Streaming Music Has Left Me Adrift
October 20, 2014 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Like blasted pecs or a little rhinestone flag pin, esoteric taste in music is an indicator of values. Under the heel of the major-label system in the early ’90s, indie taste meant more than liking weird bands. To care about obscure bands was to reject the perceived conformity of popular culture, to demand a more nuanced reading of the human experience than Amy Grant’s “Baby Baby” and therefore to assert a certain kind of life. That assertion was central to my identity as a young adult, and I found that people who shared it were more likely to agree with me on seemingly unrelated issues. Like all aesthetics, taste in music is a worldview.
posted by josher71 (141 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
All the music snobs I know now just carefully compose monthly Spotify playlists, which seems like a way of saying "I know where and how to find cool new music on a regular basis, and I take the time to curate it for myself."

This is great for me, because I DON'T know where and how to find cool new music on a regular basis, except by stealing it off my cooler friends' playlists.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:05 AM on October 20, 2014 [17 favorites]


Personally, I prefer blasted pecs...
posted by dudemanlives at 8:12 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Here's the hole in that theory. Back in the 80's and 90's 'indie' just meant you were on an independent label. The music you played could be anything from slowjams to speedmetal. Nowadays it's kind of codified into a certain sound (and posture) that's not everybody's cup of tea.

Plus lots of people can dig weird and esoteric stuff and still enjoy shamelessly mainstream pop and rock.
posted by jonmc at 8:13 AM on October 20, 2014 [28 favorites]


Amy Grant's "Baby Baby" reflects all the nuance of the human experience.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:13 AM on October 20, 2014 [20 favorites]


Everything else is just a desperate attempt to convince ourselves otherwise.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:14 AM on October 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


It's a little sad that an album collection no longer occupies that same cultural space. That said, music nerds still have plenty of spaces in which to be music nerds - it's just a different world out there. It no longer requires all that much effort to load up on this genre or that genre - this is good news! It just means that nobody cares if you're the black metal guru. In and of itself, it is no longer interesting whether or not you enjoy "non-mainstream" music. It is becoming more and more the case that there is such a thing as one mainstream kind of music.

But, there are still people who still listen to albums qua albums. If this is something you want to do and talk about, you can find these people, both online, and in real life!

It's pure nonsense to say that the only thing which differentiates a Slits fan from a Kesha fan is what letters they type in a box. People still attach - and don't attach! - all kinds of things to their music consumption.

Also:
The translation of musical taste to social acceptance was in many ways terrifyingly complex and arbitrary. I once attended a party at the home of a poetry professor who, in her meticulous preparations, happened to leave out one CD: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. It was a gutless choice, the act of a person who reads music magazines. Any other album would have revealed her taste, but instead she had only shown that she understood what our kind liked.
Even if this was written with some irony, it still makes the author sound super duper douchey.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:18 AM on October 20, 2014 [26 favorites]


If you haven’t heard them, statistics suggest that you will enjoy their cover of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and nothing else.

Indeed. (I mean, I like "Shoplifting" and "New Town" a lot.)

I have lost my ability to find cool new music on a regular basis, because finding cool new music stopped being about going to the record shop or reading articles and became about setting up a pandora or spotify or something and spending hours clicking through Bandcamp and Soundcloud, and somehow I just never built the baseline knowledge to make that fun. Like, back in the record shop days, I already had a set of references to start off with (based on obsessively reading England's Dreaming and fanzines) and that made digging through the stacks fun and interesting - even though most of it was a blur to me, I'd find stuff I knew about periodically, and I could make inferences about the stuff I did not. I just don't really have that with Bandcamp.

I have this horrible situation now where all the "cool" new music I hear is, like, second-tier cool and so it's not very new or interesting....I mean, it's like half-cool, at the level of CHVRCHES or something, where it's pretty okay but doesn't push me much. Or if I luck out, it's like the new PJ Harvey or Owen Pallett or something where it's interesting but not that musically novel.

Also, I have discovered that a lot of new stuff that I hear lately just sounds like sensitive college boy rock from about 1994. I assume this is because I've gotten caught in some kind of horrible eddy of sub-Coldplay, but I am also baffled because it's stuff that, like, relatively tuned-in people seem to enjoy.

And then the truth is, some of my taste was irretrievably formed in the nineties, so I feel like lately all I run into is Grimes and CHVRCHES and Perfect Pussy on the "girl"/feelings side and sort of weird metally and electronic "serious" music on the "boy" side, and I just don't know anymore.
posted by Frowner at 8:23 AM on October 20, 2014 [27 favorites]


Yeah, the gratuitous Amy Grant diss made the author instantly lose credibility with regards to being able to critique taste. Rockism is still alive and well.
posted by pziemba at 8:24 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


(I mean, I just can't hear new music the way people who are tuned in hear it - there's obviously a lot of there there, but I can't access it.)
posted by Frowner at 8:25 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


This was one of the most obnoxious essays I've read in a long time. I share some of the author's musical taste, but who died and made him the arbiter of what's "objectively hideous music" (emphasis mine)?
posted by twsf at 8:26 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Now that nearly every piece of recorded sound is as easy to find as any other, everyone can finally listen to what we snobs wanted them to hear all along... The bad news is that we have lost what was once a robust system for identifying kindred spirits.

This article must be satire.


Anyway, I was in university 20-25 years ago at the height of the indie/alternative/grunge movement. The only way to learn about new music was to read the (printed!) newspaper the excellent university radio station (CFUV) put out, and actually listen to the station, and then head down to A&B Sound or Lyle's Place or actual physical record/CD stores to find music.

Twenty-five years later, streaming (Spotify, SoundCloud, YouTube) has made it easier than ever before to discover cool new, truly independent music.
posted by Nevin at 8:27 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also, this guy seems to act like there's omly two kinds of people: tuned-in Einstürzende Neubauten fans and mindless Amy Grant fans. Plus he writes like a high school kid who's both upset that nobody "understands" him and simultaneously smug in his belief that this is proof that he's a superior being.
posted by jonmc at 8:27 AM on October 20, 2014 [25 favorites]


I have become the cliche of the adult who mainly learns about new music now through NPR. But let's be honest, NPR Music is pretty damn good.
posted by Cash4Lead at 8:30 AM on October 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


I used to write reviews for a niche record review site, It was great because bands sent us free CDs, and every 20th or so would actually be good. Since we shuttered that site a few years ago I've stopped trying to find the cool new music. I'm old, and I've decided to accept that and revel in it.

Long live 80s metal, I apologize to no one for it :)
posted by COD at 8:31 AM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


I encounter more good music in links here than anywhere else.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:31 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


From the Article: It’s hard to imagine now, but there once was a time when you could not play any song ever recorded, instantly, from your phone.

This is a great, great thing. Plus now we can listen to a little bit of Journey and Smash Mouth and it isn't a thing.

Music snobs can still find each other, at shows, discussing music, etc. See also vinyl.

And even before streaming I ran into plenty of people who like bands I liked for very different reasons. I have never really bought into music subculture as identity. Maybe because I could never focus on one subculture.
posted by mountmccabe at 8:32 AM on October 20, 2014


Ugh, this guy is terrible. One of the best things that's come out of the whole ALL THE MUSIC AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW of the last decade and a half is that it's seriously cut down on the tired even my dumb ex-girlfriend likes the Jesus Lizard now so they must have sold out 90s era scenester dude shit.

I do, every now and then, feel a twinge of nostalgia for walking into a record store and finding the thing you'd been looking for for literally years (and sometimes had never even heard) and feeling impossibly cool whenever you saw it on the turntable. Especially when I, say, sell a vinyl copy of Chairs Missing to a nineteen
year old and I can barely contain my, OMG, do you have any idea how badly i wanted this at your age? Do you understand how lucky you are that you can get it so easily?

I tend to think, though, that a lower barrier to entry* is a net positive for art in general (I'd prefer to destigmatize the big, weird, canonical challenging stuff of all genres so people can listen to/read/watch it and enjoy it and talk about it have a sense of humor about it and not treat it like a holy object or a homework assignment). I think it's amazing that fourteen-year-olds come in looking for some obscure rare groove or way-out-there disco track because they heard on some Spotify playlist alongside Pharrell and Daft Punk. I think it's just fine that a poetry professor listens to Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks (and totally logical, I mean, puns !), narrow-minded NYT guy.

If you've been the sort of young person that agonizes over what band t-shirt to wear to which show and what record to play when you host ___ band at your house when they're touring and ohmigod what if someone cool overhears me playing this TLC song at the intersection and thinks I actually like it, my reputation WILL NEVER RECOVER, it's hard to grow out of that mindset and figure out that 1) No one really gives a shit about what your taste in indie rock says about your moral character and 2) If they do, they're probably assholes.

And if the old school music snobs still want their shibboleths and secret handshakes, I warmly invite them to investigate, say, classical music later than 1900, opera, jazz, non-musical theatre, contemporary art, literature (esp. that which is described as 'experimental'), modern dance, all poetry and pretty much every art form that is not pop music, film and television. They'll find plenty of amazing, weird, uncomfortable, sublimely beautiful things that the vast majority of people in the world either don't care about or actively disdain. Of course, the people making that art wouldn't mind an audience; they want conversation, they want buyers and viewers and participants and the occasional reminder that they're not just screaming into the void, so they'll probably be less patient with the whole GUYS STOP THE SHOW IMMEDIATELY! A gross norm might like it attitude.

*Which is not to be confused with some quality controls, but that's a different topic for a different time.
posted by thivaia at 8:33 AM on October 20, 2014 [35 favorites]


From the Article Years later, when my friends and I discussed the powerful and surely arbitrary forces that had kept us single, we toyed with the idea that “into music” was a deal-breaker quality in a mate.

I can't fucking believe the discussion about music ruining dating. I can't even.
posted by mountmccabe at 8:33 AM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


Long live 80s metal, I apologize to no one for it :)

For you, Bro
posted by jonmc at 8:34 AM on October 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


Actually, there is this shock that I can't get over - that people who are not otherwise intellectually serious or left-wing have good taste in music. That really was not true in my social circles when I was growing up. I preemptively distrust most widely accessible writing about music because....I mean, when I was growing up there were intellectually serious and left wing people who didn't have good taste in music but there really were very few people who had good taste in anything at all contemporary who were not serious/left. I just...it is very difficult not to feel that if some kind of centrist blah website recommends it, there must be something wrong with it or it must otherwise be kind of a waste of time, like reading junk on the internet when you could be working on your reading list.
posted by Frowner at 8:35 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Esoteric taste in music is still an indicator of values for some people. It's just that modern methods of finding and listening to music online clarified that the difference between being able to listen to work of the Hafler Trio and wanting to listen to and be conversant in the work of the Hafler Trio has always been mostly a matter of desire or indifference, not access. Those who developed an identity as a music aficionado with an emphasis on their ability to access obscure music naturally will feel at a loss in the face of this new development. But if you only ever truly cared about the music, this won't matter very much and might even be preferable.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 8:36 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


This article must be satire

i can't even tell anymore.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 8:40 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


The digital age has given everyone in America a better music collection than the one I put together over the last 20 years...

Speak for yourself.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:44 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, I have discovered that a lot of new stuff that I hear lately just sounds like sensitive college boy rock from about 1994. I assume this is because I've gotten caught in some kind of horrible eddy of sub-Coldplay, but I am also baffled because it's stuff that, like, relatively tuned-in people seem to enjoy.

I kind of think this is how people who were 40 in 1996 felt about 25-year-old me's love of Belle and Sebastian; like "you LIKE this? This stuff with strings tenderness that sounds like the worst of the 70s easy-listening music we developed punk and new wave to overthrow?"
posted by escabeche at 8:45 AM on October 20, 2014 [24 favorites]


From the article: In college, I was horrified to learn that a smart and culturally sophisticated woman I had been dating owned just six CDs. I couldn’t comprehend how such a sensitive — and, given the circumstances, evidently charitable — person could not be interested in music.

And I also had this realization of horror in college, only it was the horror of realizing what an asshole I was.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 8:46 AM on October 20, 2014 [21 favorites]


I am lucky enough to live in a town with an independent community "modern rock" radio station. It's how I find out about new artists. I wish all of you had WNRN!
posted by kuanes at 8:47 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was just thinking the other day about how, had something like tumblr or 4chan existed when I was a teenager, I might not have been in a punk band and listened to indie stuff and springboarded my tastes in music into my social life. While I still very much like Screeching Weasel and Atom And His Package et al, I think that my glee about DIY-level artistic innovation would have manifested as excitement about the web more than excitement about music.

Would such a life have then led to a more introverted, less-socially-adept adolescence? Well, it's not like I got laid in high school anyway, so maybe get off my nuts already bro
posted by Greg Nog at 8:49 AM on October 20, 2014 [12 favorites]


I guess I differentiate myself now by continuing to collect music rather than streaming it, and by insisting on using a hard drive based MP3 player with plenty of storage.

In the early 90s I had to drive about 80 minutes each way to get to the one cool record store I knew about. Besides stocking up there, there were (maga)zines and stuff that led to catalog orders through actual snail mail. There was also the occasional gem on community radio.

Now I just go to Bleep or eMusic or Amazon or Bandcamp or many other places online, and get piles of good, weird music easily, quickly and cheaply. I have no complaints about that change.

My taste in music wasn't (and still isn't) anything I have totally in common with anyone else. There'd be a little sliver of Venn diagram commonality but then a vast gulf between the terrible music that they were cruel for subjecting me to and the weird shit they would never understand. So for me, it's really not all that social anyway. I listen to a lot of dissapear-into-your-headphones music, frankly.
posted by Foosnark at 8:49 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Actually, there is this shock that I can't get over - that people who are not otherwise intellectually serious or left-wing have good taste in music.

I've been to a couple of shows where, as soon as the band pulled out anti-Bush, anti-war imagery, they bailed out in disgust. My main thought was "how could they not have known what these songs were about before they paid $40 for a ticket?"
posted by Foosnark at 8:52 AM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


Some other marker of snobbery will emerge, don't fear.
posted by thelonius at 8:57 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


If nothing else, this article just reminded me that I have not checked out Aquarius Records' new music arrivals list in a long time. That's always been a fantastic source for me and my fellow music dork friends.

I tried out pandora and last.fm and hated the repetition and the ads (never tried spotify). I am one of those weirdos who still likes to own physical albums and go to shows. Alas, my entertainment budget has been swallowed up ten times over by daycare costs.
posted by medeine at 8:58 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


this reminds me of the way that comic book/sci-fi nerds got really thrown off when various wikis made the obsessive collection of knowledge unimpressive. It used to be that being able to name various obscure superhero teams or villains showed that you'd put time into this hobby; I remember being really proud of myself in jr high for knowing the names and backstories of every bounty hunter that Vader is talking to in Empire Strikes Back (Extended Universe, woo!). It's the exact same feeling as knowing all the members of a band and all their respective side projects.

But when all the knowledge became easily accessible, it was no longer enough to have turned yourself into a walking nerd-trivia repository, you now had to have something interesting to say. That took a while to settle out, and I can clearly remember finding out that certain people I thought were cool and interesting were really lame; that spending a lot of time on the same hobby =/= fun and stimulating to be around.

This author still seems to be fighting that realization.
posted by DGStieber at 8:58 AM on October 20, 2014 [21 favorites]


This kid gives music snobbery a bad name.
posted by whuppy at 8:59 AM on October 20, 2014


Now that the review outlets I once enjoyed have long since calcified into legacy boosters or been conquered by bleep-blip-bloop loving people who weren't even born when the college rock/alternative/indie wave that still defines my tastes hit, I mostly find new things these days by clicking "Related Artists" on Spotify.

I suspect though, that whatever your age or tastes, the decline of CDs, albums, charts, etc. and the resulting fragmentation of the marketplace means that whatever your tastes are these days, there is probably at least one artist on your playlists who you consider The Biggest Fucking Possible Deal whom most people wouldn't know from Adam, even though they're probably selling out some venue or other tonight. So I'm not sure how much the "esoteric tastes make you special" argument even holds up anymore.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:02 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I sort of get it. At some level, being into particular bands was a signifier that you had invested a certain amount of time, effort, and money into the exploration of music. In other words, "You cared." This kind of thing is all over the place if you start looking for it: obscure film quotes, an almost historical understanding of RPGs, and so forth. It isn't snobbery so much as it was a reliable indicator of having done the work.

When it comes to music and compatibility, that might mean that I would know someone who would be "into" music as much as I am, and would not refer to Kate Bush as "that caterwauling harpy" (thereby ending our relationship). The signifier had some value.

Now, the signifier will shift to someone else because people still care about finding someone with compatible interests and overlapping tastes. We might see a shift to collections of concert ticket stubs or the archaic ownership of physical media.
posted by adipocere at 9:02 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


I still feel quite modern and - dare I say - "with it" for having finished the process of gradually replacing all my C90s with CDs in the last couple of years.
posted by sobarel at 9:04 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Most indie rock is neither indie nor rock. Discuss.
posted by jonmc at 9:11 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


even my dumb ex-girlfriend likes the Jesus Lizard now so they must have sold out

Dave "tight and shiny" Yow was the original Miley Cyrus.
posted by Nevin at 9:15 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I kind of think this is how people who were 40 in 1996 felt about 25-year-old me's love of Belle and Sebastian; like "you LIKE this? This stuff with strings tenderness that sounds like the worst of the 70s easy-listening music we developed punk and new wave to overthrow?"

That was literally my mom's reaction to Dear Catastrophe Waitress. To be precise, her actual quote was, "I didn't even like these guys when they were called Simon & Garfunkel." WELL GEEZ, SORRY WE CAN'T ALL BE AS COOL AS YOU, MOM.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 9:18 AM on October 20, 2014 [29 favorites]


Don't get me wrong, he's a nice guy, I like him just fine
But he's partying in the usa
posted by josher71 at 9:19 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Plus lots of people can dig weird and esoteric stuff and still enjoy shamelessly mainstream pop and rock.

My brother, who is a singer-songwriter for two indie bands and one prog metal fusion band, taught me an important lesson in cool when he proudly declaimed "My tastes in music are very eclectic. I like Britney AND Christina." This was 15 years ago, when they were both big. Some of my most favorite music goes beyond esoteric into seriously niche-market weird (Veljo Tormis represeeeeeent!) but popular music is frequently popular for a reason, and that reason is often because it is awesome and catchy and fun to listen to. Happy, Thrift Shop, Bang Bang, I'm talkin' bout you.
posted by KathrynT at 9:20 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Man you know what my main source of interesting new music seems to be lately?

MeFi.

I'm not sure if it's a step up or a step down from when my main source was the little comic strip reviews of obscure electronic stuff in the back of Matt Howarth's comics.

I keep feeling like I need new sources of Cool Music but i just don't have the time to curate a Spotify station or something. I just tell iTunes to wander through my collection in random-by-album order while I draw these days.
posted by egypturnash at 9:22 AM on October 20, 2014


I was going to call this the ultimate first world problem, but it doesn't even rise to the level of "problem."
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:26 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have a memory of hearing about a 'Brain' study that produced evidence that past some age (36 for instance) the effect of musical novelty on brain activity was different than on a younger brain. I can not recollect if the evidence directly showed the effect to be experienced as less pleasurable or if that was more of a theory of why interest in new music tended to taper off with age. Can I find this study? No of course not, but I'm an idiot, does this ring a bell for anyone?
posted by Pembquist at 9:27 AM on October 20, 2014



I kind of think this is how people who were 40 in 1996 felt about 25-year-old me's love of Belle and Sebastian; like "you LIKE this? This stuff with strings tenderness that sounds like the worst of the 70s easy-listening music we developed punk and new wave to overthrow?"

This is actually what a friend (and age-peer) says to me about Belle and Sebastian all the time today. But now the kids today don't find Belle and Sebastian interesting either. I often find myself singing that "monochrome in the 1990s" one to myself and reflecting that my day is done, race is run, fought the law and the law won, etc.

I had two separate horrible moments in the grocery store in the past couple of weeks - once they were playing "Once In A Lifetime", a song I actually like a lot, and I had this realization that "Once In A Lifetime" is basically "Brown-Eyed Girl" for my generation, and I have graduated to dad-rock-dom; and once they were playing "Perfect Way" (Scritti Politti! Contains a Lacan reference! I did not hear it until, like, a year ago when I was utterly smitten) and I realized that my clever retro finding-virtue-in-the-unappreciated taste had totally converged with grocery store music and I might as well start finding virtue in Coldplay and Pearl Jam and get ahead of the curve.
posted by Frowner at 9:29 AM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


One of the ways that streaming music is the best: most of how I find new rock (etc.) music to listen to is through Spotify.

This is the second year I've hosted a collaborative playlists of notable/interesting/great songs for the year. There are currently 130 songs from nearly as many albums. I listen to all of them and have found some great stuff.

That and Spotify used to have their own playlist of new rock (taken very broadly) releases that were available on Spotify; it was very easy to just pull out everything that looked interesting. They've since stopped that and have gone to just doing a "new singles" type playlist which is far less complete and far less useful.

But most of my listening now is classical (again, taken very broadly) and am thrilled that there is a New Classical Releases Index (URI: spotify:user:ulyssestone:playlist:0RnmTEaZgaqOHVKLq9wjc9) and click through to the album for nearly everything and listen. I have found untold wonders doing this (and was at a loss when the 2014 edition didn't show up in early January and I was dangerously close to running through my backlog).
posted by mountmccabe at 9:35 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Everyone is just astounded when they and their friends get old.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:35 AM on October 20, 2014 [14 favorites]


I think there is an undercurrent of self-mockery in that article. Maybe even self-loathing.

But the whole thing struck me as a needlessly long remix of this one killer line from High Fidelity: "what really matters is what you like, not what you are like." Which had an undercurrent of self-loathing in it.
posted by adamrice at 9:36 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Everyone is just astounded when they and their friends get old.

What're you kidding? I love it. I can be grumpy and smell bad, I no longer have any obligation to 'keep up' with trends. And if you're a big guy with a deep voice and grey in your beard people get the fuck out of your way.
posted by jonmc at 9:37 AM on October 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


"I've got beef jerky older than you caught in my beard, kid"
posted by thelonius at 9:38 AM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


It sounds like what he wants isn't necessarily the scarcity of physical commodities, that is CDs, magnetic tape and pressed vinyl, but rather information scarcity. Scarcity of information has been eroding for even longer - since Pitchfork became a mainstream press outlet, and everyone with a desire to could run a music blog. When information is scarce you have to find out about new bands through face-to-face experiences, or at the very least obscure and insider print media. Having access to either one of these is a signifier of not only shared culture and values, but also local proximity. With information scarcity you have to be in the locus of a music scene to stay current with it.

I would say that information scarcity still exists, it's just that this guy is no longer on the right side of it. There are bands who put out albums exclusively on tape, there are warehouse parties where being there is the main thing and the music is just an accessory to the experience, there are underground music scenes that (even if they have a Tumblr) still require local knowledge to get involved in. Perhaps this guy's problem isn't that streaming music killed his culture, but that getting old killed his culture.
posted by codacorolla at 9:38 AM on October 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


Put another way: Old Man Yells at The Cloud.
posted by codacorolla at 9:40 AM on October 20, 2014 [25 favorites]


> What're you kidding? I love it.

It's not a question of like or dislike, it's that so many people around my age (41) seem to be taken aback by the fact that they are no longer the tastemakers, no longer setting the trends, and that what was cool during our salad days is now...not necessarily cool, or went through a period of not being cool and is now cool again, or whatever. It happened to the boomers, but somehow these people didn't think it was going to happen to us.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:42 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I love the people that are so gosh-darn afraid of "getting old" and/or use it as a pejorative.

Newsflash, kid, the only people not getting older are already dead.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:47 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Codacorolla wins the thread!

Of late, most of my music discoveries have come from Pandora, which is not the best at that. Unless you intensely curate the seeds and constantly do new stations you converge on the bland. And you aren't going to get anything obscure, just at best something mildly out of the way like Kent or We Were Promised Jetpacks. Maybe I'll check out Spotify.
posted by tavella at 9:47 AM on October 20, 2014


> From the article: In college, I was horrified to learn that a smart and culturally sophisticated woman I had been dating owned just six CDs. I couldn’t comprehend how such a sensitive — and, given the circumstances, evidently charitable — person could not be interested in music.

And I also had this realization of horror in college, only it was the horror of realizing what an asshole I was.


I used to tell a story about losing interest in a potential romantic partner when I was in my mid-'20s the night I visited her apartment and discovered that her very small CD collection consisted almost entirely of Barenaked Ladies and Great Big Sea albums. I used to think this story reflected well on me.

That said, Barenaked Ladies are still The Worst.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:47 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Everyone is just astounded when they and their friends get old.

For me it was that my parents had this whole narrative of "Frowner you are so old, you are Too Old for [trick-or-treating at 12; going back to school at 24; behavior that would not be suitable to a middle-aged woman in 1960 at all ages]" that for a long time I thought I was already old. I've been thinking that I was "too old" and apologizing for doing various things for which I am "too old" quite literally since I was 23. So it did sneak up on me to actually be old...or not even especially old, but definitely old enough that culture really has changed quite a lot from my baseline norms. Also, I've spent much of the past twenty years in anarchist/bohemian spaces, so I've simultaneously felt Very Old (because by the time you're in you're late twenties you're about a million in anarchist years) and Relatively Young, because I have acquired fewer of the larger culture's signifiers of adulthood.

And also, once you've accrued...oh, I'd say more than about twelve years of fully-formed adult memories, it does change the way you interact with the world. Less is totally new, and even new things are sort of layered over by memories. For the most part, I like this, but it sometimes feels like it's only going to get more difficult to balance between "being who I am as a person with a history" and "still changing and keeping up and paying attention", especially when I also have to, you know, work a full time job and everything.
posted by Frowner at 9:49 AM on October 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


Let's see. Last night while I was reading I played Boards of Canada and a little Chopin. This morning it's been the new Robert Plant album, then Pink Mountaintops, and now I've got Iron Maiden playing. I've got no time to mess with a douche who's still hung up on his little narrow square of indie tastes. That paragraph about his professor made me want to condemn him to some small town in Wyoming where he could only hear both kinds of music, country and western.
posted by Ber at 9:54 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


These days the only time I buy actual physical CDs is at the thrift store (mostly because I can't listen to music in the car any other way), which means mostly 90s indieish stuff and also any Disney musical soundtracks I can get my hands on. I have fallen out of love with a lot of the music I listened to in high school and college, so I'd really like to start finding new-to-me stuff again, and I'm finding it kind of difficult.

Also, my music knowledge has always been broad but not deep, so now I am finally digging into back catalogs of musicians I had only ever known a couple of songs from. Sometimes it turns out there is a lot more to like; sometimes it turns out I only liked that one song for a reason.

Lately it seems like I'm most likely to find new music I like via fanvids-- there are some vidders who are really dedicated to finding interesting music to vid to, and luckily my taste aligns with a few of them.

That said, I can at least always hold my own in a music snob conversation by name-dropping the Lucksmiths.
posted by nonasuch at 9:58 AM on October 20, 2014


condemn him to some small town in Wyoming where he could only hear both kinds of music, country and western.

I was thinking more eternity in a room with a boom box and one Loggins & Messina tape
posted by thelonius at 10:01 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


oh man, actually, I am now pretty curious as to whether my dad is still listening to new music, and if so, what music. When I was in high school he actually had impressively broad taste and was still seeking out new stuff-- the first time I listened to Green Day I'd borrowed the CD from him. He definitely loves all the classic rock dad-band stuff, but looking through his CDs as a kid I'd always find unexpected things-- not obscure, necessarily, but surprising.

I did mock him mercilessly for buying an Avril Lavigne CD for himself, though.
posted by nonasuch at 10:02 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


And I also had this realization of horror in college, only it was the horror of realizing what an asshole I was.

I now realize that I was pretty much an asshole until about six months ago. And that realization has been one of the few ongoing constants of my entire adult life.
posted by Naberius at 10:06 AM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


I have lost my ability to find cool new music on a regular basis

BBC 6music streams free online and is a good way of finding both new, mainstream indy as well as, with the more eclectic evening shows, diving into the wonderful history of pop music.

My last discovery through them: Kate Tempest.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:06 AM on October 20, 2014


"Baby, Baby" is a great track that I had sort of forgotten about and I just streamed it and I think I could sing it credibly enough for the next karaoke night, so thanks for that, article.
posted by Kwine at 10:11 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was helping a friend pack up for moving a few years ago, and not only did she have a total of I think it was eleven CDs, but they were all top 40ish hits from the 80s, when we were adolescents.

I knew she wasn't 'into music,' I guess, but dang. That's hard core not into music.

But here's the really weird thing: She listens to those 11 CDs and she has somehow found a radio station that plays top 40 hits of the 80s and listens to that in her car. So she actually listens to music, but somehow she doesn't care about it or something? It's like those people who eat the same bowl of Cheerios for breakfast every day of their lives? She's just really, really, really lazy? I don't know.

It's hard for me to even broach the subject without making it seem like I'm making fun of her. Mostly because usually I am making fun of her.

I do remember walking uphill barefoot in the snow to mail order albums I'd read about in magazines I also got in the mail and staying up fiddling with the radio trying to get signal from the few far-flung college stations nearby, and I feel that scarcity thing. You didn't do that unless you really, really cared. And the internet has taken away the uphill walking aspect, but it hasn't taken away the caring part. There are still lots of people who don't care and who, for some reason, don't even seek out new music and just sort of wait for catchy pop song to come hit them on the side of the head.

Some people care. Some people don't. It doesn't make them bad or stupid or anything. It just makes them incompatible for talking about and sharing music.

(The only bad, stupid person I can think of right now is this guy I am married to, who is a nerd of the one type of music that I almost universally loathe. Sometimes when he is listening to it, I can feel this ripping sensation at the base of my skull, which I'm pretty sure is my brain stem trying to detach itself.)
posted by ernielundquist at 10:13 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


If judging the amounts and quality of physical CDs were your primary mating ritual, you are officially SOL.

The essayist is right in that with more or less every song ever recorded available now at a moment's notice, the value of an individual track or "album" nears zero. What that does, however, is increase the value of alternative formats.

Looking to the past, hipsters browse through stacks to buy vintage vinyl. Looking to the present, and eschewing the artificiality of recording, aficionados track down the best live music and unique experiences. Looking to the future, cyberpunks surf infinite waves of music with algorithmic code, automagically creating perfect playsets.

See, the essayist is wrong about the most important part. It never was about how much you knew. Knowing, as they say, is (only) half the battle. It was about how talented and lucky you were at finding good music and then sharing it with others.

Instead of bemoaning how Things Used To Be (an activity which, thanks to old people complaining, is also infinite and worthless), learn new ways. Considering the infinitesimal amount of time recorded music has been around compared to the whole of human civilization and mating rituals, use your big brain and work out other ways of determining whether you want to hang out/mate with somebody.

One time honored method: buy a guitar and learn to play something the girls like to dance to.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:17 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's a geographic component to this as well. It used to be one of the great pleasures of visiting a new town would be to hit the local record shop. So this practice becomes a value-add for those of us who like to explore.

However, this benefit is no longer in play, so geographically-remote record stores become a curated collection to "browse" rather than an extension of the customer's perpetual "search" for out-of-print Miles Davis or Magma albums. Which is not nearly as interesting. I miss it, honestly.
posted by jeffehobbs at 10:19 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


As a person with very little disposable income in adulthood, I no longer have the ability to buy a handful of new albums every week like I did in my music snob youth. I don't pirate music, and I don't have hours of free time to spend snootling around the web at home trying to discover stuff for free. Spotify's $10 a month service has seriously been the greatest technological improvement to my life I can think of. My commute is the only time I have to listen to music, and with Spotify on my phone I've been listening to new music and getting excited about it again, it's amazing.

The aside about dating killed me. I definitely once labored under the misapprehension that someone having the same taste in music as me was important and meant something. Then I grew up and learned that people are more than just a list of the things they like. Good thing, too, because my husband and I don't have much overlap in the music we like, though we did have a hilarious fight about whether or not a particular Daniel Johnston song would go onto our wedding playlist (it did, but we lost power for a few minutes during our reception in the middle of that song).
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 10:22 AM on October 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


Part of the grim surprise is the way that the age of your music collection creeps up on you. Just modeling it, let's say you buy ten albums per year and you only buy new releases. The average age of your music collection increases at half the rate you age, so it seems a little ... sneaky. The situation is more complex, though: there's that first, inadvisable bulge of music purchases when you get a little money for the first time in your life and nobody to supervise your buying decisions. Then, there is a tendency to backfill a given musician's catalog, so you are not always buying new albums but often albums with some years on them as you hunt down a copy of The Unforgiving Sounds of ... Maow.

Suddenly, you realize that despite a somewhat foolish habit of just throwing money at opening acts at concerts for five dollar CDs, your collection has an average age high enough it could apply for a driver's license. One of the prices of caring is this mortification. Perhaps the only way you could escape it is to either jettison older albums or simply rip them and hide them in a secret directory. Yes, my wall of preferred music is old and unfashionable. Once this admission takes place, you've departed from "hip" entirely. I can perhaps tell myself that my collection is no longer fashionable but still has style, but this might just be some uplifting self-talk. Cool has an aloofness to it which is almost opposed to the involvement which comes with the care and curation of a collection.
posted by adipocere at 10:25 AM on October 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


I kind of think this is how people who were 40 in 1996 felt about 25-year-old me's love of Belle and Sebastian; like "you LIKE this? This stuff with strings tenderness that sounds like the worst of the 70s easy-listening music we developed punk and new wave to overthrow?"

The most successful Grunge acts were very formal in terms of their approach to making music. Nirvana was the Beatles with a punk schtick, really, while Soundgarden aspired to be played on Top 40 rawk stations. It represents the essential paradox of rock and roll: wanting to challenging established authority while still wanting to sell a ton of records.

Alls I can say is that while I listened to tons of what I considered to be raw, elemental, indie "transgressive" music back in the early 90's, I also loved Belle and Sebastian when it came out, and the rest of the "Chamber Pop" movement.

Boy With the Arab Strap still makes me kind of sniffly, really, as it brings back so many great memories.
posted by Nevin at 10:25 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't understand this idea that the most important thing about music is that it is new. But then it gets old! So you were tricked.
posted by thelonius at 10:26 AM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


> I tried out pandora and last.fm and hated the repetition and the ads

With Last.fm it's more about setting up the scrobbler with whatever player you use to listen to your music and then go looking through your neighbor's recent tracks for stuff that sounds interesting than it is using the site for listening to streams.
posted by Gev at 10:26 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I never understand people who say, "I don't really like music."

Do you like... COLORS?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:28 AM on October 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


Part of the grim surprise is the way that the age of your music collection creeps up on you.

No, the trick is to have been collecting old music from the very beginning. Then your music collection has always been old. Although when I first bought a copy of Sandinista! it was only ten years old and now it is 34, old enough to have had little babies in the shape of The Sandinista Project, etc.
posted by Frowner at 10:29 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


If I want to hear new music, I go to one of two places: 3WK, which is an online station I've had bookmarked on every browser I've used since 1998, or the online version of the same station that introduced me to XTC, The Smiths, Prefab Sprout, and a lot of other Brit faves back in the early 80s, WMSE, the campus station for the Milwaukee School of Engineering. If I could learn how to go through SoundCloud, I'd add that on also. I haven't listened to BBC6 since John Peel died. So it's still holding up? Good to know. On the whole, my tastes are "small c" catholic, and there's something I like in nearly every genre. I even like "Love Will Find a Way" by... Amy Grant. The rest of her oeuvre, not so much. I think I gave it a fair go, though!

I can hardly judge someone for their tastes. I can logically understand where this guy is coming from, but if I'd been like that, I'd've not had some of the friends I have today. So what they listen to Peter Cetera or something all the time? It just means their experience of life is different than mine.

Music is very important to me in a way that's 180 degrees different than this essayist. I was actually whupped if I was caught listening to secular music as a kid, so since open rebellion probably would've gotten me put in the hospital, sneaking and listening to "unauthorized" music was my form of rebellion and my way of learning who I was. I was so keen to hear anything that wasn't Andrae Crouch and The Disciples (good stuff, but it was all the bloody time!), that I just kept my ears open wherever I went. Thank goodness for 'MSE and an open lunch at my middle school, which allowed me to leave the grounds and hit the late Ludwig Van Ear/Atomic Records on Locust Street and Oakland Avenue. Even today, music is still important, like life blood. I have not been able to go to as many shows as I'd like as I now live so far away from the venues I used to go to. It makes me sad and I'm trying to find a way to work around this. There's music that's given me the endorphins that runners get. I regret not my trying my hand at playing and performing myself.
posted by droplet at 10:31 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh man, all of the stuff about dating and music. I used to seek out girls who had the "proper" taste in music. And then I remember being in college and hanging out with this girl at her dorm room and her CD collection was just fucking awesome. And she was... just fucking awful. Just a bitter, joyless, brittle person. Later in life, I'd look back on that moment and think that was when I should have learned better.

But I didn't. And for years afterward, I was still that awful guy who seizes on that one CD in your collection and tries to build off of that to "correct" your tastes in the worst sitting next to your stereo and forcing you to listen to stuff overly enthusiastic nerd kinda way. Never even listening when you tried to explain that even that one CD was bought by some other pushy dude.

And then, one day, this indie/lo-fi/roots music weirdo dude fell in love with a nice European lady who listened to Jacques Brel and a bunch of other stuff I'd never touch. Life is weird.

The only rule I still believe holds for music and dating is not to trust anyone who says they don't like The Beatles. Everyone likes at least some of the Beatles. If you don't, you're either being pointlessly contrarian, or you are from an underground race of humanoid people without souls.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:37 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Nirvana was the Beatles with a punk schtick

A Pixies schtick, so to speak. ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:42 AM on October 20, 2014 [15 favorites]


Eh, my wife doesn't particularly like the Beatles. I mean, she "gets" their significance in the pantheon, but they just don't rock hard enough for her. Then again, she was the angsty gen-x record store clerk at Peaches in Seattle during the grunge era who knew all those dudes in Gruntruck and Green River, and Mudhoney and fought over boyfriends with Neko Case and totally would have given me the "die nerd" death stare had I tried to talk to her then. Except not, because I would have been like, twelve and it would've just been weird. :)
posted by stenseng at 10:52 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's not all just about being weird or obscure or new or cool or whatever, though. There's also music as an acquired taste, something that develops with time and context and exploration.

I've been accused of being a snob of various things before, and it seems like it always comes down to someone accusing me of thinking that the things I like are better than the things I don't like, which of course I do. That's why I picked them.

And I am not a huge music nerd or anything, but I do have some acquired tastes, some of which involve a fair amount of background. And I'm not going to pretend that I don't think that those acquired tastes and things I've actively sought out and researched, for lack of a better word, are better in some substantial way than an appreciation for catchy, formulaic, manufactured pop songs. I do. No lie. I think that my musical tastes are more refined and nuanced and sophisticated or whatever than the tastes of a person whose musical tastes neatly align with whatever was popular when they were 12 through 25. And I think that people who have spent more time learning about music than I have have better and more sophisticated tastes than mine, and I respect their opinions more and pay more attention to their recommendations.

The difference between being an adolescent music snob and a grownup one, though, is that music tastes are a smaller portion of your personality and interests as a whole. But I still think that a person who is not a nerd or snob of SOMETHING is probably kind of boring.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:52 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Main thing I want to know is how it took me eight years to notice Dweezil doing this.
posted by flabdablet at 11:06 AM on October 20, 2014


>The digital age has given everyone in America a better music collection than the one I >put together over the last 20 years...
>
>Speak for yourself.
posted by entropicamericana

Haha amen! Like does this author even know that there are cassette-only labels these days? Good luck finding those on spotify.
posted by wyndham at 11:07 AM on October 20, 2014


I'm old enough to remember every melodic British band that came out being hyped as "The Next Beatles." Supertramp were The Next Beatles. Oasis were The Next Beatles. Blur were The Next Beatles. XTC were The Next Beatles. Squeeze were The Next Beatles. And so on. But the Beatles broke up 44 years ago. Even those "new" Jeff Lynne Beatle-y "songs" came out 18+ years ago. It's about time to let "likes the Beatles" (or even "heard of the Beatles") die as a litmus test. Nobody's trying to be The Next Beatles anymore.

The Next Queen, maybe.
posted by xigxag at 11:08 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


You can't find Billy Joe Shaver's first album on Spotify, therefore Spotify is worthless. QED.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:09 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wonder if some of this feeling of being at sea may also come from the more common referents of less-mainstream music shifting a little over the years, from rock/punk to stuff that calls back more to 90s electronic music and r&b. I mean I remember Pitchfork giving terrible scores to some of Basement Jaxx's best albums basically because they just plain didn't have anyone who knew electronic music on staff and would have shuddered to even be associated with that stuff, yet now when they review a Jaxx album you can see them pretending very hard that those reviews never happened and they were into Rooty back when it dropped. I also didn't notice a big change because, while I was born in the mid-80s, electronic music essentially only existed via the internet for me. There wasn't really a "local scene" where I lived, and while I also liked indie of that time period, there wasn't a big Venn diagram there between people into indie and people who enjoyed anything electronic (often derided as "not real music" by the tastemakers of the day, as late as the mid-00s really).
posted by en forme de poire at 11:16 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, entropicamericana, I think this writer's not showing nearly enough imagination. If people really want to play the music collection snob game, there are still plenty of bootleg, or only-released-on-vinyl, or not-available-for-streaming-in-your-region songs and albums that one can use to distinguish between dabblers and fellow elitists.

"You've got Spotify, that's nice. But what do you have on FLAC?"
posted by xigxag at 11:18 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


(The only bad, stupid person I can think of right now is this guy I am married to, who is a nerd of the one type of music that I almost universally loathe. Sometimes when he is listening to it, I can feel this ripping sensation at the base of my skull, which I'm pretty sure is my brain stem trying to detach itself.)

ernielundquist I'm so curious, what kind of music is it?
posted by wyndham at 11:19 AM on October 20, 2014


Got nothing in FLAC.

Got Artie Shaw on 78rpm shellac though.
posted by flabdablet at 11:21 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


One of the joys of being in my mid-30s is being free to abandon the posturing of pop culture stating deep and important things about me and just listening to whatever I feel like listening to on a given day.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:22 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I also think the zeitgeist may have shifted towards taking pride in having some populist tastes as well. For instance, I think it's way more acceptable for a music nerd to be into Katy Perry today (hi Owen Pallett) than it would have been 15 years ago. If taste doesn't have to be a whip with which to keep yourself properly mortified at all times, that's a change I am totally comfortable getting behind.

(I still can't get into early period Britney as more than period nostalgia, though. Sorry 'bout it.)
posted by en forme de poire at 11:23 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you want to be identified as "the music guy" - or A music guy - in your circle of friends, the internet leaves *plenty* of space for music nerd as curator. ALL THE MUSIC is *not* in fact on the internet yet, not so get your obscurantist ass to work finding out of print (or new!) stuff and putting it there. Or just spend some time sifting through the huge amount of stuff on Soundcloud/Bandcamp/etc. to sort out what's good. That's what you would do if you really cared about discovering music, anyway, or being a tastemaker even. I have no time for "consumer individuation," though the writer at least sorta seems to get that it's stupid.
posted by atoxyl at 11:28 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I had heard from all my peeps who are serious about music that I had to try spotify. "It's got all the sutff you listen to!" they said. And it does, but it's terrible at helping me find new music. I find Spotify is really good about finding songs that I like and terrible at finding artists. I also have this pet peeve where I really have to like at least 75%ish of your music or I don't listen to you. Thus, spotify does not contribute very much at all to my music collection and I have really stopped using it so much. Its back to the old way, word of mouth or catching someone new as an opening act.
posted by LizBoBiz at 11:29 AM on October 20, 2014


I never understand people who say, "I don't really like music."

I think what they really mean is that they don't pay particular attention to music. They don't have any favorite artists or styles. For them, music is pretty much just background sound.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:36 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm still very much trying to listen to Marvin Gaye and Loretta Lynn as much as I can before I die.

It's not a competition to see who listens to the most diverse or esoteric music. As an ethnomusicologist I've listened to more diverse music than most in my life. The music that I still love most is stuff I've loved my whole life. Novelty holds no attraction for me. Unless it's serendipitous.
posted by spitbull at 11:40 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Thorzdad, I agree for the most part, but there are people with severe amusia whose tone deafness robs them of the ability to enjoy music and even renders it unpleasant.
posted by xigxag at 11:43 AM on October 20, 2014


ernielundquist I'm so curious, what kind of music is it?

I guess I'll never really be able to work through this until I can actually type it on the internet: It's symphonic progrock.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. We were at a music store that was having a going out of business sale, poring over the CDs, and we were both being good citizens and picking out some of the more egregiously out of place CDs as we went along and putting them back where they belonged. So I was just getting ready to go put my handful of CDs back when I saw he had an Emerson Lake and Palmer CD in his hand, so I went to take it, saying, "I'll put that back for you," and he tightened his grip and said, "No. I'm buying this one."

To this day, I try to help him sometimes.

"Oh, honey, I noticed that some malevolent nerd broke into your car and reverse burgled a bunch of ridiculous CDs into your glove compartment, so I threw them away for you."

"I see that a hacker has gained control of your computer and is forcing you to watch Gentle Giant concert footage. Let me just DDOS YouTube for you."
posted by ernielundquist at 12:04 PM on October 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


Oh nice, symphonic progrock, yeah that stuff is definitely over my head as well. My best friend loves it though, but he's kind enough to not make me listen to a tonne of it when we're on a road trip. Luckily he likes a lot of other genres as well, just as I'm sure your partner does.

Very kind of you to help him out though!
posted by wyndham at 12:14 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I took a creative writing course in college. with Alan Cheuse. He feels there is a strong relationship between the music someone listens to and the quality of someone's written work.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:08 PM on October 20, 2014


Whenever it's come up, everyone seems to agree that I have an absurd amount of music. There is much disagreement if it is an absurdly large or absurdly small amount of music, but at least there is consensus that it is absurd.
posted by ckape at 1:11 PM on October 20, 2014


I cringed when I saw this piece because I would've thought that there was little left to say at the intersection of MY PRECIOUS MUSICAL TASTES and NOW EVERYTHING IS AVAILABLE. Now having read it I don't think my suspicions were unfounded.

I have lost my ability to find cool new music on a regular basis, because finding cool new music stopped being about going to the record shop or reading articles and became about setting up a pandora

I'm not sure if you mean "cool new music" as in "just released" or as in "new to you" here but the most fun I have in record stores these days is hunting through old stuff I've never heard of before. I love walking out of the store with an armload of records by people I've only vaguely (or never) heard of before. It's like going to a restaurant and trying something new. Maybe I'll like it, maybe I won't. The thrill is in the hunting, finding, and listening. Last week I found a copy of the only Tamalpais Exchange album for a buck. It's like Deep Purple meets Jesus Christ Superstar meets Buffy Saint Marie at Vacation Bible School. Musically, it's kind of forgettable (the linked description oversells it a bit) but I'm very entertained by it and not just in a "Oh look! Hippie Christian Psych!" or whatever way but also in the opportunity to wonder "Who were these people? How did this get made? How is it a piece of its time?"

I listen to a lot of newly released music, too, but I probably have the most fun hunting for old.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:29 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I had two separate horrible moments in the grocery store in the past couple of weeks - once they were playing "Once In A Lifetime", a song I actually like a lot, and I had this realization that "Once In A Lifetime" is basically "Brown-Eyed Girl" for my generation,

Heard The Replacements in the supermarket a few weeks ago and had a similar reaction.
posted by octothorpe at 1:33 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I feel like there's this weird fetish for new music where if you admit to liking something that was released 20 years ago it makes you super lame. "But what are you into LATELY?"

As a knee-jerk reaction to that, I increasingly just listen to stuff like this and this.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:35 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


tl;dr

Author realizes that he is no longer who/what/why particular music "scene[s]" are for/about. (The horror!)
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 1:42 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Beats Music is like Spotify, but with a better mechanism for finding music. And better sound quality (I know what Spotify claims about bit rate, but I don't believe them.)
posted by persona au gratin at 1:45 PM on October 20, 2014


I think this is kind of what Jim Jarmusch's most recent movies have been about, but from the point of view of pretentious hit men and vampires.
posted by batfish at 1:49 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I grew up such a rigid punk/indie/noise person that the very idea of classic rock enraged me and I avoided the stuff entirely. Now that I'm older, I've actually had a nice time digging back into that stuff and finding out that "holy crap! ELO is awesome," or "y'know, if you skip the five tracks AOR plays to death and you avoid the stuff about elves and shit, Led Zeppelin is pretty fucking good." So here I am pushing forty years old and I'm enjoying the hell out of "Don't Bring Me Down" or "Hey Hey What Can I Do" like I'm stoned in the high school parking lot at 16. It's weird.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:52 PM on October 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


Heard The Replacements in the supermarket a few weeks ago and had a similar reaction.

They could at least play The Clash....
posted by thelonius at 2:03 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I had two separate horrible moments in the grocery store in the past couple of weeks - once they were playing "Once In A Lifetime", a song I actually like a lot, and I had this realization that "Once In A Lifetime" is basically "Brown-Eyed Girl" for my generation,

Heard The Replacements in the supermarket a few weeks ago and had a similar reaction.
Saw a Deadheads sticker on a Cadillac, never look back, you can never look back.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:04 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I guess I'll never really be able to work through this until I can actually type it on the internet: It's symphonic progrock.

Ah, a man of taste. Canterbury Scene?
posted by MartinWisse at 2:06 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if you mean "cool new music" as in "just released" or as in "new to you" here but the most fun I have in record stores these days is hunting through old stuff I've never heard of before.

In this instance "music that is actually new". I have no trouble a-tall finding music that is new to me but not actually new - that's where the music-splosion of the now comes in so handy.

All but two of the record stores I used to frequent have either closed or so reduced their selection as to be Not That Interesting Anymore.

Partly, of course, I'm so busy with all the Other New Things on the internet that I don't have nearly as much time to be serious about music - I have much, much more science fiction to read, along with more web comics and men's style blogs and also better and more consistent access to the news. Partly I am no longer a college student and commute by bike, so while I had a little listening party for one yesterday to get through the music from the Scottish music thread, I usually don't have time for such kind of thing.
posted by Frowner at 2:44 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Saw a Deadheads sticker on a Cadillac, never look back, you can never look back.

Some dipshit band covered that song--they changed it to Black Flag.
posted by box at 3:05 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


box: Some dipshit band covered that song--they changed it to Black Flag

I think it's quite appropriate for the Ataris to update that lyric in their cover (video).

Until MartinWisse posted that quote in here it never occurred to me that that line could be taken to refer to aging as much as (counter) cultural shifts. (In 2007 Black Flag fit for both, of course).
posted by mountmccabe at 4:02 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


> They could at least play The Clash....

I heard their first album being played at a frozen yogurt place once.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:11 PM on October 20, 2014


>I have a memory of hearing about a 'Brain' study that produced evidence that past some age (36 for instance) the effect of musical novelty on brain activity was different than on a younger brain. I can not recollect if the evidence directly showed the effect to be experienced as less pleasurable or if that was more of a theory of why interest in new music tended to taper off with age. Can I find this study? No of course not, but I'm an idiot, does this ring a bell for anyone?
posted by Pembquist at 12:27 PM on October 20


Pembquist, I think you're thinking of neurologist Robert M. Sapolsky: he started getting annoyed at the grad students in his lab and their annoying openness to new things; and so he did some semi-formal surveys, described in his Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals:
"...if you are more than thirty-five years old when some new popular music is introduced, there's a greater than 95 percent chance that you will never listen to the stuff."
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 5:15 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think it's quite appropriate for the Ataris to update that lyric in their cover

The Ataris, thank you! I hope I live long enough to see the Ataris version covered by a band called the Nokia N-Gages.

(Incidentally, I once saw a Behind the Music-type thing where Flea proudly pointed out the Black Flag sticker on his brand new 7-series BMW.)
posted by box at 5:20 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


"...if you are more than thirty-five years old when some new popular music is introduced, there's a greater than 95 percent chance that you will never listen to the stuff."

Unless you're John Peel. Which is why he's no shit one of my heroes.
posted by atoxyl at 5:23 PM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Agreed, dumb article -- very glad I didn't pay attention to my now-significant-other's horrifying (to me, then) taste in music -- bad Alligator blues, CSNY, Irish music, Allison Krauss -- before we married. Now I listen to anything I want and it's copacetic; just like how she cooks anything she wants and I love it all.
posted by saintjoe at 5:28 PM on October 20, 2014


Unless you're John Peel. Which is why he's no shit one of my heroes.
posted by atoxyl at 8:23 PM on October 20


Me, too. (And Saturday will be the tenth(!) anniversary of his death...)
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 5:29 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


The big-5 trait "openness" does tend to decline with age but you can restore it with psilocybin!
(according to one study, IANAD, TINMA, etc)
posted by en forme de poire at 6:14 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I kind of think this is how people who were 40 in 1996 felt about 25-year-old me's love of Belle and Sebastian; like "you LIKE this? This stuff with strings tenderness that sounds like the worst of the 70s easy-listening music we developed punk and new wave to overthrow?"

Uh, I wasn't yet thirty in 1996, and I felt that way.


I had this realization that "Once In A Lifetime" is basically "Brown-Eyed Girl" for my generation

Nah, given the umpty-zillion times I've seen people of all ages dancing and singing along to "Brown-Eyed Girl", I'd have to say "Brown-Eyed Girl" is the "Brown-Eyed Girl" for all generations.

(P.S.: Guess what song I hate a lot?)


most of my music discoveries have come from Pandora, which is not the best at that.

So, we run Pandora over the sound system in the warehouse at work, and someone made a Yat-Kha (Tuvan throat-singing rock) station, and it's kind of entertaining to hear the Pandora matching algorithms basically just have no idea what to make of it.

It's like, the station'll play a couple of Yat-Kha songs, and then just kind of throw its hands up in the air and go, "Those songs have electric guitars; you like electric guitars? How about some Journey?"

us: "NO."

Pandora: *plays a couple more Yat-Kha songs* "Oh! Drums! Third Eye Blind has drums!"

us: "NO."

Pandora: "Wait, some of those songs have acoustic guitars! Maybe James Taylor?"

us: "NO. AND WE ALREADY HAVE A FRANK TURNER STATION FOR ACOUSTIC GUITAR STUFF."

Pandora: *weeps quietly in the corner*
posted by soundguy99 at 6:15 PM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'd have to say "Brown-Eyed Girl" is the "Brown-Eyed Girl" for all generations.

(P.S.: Guess what song I hate a lot?)


I have this idea for a superhero, only he's different from other superheroes. Instead of fighting crime, what he does is he travels the globe finding DJs, cover bands, and jukebox patrons who play "Brown-Eyed Girl" and THEN PUNCHES THEM IN THE MOTHERFUCKING FACE.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:18 PM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


My friend came up with the conjecture that as time goes to infinity the probability of hearing Bob Dylan on Pandora goes to 1.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:26 PM on October 20, 2014


Now, now, DOT, violence is not the answer.

And I'm mellowing with age, I guess - I think people should be able to listen to the terrible horrible no good very bad song all they want.

Just not around me.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:30 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have this idea for a superhero, only he's different from other superheroes. Instead of fighting crime, what he does is he travels the globe finding DJs, cover bands, and jukebox patrons who play "Brown-Eyed Girl" and THEN PUNCHES THEM IN THE MOTHERFUCKING FACE.

I DJ weddings from time to time, typically for people that wouldn't ask for "Brown Eyed Girl." It used to be that I'd honor almost any request (so long as it wasn't twelve minutes long or likely to make your six year flower girls and/or your aging Aunt Patty really uncomfortable), until the one reception when I got so many Gimme something that me and my beautiful lady can dance to requests for "Brown Eyed Girl" from a drunk uncle that I finally buckled and played it, and then had that immediately followed up by having a completely different annoying drunk uncle request "Moondance." I learned two things that night 1) Van Morrison* is extremely popular amongst the creepy, drunk uncle demographic 2) I reserve the right to not play a request from any person other than a member of the wedding party and 3) Nothing ends an otherwise great dance party faster than Van Morrison.

*In fairness, "Astral Weeks" is a lovely record.
posted by thivaia at 6:48 PM on October 20, 2014


My friend came up with the conjecture that as time goes to infinity the probability of hearing Bob Dylan on Pandora goes to 1.

Is there a way to block a specific artist globally on Pandora? Because their algorithm is pretty good, but there are flaws, and the Dylan flaw is the worst.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:32 PM on October 20, 2014


Dylan playing with the Hawks (later to be called The Band) is sublimely good. "Play it fucking *loud*!"
posted by Nevin at 8:33 PM on October 20, 2014


Hmm, I'm surprised so many people find new music through Pandora and Spotify. I just got six months of Spotify premium for free and I've just started using it so maybe I'll give it a shot. I get new music suggestions from The FADER, Noisey, people posting songs on Facebook and tumblr, from people at parties (whether in conversation or via them playing music), and most importantly, from my friends. My friend finds music by going through YouTube videos and sometimes I'll do that on Soundcloud by looking at stuff pages reblog, especially on labels' pages. For bandcamp there's sometimes a recommendations page if bands decide to fill it out and once again bandcamp pages of music labels is also useful. I also tend to find music when labels or smaller bands post music on Facebook, typically because they are trying to advertise their friends' bands. Ditto with tumblr, I follow a lot of bands and labels on there and I find that fan interaction reveals a lot of new music whether it's from people asking the bands or labels what they listen to or gossip or anything else.
posted by gucci mane at 9:36 PM on October 20, 2014


Ah, a man of taste. Canterbury Scene?

Just got done spinning some Camel. Tasty stuff, Latimer is an under-rated god.

Nothing ends an otherwise great dance party faster than Van Morrison

Valentine's Day, St Paul MN, sometime in the OOs. We were in an Irish bar, you know that fancy one by the hockey arena. The Belfast Cowboys were playing and it was a weekend. Temperature outside was at least 15 below. The Cowboys repertoire is about 75% Van Morrison songs. The place was packed. Two wedding parties crashed in. St Paul cops sitting at the bar. A few brave souls dancing on tables. Guinness and Summit's new Oatmeal Stout getting pounded. It was utter joyous insanity. Fuck yeah, Van Morrison.
posted by Ber at 9:44 PM on October 20, 2014


Aw, jeez. Only one of my siblings has brown eyes (other sis and i are blue/gray), and my dad used to sing bits of "Brown-Eyed Girl" to make her laugh as a kid. Now I feel weird about that.
posted by nonasuch at 11:35 PM on October 20, 2014


Naw, that's sweet, don't feel weird about it. Anyway, IMO, "Brown-Eyed Girl" is a fine song, it's just massively overplayed. I may be unable to be objective, though, because my strongest memories of Van Morrison are my parents playing his greatest hits over and over this one year when we had just got a CD player, and my dad (who's also from N.I.) explaining the slang in "Cleaning Windows" to me (e.g.). Anyway, in addition to "Cleaning Windows," "And It Stoned Me", "Domino," and "Sweet Thing" are also pretty great if you want a different look at him.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:40 AM on October 21, 2014


An interesting experiment (which as far as my Googling takes me, nobody seems to have done yet) would be to compare okCupid match scores and actual musical collections. The author seems to imply there would be a close match: all the hoi poloi with small or mainstream collections would be quite happy to date each other in their content but ignorant way - while the elite indie musos would pair off according to staggeringly unlikely parallelism in taste.

Personally, I doubt this because I see the person with that perfect musical correlation with mine as being less my ideal partner and more my clone: we have the same age, gender, sexual orientation and neuroses and we probably wouldn't even want to hold hands. The potential girlfriend the author discarded because she had a collection of "only 6 CDs", on the other hand, sounds like most of the women I have dated.
posted by rongorongo at 2:47 AM on October 21, 2014




Good on Bandcamp: Bevis Frond

There was a time in my life when I was making pots of money and one of the things I liked to do with it was go down to Gaslight Music and just buy discs at random. And one night I bought this one because I liked the name and the cover art. Got in the car and stuck it in the player having no idea what to expect.

And then I had to pull over for a while, turn the stereo up as far as it would go and bliss out.
posted by flabdablet at 4:38 AM on October 21, 2014


...and since the bandcamp player for that all-important first track currently seems to be busted, here it is on youtube.

I honestly fail to understand why more people don't run Hammond organs through guitar effects pedals.
posted by flabdablet at 4:44 AM on October 21, 2014


~I had two separate horrible moments in the grocery store in the past couple of weeks - once they were playing "Once In A Lifetime", a song I actually like a lot, and I had this realization that "Once In A Lifetime" is basically "Brown-Eyed Girl" for my generation,

~Heard The Replacements in the supermarket a few weeks ago and had a similar reaction.


You folks shop at my local Meijer? We do the grocery shopping their every Saturday, and they're always playing exactly this sort of stuff. Talking Heads, Ramones, Elvis Costello, etc. etc. It's like they've stolen my record collection or something. I guess it's a sign that you've finally hit middle-age when the songs of your youth are now retail background noise. At least they're playing the originals. I'd probably collapse and die on the spot if I heard them playing a neutered, toe-tapping Muzak version of Gut Feeling/Slap Your Mammy.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:53 AM on October 21, 2014


I kind of think this is how people who were 40 in 1996 felt about 25-year-old me's love of Belle and Sebastian; like "you LIKE this? This stuff with strings tenderness that sounds like the worst of the 70s easy-listening music we developed punk and new wave to overthrow?"

Uh, I wasn't yet thirty in 1996, and I felt that way.

I wasn't even 25 and that's how I felt about B&S. Still do. But their existence gave me one of my favorite Zach Galafianakis jokes, so...
posted by entropicamericana at 7:52 AM on October 21, 2014


Aw, jeez. Only one of my siblings has brown eyes (other sis and i are blue/gray), and my dad used to sing bits of "Brown-Eyed Girl" to make her laugh as a kid. Now I feel weird about that.

Oh heck, I'm sorry, I definitely didn't mean to make you feel weird - you shouldn't feel bad about that at all, not least because doing goofy things to entertain your kids gets a pass.


I gotta admit that my dislike for the tune definitely stems from en forme de poire's point that it's massively overplayed, plus I'm in the position where I'm a person that it's massively overplayed AT.

I mean, at least here in the US midwest, "Brown-Eyed Girl", "Mustang Sally" and "Margaritaville" are like the top three songs, by far, that people who don't really pay any attention to music know and like and will want to hear on the rare occasion that they're somewhere that music kinda can't be ignored, like weddings or corporate events where there's a band or they somehow get dragged to a bar that's got a DJ or live band.

So as thivia says above, what happens is that some dude who hasn't listened to anything but sports radio and Rush Limbaugh since he was 25 will get a buzz on and decide that he should hear That One Song He Likes which, lo and behold, is "Brown-Eyed Girl." Any kind of "general purpose" DJ or cover band will have to have the above 3 songs in their repertoire, even if, say, they mostly play 90's rock or current Top 40. And they'll whip those songs out at least once a night, especially if they think things are getting slow.

I've worked weddings that hire a band AND a DJ, with the DJ supposedly covering the Top 40 stuff that the band hasn't learned yet, and people will come up to the DJ and request "Brown-Eyed Girl", and the DJ & I will look at each other, and he'll say, "The band just played that song literally fifteen minutes ago. . . . . " "Whatever, you should still play it." I've worked small neighborhood festivals where, seriously, all six bands have played "Margaritaville" and "Brown-Eyed Girl". I used to do some work in a suburban blues bar, and the owner put a sign on stage that said, "Mustang Sally is NOT a blues song" - not because the guy had some kind of snooty purist attitude, but simply so he wouldn't have to hear the song every goddamned night, because the suburbanites returning home after a night out downtown would stop into the place for a nightcap and hear a band playing the blues and the only kinda blues-y song they know off the top of their heads is "Mustang Sally" so they'd request the band play it.

Luckily, I don't do those sort of gigs as much anymore, but I burned out on those tunes a loooooooong time ago.


Also, I almost hate to point this out, but it's an observable fact that "I Will Survive" is the Still-Bitter-About-Her-Divorce Drunk Aunt song.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:02 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ha, requestors. Here is my best story on that topic. About 1990, I was playing in a band in Atlanta (we did eventually learn "Mustang Sally", yes). One night, we were playing a show. There was a pretty good crowd there. An appealing woman came over to my side of the stage and slipped a note up there. Awesome - a phone number! We finished the song, and I bent down to retrieve the note. It said: "We're from out of town. Can you play some R.E.M.?"
posted by thelonius at 8:25 AM on October 21, 2014


> Nothing ends an otherwise great dance party faster than Van Morrison

Perhaps, but I've never seen a dance floor cleared faster and more completely than I have by "Cotton Eye Joe."
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:54 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


"And now, folks, for an old familiar favorite. We've had many requests for this. It’s a simple little sentimental song and I certainly hope all of you sentimental folks out there are going to enjoy it. Ready, fellas? Let’s go..."
posted by en forme de poire at 1:25 PM on October 21, 2014


soundguy, don't worry! It's more that I thought about the actual lyrics, particularly the bit about 'makin' love in the green grass' which I now realize my dad always skipped.
posted by nonasuch at 11:03 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


If "Brown Eyed Girl" gives you pain then perhaps you can take comfort in that is probably nothing compared to what it gives Van Morrison. The song has been played 10 million times on American radio and has generated massive royalties: but pitifully few of these ever get through to the man who wrote it, under the terms of particularly grasping record contract, back when he was 21. (it was also supposed to be called "Brown-Skinned Girl" - which would have made it a pretty different song).
posted by rongorongo at 2:21 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


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