I am in my late 20s and still fairly hip to things. However, that is going to end at some point. It seems that the older I get, the harder it is to have the time, patience, and drive to seek new music. The reason for this is a combination of several things. For one, I am getting increasingly comfortable with what I already know. That happens. You get into a groove that gets deeper and it gets harder and harder to get out of it. Secondly, time is a big issue. I’m not in college anymore. I have a job, volunteer commitments, and hobbies that don’t center around music. My time is precious. And finally, finding new and hip outlets that I can trust for great new music gets harder and more limited.
All of that makes me sound old and like a fuddy duddy. Sometimes it may appear that way, but it really isn’t the truth. The fact of the matter is that I love new music. The problem being is that there is just so much coming out right now and I need time to sift through it. Most of it will eventually make their way to my ears and then I can decide if I want to explore those sounds further or cast them aside. I may hear a new indie band’s album the day or even week of release, but I will eventually.
Also, there is just so much music out there in general. And the only constant truth in music is that there will always be more old music than new music. One of my volunteer gigs is working the music library of a non-profit music school. They have over 20,000 records, CDs, and books. They have an impressive collection of rare material. The selection of material within the last decade may be sparse, but there are hidden treasures waiting to be rediscovered. And that is an exciting hunt that new releases can’t compete with.
Despite my active interest in exploring older music and lack of time, I still manage stay connected with the tastemakers and hipsters that are keen on every single new release. I volunteer with a local non-profit radio station in Chicago. They play an exciting blend of local and indie music that is fresh and exciting. While I may not be as well-versed in those areas as my colleagues, I sample what I like. Social media is also great as well. Facebook posts from friends and my Twitter feed help keep me informed on latest trends.
However, my favorite way to discover new music is through podcasts. And my favorite music podcast is WBEZ’s very own Sound Opinions. Sound Opinions is hosted by rock critics Greg Kot (Chicago Tribune) and Jim DeRogatis (Chicago Sun-Times). Now, these guys have several decades on me but they get paid to explore their passion. However, that didn’t come from nowhere. Getting there took years of hard work and dedication. And after all these years, they really excel at tuning in to what is happening in music. So, what’s my excuse?
Sound Opinions offers a great blend from classic album dissections, themed playlists that bring in the old and the new, and band interviews anywhere from hall of fame legends to the latest up-and-comer. In most episodes, they review a new album towards the end of the show. They introduce the album, play a song, and then rate it on a system encouraging listeners to buy it, try it, or trash it. The rapport between the hosts is great and I like the eclectic nature of the program. It perfectly suits my music sensibilities.
I listened to their most recent episode while unpacking my new apartment. In this episode, they were discussing songs that, for them, signified the end of summer. It felt like a great soundtrack to the transition I’ve been in on making my new living space a home.
At the end, they reviewed the fourth studio album by Angel Olsen. Entitled My Woman, Jim and Greg outlined Olsen’s music history that included travelling across the country and trying out different styles that defied typical pop music. For this latest record, Olsen teamed up with a producer more known for producing typical pop hits. The track they featured was “Not Gonna Kill You,” and it was the jolt I needed. I was absolutely floored when I heard this track. It has everything. Engaging and impassioned vocals. Reverb gracefully and tactfully implemented. A considerable range of styles and experimentation. It is grunge, folk, indie, shoegaze, and pop wrapped together. It is Mazzy Star with a punky energy.
New music is great, but not all new music. As cynical as I can be about seeking it out and enjoying it, the truth is that it gets harder. I can always try to be a little cooler than square adults around me in the officer, but I’ll never be as cool or in tune as I was when I was younger. The best advice I can give is to try to make an effort and put your pulse on what is happening. Maybe you’ll find a pleasing note amongst the static.