Finding New Music.

I bought a new car a couple of months ago and haven’t had time to replace the stereo. I’ve suddenly been zapped back to the nineties. I’m at the mercy of the radio and the single disc slot in my dash. It’s nearly unbearable; an untenable situation that I’ll need to resolve quickly. Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains are still a staple of commercial radio? Driving home on Friday night I counted 4 stations at one time playing one of these 2 bands. I freaking hated them in the early nineties and those crappy songs don’t sound any better today. Who’s listening to these guys? At first I thought I must be picking up one of the New Hampshire rock stations. It’s not uncommon for them to be stuck on the worst 20 year-old music, but after a closer look I’ve found the same phenomenon applies in Boston as well. No wonder I’m nearing a nervous breakdown listening to the radio.

With the absence of the never-ending mix from my Archos MP3 player, I’ve resorted to finding new music in some interesting places. I thought I’d share a few. You’re going to notice a common theme below that I feel I have to talk about; that theme is NPR. 10 years ago, if you told me simply that I’d be getting music tips from NPR I would have laughed at you. If you’d told me that I’d be getting music tips from NPR stations in whacky places like Minnesota I’d have probably punched you square in the nose. I may be getting older, but I still have my dignity, right? I’m not willing to admit that I’m getting less hip, so I’m going to have to advance the theory that NPR is evolving and getting hipper.

Musicheads Podcast: This podcast is produced by one of Minnesota’s NPR music stations, 88.9 the Current. I particularly like the format; a roundtable discussion. I plan a lot of meetings and roundtables are always my favorites. I love to hear people share ideas and debate a given topic. When I’m kicking around with friends on a Saturday night what do we do? Talk about what we’ve been listening to lately and argue about what’s good and what’s not. So this show is perfect for me. In twenty minutes or so 3 or 4 DJs debate 4 new releases and whether the music is “working for them” (an annoying catch-phrase that gets repeated every 2 or 3 seconds of the show). What I particularly like about this show is that in and amongst the banter they leave time for extended samples of at least a couple of songs from each release. So you’re hearing more than just the latest single, but getting a glimpse deeper into the album. Beware that you will have to suffer through occasionally pretentious commentary, but by-and-large this has been a decent place to discover some great new music.

Slacker Radio – Street Punk: I’ve never been much for the gimicky iPhone Apps and streaming music services that purport to play your favorite genres and “recommend” bands that you might also like. In my experience they’ve mostly spewed a bunch of generic crap that I already knew and couldn’t care less about. Slacker Radio’s Street Punk station has been something else altogether. Mind you, it hasn’t introduced much by way of new music. It has been an amazing opportunity to walk randomly through my punk rock collection; Bad Brains, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, Descendents, Adolescents, Dead Kennedys, interspersed with more modern punk-rock gems by the likes of; Bad Religion, Rise Against, and Refused. This has been the perfect Friday afternoon mix. Many an afternoon random colleagues will stop at my door and enjoy a tune or 3.

NPR’s Live Music Podcast: I forewarn that you’ll have to suffer through a bunch of generic and crappy live music from this podcast series, but in and amongst you’ll find some amazing nuggets. The Decemberists performing their entire new album was amazing. Liz Phair doing Exile in Guysville was a lot of fun. The annual SXSW coverage is second-to-none. It usually consists of a dozen or more podcasts of live music along with show reviews and DJ picks. Let me mention that host, Bob Boilen has the coolest job on the planet. He opens the podcast with a few words about the band and turns it over to the live performance. He then sits back and enjoys the (typically) hour-long show. Unbelievable! How come no one ever asked me if I wanted that job?

Wolfgang’s Vault: An amazing repository of classic and psychedelic concerts. I recently found their iPhone App through which I can stream all kinds of classic concerts. I can’t describe how cool it is to be able to a live Jefferson Airplane show from 1968, or the J. Geils Band from 1975. How about Santana from ’73 or the Clash from the early ‘80s? I can listen for hours, and hours, and hours…

NPR’s All Songs Considered Podcast: A really interesting weekly podcast that covers a surprisingly wide variety genres. Often the commentary does focus on standard NPR Music fare; Indie Pop and Alt-Country but at the same time I’ll get to hear new bands that I’ve been reading about or odd nuggets of jazz and hip-hop and field recordings. All Songs Considered takes the same documentary approach that they use for the All Things Considered new program which is refreshing when applied to music. I tire of the standard sound-bite interview followed by in-studio performance, so this is a nice change of pace

College Radio Tuner: I’ve always been a huge college radio fan. Being from Boston, I’ve always had a huge variety available; WMBR at M.I.T and WERS at Emerson being my favorites. The College Radio Tuner iPhone app has put college stations from across the country at my fingertips. The interface isn’t particularly sexy and the stations are a potluck of genres and quality but it’s thrilling to tap into what has traditionally been a very localized outlet for music. It’s great to hear what local bands and venues someone in Santa Monica is jazzed about. I may never get there or see the band, but getting local flavor has always been the best way to discover the up-and-comers.

KEXP Live Performances Podcast: Another NPR podcast that comes which comes with the same caveat as some of the other NPR podcasts. You’ll have to suffer through some very average music here. But I’ve also found some great sets by the likes of the Hold Steady, the Duke Spirit, Band of Horses and Yeasayer. These are mostly nice, short, in-studio performances. The interview banter doesn’t really add any value, but the 20 – 25 minute format is perfect for a short drive or walk.

WMBR M.I.T.: Speaking of college radio, you don’t get any better than ‘MBR. Since I mostly use ‘MBR to make it through the workday, I’ve never paid much attention to the names of the shows, but on any given day I can hear early eighties punk rock, lost 45s from the psychedelic era, classic soul, and random stuff from the thirties and forties. It’s an endless potpourri of the obscure music and genres that I love to listen to. I do warn that the early morning experimental music show and the every-week-or-so later afternoon free jazz show send me running for the hills. But by and large there’s something here for every music lover.

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~ by spinthis45 on June 11, 2009.

One Response to “Finding New Music.”

  1. Good read… and good recommendations.

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