Tuesday, September 3, 2013

New Music Sources -- Looking For Love At First Listen

Since I'm often asked how I find songs for my playlists, here's a post devoted to new music sources. As soon as one collection is ready with carefully crafted order, I'll start the next one. I like starting with a tune that's makes me want to get up and move to the beat.  From there a musical path meanders along until a spaced out ending, keeping to the old time frame of under 80 minutes which began so it'd fit onto a CD. Although I've been putting out playlists about every six weeks over the past five years, it all depends on the amount of releases in each season.  I'm thrilled by the hunt, always looking for that love at first listen feeling.

A good day will begin with listening to KEXP's "John in the Morning" show, where John Richards holds court with the "morning faithful." In a wonderfully old school way, he'll tell you about his weekend, talk about the weather and events in the area. The station even fields requests at dj@kexp.org. Around noon I'll switch over to KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic," which clues me into the outside world with NPR updates on the hour.  Plus both KEXP and KCRW have apps for smartphones -- very handy for road trips or at the gym where I'm apt to throw in a few dance moves during my workout anyway. I'm also happy to work that radio dial driving back and forth from CT to MD where my parents lived for over 25 years, from college radio like WFMU, WVUD, WTMD and other local station like Philly's WXPN and Annapolis' WRNR.  My son recently moved to Denver and turned me onto the online music stream at Colorado's Public Radio "Open Air" at CPR, which focuses on the local scene.

If there's a particular record label with a few of your favorite bands, I suggest getting on their email lists or follow them on social media or Spotify.  For example, I pour over news from Mom + Pop Music (home of Andrew Bird, Neon Indian, and Smith Westerns), Polyvinyl Record Company (home of The Dodos, of Montreal and Deerhoof), among others. You can just visit their websites and follow them on Facebook or Twitter but I like reminders in my inbox about upcoming releases, tours and especially merch! Truly fave bands are followed directly, so I'm sure not to miss anything. And CMJ Music Festival puts together a monthly mixtape, which I always look forward to digging into.

Now that I'm on lots of press lists after writing about music, I'm sent emails about new bands and releases that I let accumulate until I have a dedicated time to go through them. I look for a quick link to a video or Soundcloud page, and will bookmark it if I think there might be a reason to revisit things.  Plus I keep an eye on various music pubs: SPIN, Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound, Stereogum and Rolling Stone (although I'm still upset by the editorial decision to put that dreamy photo of the Boston bomber on the cover!) Add in NPR Music and of course PopMatters, where I have a pile of posts as a contributor on the music staff.

If the music really resonates, I'll look for the song in iTunes and Spotify to put it in the next playlist draft.  Once I have about an hour of music, it's time to set the sequencing and call it cooked. The research is always interesting, finding out where the band is from plus other details about albums and years in the music biz.  Then it's a bit like writing a book report, relieved when it's all over and done.  

But when it comes down to it, this is really about the joy of sharing in discovery of bands and music. See links below and be sure to pony up during the pledge drives to keep public radio music alive and well...

Dive into past New Music Matters Playlists here and this list for online radio listening:

KEXP.org  Seattle "John In the Morning" show from 9 - 12 noon EST 

KCRW.com  LA "Morning Becomes Eclectic" from 12 noon - 3 pm EST