Since coming to college, my musical tastes have exploded into dozens of different directions, fragmented into a variety of genres, some with everything in common, some with little in common. I think there are several causes: going to college and being exposed to new music, being a part of the digital music revolution’s first decade, my tastes maturing, the Internet’s amazing ability to take the wide scope of music and hone in on what moves you, what interests you.
In short, the music listener is now in control. We don’t have to listen to what’s on the radio, or what’s popular, or who’s on tour, or who is from your region: On the Internet, we have access to almost every band that has ever produced an album and many that have yet to release a full EP or an official single. Myspace, YouTube, Pandora, Last FM, you name it; music is everywhere.
Each seems like each few weeks I stumble across a new band that few people at Linfield have ever heard of. In March, it was Cults and The Ruby Suns. So far in April, it’s been Dom and, thanks to my roommate Brian, Big Spider’s Back.
I guess what I’m saying is it’s easy to be a part of the underground music scene now; or maybe the underground is coming above ground, into the open, on the Internet for anyone who has a passion for music to find. Like treasure sticking out of the earth rather than buried deep below your feet.
If you’re a fan of music, a close listener, a critic, a connoisseur, I have two Web sites you need to check out:
The first is www.Daytrotter.com. This site has hundreds of live recordings available for download – all of them for free, although you can pay a few dollars to download them in the highest audio quality available. It seems like all of the bands that play are comprised of bearded, Beat, plaid-wearing, indie musicians. Basically, Daytrotter invites bands on tour to stop by their recording studio for a few hours to record a four- or five-song set.
What results is often acoustic, very raw, with imperfect vocals and little screw-ups that make the music sound real, alive, with feeling and soul. This makes for a powerful listening experience, especially when you take a band whose songs you know and love (like Vampire Weekend, for example) and then you get to listen to them in an entirely new way, re-imaged, or like they once sounded, before the studio started mixing and editing, adding effects to make the music sound more clean and crisp, polished. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, check out the sets by Andrew Bird, Beach House, The Dodos, Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, Mason Jennings, The Morning Benders, and White Rabbit.
If you consider yourself an avid critic of music, someone who’s hard to please and eager to praise a band’s roots, contemporaries, and influences, www.Pitchfork.com may just be your new best friend. The Web site posts harsh (but well-reasoned) record reviews and offers interviews with indie (and some pop, dance, rap, and noise) music’s biggest stars and up-and-comers. It also features music videos, essays on music culture, and expansively annotated lists of “the greatest” (albums, songs, by decade or by year). It might be an overwhelming place to start, but give this sight some time; it will grow on you. Be sure to check out Pitchfork’s “Best New Music” updates. They’re definitely worthwhile.
Hope I haven’t overwhelmed you. Discovering new music should be anything but overwhelming. It’s exciting and fun to share with your musically like-minded friends. It’s an exploration into the way genre is evolving (or devolving, or ridding itself of such imperious labels as “genre”). But you’ve heard enough from me. There’s too much music out there to waste your precious time with idle banter.
Columnist Jordan Jacobo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org