May 30, 2007

Curious George: music recommendations by genre: Is there a good site to ask real people for music recommendations, or might I pick the brains of monkeyfilter? I have been wanting to stretch out my listening lately, but I'm disatisfied with many of the usual community-music recommending sites.

Maybe I'm just being close-minded/arrogant, but I haven't really listened to music on the radio for about 15 years and the sorts of music that I'm interested in finding isn't so likely to appear on many of the sites. I also know nothing of how kids these days label "genres" (I feel so old on many of the sites, though I know that at least some of the users are my age, it's just that they are/were always much cooler in the music sense). At the instigation of a friend, I've joined, and it doesn't recognise a lot of my music, and I can't really query it like I would people. I've tried searching or googling, but really what I would like to find are recommendations for specific bands/artists from my vague "I feel like listening to this" questions. Also I don't like the 30 sec samples they have - I used to play around on before it went bust, and I liked listening to whole songs by bands that way. What I'm looking for changes all the time, as my mood shifts. What I'm curious about this week is a) good Arabic/Persian/Urdu/Indian pop or traditional or fusion music. I like Rachid Taha, and the music from Chinese Turkestan that was linked here a while ago. (Yes, I realise Indian is quite different, but I like that as well as Middle-Eastern/North African and Central Asian music). b) traditional soulful gospel. I tried googling "gospel" and found lots of Christian songs, but I would like to know who to listen to as a kind of ur-southern gospel music. c) bubble-gum Japanese pop, preferrably in Japanese so I don't have to know if the lyrics are inane or not. I like the speed of parapara (likened by others to a hummingbird's heartbeat), but I was thinking something along the lines of slightly more lyrical, happy Japanese pop. Mp3 blog recommendations are very welcome too.

  • This is a very good reference for finding artists who are similar to artists you already know. It also provides complete discographies and song lists. (They have only the 30-second samples, however.) Just do a search on some of your favorite artists and you can spend hours in there.
  • Not so much a community, but check out Sound Fix Records in Williamsburg (site doesn't seem to be working right now, or I'd link it). They have a weekly newsletter which features great reviews*, and more importantly, little clips from a couple songs from each album. Being an Uberhip Store (is Williamsburg still teh hawt?), they pride themselves on the most recent and the most obscure. In that way, you get exposed to a lot of stuff you wouldn't ordinarily. A lot of it is hit and miss, frankly, but it's all stuff from off the beaten path. Not that you need to buy, but it gives you a good idea of what's out there, without really knowing what you're looking for. *Of course, being hipsters, they love everything new, and it's always the Next Big Thing, even if it's not all that great. And they have this annoying habit of referencing other bands who are just as obscure as though you should obviously know what they're talking about. But their enthusiasm is hard to resist.
  • Ooh, that allmusic looks good, and a little easier to navigate than Thanks, Koko. Hmmm...hipsters? I should keep my mind open, but would they kick me off their mailing list if they knew how much Muppet Music I have (and love)?
  • They're too self-involved to notice.
  • Motorhead is all you need.
  • What's with the hipster hatred? What's wrong with being interested with what's new? What's wrong with a little self-indulgence? Hipsters are O.K. by me, as far as I see it. If I wasn't so loner and fragmented in nature, I might be one. I too yearn for good things and new things in music (and culture). There's something distinctively satisfying about discovering something earthshatteringly beautiful that sounds unlike anything you've heard before. It's a high, for example when I gave JUSTICE's Waters of the Nazareth EP a spin. Just when I'd given up all hope for non-downtempo electronica, here comes this exciting new jolt down my spine. I felt the same way when I discovered The Meters, The Roots (from whom I discovered the wonderful Jill Scott), and Neutral Milk Hotel. I don't want to stop feeling that excitement, knowing each next album I discover could send the same shiver down my spine. And shit, if you're going to be passionate about something, it feels good to be up to date. Maybe I'm just a philistine because I can't give Beethoven's Fifth another spin and learn anything new from it, but that's my take on things. jb: If your music is in MP3 form, you might have to tag the music with artist/song title for to pick up on it. You can click to see who else listens to that album, then you could send them a shout to get a personal recommendation from them. I welcome you to add me on (DumberThanPaint) because frankly I'm interested in the fruits of your exploration. I might make some recommendations from my personal taste, that being Talvin Singh's O.K., a great album which fuses traditional Indian instruments with electronic music (specifically drum n' bass). Natascha Atlas is also interesting, combining electronic (dance) with middle eastern sensibilities, the track Gafsa is haunting beyond compare.
  • Oh and: Kudos to Koko to sending me back to I might find something nice and tasty looking at all the subgenres of the "world" category!
  • I listen to for my Iranian music. Can't tell you more specifics, but it's nice. I use, too. It's only US these days. I don't know how well it will work for your broader musical tastes. You want bluegrass, right? wants me to listen to bluegrass. All the time. Bleakest song on Year Zero? Followed by bluegrass. Just listened to some fantastic thrash metal? Have some bluegrass. It keeps trying to broaden my musical tastes, which is fine, but there is a time and place for it, and it is not on that station.
  • Kudos back to DumberThanPaint for suggesting Talvin Singh and Natascha Atlas, whom I will be checking out once I'm on a computer with sound ...
  • i dont know much about Urdu pop or Gospel, but two Japanese bubblegum bands I can recommend unabashedly are Cibo Matto and Pizzicato Five. They sing in Japanese sometimes, but mostly in heavily accented, difficult to understand English. Cibo Matto also had Sean Lennon (spawn of John'n'Yoko) playing bass for them for a while.... btw, was bought by CBS today.
  • Rachid Taha's cover of "Rock the Casbah" is great... and perfect for puzzling audiences. For when I want to unclog my musical ducts from the usual CDs/MP3s, I check iTune's Radio Tuner. Lots of genres to browse, and sometimes do find tracks from artists that I've only found before by chance or sent by friends.
  • bubble-gum Japanese pop I listen to a lot of Japenese music. is a decent bittorrent site. Pizzicato Five are absolutely stupendous, but sadly long defunct. I would recommend: Halcali (rap/hiphop female duo), Puffy (a/k/a Puffy Amiyumi, female pop duo), Supercar (defunct, but good, electronica), Aiko (strong female vocalist), Tsuji Ayano (folky alt-pop female vocalist/songwriter), The Blue Hearts (defunct Ramones-ish punk), Kaela Kimura (interesting rock/pop), Ai Otsuka (very girly pop, highly talented voice, silly lyrics), The Scanty (a favorite punkish girl foursome), Shiina Ringo (jazzy), Ua (also jazzy), Judy and Mary (some great punkish rock, defunct, but the lead female vocalist has gone on to do some great solo stuff as: Yuki), and lastly, The Brilliant Green (alt-rock), and the solo work of the Brilliant Green's female vocalist : Tomoko Kawase as Tommy February6/Tommy Heavenly 6 (the Feb6 stuff is an awesome send up of the Jpop style, and the Heavenly6 does the same for Jrock). You can also look up some of these bands on youtube. Sometimes their videos are more fun than just the music. Like Halcali's video for "Strawberry Chips", where they are dancing in Christmas tree costumes, it's just beautiful weirdness, even though their singing talent is average. I could go on, but I better stop here ...
  • If we're talking Japanese Bubblegum pop sung in English, how can we forget Deerhoof (now this is going to be something you love or loathe, experimental rock), Shonen Knife (pop-punk), and The 5-6-7-8's of Kill Bill fame (rockabilly)?
  • It's not my usual taste at all, but I love the prison spirituals that I've downloaded from eMusic. For example, search for Angola Prison Spirituals. Bare, beautiful, music.
  • Prussian Blue is all you'll ever need....
  • I was also going to recommend The Brilliant Green / Tommy Heavenly6 / Tommy February6, in Japanese pop terms. Usually tuneful and catchy. Mika Nakashima is a pop diva worth checking out. Utada Hikare - whose name I may have just murdered - is also pretty good. Peelander-Z isn't a bubblegum band; it seems to be a comedy punk band, as far as I can tell, but it can be pretty amusing. There are some not-online ways to check out Japanese music - if you have Anime Network or its On Demand channel on cable, there's something called Bento Beat Box that shows Japanese videos. I think they have also started running PopJapanTV, which used to be shown mostly on AZN in the US, and which seems to be a showcase for Sony artists. They cover artists like Crystal Kay, who is sort of a biracial teen Janet Jackson wannabe, Orange Range, which seems to be melodic pop with some rap (try the song "Asterisk", which is one of the themes to the anime series Bleach), and T.M. Revolution. AZN also runs a couple of half-hour shows that deal with other pop from Asia (there is, particularly, some fun Thai pop), and occasionally run movies along those lines, too, like Kamikaze Girls. I find PuffyAmiyumi (really just called Puffy initially in Japan, but the name change clarified them from Sean Combs for Americans) screechingly irritating, and I don't know why. Deerhoof isn't a Japanese band, it's an American band with a Japanese singer (who is like the most adorable person to ever walk the earth, seriously... she does bunny ears on her head and hops around while singing a song that goes "Bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny!"). The newer stuff is more melodic, less experimental. They put on a nice show, albeit not a very long one. My fave Japanese band that is currently making music is L'Arc~en~Ciel, but they aren't bubblegum at all... they're more rock-pop, more along the lines of what someone who likes Muse or AFI would listen to if they were Japanese. I also like (defunct) Luna Sea, in which you will hear echoes of U2, The Cure, and others. Nana Kitade is another singer to check out; a young female pop-rocker. You can also get some Japanese music, not necessarily bubblegum, if you check out, which is a fan community for the manga/anime/movie series, NANA. Because NANA focuses on two rock bands, a lot of musicians have contributed tracks to tribute albums, there have been movie soundtracks (Mika Nakashima played the title role in the film version), there is an anime soundtrack, etc. People used to upload these sound files on a fairly regular basis, though I haven't checked recently to see what's up. You may need to be a community member to see those particular posts. Prussian Blue! The very best in racist neo-nazi pop. *rolleyes*
  • PS - indefatigably poppitty pop pop can be reliably had from the bands SMAP (sort of like the backstreet boys, only there are more of them) and GLAY.
  • PS again - Morning Musume is sort of similar to SMAP, only with girls in it. Lots of girls, who sometimes grow up to be TV stars or solo pop stars. I am not sure that Japanese music gets more bubblegum than this and SMAP.
  • JB, the fluctuating ratio of signal to noise (and high level of snark) can make it daunting to maneuver, but you can learn a lot and find a great deal of new music over at ILM; many professional music writers and hardcore fans congregate there. A quick search of a few select keywords through their archives should reveal long discussions on all three of your interests.
  • Wow, Anime network on cable. You mean there is a way to watch anime that doesn't involve finding some club and watching random episodes of whatever they feel like showing, taped from a tape of a tape of tape, and fan-subbed in lucious white on white? (There's a reason I've only ever seen the first four episodes of Evangelion, and that twice). This world just gets better and better.
  • jb: Have you ever played the Playstation 2 games Katamari Damacy and We <3 Katamari? Lots of cool J-pop stuff on there, if you can find the soundtracks. I'll send you a couple mp3s if you like
  • Yeah, there's an Anime Network, but not every cable or digital-satellite system gets it. We have Time Warner, and we don't get it, but we get the On Demand version. It's a category on a station called "Cutting Edge." What they're showing varies, but there are usually at least a few music videos and a couple dozen episodes of various shows running at the same time. Most of the anime shown on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim is also very good, and usually really recent. Those are on Saturday nights in the US, and late night during the week. They've shown Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Paranoia Agent, Fullmetal Alchemist (which starts seeming like something for kids and turns out to be about genocide), and Bleach (which starts as a supernatural action show, but eventually gets into politics and intrigue). InuYasha has gotten on my nerves, but even it has had some nice closing themes. AZN shows some anime, but the series they show are usually not so great nor necessarily recent, and they seem to show them sporadically. I think anime is relevant to discussions of Japanese pop primarily because the big pop bands of the moment are usually asked to provide theme music for the hottest new shows. You don't hear that much Japanese music in the US, outside of Japanese communities, so checking the credits of different popular anime series on Adult Swim and Anime Network can be an easy way to discover new music. Anime themes used to be kind of singsongy and bland, but that's changed. A lot of the themes these days are pretty catchy.
  • Because it wouldn't be a post from me without a PS, Adult Swim on Cartoon Network also showed the 5-episode cult fave FLCL, aka FuriKuri or FoolyCooly. That had an unbearably catchy closing theme, "Ride on Shooting Star" by the Pillows. They've been around since the 1980s and are supposedly kind of an indie-pop band, but that particular track may have the bubblegummy sound you're looking for. And definitely check out the stuff that forksclovetofu and Bone recommended! :)