Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Five-Year Plan for music

When I was in college, I discovered music that was written by people approximately my age, reflecting my world view and my experiences. For me, this was a revelation. Until then, I had survived on the music of my parents' generation, such as the Rolling Stones and Billy Joel, or whatever mainstream radio and MTV had deemed fit to shove down my throat.

Just a few months ago, I realized that my musical diet hadn't changed much since the early 1990s. The XM satellite radio in my new car featured dozens of ad-free radio stations, but I only listened to two: I usually played the station playing hits from my college years (named Lithium, after the Nirvana song), and occasionally tuned into one playing songs from the '80s.

It was a sad and sudden epiphany: I had evolved, but not the music I listened to, with the exception of a few happy discoveries like The Dresden Dolls and Lily Allen. I immediately thought back to an old Margaret Cho comedy routine, when she imagines Generation X'ers in a nursing home in the future, listening to oldies on the radio. "Turn up 'Hungry Like the Wolf'," she says.

I set out to discover new music. I called this my Five-Year Plan -- to begin focusing on singers and bands that had been around for less than five years. These were my tools:
  • Sirius XM (née XM), which plays music that I've never heard on mainstream radio stations
  • Shazam, a free app for the iPhone that helps identify any song that's playing. Once the song is tagged, you have a handy list of songs you like, which comes in handy when you go home and want to check out songs and build a playlist in ...
  • iTunes and the iTunes store.
  • my iPhone.
Through my Five-Year Plan, I have discovered three absolutely brilliant bands: TV on the Radio, Vampire Weekend, and Fleet Foxes. I am listening to Neko Case and Ray Lemontagne, two singers I would have overlooked before. I appreciate Feist beyond "1, 2, 3, 4" and can't wait for Regina Spektor's new album.

Here is an iTunes Mix sharing some of my Five-Year Plan goodness:

I didn't set out on the Five-Year Plan to regain my youth or replace my favorite bands from the early '90s. I'll remain an R.E.M. fan for life. I merely saw a place in my life where I was getting stale, and I shook things up. I'm glad I did.

1 Yes, I know it's not a dial anymore.

1 comment:

Laura said...

I heart Vampire Weekend. You might like Spoon, too. Listen to XM channel 47-good stuff on there.