• No good new music these days

    Mag 6 2009, 5:52

    Lately I've been listening to The Black Keys and Spoon, and reflecting on this claim that I used to make and that I hear others make occasionally. I think people say this because it's harder to find good new music than old. If they don't take the effort, people who like music from previous eras end up thinking today's music is all Coldplay and Black Eyed Peas, and nobody is making music of the caliber of, say, Bob Dylan's early work.

    Well... Nothing stacks up to Dylan's first dozen or so albums. But it's not all Coldplay and Black-Eyed Peas either. (For the record, I don't mind Coldplay, but find them to be mediocre. I don't care for the Black-Eyed Peas.) One thing that makes it comparatively hard to find good new music is that you don't have decades of reviewers and collective opinion helping you decide who is worth listening to. Then on the off chance you stumble on someone making music you like, collective opinion fails you again by having little idea who else is making similar music. It's easy, if you find one new artist you like, to assume that they're the exception that proves the rule, and that everything else is crap.

    They are the exception, but not everything else is crap. Good music is always the exception. In every decade, in every century, there is a lot of music being composed and performed, some of it becoming very popular, and most of it neither maintaining its popularity nor significantly influencing later music. When you look for old music, most of the crap doesn't even turn up. The chaff has already been discarded.

    Of course, a lot of the time I still prefer to sit back and enjoy music I already know I like. But when I have time, I think it's much cooler to help form that collective opinion than simply to take advantage of previous listeners' hard work. So, I know they're already fairly mainstream by a lot of standards and this doesn't make me avant-garde or anything, but everyone go out and get Rubber Factory and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.
  • "I listen to EVERYTHING!"

    Nov 15 2006, 6:48

    This is a pet peeve of mine: When people say they listen to "all kinds of music", it's not just false, it's uncooperative, and furthermore it's a cop-out.

    First, false. Nobody listens to EVERYTHING. Plenty of people I know say that, but don't listen to rap, country, Christian rock, death metal, classical, etc. Lots of people say this but actually listen to classic rock, modern rock, and some mainstream punk. They think "all kinds of rock" means "all kinds of music".

    Second, uncooperative. If you have genuinely varied musical tastes, not only is it still the case that there is music out there that you hate and will never listen to, but your tastes might be better characterized by what you *don't* like than by what you *do* like. At the very least, it might be a shorter list, granted that you exclude things you've never really given a chance.

    Third, it's a cop-out. It's acceptable to say that it's hard to characterize your tastes, because it is. But for those of us who have put some effort into figuring out what we like and what we don't like, it's always disappointing to hear someone answer tritely that they like "everything". It's an end to a potentially good conversation.

    This being my first journal post, I have no idea yet whether people will read it or whether I'm talking into the air. Just in case I draw some comments, I want to make a disclaimer: I used to make this very claim myself, until it was pointed out to me that it's patently false. So, as much as it has come to grate on my nerves, I don't hold it against people when they say it; but if you respond by saying that you do, in fact, listen to *everything*, I will respond in turn by pointing out some type of music that is not represented at all in your profile.