Mixtape

I have something to admit to you all today and it’s not going to be easy. This is a dark secret that has been weighing me down for years so I’m sure you’ll forgive me if I take the long road leading into this admission.

So, have you ever sat and truly thought about why you’re actually into the music that you like? Chances are that your tastes in music were influenced by your geographic location (not a lot of Bangla fans in Northern-Western Europe, for example), the people you knew growing up, and your tastes in other things. I know I certainly fell in love with a certain type of music due to its use in films that I adored and a lot of my friends introduced me to bands I might not have heard of without them as well. In fact, if I think about it, I doubt I discovered a new band on my own until after I left high school. Most of the people reading this will be of the age group that doesn’t find that strange, but it will seem unfathomable for those generations who have never had the simple joy of making a mixtape. The web really is the big game changer for those age groups, and they seem incapable of thinking how the world was before it.

I was never bothered by being introduced to things by others or getting into bands years after they started out (wherever you are, read that last line out loud and see if you can make a passing hipster faint). I did get into one band when they were first starting out and before they suddenly became chart toppers before disappearing into the midst of time. That band was Savage Garden (remember them?) and it isn’t something I boast about for obvious reasons. Yeah, I know. I’d make an awful hipster. I’m far too honest. And no, we still haven’t got to my dark admission yet. That’s something far worse than a chica-cherry cola.

So, back to music and we know that the surrounding stimuli of our early years helps to define our taste in music. But did you know that those tastes are also being narrowed by our developing brains? Daniel Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain On Music, is an old rocker and a neuroscientist. I’m…not, so I’ll bow to his knowledge on this. While a miserable old man like myself is set in his ways due to a fully developed brain (with an odd fixation on the eleven herbs and spices that need to cover chicken) this isn’t the case in our youth. New neural pathways are constantly being developed as we hit double digit ages, and those pathways are different based on our experiences. Spend time learning a new language and you will develop in a different way to someone who paints, for example. And this is how your taste in music starts to be built into your brain. All that exposure from your surrounding stimuli literally becomes a part of you. From age ten you start to figure out what doesn’t fit the pattern of what you like and by twelve years old you’re starting to build an identity based on what you like and shoving posters on every available wall space. By the time you’re fourteen years old your tastes are pretty much set in stone for the rest of your life, which is bad news for those of us hoping the children who have been specifically marketed to will grow out of Bieber.

Now these facts do not mean that you will only be into a few bands all your life, but they do mean that the bands you get into will likely sound the same as the ones you’re already into. “Nonsense!” I said to myself on reading these facts. “Fourteen year old me was a dick. My taste in music is much more mature, as it has been continually growing and evolving. Why it was only…” And that is when we come to my darkest and best kept secret; a secret I kept even from myself until 2012. I’d thought that my music was modern and up to date and it was only when forced to think about it that I realised the last time I’d “discovered” a new band had been 2001. And that band was… it was… it was Staind. In spite of my protests it had been a while since I’d discovered any new music, it seemed.

Now, I should point out that I’ve since realised that I was wrong about that and that I have in fact discovered new bands a few times in the years since then, although many were one hit wonders. But at that time the whole thing came as a shock, especially the Staind part. To fully understand how this hit me you have to remember that I worked clubs for years and was instrumental in organising live bands for several venues at least once a week for years of my life. I considered burying my dark secret and hiding from it while I listened to the Bon Jovi albums of my youth, but such blatant sickness will always find its way to the surface. So, I decided to do something about it and the only way to do that was to go looking for new music.

The very first conclusion I came to was that they don’t make ’em like they used to (miserable old man, remember?). The music playing on the local stations through the radio app I downloaded seemed to mistake loudness for ingenuity and a lot of the songs felt like they followed a formula. I soon found myself only using the oldies channels on the radio app and despaired of ever removing the stain on my character. A little research turned up studies which showed that I wasn’t being as miserable and set in my ways as I thought. In the past sixty years music has generally gotten louder and its timbral variety (how diverse the sounds used in each song is) has gotten lower.

It actually became a complex for a little while as I made the effort to get into music but wasn’t finding anything that suited. I joined music matching sites that recommended artists based on your current likes but they usually suggested bands that didn’t strike a chord with me, ones that shouldn’t have been related, or things I was already into. One good thing was that I learned a new appreciation for some of the music of my youth that I hadn’t really enjoyed back then, so it wasn’t a total waste. I had some new likes even if they were still from way before Staind.

It was then that my phone gave me a little luck. The screen froze for a moment on a complex website that hadn’t been designed well and every input went through at once when it returned to normal. As a result I ended up hitting an advert on the site I was on, going to an affiliate of theirs and hitting a link in a comment at the final site (all as I cursed my phone and was eager to get back to what I wanted to do). That link in the comments took me to TheSixtyOne,Β an online music experience where new artists can show off their stuff for free and have links to buy on the page. From there I must have flicked through a hundred or so songs in the night, and I discovered a couple of new bands in there that I enjoyed. I was on my way.

Following one of the new bands I’d discovered and trying to find other songs of theirs, I discovered NoisetradeΒ which is another site that lets artists show off what they’re capable of, this time allowing users to send tips to those they like if they want to. It was here that I discovered even more new bands, including a new favourite that I would never have given a chance before (based on a snobbish take of the name) if I’d had to pay to try them out. I still visit Noisetrade quite often, downloading new bands to try out. Sometimes I find something I like straight away, while others I can download dozens of albums and not find a single track. It’s hit and miss, but at least it’s something, and they just started doing books too which can only be a good thing.

The most recent stop on my search for music was the relatively new service called Musicbox. This is again a music discovery service, although this one sends the music to you every now and then via email. You simply sign up for the free service and tell it a few genres of music you like and they’ll send out occasional songs to you based on those choices. It couldn’t be simpler, and I’d suggest this to most people as a good way to find a new gem every now and then.

What follows is a Spotify playlist of some of the many new and old songs that I’ve discovered since my dark secret became apparent to me. Have a listen, and maybe you too will find something new that you like. That’s right folks, to take you through my experience I made you a mixtape of some of the songs I enjoyed from some of the bands I found. If you have the Spotify player on your desktop this should play from here, otherwise it’ll take you to the site or app.

If there’s nothing in there that catches your interest, then try out some of the links above to the sites where I found my own new tastes in music. And drop a line letting me know if you have a way to discover new music yourself… or if you’ve a dark secret of your own that you can’t hide for any longer.

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43 thoughts on “Mixtape

  1. I joined emusic, years ago. So, every month, I get sixty-five new songs from indie labels. It’s god, in tat I find new stuff all the time. It’s bad, in that my 120 G.B. iPod is no longer entirely adequate. I buy promising-looking compilations, and then follow up the bands that I like.

    Spotify is very handy, in theory, but I find myself never using it.

  2. I’ll have to look into Emusic.

    Most of my music is uploaded to my Google Music account and I stream it from there. Certain favoured playlists are saved for offline listening, although I’m rarely offline. My main use for Spotify is to check out the bands I’ve discovered elsewhere, to see if they are worth following or if there’s just the one song I enjoy. It also nicely filled in when a band signed a short exclusivity deal with iTunes for their new album, letting me listen until I could actually buy the damn thing. Funny thing is I never thought I’d bother with Spotify at all.

  3. Oh my… I knew you will get me to admit about my darkest secret in music. And my memory goes back all the way to 1974 or 1975, when I’ve first heard this song. And I liked it πŸ˜›

    And I was only 5 back then πŸ˜€

    But it proves that theory because even after so many years, I still like the blues a lot. Later, I discovered some more ex-Yugoslav bands and some of them I still like to hear. It feels like having an good comfy shoes on πŸ˜€

    First foreign band I remember I liked was Blondie. Later I discovered Pink Floyd and they definitely shaped my taste in music.

    But enough about that. I kind of lost interest in finding new bands/music in a decade or so before I moved to Canada, I was listening what I liked and that was it. But when I changed continent, San played some music and bands (some of them even new ones) that I have never had a chance to hear before. Simply they were not popular in Europe – or to be precise, in part of Europe I am from. And I liked them. In a company where I work, my colleague is having radio set on a station that plays mostly music from 70s and 80s but sometimes I move it to Shore 104 (popular in Vancouver) and then I hear bands like Old Man’s Beard

    or Jack Johnson

    Kind of distant from what I was listening before but anyway….

    And for the end of this long comment, shame on anyone who doesn’t understand this

    πŸ˜›

    • Bare feet, acoustic guitar, curly surfer mop… Soon as I saw him my thoughts were “Where’s your skateboard?” And then suddenly he was on it. πŸ˜€ Made my day that did.

    • People never understood that you needed two pencils to really fix a tape. One to keep it from flipping as you use the other to wind.

      And the kids in the Walkman vid will never have that sort of technical challenge.

    • And do you remember making a mixtape out of recording music from a radio? Starting recording almost at the beginning and stopping right before commercials? And then rewinding a tape with a finger for 1 or two rotations so the next song would start right after the previous one πŸ˜€ I was a master in that!!!

      • They were wise to that in this country, at least on local radio. Songs ran over into DJs talking and then ads. You couldn’t get a clean copy.

        I do remember trying for ages to load a game on my Spectrum only to find out it had been taped over at the shop. I’d turned the sound down to avoid the shrieks and didn’t realise it was music.

  4. And here I was thinking I was the only one to try loading a music tape onto the Spectrum…
    Most of the new music I am exposed to I hear on CBC radio, The Strombo Show, The Signal, A Propos, Deep Roots are just a few. I ‘ll admit it has a mostly Canadian bent but you’ll also hear many new artists form around the world.
    By the by, I was old when Savage Garden first came out and really enjoyed that premiere CD. πŸ˜€

    • I was just coming out of school when I discovered them. They still have a pretty smooth sound.

      I’ve just never understood the hipster thing of wanting to be there at the start so much that they’ll happily lie about it in order to seem like they were. That’s my claim to hipsterdom (not counting a shitload of live bands from my club promotion days who may or may not have gone on to bigger things) and this is the first time I’ve mentioned it to anyone but Kim.

  5. Discovering new music rawks. I made a few new encounters earlier this year, and they’re still working. Love when that happens!
    Must admit a couple of them I actually heard on the radio first. (Yes, I listen to the radio at work sometimes. I’m oldschool like that.)

    Ah, the tapes. The old – fill the holes on the top on pre-recorded tapes if they were crap and you wanted to re-record them. All the tricks we knew back then, huh πŸ˜›

    • I forgot the sellotape tab trick. Felt like a proper genius the first time I figured that out. Without the interwebs too!

      Ha, if only there was a Vintage Lifehacker site to submit all these things to for future generations.

  6. I listened to my big brothers records until I was around 10 (it seems to be the magic year), and he was a few years older than me, so it was Queen, Elton John, The Who, Bowie, Deep Purple, to name a few, 70’s Classic rock. Then, at around 14 (which seems to be the magic age), I discovered Punk, and was absolutely drawn in by Ska Punk. Discovering that genre send me out on a musical adventure, and soon I found myself playing the drums in the school band. It was as if all that classic rock had created a sort of basement solid enough for me to experiment (as a musician) with so many different genres and types that when I moved away from home and was hurled into what is normally referred to as “life”, I did not have a fixed reference or taste in music. I still haven’t. I simply like music, and even a well done Eurovision Contest song can touch me.

    However, if you ask me, I’ll say, I am mostly into Classic Rock. 1) Because I was raised on it, and 2) The most successful band I’ve ever played in (and for the longest time) specialized in Classic Rock covers.

    PS: If the tapes got twisted, I opened the casettes, carefully removed the twisted part and glued the ends together. I also found a way to remove the end of the tape from the coils and of course assembling them again.

    • It’s funny, because technically I should be an 80s music guy, because I was a teen in the 80s (14 years old in ’83), but it is really the seventies influence that have marked me. I can’t say why, but my own explanatiopn is that the music of the 70s was better than the music of the 80s which is of course a load of rubbish, but that is the closest I get to a plausible explanation.

      I listen to the radio a lot. It’s always on when I’m home, and I also have a small radio in the tool shed which means I can listen to the radio while working in the yard. I’ve always been a radio guy as opposed to an internet or a television guy, because you can listen to the radio while doing other things. This means that I hear the new songs, and there are some good ones in between the rubbish (*cough-cough* Katy Perry). And if I hear a song that I like I check the artist out on the interwebs.

      Myt last “discovery” was Pharell Williams, and – as stated in my first comment – I can’t tell exactly what it is I like with this guy, except for the quite intelligent rhythmic patterns he creates, that I like. It is just good music. Makes my feet move.

    • “PS: If the tapes got twisted, I opened the casettes, carefully removed the twisted part and glued the ends together.”

      I used thin sellotape to connect the ends and it would work just fine πŸ˜‰

      • The good old days eh? Can you imagine telling the kids in the video about having to do that. They’d probably think it was a genius thing you figured out in the one occurrence of a tape twisting ever.

      • Just think. One day you’ll tell your kids about your struggle to use the web on mobile and they’ll just look at you, wondering why you didn’t use your implants to hook up to a satellite like normal people do. You’ll explain to them what phones were and they’ll think it stupid because there are so much better things out, not realising that there weren’t back then. And then, just as you start to really feel old, they’ll look at you and ask what a dog is…

    • I changed it a few days ago. Wanted to go with something easier to read (hence the larger text size) and minimalist, yet consistent across different browsers as well as mobile and tablet interfaces. The menu and profile is hidden behind a button on the right of the page and it scrolls down, otherwise staying hidden and out of the way to maximise reading space. It allows the content to be the focus of the page, while allowing each page to keep its own identity.

          • Yeah, I studied prison gangs from around the world for a project. I was trying to find specific customs and actions that would combine to create something unique yet recognisable. They’re all pretty much the same in the end though. Each filled with scared little boys ganging together in order to retain the feeling of manliness and safety that they feel has been stripped away in prison. They subject others to the things they’re terrified of so that they can become the threat and not feel threatened. All the while there’s a couple of guys higher up preying on this lot and making a shitload of money from their antics.

            I love that almost all of them have a codebook filled with the rules of honour for the gang, because things like “Don’t rape animals or children” have to be written down for their members.

          • Writing? You give them too much credit! πŸ˜› They still pass down the mythology by oral tradition here. And they do it in tsotsitaal so that you’ll only understand what you agreed to after been a gangster for thirty years! πŸ˜› (It takes at least thirty years to fully comprehend tsotsitaal, but the rudimentary terms are easy to learn.)

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