Friday, March 17, 2006

Friday 5 + 5 (+ a couple extra): Where Good Music Comes From

Good music is hard to find these days, kiddlets. Most radio plays preprogrammed crap. The popular music magazines (Rolling Stone, Spin, Blender) seem like corporate advertisements instead of, I don't know, music magazines. Where's a music head like yours truly to turn? Heres five of my secret paths to finding the best, newest, and most off-the-radar music (and at least five artists I discovered through each outlet.)

KEXP. We have a local music station that rocks. It also streams live around the world, distributes dozens of podcasts (including my new favorite, a song-of-the-day podcast featuring unsigned artists and in-studio performances), and has archives of literally hundreds of studio performances on their jampacked website. You gotta love a station that you can hear for two hours without recognizing a single artist.

I've heard a million artists for the first time on KEXP, but the first one that comes to mind is Aterciopelados, the great Columbian band. I remember hearing "Luz Azul" twanging out of the radio and thinking, what the hell is this? Always a good sign.

The Late Show with David Letterman
. For over twenty years, Mr. Dave has hosted some remarkable talent on his show. Just because he's getting older doesn't mean he's forgotten how to rock. I've recently seen Common, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and the Subways on the ol' Late Show stage.

I saw both Outkast and Missy Elliott for the first time on Letterman. Outkast, in particular, just blew me away. I was expecting above-average crunk music. Instead, they did "B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)," with Andre 3000 wearing a spangly robe and a blonde wig, if I remember correctly. There was dancing, the lyrics were hyperfast and seamless, and I was left breathless.

Zoe Radio. Yep, I read about her on BoingBoing just like all the other latecomers. But before that, I heard her raving on the late, great public radio show Pop Vultures about Pretty Girls Make Graves. Zoe's a 15-year-old in southern California (her dad has deep music connections) with refined tastes in alt music. She likes to throw on a wild mash of music in her streamed and podcasted shows. (Note: the latest show doesn't seem to be streaming or podcasting, so that's a bit of a drag.) I've heard everything from the Arctic Monkeys to Joni Mitchell to Tegan and Sara all the way to Dinosaur Jr. on her little show.

I've heard a lot of artists for the first time by listening (like a maniac) to archives of Zoe's shows. She raves about Okkervil River, and after several listens, I finally got entranced by them. I also got my first listen of the Arctic Monkeys, the Hold Steady, and Death from Above 1979 from Zoe.

The Mountain. Another Seattle radio station, KMTT. 103.7 on your fm dial. I'm a little ashamed of this one, because I mock the Mountain relentlessly for its boomer-lite playlists, way heavy on Jack Johnson, Bonnie Raitt, bad Santana, and bad Crosby, Stills, and Nash. But sometimes they delve into the world of new music, and when they do, they tend to make good picks.

I heard Hem's "Half Acre" for the first time on the Mountain and was awestruck. Hem has since turned into one of my absolute favorite bands, but it was the fogeys at KMTT that first turned me onto them.

Paste Magazine. I read a fair amount of indie music magazines - Harp, Filter, Mojo - but I subscribe to Paste because it's the best. Subscribers get a free CD of excellent indie music and occasionally a DVD with videos, movie trailers, performances, and miscellany. The articles are thoughtful and respectful of music and artists in the way that Rolling Stone seems to have forgotten. They also cover off-the-radar film, books, and culture nicely Any magazine that can have Patty Griffin, Jeff Tweedy, and ?uestlove on their covers has got to be doing something right. Paste also has a fantastic podcast with full cuts of songs and reviews. They did several this year from Sundance, which you'll enjoy if you're a film person. Or if you're a wannabe film person. Like me.

One of Paste's sampler CDs had both "Gideon" by My Morning Jacket and the soon-to-be-overplayed "Soul Meets Body" by Death Cab for Cutie. I went out and bought both albums immediately. Recent samplers have also featured a fine selection of non-mainstream artists: Bright Eyes, Brendan Benson, Madeline Peyroux, Over the Rhine, Tywanna Jo Baskette, etc, etc.

So, come on, peoples! I'm always looking for another source of good music. What sources am I missing?

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