Friday, June 28, 2013

30 Day Song Challenge (The Sequel), Day 28: A Song You Like By a Band/Artist You First Discovered in the Last Year

It's funny how the process of "discovering" an artist or band happens sometimes.  Nowadays, when almost every venue for purchasing or pirating music auto-recommends artists/bands to you, it's very easy to get caught in a self-reinforcing loop of your own tastes and, correspondingly, it's very difficult to just stumble upon something genuinely "new" to you.  That's especially true if you don't live in a music town or have the opportunity to go see random live shows by random, no-name artists/bands.  But, even if you do live in a music town and even if you are willing to risk the five- or ten-dollar cover charge it costs to see someone you've never heard of before, it's still the case that countless businesses, agents, and bar-shills have probably vetted that band in advance and filtered it through the industry-sieve that separates what you could hear from what they think you should hear.

Now, I consider my own commitment and devotion to genuinely good music to be above-average, though I've definitely restricted my listening over the years into a tighter and tighter area of defined taste.  Still, I'm always on the lookout for something new and I'm more than willing to go all-in for an artist or band that really knocks my headphones off.  As I get older, I'm probably less inclined to give a chance to genres that I've already decided I don't like (e.g., metal, experimental jazz, anything "Celtic") but, on the whole, I'd give almost anything a listen if someone whose music taste I respect recommends it to me.

That's the way it's always happened, right?  A friend tells a friend that OMG she heard a great band last night, and then her friend tells a friend, and then he tells another friend, and the next thing you know people are wearing the t-shirts and playing the tracks at a party and making a five-hour drive to catch a live show and voila! one day somebody plays one of their songs on the radio, and...

Sigh.  Unfortunately, it hardly every happens that way anymore.

But here's a story of how it did happen that way.  And I'm especially happy to report this story because it came about as a consequence of this very 30 Day Song Challenge.  One of my Facebook friends, Daniel O'Grady, mentioned a band that I had never heard of in the comment section of some exchange regarding this Challenge ( the details of which I can't for the life of me remember anymore) and, as a consequence, I looked them up, downloaded their album, and almost immediately "discovered" and fell in love with them.  The band is Sparklehorse, an American indie-rock band fronted by Mark Linkous, which made it into the music biz the old-fashioned way: via college radio.  Here's the title track off their 2001 album It's a Wonderful Life:

I "discovered" Sparklehorse on the recommendation of a friend.  Nothing really unusual about that.  But here's the thing: Daniel, in this story, is technically more an "acquaintance" than a "friend."  He's a Facebook friend, the partner of a colleague of mine.  I can count on less than four fingers how many times we've ever had a conversation.  Prior to this exchange, I knew absolutely zero about Daniel's music tastes.  But somehow, motivated by that magical seventh-sense that causes people to do these sorts of things, I decided that his recommendation was one to heed.  Partly that was because he initially described Sparklehorse using a couple of anecdotes ("the lead singer offed himself") and music-lovers' shibboleths ("neo-Southern") that registered with me,  partly that was because we share enough friends-in-common for me to make a educated presumption about his sonic good taste, partly that was because in the few times we had interacted I found his general aesthetic, disposition, comportment and affect to be trustworthy, and partly that was because...  I don't know, sometimes you just fundamentally intuit that people are good people. 

This time, the intuition paid off, which isn't always the case.  For what it's worth, I don't think "It's A Wonderful Life" is the best of Sparklehorse's songs, but it's the first one I heard, the one that hooked me.  And there's not a whole lot of story I can share here about Sparklehorse, having not been a fan for more than three weeks tops.  So, today anyway, this post is less about the song or the band than it is about the kinds of beautifully serendipitous interactions that we music-lovers have with one another-- the kinds that, quite often, happen before we're really friends and which, even more often, make friends out of the strangers among us.  I'm talking about-- and those of you who are music-lovers will know what I'm talking about-- those times when, whatever it is in music that manufactures community, works its alchemy.

Thanks, Daniel.

Nostalgic?  Check out my entry for Day 28 of the 2011 version of the 30 Day Song Challenge.

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