Monday, March 9, 2015

Finding New Music

One of my resolutions for the year was to find a new album every month that I can add to my playlist. My music playlist hasn't really changed much in the past few years, with maybe a new album or two catching my attention each year, if I was lucky.

So, I delved into the world of music recently, trying to find something that speaks to me. In this blog I'll talk about what I'm looking for, where I've looked, and why I should have known this would be so difficult.
One of the main problems I'm facing is that I'm not simply looking for new music I like. There's a lot of music I like out there, from purely instrumental pieces including classic piano, video game music (and arrangements thereof), and so on. I also enjoy various pop songs, songs from 80s movies, blues, and all sorts of stuff.

Specifically, I'm looking for things I can actively participate in: things I'll enjoy singing while I'm doing other things. This narrows my options considerably. Vocals sometimes have a way of ruining a perfectly good instrumental when done poorly, and it's easy to do them poorly. There are plenty of vocalists with weird voices and singers with very limited range, not to mention all the ways lyrics can be written poorly, whether with poor meter, goofy word choices, or uninteresting subject matter.

When it comes to vocals, I'm not sure I can really articulate what I'm looking for. I appreciate witty and fun lyrics, songs that tell stories, songs I can relate to, sappy love songs, and on and on. I'm pretty sure a song can be about anything, if it's written well enough.

The Barenaked Ladies, for instance, had an awesome ability to write songs about pretty much anything, from arguments, the humor of infidelity, and the inability to completely give yourself to someone.

That said, it's hard to tell what I'll like, and I think my inability to articulate my preferences likely plays a large part in keeping me from finding new music. Some of it's simply a matter of taste: if I don't like the sound of a band or a singer's voice for whatever reason, there's nothing you can really do about it.

That said, there are precisely zero bands that have 100% awesome songs--even my absolute favorites have a few tracks that I'm lukewarm toward at best. So, when checking out a new band I like to sample several songs from them before moving on.

So far I've tried a few sites like Pandora, TasteKid, and If You Dig to see if they have any good recommendations, but there wasn't much luck there. Searching Barenaked Ladies on there turns up a bunch of one-hit-wonders from the 90s. Searching Five Iron Frenzy just brings up a bunch of ska music and Christian music, neither of which I'm all that into.

These services seem to focus only on the surface-level aspects of the band, yet they can't seem to grasp the deeper qualities that I personally connect with. And, to be fair, neither can I, really.

I also started browsing Bandcamp, listening to sample music from all those independent bands that make their home there. After a few hours sampling dozens of bands, though, I still turned up empty.

Recommending music is difficult. Everybody connects to music in a different way, and there's no telling what will attract us. It's kind of intimate, to reveal to other people what music you listen to.

That said, I'm taking recommendations. I promise to take any suggestions seriously, whether it's a band or a specific track.


  1. Well, snap. Turns out you have very eclectic yet very specific tastes. It will be very hard indeed to recommend music to you. So I'll just share with you some of my favorite albums of all time as you're looking to add albums moreso than aritsts/songs.

    1.) Steely Dan - Aja
    This album is probably my favorite album. I agree that no one artist is 100% bulletproof. There are Steely Dan songs that don't float my boat, but every track on here is a treasure. I worry, as vocals here are pretty non-traditional and could be polarizing. But how about you give it a shot.
    Highlights: Black Cow, Peg

    2.) The New Congress - Everybody Gets Up!
    Unfortuantely, this little band isn't big enough to have someone upload their album to YouTube. I saw this band visiting an ex-girlfriend in Minneapolis years ago. They put on an incredible live performance in this little bar and sounded so amazing. I bought the album and I listen to it every week probably. Fantastic R&B. You can skip "The Drunk Song" - it's a real stinker in an otherwise awesome collection. The last track is this cool, fast thing for whatever reason. Short and sweet. Overall, an amazing album.
    Highlights: Can't Be Me, Ain't About You, Shockwaves

    3.) Kimbra - The Golden Echo
    I caught a bit of Kimbra in a Vine made by Professor Shyguy and had to ask him who the artist was. He told me Kimbra, I found this album "The Golden Echo," and it's quickly climbed my favorite albums list. Very eccentric stuff. Like a more grimey Lady Gaga. Cool vocal effects and layers, super funky drums and bass, very Prince-influenced with pop sensabilities. I dunno. I just adore it. And the variation is very cool. Pop songs, weird experimental stuff, grooves - I dig it.
    Highlights: Miracle, Everlovin' Ya, Rescue Him

    4.) James Tillman - Shangri La,d.eXY
    I hope that link works - they block Bandcamp at work.
    This guy is incredible. I just happened upon him on Bandcamp and I instantly bought the EP and have since listened to it hundreds of times. Just amazing stuff. Interesting songwriting, great soul sound with big, soaring strings. Looking forward to more from this guy.
    Highlights: All four tracks

    5.) Chante Moore - Love the Woman
    Can't find the full album on YouTube but this playlists has some of the best tracks. Just a great soulful singer. She's been around forever but this album I felt was her most solid work and really had some great ballads, pump up tunes, and slow jams - even a Bossa Nova. Her range is incredible. Rivals Mariah, but she doesn't really show it off to much on this disc. Regardless, amazing music.
    Highlights: Can't Do It, Special, Love the Woman

    6.) Mondo Grosso - MG4
    Someone had a playlist on YouTube but it was backwards and missing a track. People are crazy. So I made my own.
    I actually bought the remix album of this before I got the album. Regardless, this started my love for Shinichi Osawa (producer behind Mondo Grosso). A Japanese guy using UK drum and bass/garage influences to make Latin music, mostly in Portuguese. Brilliant. Producer driven albums are great because they allow for a lot of diversity, and you'll get that here. Instrumentals, female vocal, male, scat vocal, rap - even a three movement poem over music - it's all here!
    Highlights: Now You Know Better, Butterfly, Cenario

    1. 7.) Childish Gambino - because the internet
      Tracks are disappearing here so you may not get the whole album.
      Regardless, this is a masterpiece. If you're into Rap and Hip-Hop at all, this will blow your mind as it's not just those things. There is experimentation with logical execution here. Kanye West tried to "break all the barriers" with his "Yeezus" album but, in my opinion, it fell flat and was bogged down by carelessness caused by arrogance. Here though? Gambino really puts down some incredible music with very tasteful vocal effects, great "4th wall" audio effects, and never mind all of the incredible lyrics - this guy does double and sometimes even triple entendres nearly every corner. I can't see how people aren't saying that this guy is the king of rhyming right now. I can't think of anyone on the level but Eminem. Anyway, this is not your older brother's rap album. This is some intense, thoughtful, and amazing work that transcends the stereotypes of "those damn kids and their rap music."
      Highlights: Shadows, Pink Toes, Crawl, Sweatpants, (and my absolutely favorite, shake you to your core track) Zealots of Stockholm.
      Bonus - this isn't in the playlist but it's such a great track that's on the album

      Let me know if any of this does it for you. You may need to listen, wait three days, then come back and see if any of it took.

      Regardless, I hope you find something you like out there! Thanks for sharing your blog post - I have several tracks to check out now. :)

  2. I actually had this same problem, luckily I found 2 new bands though which will suffice for now. I technically am the type to find the good in anything, but as for what I'd listen to by choice I'm fairly picky. Anywho check out a few on this list if your interested.

    A Day to Remember-
    This band has been one of my favorites for a while, and is the only band in which has barely any, if any, songs that I dislike.

    Bring Me the Horizon-
    The album Sempiturnal specific, from powerful instrumentals to lyrics I can connect with I truly enjoy it. Keep in mind this music is made for large concerts, so most song have a fairly easy chorus.

    A Perfect Circle - A lot of deeper meanings

    Incubus - Good driving music

    Pierce the Veil - High pitch singer, but strangely enjoyable

    Beware some of these have screaming, but I personally enjoy it. It seems to bring out the anger or sadness emotions in a very intense way.