Today is the music edition of Waste Your Time on My Dime (part 2, I guess). I am currently going through a gigantic list of vocabulary words—trying to study them for the GRE that I am taking in three weeks. I can’t believe how quickly it has crept up on me…so anyway, this is my noontime reprieve.
NPR’s All Songs Considered
Since discovering this show as a podcast a year or so ago (in fact I think that it was last Christmastime’s “Best Songs of the Year” show that got me hooked), I have listened to it almost every single week. Today as I have been studying, I have been catching up on the last several weeks of the program and am again reminded how much I enjoy it. Bob Boilen, the host and DJ of the program, is a musician himself and unlike most radio personalities, his genuine tastes and interests are articulated in a way that make the listener want to be fans of the songs that he plays. His show is a wonderful mix of the old and the new. He takes time to give histories and make musical connections—often genealogies—of the songs and artists that he plays. This week’s show, for example, highlights the work of contemporary folk musician M. Ward. The show is awesome, though, because first, M. Ward himself is a guest DJ. Bob Boilan, a genuine fan of M. Ward asks questions of the musician that fans would want to know. M. Ward is also given the opportunity to play music that interests him which leads to an exploration of songs by Roy Orbison, the Beach Boys, My Morning Jacket and others. But again, the show is great because it peels the musical layers that are always present in recorded music back and allows the listener to peak into the cracks. Also, the concert series is both extensive and supurb. Really, really cool stuff.
Last.fm is many things. First and foremost it is an audioscrobbler database which means, basically, that, with your permission, it collects information from your computer’s audio player (WMP or Itunes) as you play your music and tabulates which artists and tracks you are listening to most and organizes this information in a fun format on their website. The fun part of this process is that it then connects you with people who share your same musical interests and you can check out the groups that they are listening to that you may not have heard of—so it is a gateway to finding new music. Also, you can have “friends” which allows me to see what my buddies are listening to. (Who would have thunk that Aaron Bell was a Justin Timberlake fan?) Finally, if you are away from a computer that has all of your music on it, you can listen to last.fm radio which plays tracks that it thinks you might like based on the music you are listening to that it has collected. Amazing! View my profile at http://www.last.fm/user/jwstone/
Pitchfork is a music news site that focuses on—well—I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s not really what I would call an “indie” music website, although the majority of what it reviews and critiques might be considered independent. Honestly, I am not familiar with the majority of the bands that are highlighted by Pitchfork (I am not very cool, you know), but I do know that when I am familiar (or want to become familiar) with the bands, the writing is excellent and the reviews are fresh, honest and often really funny.
KEXP is a Seattle based independent radio station that it just completely and totally cool. The website has a live, streaming radio feed which makes it a great place to hear new bands and old favorites.
Finally, there are a few (usually fan produced) band websites out there that I consider to be exceptional.
Chain of Flowers is the most comprehensive web source for Cure fans that I have ever come across. During times of high band activity, there is something new and cool almost everyday on the site. My favorite things about Chain of Flowers include the news section (of course) but also include things like the database of what has gotten played during specific tours and tour dates over the years. Anybody wonder what songs they played during the Phoenix tour of the Prayer tour? Chain of Flowers will tell you.
Green Plastic is a Radiohead website that allows for more straightforward access to Radiohead information than their official site allows. It is well done for many of the same reasons that Chain of Flowers is well done.
Ben Folds's official site is one of the few label based websites that I really like. The best part about it are the pictures that have been taken by Ben and his band on the road.
Weezer.com is another really great label based website. The only reason that it remains to be so good is that it is still written and maintained by Weezer side-kick Karl Koch. It used to be better—back when Weezer used to be better—but it is still a reliable source for the =w= fan in you. I do miss the old "Karl's Corner" days, though.
Finally, I have to mention Myspace’s one good quality. When Jon and I were playing around town with Lancaster a year or so ago, Myspace became a very useful tool of local music discovery and networking. There are some really great bands to discover in the Valley (and in your city too) if you look around a bit. Can’t say that I am really into Myspace as a social networking tool, though. Too much stupid crap out there that I don’t want to look at on people’s sites.