We all like music. Okay, there are some people that say they don't. But even then, everyone at least has one song that makes them bop around a bit.
These days I rely on Phoenix radio and live shows to fill that need. Three out of my five pre-set car stations are Spanish-languagemusic, the other two are NPR and a mainstream rap station. The live shows vary thanks to a lively local scene (...thank god, right? Phoenix had to have at least one thing going for it).
Before living in various Central American countries and the Southwest I lived near Boston, MA. Being a 'college city' with proximity to NYC plenty of bands tour through that area, so as a youth I was able to go to a fair amount of shows. Since we all thought we were Lester Bangs my friends and I were all functionally obsessed with music magazines, music blogs, music websites, and record stores. We were friends with local musicians and all had songs picked out that we would cover, if given the chance (mine was 'Supply and Demand' by The Hives...I was a teen during the Swedish Invasion, okay??). Too bad we played the trumpet, flute, and violin amongst us. Okay, one of my friends also played guitar and we were all too overextended to start a band so we settled for a bureau of music critics instead.
As such, we all cultivated our own distinct tastes. The bands we chose to populate our carefully-crafted mix cds needed to have something they brought to the table, be it nostalgia, coolness, or up-and-coming status. Even though the days of taping good record reviews of the new Moby album on my bedroom wall have passed I still explore music with a collector's perspective that was cultivated all those years ago. Then as now, it is and was important to have a bit of an edge in terms of musical tastes.
That is, when naming a short list of bands you like in response to the question 'What do you listen to?', say two that people will know and three you think they won't. If they know all five then either you will become instant friends or they will think they are more cool than you. The point of the two known-three unknown is not to be snobby. It is, instead, to give people an in to other bands that may spark their interest. One of the bands they don't know might be their favorite band ever and all it took was a simple mention. Word of mouth is powerful, and it is how I found out about some playlist giants like The Who, Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Daft Punk, Dinosaur Jr, Kanye West...the list could continue indefinitely.
You may be reading this and scoffing, like, 'Oh come on Mackenzie, everyone knows about insert famous band here'. But think about it for a second more and you will realize that simply doesn't make sense. Like the alphabet or basic mathematics, we have to learn about music exploration from somewhere.
In the spirit of this, here is a list of my top 5 bands-that-might-be-your-new-favorite. In no particular order...
1. Azure Ray.
Haunting is probably a word that EVERYONE EVER has used to describe this band. From Conor Oberst's Saddle Creek label this duo of singing ladies are still making music together. The lyrics weave around the subtle strings to suggestively populate active imaginations with images of red wine, torn lace, and wild ponies in the rain. Fabulous.
2. Dan Deacon.
Known for his kick-ass live shows this DIY king creates mellifluous electronic phrases that scream lollipops into your ears. Each album increases in technological prowess and depth of significance. In the end we are all came out of the same primordial stew, and last time I checked Mr. Deacon freely mixed albums while performing live---possibly to illustrate this exact point.
This Phoenix band of young-at-heart rascals breaks the mold if only because, unlike other bands (::cough::Phish::cough::) with talented players, the more instruments they add the better they sound. Throw a genre at these people and you will be pleased with what comes out of their music machine. Notable tracks are an Ella Fitzgerald cover, 'When I Get Low I Get High', and an aptly titled instrumental, 'Zombie Maker'.
4. Hop Along.
This is like two recommendations in one. Hop Along used to be one woman, then called Hopalong Queen Ansleis. The centerpiece of this music was her innate ability for such melodies that would make you stop conversation and feel especially pleased to possess a sense of hearing. Yes, she is that good. Now she has added two dudes and some scratchy rock guitar. I dig it, way to evolve. Philly-based and about to play some tour dates along the East coast, so get with 'em.
Distancing themselves---or possibly just organically developing---from the previously oft-cited connection to the late and great Elliot Smith this foursome plays a perfect example of 'indie-rock'. The meshing of each instrument's part fits together ivory puzzle ball-style. Pair this with thoughtful lyrics and you get a sound that is solid with frills in all the right places.
Click on the links and give these fine folks a listen. It only takes a few minutes and you can only learn a little bit more about yourself and the world around you. There is basically no risk involved, and how often does an offer like that come around?