Thursday playlist: Meta

I’ve reached a bad place when it comes to finding new music. Mostly I rely on a handful of friends to play stuff for me. When I’m feeling ambitious, I go online. E. Tan recently found a couple more music blogs, which we’ve added to the sidebar: Cassette from My Ex and Fluxblog. I can’t read Pitchfork anymore; I don’t even have any substantive criticisms to make of it, although I’m sure such criticisms can be made. I just can’t deal with the preening hipster snobbery. I do like Dusted, and when I’m up for downloading stuff their weekly list feature is often pretty cool. I also need to spend more time on Ubuweb, which recently put up the whole run of Tellus, a cassette magazine of sorts from the 1980s, and has loads of other stuff as well. And of course there’s WFMU’s ridiculously vast On the Download feature, basically the web’s rummage sale of MP3s.

So somewhat in the spirit of Bryan’s recipes post this week, what do you all do for new music? (Have we talked about this before?) Any good websites to recommend? Methods? (“I don’t see any method at all, sir.”)

34 responses to “Thursday playlist: Meta”

  1. PB says:

    I suspect that this thread will be about 75 comments long and by the end I will will be intimidated and overwhelmed by all the varied brilliance of finding music. So may I be the first of offer my little lame system and then get back to work where there is only the music of chattering voices (in my head?).

    I like music that is narrow and deep and most of the artist I enjoy will record songs now and then that are in the public domain. So sometimes I will pick a song that I have very strong feelings about – let’s say “Pretty Saro.” Then I plug the song into i-tunes and get about 60 artist possibilities. Then I listen to them all – make a short list of people I like – go to those sites and listen to more – winnow and then let i-tunes recommend others when I have found a few people I love. I like going from songs rather than artists because I get better results – this would obviously not work to find original music.

    I found my new favorite this way, she is so wonderful: Elizabeth Laprelle. I would never have found her otherwise.

    Also my son belongs to a mix CD club with school friends – 6 kids who take turns making a CD a week. We have gotten great music that way – these are music kids and surprisingly eclectic for 14 yr olds. I also keep up with popular music that way.

  2. PB says:

    post script – we are also compussive collectors of songs we hear in general pop culture – WB had downloaded the Regina Spektor Narnia song within 5 minutes of seeing the movie. Same with commercials, TV shows, magazines, etc.

  3. PB says:

    compussive = compulsive.

  4. I just let it happen along. Mostly I’m happy with listening to the music I know and love; occasionally I will get a recommendation from a friend and/or a blog, and it turns out to be something new to like. Of course the downside of this is not being au courant.

  5. lane says:

    i-tunes radio has me really happy at the moment.

    These moments come and go and I’m sure there’s something about i-tunes radio that isn’t as great as it should be, but . . . (that preening hipster snobbery rears its ugly head) . . . but, i like it.

    i like letting others (preening hipster snobs – with great taste in music) curate my musical day.

  6. Dave says:

    I forgot to mention a few sources: Thursday playlists here, obvs. Record club, which is this great thing I’m a part of here where we get together once a month and play songs for each other and then burn them to CD. And playlists that people post on Unfogged from time to time. (The guy who calls himself The Apostropher has the most amazing funk collection.) I guess what I want is music outside of those channels, so I can contribute new stuff back into them.

    Pandora, with your interest in traditional music, have you found any places online that have public-domain recordings for download?

  7. The Other James says:

    This post comes at a great time for me. I just finished my MA (you can call me “Master James” if you like) and now have the time to delve into and expand my ridiculously large iTunes Library (I’m not bragging, but it’s currently “23987 items, 74.6 days, 140.67 GB,” yep). Most of it’s comprised of orchestral music (complete recordings of Bach, Mozart, Glass, and others) and jazz (everything recorded by Monk, most of the stuff by Miles and Coltrane, and a ton of other people), but there’s also a ton of guitar and electronic musics that I found through a few friends that follow the Pitchfork crowd around and sometimes pass on good recommendations. I listen to Pandora when I have a chance: Brian Eno radio led me to “Collections of Colonies of Bees” and “Mother Mallard’s Portable Masterpiece Company.” I also subscribe to eMusic ($20/month for 90 downloads, though for people who signed up in the last year or so, it’s $20/75 downloads). eMusic recommends stuff based on what I download. I’ve found some good stuff that way too.

    Hey, maybe its time I do another playlist?

  8. Rogan says:

    E-music and Pandora. E-music is my favorite.

  9. everything recorded by Monk

    Hey! — the perfect opportunity to hawk my brother’s book, which I just found out is a finalist for the International Association for the Study of Popular Music’s annual prize: Monk’s Music. Good stuff.

  10. PB says:

    #8 – For a second I thought – wow, my playlist must have really had an impact! Then always the letdown. I will never get used to it. Damn website.

    #6 – Unfortunately not really. I will follow comment threads occasionally on a few sites that will say – listen to this! But other than the artists’ personal sites, I have not delved too far. If I find anything along the way – I will pass it on.

  11. lane says:

    so this is a little ripple in my listening habits.

    listening to the same song over and over, like all day.

    back in October i listened to Stings “Lazeruz Heart” for like, 3 days, just over and over.

    today I’m enjoying “The New World” by X.

    back in the fall i just started thinking about how one song is just as good as any other song, so one song left on all day is kind of like listening to . . . all songs.

    I don’t know if that makes sense, but try it. Jerry Saltz once told a group of people i was in that he sometimes listens to the same song all day. For what that’s worth.

  12. lane says:

    TMK, your Gabe’s brother? That’s amazing.

  13. Jeremy says:

    i highly recommend getting on Other Music’s email list (yes, the store in NYC)–every week they send out an email with short reviews of cool new releases (and re-releases) and links to sound clips. I still read Pitchfork, by the way, but only to find out whats come out lately. I find it difficult to read their reviews anymore…

  14. lane, you know Gabe? Do tell.

  15. lane says:

    ha – gottcha, no i don’t know gabe.

    why the helll are you in modesto? researching a joan didion/steve malkamus bio-pic or something?

  16. I haven’t been in Modesto (much) since I was a kid. I did, however, grow up there and will always think of it as “home” in some sense of that word.

    (George Lucas biopic would work too, as would a Three Dog Night rockumentary.)

    i don’t know gabe

    So what is amazing about my being Gabe’s brother?… His class has a musicology blog which is a great one when it is being updated; in hiatus now for the summer.

  17. lane says:

    no kidding about the amazing thing, congratulations to your brother, that’s cool about the book.

    just goofin’ off,

    and wow 3 dog nite. now THAT is bio-pic material.

  18. Scotty says:

    I just hang out at the record store and buy whatever the cool kids seem to be into. This gives us something to talk about at the convenience store parking lot later that night.

  19. bio-pic material

    Totally. Though I think the Modesto connection is pretty tangiential — they were a Los Angeles band. But one of the members grew up in my home town/went to high school with my pa.

  20. Robert says:

    I use the various tools on quite a bit. I’ll start with some band I like, and then start following the associated lists of “similar artists,” “influenced by,” and the genre lists. Following these links frequently leads to interesting bands I’d never heard of before. I also do roughly the same thing on (which also has a whole bunch of category lists called emusic dozens), as well as on wikipedia. It’s all just a scattered and very inconsistent hodgepodge of opinion, of course, but it can be a fun way to mine for new music (by which I always mean, music that’s new to me, even if it’s not current).

  21. brooke says:

    I love this topic, sorry for the long comment.

    In my mind there are basically three ways to discover new music: via humans, via computers, and via personal exploration. There are obvious overlaps between these modes of discovery.

    The most promising means of discovering new music is combining the first two modes. The third is a problem because it requires a lot of time. Unless you’re a DJ or independently wealthy (or both) you’re not likely to have the time to devote to finding new music. By combining the human component – the listening tastes and habits of your network of music friends (not necessarily the same as your friends) with a series of well tuned, adaptive algorithms that can understand this information and make use of it to mine a rich repository of music, it is possible to build recommendation systems that point the listener to music they haven’t heard and will probably like.

    There are still a lot of problems here – most notable the challenge of avoiding ‘easy’ recommendations – if you like David Byrne you might like the Talking Heads, and instead pushing recommendations down the “long tail” of music. This is hard. I find Pandora suffers from this particular problem. Their recommendations trend towards more popular music, or just plan wrong suggestions. Moreover, I’ve noticed that the songs tend to repeat if you’re just running Pandora none-stop. Plus, relying on musicologists to code each song, while an interesting idea, is neither scalable or sufficient.

    In terms of what I have found to be somewhat successful, I have to say Last.FM has been pretty solid. They have a wealth of community data, and very good algorithms for providing recommendations. I listen to my neighborhood station, and I’m usually not disappointed. But Last.FM has collected years of my listening tastes, and has my network of friends’ data also.

    I also use the iLike plugin for iTunes, which provides some new stuff. In the near future, Sun Microsystems will release Project Aura in the fall, which will provide an open source platform for hybrid recommendations:

    When all of that fails. I have three or so friends who are wellsprings of new music, so I pester them to give me recommendations, which occasionally pulls up some good stuff.

  22. Here’s I guess a vaguely related question: when you discover a new musician whose sound you like, how quickly and deeply will you get into the music? As I said above I tend to rely on music I already know; this might be in part because I relate to music in a pretty obsessive way. I don’t really think of myself as a fan of a particular artist unless I’m pretty familiar with his or her whole catalog (or if the musician is really prolific, a substantial chunk of the catalog), and like able to sing along with a lot of the songs and to know the melodies in my memory. When I hear a new band that I like, I may be hesitant to really add them to the stable (so to speak) because of the investment of energy that will take.

  23. Tim says:

    I love how systematic PB’s method is. You make quilts, too, so it sort of makes sense that you would work like this.

    I do something kind of similar sometimes. I’ll go to the Myspace of a band I like, then click on the links to their top few friends. Ideally, they’ll be musicians or bands. Then I listen to the songs of those bands as I work, clicking on another one when one is finished. I like that the music will just stop after the four or five songs are finished, so that I have some respite now and then, and am forced to go find another one. If music just keeps playing and playing in the background, sometimes I’ll get either a bit wiggy or just start blocking it out.

    Like Jeremy, I check Pitchfork to see what’s new, but hardly ever read the reviews (unless it’s by Amanda P.). I’ll check the Myspace pages of bands that look interesting.

    Also, there’s, where one can download live songs. They have interesting new bands there, generally, though sometimes they start sounding too similar to each other.

    I’m married to a music supervisor, too, so she’s always bringing home stuff that she’s just found.

    Lane, one song over and over again sounds like an interesting experiment . . . for someone else. I couldn’t do it. Maybe you should write a post about it. Challenge yourself to listen to the same song for 3 days and chart your responses.

  24. LT says:

    I’m on the Pandora-style kick where I slink around itunes to hear related artists of music I like; I also peruse the playlist feature, but ultimately I think itunes is a bit limiting…

    There’s a decent website called You Ain’t No Picasso that has mp3s for listening and the writer often reviews live shows.

    As my husband is a musician, I am often listening to/going to see local acts or hearing what friends are up to musically. Here’s a shameless plug linking me-and-husband’s band Readers. Hey, at least its new music!!

  25. LT says:

    The link above for readers goes to husband’s (John) main page, where he made corresponding links to an album-per-month project from Nov. 06 to Nov. 07. Readers is Jan. and Aug. 07, but my favorite is husband-solo in February.

  26. Dave says:

    When I try a new lunch place, I pretty quickly find something I really like. Then I keep ordering it, because I don’t want to risk getting something I don’t like and wishing I had the thing I already know I like. Problem is, I eventually get bored with the thing I know I like, but I don’t know the rest of the menu and have a hard time picking something else.

    Often I’m in the mood for the same old stuff, and much of the same old stuff is really amazing. I could listen to Dylan’s Royal Albert Hall bootleg a thousand more times. But just as often I’m bored and itching for new sounds. And I want my friends to think I’m cool.

  27. LT says:

    dave, you’re the coolest.

  28. 26: right — but when you’re in that long period of always eating the same thing at the same place, your friends go right on making recommendations, totally oblivious to how you’ve found contentment. So you build up a backlog of places you ought to check out, and when the day finally comes that you’re bored of the fantastic squid laksa at Nyo-nya, you can just consult the recommendations database. That’s how it works for me anyway, I get way more stuff recommended by friends and blogs than I could ever possibly keep up with, so I rarely find myself looking for new recommendations. YMMV of course.

  29. Rachel says:

    I have a bunch of music blogs bookmarked and check them pretty regularly. I love Soul Sides (pls excuse the absence of links; I’m on a strange computer, a PC, argh, with tons of firewalls and cookie blockers) the most. I also like Palms Out Sounds, especially Sample Wednesdays, which offers mp3s of all the original songs sampled on a different major album/artist every week. (Did you know that the great cymbal break on Daft Punk’s “Around the World” comes from Edwin Birdsong’s “Cola Bottle Baby”? Does being excited about that make me a huge dork?)

    Most good music blogs have super blogrolls, and I’ve discovered a lot of music that way. An Aquarium Drunkard (Americana), Headphone Sex (electronic), Badminton Stamps (everything), Said The Gramophone (indie), Moistworks (thematic mixes, usu. accompanied by a highly readable essay), Captain’s Crate (“gumbo funk”)…there’s something out there for everyone–even Dave.

    Oh, and there’s a whole genre category on my iTunes called “Northeast Corridor Social Club”, culled from friends’ mixes. (Though maybe now that I’ve been to L.A. Record Club I should relabel it “The Great Whatsit.”)

  30. Rachel says:

    [“Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” not “Around the World.” Of course.]

  31. I use Pandora Radio. And my local college radio station. But then again, I don’t love music as much as the average person. I’ve explained why before. And I don’t NEED new music; I’m just fine with the familiar stuff.

  32. swells says:

    i think i know someone who likes to roll that new word “husband” around on her keyboard . . .

    and that song “we look up to the sun” is so dreamy

  33. My key new music sources are a handful of blogs (most of which are in our blogroll), the Pitchfork recommended music section (which I catch up on once a month or so and take with a grain of salt), WFMU (of course), and the wonderful world of musical information that is E. Tan.

  34. brooke says:

    #29 Does being excited about that make me a huge dork?

    Absolutely, but in a good way! That’s a cool site, I just added to my RSS reader. I like Soul Sides a lot also. I’ve recently found good hip-hop on, although it’s mostly videos, so you have to find stuff on there and then go elsewhere to buy/download just audio. If you’re into DJ type stuff, has great artist interviews and downloadable mixes.

    Going to see live music can be a great source of new music also. Last night I went to see Mates of State at Slim’s, and the opening band was some local group called Love Like Fire. They were great! And speaking of great, I also discovered Australian indie rockers the Grates when they opened for The Go Team! a couple years ago.