This isn’t exactly a newsflash, but the way we discover new music has changed radically over the course of the last decade. (Of course, the way we consume music has transformed too, but that’s a discussion for another, more boring day.)
Gone are the days of discovering new bands by reading breathless reviews in Spin, Rolling Stone and NME. Gone too are the days of wandering into a record store, donning a pair of germ-covered headphones, and listening to selected artists picked out by the disaffected staff. The radio? Well, the radio’s always been garbage, and that’s more true now than ever.
New music is more accessible than ever before, but separating the wheat from the chaff requires more effort. Music fandom in 2011 is not for the lazy or incurious.
So much of today’s music culture de-emphasizes discovery and reinforces the familiar. The only real vehicles we have to learn about and sample new music are mp3 blogs — a term I’m sure is already outdated. But navigating the world of music blogs can be intimidating and time-wasting. There are thousands of blogs, representing thousands of points of view, touting thousands of bands you’ve never heard of.
Here, then is a guide to the best music blogs going today — the ones that have introduced me to the most great new music, and the ones that feature the best writing about music.
This is not intended to be a “reviewing the reviewers” piece — almost everyone who runs an mp3 blog does so out of their love for music, and out of their desire to share what they love. Rather, this is simply a list of blogs and bloggers to whom I owe a debt and who have contributed in some way to what’s in my iTunes library in 2011. As a matter of personal taste, the blogs I love tend to eschew Pitchfork-style pretension (nothing against Pfork, it remains a great resource, but 90% of the writing is cringe-inducing.)
This list is limited to true mp3 blogs with the relatively narrow focus of posting great music. Sites that focus more on music news aren’t included. If you’re looking for some new music to check out, this is a place to start. In no particular order:
I Am Fuel, You Are Friends
Heather Browne’s blog was the first music blog I ever bookmarked and made appointment reading. Fuel/Friends is also probably responsible for introducing me to more new songs and artists over the last five years than any other single source. Nick Hornby’s also on board, so what else do you need to know?
My Old Kentucky Blog
Look, I’m as surprised as you are than an Indianapolis-based blog made the cut, because that’s the worst city in America. But the blog is just that good. MOKB was also one of the first blogs to build a mini-empire, putting together radio broadcasts and sponsoring shows.
Matthew Perpetua claims his site was the first mp3 blog — and who am I to doubt him? This blog certainly set the template for a million others to copy — music reviews combined with more personal writing. Also, for those R.E.M. fans among you who may have never seen it, check out Perpetua’s Pop Songs, on which he wrote short essays about ever song the recorded (up to Accelerate) and some they didn’t.
Chromewave’s posts tend to involve a blitz of sorta-related songs, videos, links and concert listings. The songs Chromewaves posts show a lot more range than typical indie music blogs. On any given day, you can check out new songs from unknown Canadian folkies, Esben and the Witch or Odd Future. The blog focuses a little extra bandwidth on the purveyor’s hometown of Toronto.
AD calls itself “eclectic,” and they’re not lying. For the most part, the blog eschews most artists that the rest of the Internet is fawning over at any given time, to focus on roots music, blues, traditional African music and most other genres under the sun. Also notable: a series of guest points from artists (like Patterson Hood) on music they love or non-music passions.
Muzzle of Bees
We might as well make it two straight blogs that take their name from a Wilco song. Muzzle of Bees offers concert reviews of shows in the Madison/Milwaukee/Chicago triangle, and offers snapshots of artists coming to town.
The best cover-song site on the Internet. Period. You’ll find covers here you never knew existed, both by band you love and of bands you love.
My favorite blog for posting complete live shows. A recent sampling of sets includes Pavement, Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen and The Replacements. Captains Dead also posts miscellaneous tracks like a typical mp3 blog, but the bootlegs are what sets the site apart.
Minneapolis Fucking Rocks
While we may or may not agree with the exclamation in the name of the blog, we can state with certainty that the blog itself does what it claims Minneapolis does.
Songs: Illinois isn’t unique in form: most posts are a sample song or video of an artist to check out along with a brief write-up. But the songs are good. And the write-ups are good.
Exactly what it sounds like. Focuses on older vinyl soul/r&b releases, but doesn’t ignore new music completely.
Gorilla vs. Bear
One of the most consistent and prolific music blogs around, G vs. B provides a steady dose of intriguing new and young artists.