Monday, May 08, 2006

How do you discover new music?

When I was a young whippersnapper I was so on top of the music scene I knew about bands before they even formed. Really. I was sick of many bands’ music before they even recorded an “album.” I think it had something to do with quantum mechanics—that or all the free time I used to enjoy. Music just seemed to swirl around me, an ether of sound that connected my three-pound universe to the rest of creation. Or so it felt when I was 16.

Now catching up on the latest bands requires work, an unavoidable byproduct of growing older, I assume, but I have discovered a shortcut: stores.

About a year ago I was in some girls’ clothing store in Coolidge Corner with my then girlfriend. I staked out a seat near the window and went into my usual daze while she tried on jeans that all looked the same. After a while I realized I liked the song I heard playing. It was synth-driven, but it had a good attitude, a singer with a sneer and a few punchy guitars here and there. I liked the next song, too, which was obviously by the same group. I went over to the girl behind the counter and asked her who was playing. “They’re called Kasabian,” she said. “They’re from England.” A new discovery.

Another time I found myself dazed in some crafts store in Cambridge, and sure enough, I realized I loved the songs I was hearing. “The group is called Tegan and Sarah,” the girl behind the register told me. “They’re sisters from Canada.” Sisters? From Canada? Sold.

I’m not sure how unhip it is to discover new music in retail outlets, but I love both of those bands. So the next time you’re shopping or waiting for someone to finish, keep your ears open.


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