It’s the curse of plenty. When collecting tends towards hoarding, choice becomes a real problem. And that has been happening to me. The rate at which I’m amassing music—courtesy the scores of feeds from mp3 blogs that I subscribe to and the huge number of podcasts that unfailingly land in my iTunes each week—is far higher than the rate at which I can listen to them all. Some weeks back, a reader and occasional admonisher, Sanjay Ghosh, while commenting on the web version of this column, observed how when you have hundreds of albums, your attention per album gets really small. I couldn’t agree more.
What is more, as your collection grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to be able to choose a playlist or albums to listen to. I’ve tried the shuffle function on my iPods and, as I’ve mentioned before, it is not satisfying—songs pop up fairly randomly and there’s no guarantee that you’re going to listen to that The Whigs’ album (In The Dark)) that you bought online a month back but hadn’t heard. Or The Magnetic Fields’ 1999 album, 69 Love Songs, all 69 tracks of which you always resolved to listen to but never really did.
So, is there a solution to get to listen to more of your ever growing music collection? I hit upon one such way when I heard a podcast by a guest DJ. If you chance upon a great musician or a band even that guests on a podcast or radio programme, choosing the music they love or are influenced by, you are likely not only to discover a host of new music but also get to listen to stuff you had but didn’t get around hearing. I had such an experience last week. On a podcast where Icelandic minimalist post-rockband Sigur Ros’s frontman Jon “Jonsi” Birgisson sat in and
chose the playlist, I discovered surprising things. Besides albums that I had and hadn’t bothered to call up on the mp3 player or dust off the CD and slide it into the music system, I was taken aback by the kind of music that Jonsi had been influenced by.
Sigur Ros play melodic, yet minimalist music, often ethereal and other-worldly. But Jonsi began the set of tracks from his favourite artists with, surprise, British heavy metal band, Iron Maiden. He played Murders in the Rue Morgue from their 1981 album Killers. Very different, you would agree, from Sigur Ros’s own fare or Jonsi’s latest solo project, Go, on which he sings in his trademark falsetto and, for the first time, in English. That was followed by a gem, Moon River, sung by the actress Audrey Hepburn and featured in her film Breaksfast at Tiffany’s. He then chose Billie Holiday’s All of Me from an anthology (Lady Day: The Best of Billie Holiday) that I have but haven’t heard in years. The host of the show also played two excellent tracks from Jonsi’s Go but these were interspersed with more choices from the guest: the late 19th century castrato singer Alessandro Moreschi’s Ave Maria and gypsy guitar genius, Django Reinhardt’s Dinah, again from a collection.
From heavy metal to a castrato singer, via Billie Holiday and Django Reinhardt makes for a truly eclectic playlist and probably explains why Sigur Ros’s music is so full of appeal yet so difficult to categorise.
Podcasts, whether guest DJ-ed by musicians or by regular DJs are often a good way to keep track of and listen to music that you may have buried in some storage disk but have not had the time or energy to ferret out. The best part is that you can pick and choose podcasts. For the best selection every week of jam-heavy rock music, I go to Keller’s Cellar (a podcast done by multi-instrumentalist, Keller Williams, who plays from his own collection); for new and independent blues music I prefer The Roadhouse Podcast (hosted by Tony Steidler-Dennison), which showcases not only well-known blues musicians but also unexpected new ones, and for some fun I listen to The Contrast Podcast (where a bunch of mp3 bloggers collaborate and contribute tracks around a weekly theme).
How do they help me go back to the music I have stored but not listened to? It works this way for me: I hear a track by and artist or from an album that I have on a podcast and that usually prompts me to search for the entire album from my collection and give it a spin. It’s a bit like what The Beatles sang, a little help from friends.
Three to Tango:
- Band of Horses: A new video from the indie band whose new album Infinite Arms comes out in May
- The National: Check out this song, Bloodbuzz Ohio, from this great band’s new album, High Violet, expected in May.
- Ponys: Heard this Chicago garage band? Check out Check The Door.