You Are Not The Music You Listen To On The Road

You Are Not The Music You Listen To On The Road

Wesley MurchisonFriday,11 July 2014

The Snap:

It’s been four years since I read Colin Greenwood’s piece in Censor Index about why his band Radiohead released their album In Rainbow to fans directly. Not much has changed in the music world since that experiment in distribution. However, the motive behind the release is as, if not more, important than ever: “I understand that we have become our own broadcasters and distributors, but I miss the editorialisation of music, the curatorial influences of people like John Peel or a good record label.”

The Download:

Before music was hawked as a product it was an expression of a people in a small, provincial, if not tribal, sense, for lack of a better vocabulary. Its fossil records are the old sheet music stores and obligatory piano lessons for your daughter; that is, if you wanted to hear music you in the home you had to make it yourself. Local art was once classified as “folk” but much like the label “aborigines” it was uttered with the sting, and stench, of prejudice. If it wasn’t classical it wasn’t art.

A lot of people think “pop,” like the sound of its repetitive beats, is really just the reference to the first syllable in popular. Though it’s arguable, even with the supposed end of payola, that with music marketing so wedded to image, like the hype in high school, it’s more the “p” in propaganda. (Albeit, it’s an agitprop more likely to shame a 40-year old virgin than inspire a fear in STDs.)

The shift from geographic locale to proximity to the music industry has given us alternative and indie music. Alt lost its cool when it was judged to be guilty by association. We are now left with indie music as the closet thing to folk. But now, as all categories in a taxonomy, it has become a vague and overly broad description of musical likeness among acts, provoking the demands for purity folk once inspired. Music as culture has been abandoned, replaced with an entertainment suitable for everyone but representative of no one. We’ve become tone deaf to taste because the global village is playing its radio too loud.

As much as I listen to music, my car radio dial rarely moves off NPR, unless Car Talk is on. The music video is now in the domain of the Internet. But unlike the one-way, passive reception of TV and radio, the Internet lets me converse with my fellow fans, find music new to me and learn something different about the town I call home. No matter what Velvo serves at the top of their lists.

There are a wealth of apps and websites that can help you discover local acts. Bandcamp is by far my favorite. I can browse to the Nashville tag and click “newness” to see what my folks are up to. At last check, The Alarm’s single “The Axe” tops the list for their band’s upcoming album Real Tough Love, due out August 9. Another notable platform is SoundCloud. What Bandcamp does connecting artists with fans by focusing on album releases, SoundCloud does for sharing songs among friends.

Proper perusal is a lazy day exercise, an idyllic affair best enjoyed with a tablet or smartphone in a hammock or couch. A neat trick is to search your favorite songs for various covers. I got the idea when someone posted a live cover of James Brown’s “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” on the Tom Waits’s Facebook page. The cover is one of the best renditions to arise from the original:

Let that natural human trait curiosity guide your ear. But don’t let the auditory organ have all the fun. Reading and visual arts both have their place. Articles and band art are great clues to discover that next play-it-to-death album. If you agree with the opinion of a music review remember the author’s name. Self-promotion aside, it’s more the critic’s opinion than the outlet that matters. Collecting writers you agree with across all publications is the best way to discover new music. Pitchfork’s authority of cool might be the Internet’s answer to television’s MTV and magazine’s Rolling Stones, but what counts is that the editorialization that Collin mentions is at bottom the ability to identify one’s culture in new music.

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Hat Tips:

Digital Poster Collection, Hipster Runoff, Wikipedia, Image Credit: Flickr



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