I need more music in my life!
August 18, 2013 8:21 PM   Subscribe

I want to listen to more music, but I also want to read more and be provoked to think more about music. What resources would you suggest to help me get the most out of my limited music-listening time?

As I’ve gotten older and become a parent, I find that I have less time for and more interest in consuming more music and music writing. I feel like I’ve been out of the loop for a while and I want to find new music and get the opportunity to be challenged about the music I like (and don’t like!). I want to open up new, crazy avenues for thinking about music.

I’m most interested in reconnecting to the pop, alt. county, hip hop, funk, soul, and jazz universes, but I’d love to hear about resources for other contemporary and historical musical genres. If it’s interesting and thought-provoking, please share it. Feel free to suggest things that seem obvious – I don’t have a set of web sites or magazines I read now, and I’m really out of touch with contemporary writing and thinking about music.

What I have:
• A Spotify Premium account
• A pretty substantial (60 GB) music library
• A Google Music account (syncing my iTunes library almost anywhere I am)
• A little bit of a monthly music-buying budget
• Some time every day to read articles and books about music
• A job where I can listen to music on headphones for an amount of time every day

What I’d like:
• Suggestions of blogs and magazines I could read that have reviews, previews, interviews, and think pieces about the current music scene.
• Concert calendars for the Twin Cities with previews and live concert reviews
• Ways of discovering new and exciting music
• A “goodreads”-like service (except for music) where I can catalog artists/albums/songs I’d like to explore more
• A forum or something where I can read other listeners’ thoughts and share mine (from time to time)

What I don’t need:
• Suggestions about specific artists I should listen to.

I feel like this is a really exciting time for music. I’d like to be more of informed listener and find new things that will thrill and engage me – can you help?
posted by elmer benson to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Uncut Magazine is a great resource and read for music, plus their free cds each month are a great bonus for finding new music (and old music you ain't heard of).
posted by Kerasia at 8:26 PM on August 18, 2013

AVclub (the website) or Entertainment Weekly (the magazine) are both pretty good.
posted by spbmp at 8:33 PM on August 18, 2013

I also learn about a lot of good music (including things that aren't current) by watching metafilter blue. You could just peek occasionally at what's there, or prime the pump with a search on a tag like music or jazz

Actually here on the green also works great for that too, with people asking for suggestions in some corner of the music world and getting back dozens of ideas.
posted by spbmp at 8:42 PM on August 18, 2013

I have been using turntable.fm as a music listening site. it is a site where users get to select the songs played in the room. so it might expand your music repertoire as other people will select songs. there are many genres of rooms and a chat room where people chat.
posted by Jaelma24 at 9:02 PM on August 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

I use Spotify, and I've found apps and public playlists can help with the finding music part- e.g., Topsify puts out regularly updated top 40 playlists for different genres, and Tunigo collects playlists for genres, moods, occasions, etc.

You can also search for playlists through Spotify, which is a bit less directed but can sometimes turn up the exact playlist you're looking for (perhaps someone out there is obsessively updating a best new alt country playlist, for instance).

Another option that combines thinking about music and listening to it is podcasts- Sound Opinions and All Songs Considered are the first that come to mind for me, although they aren't focused on the genres you named- a little Googling suggests there are plenty of hip hop and jazz podcasts, at least, so perhaps you'll find something that appeals to your taste. A podcast is nice because it can blend the discussion of music and the music itself, so you don't have to remember to look up a band you see mentioned somewhere or struggle to hear whatever amazing new thing a particular band is doing- it's all right there in one package.
posted by MadamM at 10:52 PM on August 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pitchfork is probably the website of record (heh) for the Indie Rock world (or at least, relatively indie). They cover a great deal of music in depth, and it was really helpful to me when I wanted to start shaping my tastes. I did a lot of reading of their "Best Of" lists back when, and would check out as many of the albums as I could from the local library. Maybe that'll work for you? If you're interested in electronic stuff, try Resident Advisor. The quality of the content is to my mind a bit more mixed, but does provide an overview of the world.

If you want to just start trolling for good publications, try checking Metacritic and browsing the review sites that they aggregate - you'll probably find at least one that you like.

You probably want to start looking for a few good mp3 blogs; the author will usually post a song or two each day and write a paragraph or two about why they like them. There are a lot of these, and unfortunately I'm no longer particularly current with them. Two that I used to like were Fluxblog, which has a dance/pop/rock focus (the author now writes for Pitchfork), and Said The Gramophone which is very anything goes. (Caution: STG sometimes has a strong flavor of whimsy, but the music was always interesting.) mp3 bloggers tend to follow each other, so these might lead you on to some other good material. (Album blogs exist as well, but in my limited experience they are usually focused on the very obscure - e.g. Ongakubaka is dedicated to current, totally unknown garage and psych rock acts- or are located on the wrong side of the Internet tracks.)

For a good concert calendar, try Pollstar. Also grab a copy of your local alt-weekly every so often and see what's being advertised.

I don't use it myself, but the hip online way for keeping track of what you're listening to and finding similar stuff is probably last.fm. You could also start using Discogs, which is maybe closer to LibraryThing. (The comparison is a bit forced.) It has a naturally electronic bent, but their catalog is quite large and covers a lot of different genres.

NPR's music site has a pretty good record of keeping track of, well, the music that appeals to NPR listeners. I'd put it as being maybe to the right of the dial for Pitchfork, to the left of the dial as compared to top 40? The All Songs Considered podcast is a decent way to find new tunes. (And you should check if your local colleges have radio stations!)

I'm not a big fan of the opinions expressed on Sound Opinions, but Jim DeRogatis & Greg Kot are very smart guys who take the music they like seriously, and if you want some music talk it might be a good place to go. (Someone else will surely chime in with better options for that...)

I'm no expert on hip-hop, though Pitchfork and these other pubs will hit much of the main crossover material. However, if you want more, you might try checking Stereogum's Mixtape of the week feature, which recommends a different free hip-hop mixtape each week. (If you're less interested in insight and more interested in what's popular, you can also just browse the most downloaded mixtapes over at datpiff.) Stereogum is itself another decent music blog to check out.

I can do very little for your funk and soul needs, but I've personally had some fun going through the rarities unearthed by The Numero Group. (Generally cheap if you buy mp3s, but the liner notes packed with each release are pretty meaty.)

Last, for some offline perspective on significant music, you might be interest in the 33 and a third book series. Music critics, musicians, and other folks write short books about albums that they've found particularly influential. They might be useful to you as a kind of shorthand for obscure but significant records, or as a source for some good reading about artists with whom you've been unfamiliar.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:57 PM on August 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

Oh! Also! The music issue of the Believer (which appears to be this month's issue) usually has some good meaty stuff, as well as a decent, curated mix CD bundled with it.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:14 PM on August 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Depends on your tastes, really.

I adore sweary raps, vogue/ballroom, and bleepy headache-inducing electronic music, and I'm pretty allergic to indie music, guitars and feelings. For that reason I LOVE Soundcloud, as a lot of the artists I like in this genre post stuff continously. I follow club nights/publications that regularly release mixes, like The Boiler Room, XLR8R, Dis Magazine, Fact Magazine (LOVE) etc. I'll just let it play during the day, and if something comes up that I love it's fairly easy to track down the artist. Soundcloud also has a 'retweet' feature, so I find a lot of new music by following artist I already like and paying attention to their retweets. I'm an ardent reader of Noz and Tumblin' Erb, and find most of the rap music I like through a variety of datpiff.com rabbitholes.

This DJ Koze mix is pretty essential, btw, so I'll leave that there.

I don't read much music criticism, but I also really love Simon Reynolds. All of his books are totally worth reading.
posted by nerdfish at 12:07 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm probably late to this particular party but I've recently discovered that watching interviews and stuff with people from bands I like can really open up new kinds of relating to the music. It's almost a little bit like how if your friend records a song it's immediately way more interesting than any other anonymous music.

With Spotify and a huge music library, it's easy for music to just become an infinite ocean of different stuff. Today it takes effort to really get into something particular. Reading lyrics, reading peoples' interpretations of them (on Songmeanings, RapGenius, etc), watching interviews, listening around in the "band graph" of influences and other collaborations, and so on.

I have a whole half-baked theory about how enjoyment of music is about a kind of interplay between (1) "pure listening" and (2) "contextual proliferation," perhaps symbolized by (1) headphones in the dark and (2) Wikipedia, respectively. With this analysis, it makes sense to work at intensifying both aspects.

For example, you could see "pure listening" as an actual activity that you can practice and become better at, almost like a kind of meditation. (Isn't that a beautiful way to repay the artists' work? By actually working at letting their creations move you?)

And "contextual proliferation" is actually not only about reading up on the particular artist in question, or even only the history of the genre. It actually extends infinitely throughout the whole cultural tapestry. For a random example, the experience of hearing Vampire Weekend's Ya Hey is enhanced by an understanding of the mentality of the Old Testament prophets, perhaps by reading Rabbi James Cohn's The Minds of the Bible.

If you practice at this intensively, you will approach an event horizon of infinite beauty and meaning, feeling the resonance of the entire universe in the warm buzzing of a single Rhodes chord.
posted by mbrock at 2:42 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

No Depression magazine does seem obvious for alt.country/Americana. It's online only since 2008, but they do have their older print issues archived if you want to catch up with the what is the what from before then.
posted by drlith at 3:53 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Paste Magazine has great features and reviews.
posted by fantine at 5:14 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been a musician all my life (70 years now). IMO, the best and only way to get more music in your life is to listen to it, as much and as often as possible.

Music is the opposite of words. Reading about it, at least before you fall in love with it, is exactly the wrong way to go.

Listen until you find the music that moves you. (In my case, it's classical). Then plunge in.

It helps to play an instrument, but that's not essential, though it does give you the pleasure of sharing your joy with other people.
posted by KRS at 5:53 AM on August 19, 2013

In the vein of GoodReads but for music would be RateYourMusic.
posted by mountmccabe at 6:27 AM on August 19, 2013

Spotify has a bunch of apps that can be helpful, including a Pitchfork app.

My favorite site for music discovery is Turntable.fm though, because regular folks curate special rooms of different genres or feels. It takes a little work to find the right room but once you do it can be great for both passive and active music enjoyment!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:28 AM on August 19, 2013

First off, thanks everyone for offering their insights.

For a little bit more background - I played music for a job for the better part of a decade. When that was happening, I was constantly listening to new music and talking with other musicians about music. Since I had a kid and a day job, there's a lot less time in my life for that. I don't play much anymore, so I'm out of touch with a lot of what's happening, even in the local scene around me.

There's a lot to look at in what you've offered so far. I look forward to any other suggestions you all can make!
posted by elmer benson at 11:55 AM on August 19, 2013

I like Consequence of Sound.
posted by girlmightlive at 6:33 AM on August 20, 2013

I'm surprised no one brought this up yet: radio charts. And I don't mean pop radio stuff on Biillboard. The biggest aggregator of college stations is College Music Journal (CMJ), and their most recent top 20 chart is #1309. I don't see any easy way to navigate back and forth through charts, but you can manually change the URL to check out old charts. You can't go too far back on their website (trying 1209 brought up "URL Not Found"), which kind of sucks.

Then there's Dusted Magazine's charts, a more selective chart that aggregates the top 40 albums from around 30 different top stations from across the US, and their chart archive goes back to 2002.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:59 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

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