Listen to what the kids are listening to…

It’s fantastic when someone I know wants to share a favourite song with me and, more so, when it’s one of my teenage daughters. I’ve watched (and listened to) their musical meanderings for many years now and I can see how their music preferences reflect their different personalities and sensibilities, or is it the other way round? One of the things I’ve learnt is that they each have their own taste and the joy is in their own discovery of a song or an artist (without me hanging around forcing Radiohead on them). We have been to quite a few gigs together, usually with them in the mosh and me up the back somewhere. The last concert was alt-j and this is the song we all hold tightly to:

One of the things we love are our long roadies to the mountain – usually five or so hours on a Friday night in winter. Our routine is 30 minutes of headphones and 30 of chat. There is tacit agreement to being cocooned in a car with filmic music flooding through our senses as the world whizzes by outside. It’s a given that we will all listen to this song on every road trip (and often I wonder if we’re all listening to it simultaneously):

One of the bands we love is Bombay Bicycle Club. They feature on all our playlists, so we were equally gutted when we found out they’d gone on hiatus. If you’re ever stuck with what to listen to, put one of BBC’s albums on in this order: A Different Kind of Fix; So Long, See You Tomorrow; Flaws; I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose:

So, my girls have allowed me to share their playlists, the songs they love and listen to on a daily basis. Do listen, theres a lot of great music on each of these lists. Perfect for the weekend – and, hallelujah, it is here!! I’m off to see The Chills and Tiny Ruins tomorrow night – might see you there….

The Year of the Chimera – 2014’s Best Albums

2014 was an interesting year for music. Established names pulled out career defining albums, while new artists stomped over the rickety remnants of genre boundaries to produce brilliant debut hybrids. There was more than something for every type of listener. For me, ‘Lost in the Dream’ by The War on Drugs stood above the others. Every time I listen to it I think of The Boss’ third album ‘Born to Run,’ albeit with an aesthetic of smoke and mirrors and hazy psychedelica. ‘Lost in the Dream’ was also Adam Granduciel’s third album, a labour of love in which he worked through panic attacks and anxiety to produce what I reckon is an enduring masterpiece.

I haven’t ordered these albums in any meaningful way except alphabetically and, at the bottom of the page, you’ll find a spotify playlist with  a couple of songs from each one. Continue reading

How to find new music…with a quick how-to about Spotify

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I find a lot of new music from public or student radio stations that can be streamed into my living room from all over the place. A couple I listen to regularly are: The Current, Minnesota Public Radio http://www.thecurrent.org/listen; and, because I’m a Kiwi and like to hear what’s going on in my back yard, Radio Active, Wellington NZ  http://www.radioactive.co.nz/.  If I like a song, I’ll jump onto Spotify on my computer and listen to the artist’s top tracks (Spotify lists them in ‘popularity’ order), and entire albums if I love what I’m hearing.

Listening to radio ad infinitum can be very time consuming, particularly for the frantically busy individual. This is where Spotify is brilliant. All you need is the name of a band, or even a song, that you’ve recently heard and like – perhaps a friend’s recommendation or one from this Blog, let’s say ‘Death Cab For Cutie‘ – plug it into ‘Spotify’ and it will throw a whole bunch of similar artists right back at you.

Here’s how you do it:

First you need to download the Spotify App. which you can do by visiting the official Spotify website. I recommend the ‘Premium” service simply because you can then listen to songs on your mobile phone – perfect if you’re trying to multi-task by combining listening time with dog-walking/running/power-walking/supermarket shopping/traffic-crawling…. The Premium service costs NZ$12.99/US$9.99 per month. There is a free service (with limited listening hours) and an ‘Unlimited’ service but then you are chained to your desk.

Once you have Spotify up and running on your computer, find and click the ‘radio’ button in the menu on the left of the screen. Now, click the ‘Create new Station’ on the top right. In the search box that appears, type in ‘Death Cab For Cutie’. Click their name when it appears under “Artist” and, voila, Spotify will start to play music that is similar (by genre and decade) until you decide enough is enough and press ‘pause’. You can also make playlists of all the songs you hear and like, share songs with friends or listen to specific genre radio stations.

Two important thoughts:

  1. If you like what you hear please buy the album, particularly if you have subscribed to the free service.
  2. If you have linked your Spotify account to your Facebook account (or joined Spotify through Facebook) everything you listen to will be up in lights on your FB friends’ news-feeds. If you don’t want people to see what you’re listening to, go into the settings menu and check ‘private session’. You’ll need to do this each time you use Spotify.

I’ve included a link to an article (courtesy of Mashable) comparing Pandora and Spotify for those in the US: http://mashable.com/2013/03/01/spotify-vs-pandora/

Staying on the computer, there are a myriad of excellent music sites to browse – here’s a few I like: Pitchfork; Drowned in Sound; The Quietus; Stereogum; and Sputnik. These sites have ‘Best of’ lists of albums and songs which are a quick and easy way to get started. A helpful site to investigate, when you’d like to know more about a particular album, is Metacritic. It usefully collates all the critic reviews in one place and provides an overall rating for the album.

A lot of people use the Shazam app. for songs they hear and like. Shazam identifies the artist/band and song name.

The more traditional ways of finding new music generally involve moving away from your gadgets. It’s all very well sitting in a darkened room in front of a screen, comfy in your shabby dressing gown and polyester sox but it can be hard on both your vitamin D levels and rapidly-waning social skills. Trust me, I know. You can save yourself a post head-phones headache and go and see a band you’ve never heard of. If you don’t like them, well, at least you’ve had a night out with some real humans. You may become an obsessive fan. I talked to a classical pianist the other day who had just discovered Radiohead. He now knows their entire back catalogue, every lyric Thom Yorke has ever uttered and every instrument they’ve ever played – I’m impressed by that sort of commitment.

I know it seems obvious but if you hear something you like, in a cafe or at someone’s house, ask (or download Shazam). Commit it to memory (aka put it in ‘Notes’ on your phone) and check it out later on Spotify. I discovered Gillian Welch years ago in cafe in Wellington (thank you, Deluxe). A lot of my music recommendations also come from friends – the ones who are mad about it – and I mean ‘mad’ in an entirely unhealthy way. Talking to people about music can be a revelation in itself and a helluva lot more interesting than house renovations, university deadlines and badly-behaved pets.