Essential Criticism

Cole has taken our nostalgic reflection on pop music into new realms.  Great post.

So I move into this next installment a bit like a warm-up band that showed up late. And my sense of feeling warmed over is connected to what Cole and Matt address in their recent commentaries—that we find our love of pop music through friends and social networks we develop when we are young, as teenagers and college students.

I make this observation at just about 54 years of age, fully aware that my guitar hero days are behind me. But I still love the music, continue to crank it up on my iPod when I am at the gym (despite the hearing loss I’ve already endured), and look forward to our Friday afternoon show on WRMC. One of the benefits of the WRMC gig is (as it always has been) is the ready access to new music. However, the music in a college radio station is of a certain variety, and to get beyond what’s on the shelf—whether it be indie, hip-hop, electronica, or whatever—you have to look elsewhere.

So where do you go?  I mention three sources below, but want to encourage readers to chip in with suggestions, because I know how limited this list is.

1) Metacritic

I am a huge fan of Metacritic, and have been for several years. It assigns a grade to new music (and films, tv shows, and video games), based on an average of ratings given to published reviews of just released albums. For me, this is the best of both worlds: you get the general (meta) assessment, plus you can drill down for specific reviews of a given album.  The range of music on the site is impressive, and recently they’ve taken to highlighting the best albums of the month. I’ve also used their database to load my Netflix queue with all those great films I would never knew about if not for Metacritic.

2) The New York Times Popcast

This downloads to my iTunes account every week (you can subscribe, and it’s free), and includes conversations with Times reporters about the latest music. You get reviews, interviews, and the occasional music performance. I enjoy the critical discussion—how does one talk and write critically about pop music?—and I have picked up some great suggestions from listening to it. Plenty of variety and always informative.

3) Paste Magazine

This online magazine is pure pop, and the site speaks for itself. Lots of reviews, lists, and other good stuff (not just music).  Thanks to Matt for suggesting it a couple years ago.

1 thought on “Essential Criticism

  1. Cole Odell

    While I cop to getting lots of my music reviews and news about bands from the usual online suspects, namely Pitchfork and Stereogum, (and I also love Metacritic, especially their best of the year lists)

    However, I’m finding that these days, I’m also getting to new and undiscovered older music without the help of traditional critical gatekeepers. I occasionally stop by music blog aggregator sites like that tend to be on the leading edge of what’s buzzy, and provide easy links to free (and increasingly legally released by the bands and labels) mp3s & videos. During the couple of months that I was enamored with, fellow fans played me a bunch of great stuff I hadn’t heard.

    But the source that has exposed me to the most and widest variety of music lately is the Related Artists linking function in Spotify. From any selected artist, you can almost instantly listen to what seems like an infinitely branching tree of connected musicians. It’s an incredible tool–I’ll expand on my thoughts about Spotify in a future post.

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