"You have to hear this" or, "Please like me!"

I had my first bout of writer's block for this little entry, until I realized that 1) I didn't have a deadline and 2) I wasn't receiving a paycheck. Upon this realization I loosened up and found my next topic to entertain you all with. This theme may even span over the next few entries, so it's sort of like my 69 Love Songs of musical commentary

Last weekend I was in a discussion with my friend Wit regarding the end-of-the-year "Best of 2008" lists that a variety of publications released, and we noticed a few things: Many of the lists had a lot of similarities, and many of these lists contained very few artists that the casual music fan would know (for example, Coldplay's Viva La Vida).

The reasons and motivation for these choices led me to wonder: How many of these choices were actually guided by the desire to display artists the critics really loved, and how much of it was to achieve street credibility among their musical peers? To show everyone, "Look how hard I had to search to find this little gem!" How many of them really liked the artists as much as they claimed? And this led me to the question: Have I ever done the same thing?

Absolutely! Through middle school and high school, I was your classic rock suburban boy. Oh, it's a tried-and-true tale of ignorance and laziness- choosing the safe over the unknown, the established over the up-and-coming. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Stones, Creedence- I loved them all!

And then came college and Huzzah!, my exposure to a wealth of genres that I never knew existed: electronic, alternative, post-grunge, indie, twee, chamber rock, alt-core, alt-country, post-alt-twee grunge, etc... And you better better believe I started searching for music that was not known by my roommates, digging around for a single that you could only get from Scotland by bribing Seamus the dock-worker. I was the guy, among many, saying "You have to check this group out!" I dropped references about some obscure group to flaunt my knowledge to strangers at parties (and mentioned how lame the Quad City DJs were). I even did it at the beginning of this entry by referencing The Magnetic Fields (who are on a lot of top ten lists for Distortion).

This however led to some mistakes, because there was music I bought just to look good. Sort of like like displaying James Joyce and Infinite Jest in your bookcase in the main room but you're reading Dean Koontz and James Patterson in the bedroom (I'd like to point out that I truly do like Koontz, but can't stand Patterson's Alex Cross), or wearing a funky clothes to impress the girl, even though the shoes are giving you blisters and the shirt displays your pit stains. Rather than admit that I was really into Blues Traveler (at least for a few months), I would talk about the significant difference between The Orb and Orbital.

I'd point out some of these artists, but to be honest I can't think of them right now because I don't listen to them anymore. I'll dig some up later an share them, but until then, I ask you: What are some artists or groups you bought and listened to that you really didn't like, but had to have for appearance's sake?


PS- Here are a couple: Radiohead's Hail to the Thief

and Beck's Guerro.


Matt said...

Oooohhhh, this is a good one.

I've never really pretended to like something because it was "cool" or "hip" to do so. There have definitely been some albums/groups that I checked out because they are "cool/hip" but that usually doesn't influence whether or not I will like them (or pretend to do so). One recently that comes to mind is the Panda Bear record. I'm a big Animal Collective fan (which actually might apply to this) and after hearing some rumblings about how good the Panda Bear album was suppose to be, I thought "I'm gonna love it". Turns out I was kinda lukewarm on it and just didn't dig it. Even non-Animal Collective fans were raving about it, but I never could dig it as much as I thought I would.

The other side of this post would be bands or albums that are WAY un-cool to like that I really do enjoy and would probably hide the fact that I do so I don't seem lame. That list may be a mile long....for example, I still bust out Counting Crows "August & Everything After" on road trips.

Music that you like and are ashamed to might be as intriguing.

Matt said...

After thinking about it, I may just have to throw that up as a seperate post: Music You Are Ashamed Of Loving

Anonymous said...

For a list of all the music that no one has heard of but that the music junkies love to quote, look at Pitchfork's best of 2008. What a joke.

Anonymous said...

My friend John and I exchange a yearly best of picks which mostly fall along the Pitchfork/underground lines. Half the fun is “discovering” new music we can introduce to each other. The real treat is hearing these hidden gems going mainstream 12-18 months later. Hearing Paper Planes by M.I.A. on the Buzz in Nov. of 2008 after having picked that song as one of our best of 2007 brings about a little pride, albeit, one we could only share with each other.
Ryan Adams is my James Joyce. I wanted to like him really bad because I thought it was what the cool kids were listening to. Gave numerous of his albums a thorough listen and even went to see him in concert but eventually had to throw in the towel.

Chris said...

Matt brought up a post that I was contemplating as well: Music you hate to love. I never bought a band soley to be cool, although I certainly bought a band thinking the would be cool based on hype or assuming I would like them, and that backfired. Good points on Ryan Adams and Pitchfork as well!

Anonymous said...

Chris, nice casual "Alt-Core" drop. Great post. I read it while attempting to listen, for the fifth time, to Bon Iver. Why? Because I want to like it. But I can't. Sorry, cool kids. It's inferior, in composition, execution, and production, to almost every single song on The Twilight soundtrack. Wait. Should I have saved this comment for the "Music you're ashamed to love" post?

Unknown said...


Massive Attack

Jeff Buckley

(shoot me)