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December 2014
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February 2015

Enjoying Musical Hooks

A lively podcast episode about musical hooks--what they are, why they work--that ranges far and wide. My favorite moment is when Dustin juxtaposes "Sexyback" with Ligeti, to great effect. It's a perfect example of the connections a loose filter helps you make.


So just how formulaic IS pop country, anyway?

Every time conversations about musical taste and listening preferences happen around me, it's a fun and lively conversation, with people sharing all sorts of interesting and eclectic affections (it's the internet age, after all). But one caveat is almost universal, and I bet many of you have heard some version of this more than once:

"Oh I listen to almost anything, I like all kinds of music....except COUNTRY. Ugh."

(Sometimes "rap" is added to that, but far less often since I've lived in California. Californians love us some hip hop.)

This is always amusing to me, because I detest pop country, too--but not because I don't enjoy the style or the tradition. Some great Johnny Cash or Hank Williams or Patsy Cline is wonderful, and I looove neo-bluegrass bands like the Punch Brothers, but the current, mainstream manifestation of the style has, for years now, seemed really shallow and repetitive.

And now I know it's not just me. In the hilarious mash-up below, Youtube user Sir Mashalot combines SIX big recent pop country songs (#1 songs from 2012, 2013, and 2014, along with three big 2014 hits) to demonstrate just how formulaic things have become in this style. Scathingly revealing, and beautifully done:


Now, if someone would do this with all these Max Martin pop hits we keep hearing.....

Some of the best new music for your listening pleasure

One of the questions I'm most often asked as a musician is, where do you find good new music to listen to? The tricky part of that question is, of course, the "good" part--it's easy to find new stuff, but who has time to sort through all the mediocre-to-bad stuff to find what's worthwhile?

Fortunately, some folks are consistently seeking in their listening, and they help the rest of us by acting as pre-screeners. You can find these year-end, best-of lists all over the place currently, but I wanted to share just two I found quite worthwhile.

First is Q2 Music's 2014 New Music Countdown. Q2 (WQXR on the radio) teamed with NPR Classical to poll listeners on the 100 greatest composed concert works of the past 100 years. Many favorites are of course missing (only 100??) but this is a pretty darn good list, especially if you may be intrigued by more contemporary concert music but have no idea where to start.  

Second is a question on the always-terrific AskMetafilter: Can you point me towards some 2014 'best-of' musical playlists? So many great answers, many linked to Spotify playlists, so your gratification can be appropriately immediate. These answers center around songs and popular musical styles, and it's terrific to have some help in finding what's good. (Especially when one considers Sturgeon's Law.)

Bonus link, from this past summer: four young songwriters you should be listening to.