Millennial memes are a dime a dozen these days. If the rumors are true, they have traded homeownership for avocado toast, courtship for hook-ups, bongs for vapes, and low rises for high waists. How much can we really expect from the generation that has killed mayonnaise, in the end? A lot, actually. Because all that time spent on social media also involves informing themselves and engaging others on vitally important global issues.
As 10 String Symphony, Christian Sedelmyer and Rachel Baiman are the musical embodiment of Millennials’ best qualities — honoring timeless traditions with respectful acknowledgement and creative innovation so that their peers might find their own ways to connect with the form that is folk music. On their new album, Generation Frustration, the duo wields those traditions well, posing questions and seeking answers for the various crises that face the world today thanks to questionable political leadership from their forebears.
From climate change to class divides, the issues addressed here are urgent and overwhelming. The opening title track sets the pace: “Me and my friends, we all watch the news. We’ve got that helplessness, we’ve got that helplessness blues.” Margaret Mead’s optimistic wisdom notwithstanding, there’s only so much any single individual (or duo) can do to create change in the world and 10 String Symphony understands that, while still doing what they can to use their music as a force of resistance: “I know it’s not fact but feeling that guides decisions we make when it comes to the time. And I wonder if songs ever reach stubborn minds, can I make you believe we’re on the same side?”
“Others Must Knock” takes on privilege by pointing out the ease with which some are able to move through the world: “You drive these roads, while others must walk, and you enter freely, where others must knock.” But the song doesn’t end in blame; it pleads for empathy, generosity, and thoughtfulness from those who can more than afford to offer those gifts to the world that has given them so much while granting others so little.
Consumerism — and the naturally occurring symptom/byproduct of greed that comes with it — seem to be the targets of “Throw Away the Moon.” But it’s the kind of consumerism that comes from never being satisfied with what is and, therefore, always wanting the next bigger, better whatever, even if that means throwing away the moon to “make room for something new.”
Recorded in Edinburgh with producer Kris Drever, Generation Frustration leans into the tension it exudes, both lyrically and musically — rather like someone who looks directly into your eyes and refuses to shift their gaze even as you shift your own under the weight of your own discomfort. Don’t turn away from this one. Keep looking. Keep listening.