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Since this is the penultimate column I will ever write for The Pilot, I wanted to dedicate some words to discovering new music. In past issues I’ve written about “the blogosphere” and the Internet’s heavy influence on the music industry. The Internet can be a highly educational and efficient way to explore new and old music, along with the cultures connected with that music. With the grand escapades of online multimedia, it can also be a fun resource for daily entertainment. But how does one even begin to navigate the extensive resources that include hyper-subjective blogs and watered-down websites dominated by advertising twaddle? As my last installment of this column will be an editorial of music that will always remind me of my experiences at Principia, I leave you with a few resources to help guide your musical exploration. I’ve often referred to these as sources or tools for my columns, and I’m sure you’ll find at least one of them to be useful to you. Happy listening!
Based in the Netherlands, 22tracks is a collective of prominent Dutch DJs and music journalists who handpick 22 of their favorite contemporary songs for 22 respective genres. Created by Amsterdam hip-hop DJ Venz, the playlists are updated throughout the week. The playlists are diverse so that you are guaranteed to find something new that you like. Unlike Pandora where the streaming capabilities are endless, 22tracks is limited to how much music you can hear in one sitting – there are only 22 tracks per genre. However, while they are featured on the playlist, you can listen to the songs as many times as you like. And with so many genres to choose from, it’s inevitable that you will explore new musical territories. You don’t need to register or create a profile, but if you like a song you can add it to what is called “My22,” a personal playlist compiled from the favorites you find. Songs can be streamed on your “My22” for a month, but the song info remains on the list for referential purposes.
The All Music Guide is one of the most comprehensive and credible sources for information on any type of music – popular or obscure. The editorials, reviews, and biographies are written by professional music journalists and writers from around the world – you might have seen their reviews when purchasing music on the iTunes Music Store. The All Music Guide is especially helpful when exploring artists with whom you are not familiar. For example, if you are interested in exploring the Rolling Stones’ deep anthology, the All Music Guide aids the consumer by recommending the definitive albums and songs, along with reviews and editorials on the significance of these works. Someone who doesn’t know the music of Mick Jagger and Co. can hear samples, read about their career, and learn about their works in a matter of minutes. If you have the time to read more, there are also fascinating essays on music culture and genre by many renowned music writers.
Since 2006, Brooklyn blogger Brian Shimkovitz has uploaded full recordings of music from just about every country in Africa. As Shimkovitz’s blog states, “This is music you won’t easily find anywhere else – except in its region of origin.” Featuring contemporary and older artists, the blog provides listeners with a context of the native sounds in each country of Africa without homogenizing culture. Updated every week, Awesome Tapes From Africa has an impressive back catalog of music that will change the way you think about harmony and rhythm. And it’s free to listen and download!
Considered in some circles to be the “Rolling Stone of the Internet,” Pitchfork Media is a haven for all things related to music culture. With an obvious slant toward indie music, Pitchfork promotes all the current trends occurring in the contemporary avant-garde. While it is a site founded first and foremost in music criticism, the combination of digital media and journalistic quips makes the site very accessible. With two offices based in Chicago and Brooklyn, there are updates every day about new and established artists, new record reviews, new songs, new interviews, new music videos, and new columns – all of which can be seen and heard on the site. (And yes, all this music can get overwhelming.) Pitchfork’s “Best New Music” section has been a major factor in propelling bands like Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, and Beach House to larger audiences. A quick visit to this site can give you a good sense of what music is being buzzed about on the Internet.
The self-proclaimed “Dean of American Rock Critics,” Robert Christgau is one of the country’s first music critics, starting his career in 1967 for Esquire magazine. He is most known for his monthly “Consumer Guides,” in which he gives grades to albums along with short whimsical reviews. While some critics of Christgau might consider him to be outdated, one thing is for certain – this guy has listened to A LOT of music. He does know the context of where releases fit into the whole body of music. If you’re looking to hear music recommended by an expert, look to this guy. His site also features archival music articles from magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, and most years of his famous Pazz and Jop Critics Poll from the Village Voice.
If Pitchfork is the Rolling Stone of the Internet, then Stereogum is its hipper-than-thou younger brother, Spin. Many people prefer one to the other, but like Pitchfork, Stereogum’s content is primarily indie music. Unlike Pitchfork, Stereogum is more of a community-based site, due to its allowance of comments on stories, news, articles, etc. This makes for a fun playground of conjectures, insults, and compliments (rare) that color the site and its commentary on music topics. As one of the first “MP3 blogs” or a blog that allows readers to download free songs for “sampling” purposes, it has helped many artists get their music heard outside of hyper-critical platforms, like Pitchfork. Stereogum also has fun columns like “Quit Your Day Job” where artists are interviewed about their prior jobs before playing in a band. If you like expressing your opinions about music culture and don’t mind being verbally abused for them, Stereogum is the place for you.