguingly eclectic. But Marshall seems like an early representative of a fundamentally different tradition: It’s less as if he has chosen a wild combination of styles and ideas and more as if he has just bodied one forth, as if it existed all along and he simply found it. It’s someplace dark and subterranean, where everything sheds its cultural pedigree and blurs together in a private world beyond common references.
Marshall says he has been influenced by everyone from Chet Baker and Dirty Beaches to the 1930s arranger and composer Einar Aaron Swan, but a recommendation engine’s insensate variety, its undifferentiated choice — thatmight be his tribe’s signal influence. This, after all, is what every streaming platform and music-recommendation engine is trying to accomplish: to personalize categories ever more finely, parsing and curating and homing in on our tastes until, eventually, we have each become a genre of one.