In what has been a perhaps (assuredly) misguided, impossible, and quixotic effort to achieve purity, I’ve spent the last two years or so ignoring all traditional or mainstream music press as much as a possibly can.
The intention here was to block out as much outside influence as possible and judge all inputs on their own terms, on the terms of the art, as opposed to the terms of things like “this was recommended by this website,” or “this PR campaign has put this band / group everywhere, in all the places where other things I like have been seen,: or, perhaps most damning, “this album has been covered and well-reviewed everywhere, so it must be good or worth my time.” Basically, I am trying to remove spin or halo effects from my consumption.
My solution has been two fold: 1) ignore about 80 percent of the websites I used to read (which, as a side-bar, has made the internet feel even more like a lonely, bombed-out husk ruined by and redirected to social media) and 2) seek first and foremost music that is being made by small bands and amateur musicians. I do this second one by sorting by “new arrivals” on Bandcamp and by listening to WKDU on my computer at work. These are not perfect solutions, but they have worked in making me feel like the world of music I interact with is different (but not better) than the world of music I used to interact with.
The grand myth of digging into the mud is that one might discover diamonds, unheard but remarkable works by powerful artists. What I have found is … mostly a lot of mud (well intentioned and charming mud, but still). While I do come across some legitimately great stuff I would have otherwise not heard before, it isn’t like there’s a wellspring of titans operating below the crust of the earth. There is also just … so … much … music out there. The tools are more available than ever, and the distance between you making a song and me hearing it is as short as its likely ever going to be. That means anyone who has the courage and stupidity to try writing a song can now be a music-producer, even if the product stinks. I think that’s exciting! I think that’s a new wrinkle in the power of music as communicative tool, as world-making. But it also means you hear a lot of junk.
This strategy has also separated me from one of my great joys, which is big budget pop-rap. There really isn’t too much of that to be found out in the hinterlands, if perhaps only because it requires a big budget. So, this fall, I will return once more to the music websites I have forsaken, and I will be influenced to listen to the loudest-dumbest rap I can find. Further results as they arrive. Who knows, maybe I’ll find more content for the flash drive.