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, 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 Noisetrade 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.