Leave Work Press Play

I work in a very quiet law office, known at The Library (which would be perfect if it actually was). We have the tummy-rumblers, the furious chewers, the involuntary sighers and the out-loud-thinkers. I probably fall into three of those camps. In some ways it’s a respite from the noisy world but I miss listening to music, and always look forward to shoving my headphones into my ears on the walk home. I’ve put together a playlist of songs I’m listening to at this very moment. See the link below. And the very cool thing is there’s a song on the list by my work colleague’s band, Mecuzine. I like to think that while he’s tapping away on the keyboard he imagines it’s not a computer but his piano and he’s hearing the song in his head. Mecuzine’s members have serious NZ rock cred. Album due out 13 July.

As soon as I heard Death Cab for Cutie had a new song, I had to immediately go and listen to it (in the bathroom at work). Although the band (and we) miss the brilliance of guitarist Chris Walla, Gold Rush still brings the clever lyrics DCFC are known for, even with the hackneyed distortion of Ben Gibbard’s voice. And the hook at the start is from Yoko Ono…

One of my picks for album of the year, Microshift by Leeds-based band Hookworms, is well worth listening to. It’s the band’s third and most accessible record – less abrasion, less drone and less overall noise and fuzz. It jumps across genres – post-punk, indie rock, electronica while maintaining an overall euphoria and jubilance. If you like Arcade Fire or LCD Soundsystem this is the album for you.

If you’re in the mood for genuinely happy pop (and who isn’t), listen to four-piece, The Beths. And these just aren’t any old Beths. They are our very own Beths hailing from Auckland. Press play for Dopamine.

The List:

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.

It’s Hip To Be Square…

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You’ve  got to love a band that takes its name from a song from the 1967 Beatles film ‘Magical Mystery Tour”. I certainly do.  Death Cab For Cutie are a quirky (read, nerdy) four-piece indie-rock band from Seattle. Who else could get away with writing a song that compares relationships to mathematics

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