Thursday, September 03, 2009

www 25 Good to Great Music Websites com

In the second installment of Music Month madness, we're providing you an appendix-like list of all kinds of music resources on the web. (By appendix-like, I meant the document kind, not the anatomical variety, though you may find you can live without this list just as much.)

The path to enjoyable listening is no longer via reading Rolling Stone and listening to K-94 or WNOR FM99. It's not watching videos on MTV or Friday Night Videos. It's not even going to iTunes and seeing what Cameron Diaz put on her celebrity playlist. Really digging deeper requires a modicum of effort . . . but really, we've done the heavy lifting here, so simply enter these links as bookmarks, sit back, and let the music play, as Shannon once sang.


25 Good to Great Music Websites


To Listen to Music:


Pandora Radio
Most are familiar with this clever site by now. You tell Pandora what kind of music you like, and she opens up her box and creates something of a radio station based on your input. In addition to what you already dig, you'll hear suggestions for similar-sounding material. You have to register with the site, and I think there may be limits to what you can get for free, but it's a very cool concept.

NPR's "All Songs Considered"
Yes, NPR. Their music branch is tip-top; their knowledge and access where new, unheralded rock and roll is concerned is impressive. The site has video and audio clips of live shows, interviews and reviews, and lots of solid recommendations. The Podcast, so long as you can endure Bob Boilen's unique voice, always has clips of the new and out of the mainstream. They've got a good thing going over there in public radio.

WXPN
This Philly station's site is among the best internet radio sites that's actually on the FM dial. "Eclectic" is a term that's frequently overused these days, but it fits their "format," if you have to have a format. (Channeling Clark Griswold again.) In the last few hours they've played The Allmans, Modest Mouse, live Cure, The Monkees, Rhett Miller, Fine Young Cannibals, Elvis, Beatles, & the Rolling Stones (much to 1977 Joe Strummer's chagrin), Slade, Beck, Wilco, and UB40. And always lots of Springsteen, natch. And it goes on -- check out the "Playlists" link to see everything they've played of late. It's akin to putting my 160GBer on shuffle, except without the Random Idiots and other crap. XPN also has periodic contests and giveaways during fund drives; their excellence makes them very little money, as usual. Give it a listen.

KEXP
Out on the left coast, things get a little more fringe-y. Whereas WXPN prides itself on the aforementioned eclecticism, KEXP's focus is music off the radar. That could mean erstwhile alt-country acts that Rob and I have been touting for some time (Wilco, Old 97's), 80's alternative stuff, obscure album tracks from Ziggy Stardust or Highway 61 Revisited, or the best new music you'll only hear down in the lowest numbers of your radio dial -- or probably not at all. This morning there's been some Elliott Smith, Wilco, Yo La Tengo, Waterboys, The Hold Steady, Radiohead, Psychedelic Furs, Cat Power, New Order, and a whole lot of acts even Rob and I have never heard of. For me, it's a bit of mining for gold there, as they won't all please the ears but when you come across a good one, it's a keeper.

YouTube
Have you guys heard about this YouTube site?? You can post videos there! Yeah, okay, all G:TB readers are painfully familiar with what's been called "YouTJube," but the reason it's included here is that there is a wealth of live music on there. If you like a band and the 30-second morsel iTunes feeds you doesn't give you enough of a feel for it, there's every chance there's a live or studio version of it on YouTube. Or the actual video. Or the audio track of the song set to a video of some guy shoving a kzoo up his nostril at an Arby's drive-thru.

blip.fm
Take what I said about YouTube and add it here, except for one major addition. At blip.fm, you have your own radio/video station that people "follow" a la Twitter. You search for songs -- and, added by users, there are millions -- and "blip" them, so they pop up for those folks following you to click on and listen. (You can synch it with your Twitter account as well, enabling your Twitter followers to see/hear your recommendations too.) It's a great place to find and hear a tune you might like, and it's a great forum for hearing recommended music in its entirety.


To Read About Music:

On the CD Front
Pause and Play's On the CD Front has a comprehensive list of all of the new releases and re-issues coming out on a Tuesday-to-Tuesday basis. Get the heads-up on who's putting out what in months to come. They also include music-related DVD's and books as well. It's simple to scan through and notice that you should start saving your pennies for that new Stryper Greatest Hits (Mark). Pause and Play -- the main part of the site -- has plenty of good reading as well.

The All-Music Guide
Speaking of comprehensive, the All-Music Guide is an enormously voluminous library of reviews of rock and roll music. (And classical, but let's not go down that road.) The team of writers gauge everything from New Riders of the Purple Sage to the New York Dolls to New Order to New Potato Caboose to New Edition to the New Birth Brass Band to the New Pornographers on their 5-star rating scale. They aren't always in synch with my tastes, but 4 ½ times out of 5 they are. It's my first stop to learn more most every time.

Pitchfork
Pitchfork goes beyond the music reviews [which it has a-plenty, and on a full 10-point (with decimals) scale], providing the latest music news, interviews, and tour headlines. They even have their own music festival. Pitchfork strays towards the indie bands but still makes time for some major label work. That said, find the new Rod Stewart record review elsewhere (TR). The 'fork can be a bit aloof and rock snobbish at times, but hey, who isn't?

Paste Magazine online
In the 80's, I subscribed to Rolling Stone. It was, and in some pale shadowy way, still is the gold standard. (Do not pay for it now.) In the 90's and early 2000's, it was CMJ Music Monthly magazine. A very good publication, it came with a sampler CD and positive reviews of nearly everyone they covered. (Leading me to invest in acts that weren't stellar; Fastball and Louis XIV come to mind.) Nowadays I swear by Paste magazine. It's a very grass rootsy publication based outside Atlanta -- so grass rootsy that they had to launch a campaign to raise enough money this spring to keep from folding up its tents. Their site equals the print edition plus -- they have very good reviews, good articles, rare downloads, and a bit of fluff. My only complaint is that they occasionally fall into the trap of widening their scope beyond music; The 17 Best Romantic Comedies of This Decade was mildly interesting (to TJ), but out of place, so says I. Anyway, Paste is head, shoulders, midriff, and pelvic region above RS these days, so if you're looking to spend a few bucks on a music mag, this is the one.

Metacritic
Reviews, reviews, reviews. From David Fricke at RS to user "bongioviwater69" on a random music message board, everyone's got an opinion and there are more avenues to share them. So how does one reach the plateau of enlightenment to find out if U2's latest work is revelatory rock or retread rubbish? (As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle on that one.) Why not take a sampling of the most respected (Spin Magazine notwithstanding, heh heh heh) reviewers and take the average rating? Metacritic does exactly that, compiling scores and even including snippets from each review. It's your one-stop shopping for music critiques. A little bit Wal-Mart for an industry whose best representatives are desperately clinging to Mom & Pop virtue, but hey, the economy's tough. Why would you want to buy an album based one one review when you can see the gamut?

musical-musings
And in the far, musty, dusty corner of the blogosphere, we have a well-crafted, clever-not-snarky, and dare I say brilliant blog of music writing. And defunct for years. And it's mostly comprised of G:TB writers. So this entire mention is self-serving and pointless. But go check it out if you're truly bored.


To Buy Music:

iTunes
Heard of it? Okay, no details needed, but it's still a work of genius by the Appleheads. At the very least a point of reference.

Amazon
Heard of it? It lags behind in its ubiquitous association with music downloads, but as TR points out, you get the same songs as iTunes without the format restrictions. Of course, iTunes has now made it possible to convert their protected downloads to mp3 at the click of a button, but it's an extra step you don't have to do with Amazon.

eMusic
For anywhere between $6.49 and $30.99 a month you'll receive between 12 and 75 unprotected downloads from eMusic. Once an independent-label vehicle only, you used to get more for less, but once they acquired Sony's catalog, you can guess what happened. Still, beyond the Sony/Columbia/Epic titles, there are thousands of titles by lesser-known acts whose work can be yours for between 41 and 54 cents a track. Sorry for all the math.

SecondSpin.com
Don't mind used? Don't have a hang-up about squeezing the artist out of the pecuniary equation? Go to SecondSpin. As we've mentioned before on this forum, there are times and places where it's been deemed morally acceptable to download music for free. Same with used CD's. If they're small time or friends of friends, maybe find a way to get them some of your monies (including going to see them). If it's Houses of the Holy you want, go to SecondSpin. Plant, Page, & JPJ will be just fine. CD's are anywhere from $1.99 (for the dreck or super-indie) to $8.99 for the premier single disc-ers. Uncovering out-of-print stuff is a nice bonus, too.


To Learn Music:

The Internet
Seriously. You want to know the lyrics to a certain song? Any song that ever appeared on a CD (just about)? Enter song lyrics clash guns of brixton (or whatever the song happens to be) in any search engine and see the plethora of results. azlyrics.com, sing365.com, lyricsfreak, lyricsdepot, etc. None that I have seen rises above the rest. In fact, they all seem to have copied off each other (with a few erroneous exceptions). You'll get a pop-up window or two, but you'll get the lyrics. And it goes "Philomath is where I go by dawn" in case you were wondering.

OLGA's descendents

In the beginning, for guitar tablature, there was only OLGA: the OnLine Guitar Archive. She was helpful beyond all 1997 expectations. Somewhere in the decade or so that passed, however, OLGA faded into the ether thanks to "lawyers," and a hundred other guitar tab sites popped up. Her progeny runs just like the lyrics sites above. Enter guitar tabs stairway to heaven in any search engine, you got it.

The Covers Project
I wasn't sure how to categorize this one, and you might consider this site extraneous; I consider it fun. It's a site dedicated to cover tunes; simply enter a band or song, and a wealth of returns appear. If you are doing your dissertation on the quest for the best all-time cover of "Johnny B. Goode," well, then, by all means, go see The Covers Project.

BandtoBand
Looking for even more light-hearted music fun? Did you enjoy the 90's fun game "The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon"? Come on down to Band to Band! Here's the concept: The family of rock and roll is not unlike that of rural Alabama; everyone's kin in some way or other. (And yes, I have family in southern AL.) Pick a pair of bands and see how few jumps it takes to connect them via collaboration in some way. Beastie Boys and The Beatles are next to each other in the record bin, but it takes 6 jumps (including one via the Traveling Wilburys, which is always nice) to connect them in this game. Mindless fun, and more instances of marveling at the effort someone put in.


To Go See Music:

Pollstar
We used to listen to radio stations, read the paper, and wait to be told by more knowledgeable people when bands were coming to town. Now it's easy. Pollstar was the early leader in websites tracking tour information, and it's still the one I check first. Search by city, venue, or band. Like many sites on this list, it's addictive.

JamBase
See above. JamBase I liked as an alternative to Pollstar because you could customize it a bit more, adding in your favorite bands and having it e-mail you when they were coming to your town. But it's mostly the same, and it's good.

Tourfilter
A Zoltan recommendation, I like this one because it strips away the fluff and gives you the meat you want minus the filler on the page. I don't need a picture of the Drive-By Truckers, I just want to know when they're coming back to VA. And Tourfilter spells it out pretty plainly. Again, however, the material is largely the same as above -- except that with Tourfilter, you need to live in one of its 80 cities. I do. These days, even Facebook's iLike feature can notify you when your faves are hitting your hometown. No excuses for missing a show now, lads & lasses.

StubHub
Okay, so let me reiterate a monotonous theme: there are others that do this as well, I just like the one I mention the best. StubHub has gotten me playoff Mets tickets (eons agon, dammit), but it's gotten me Wilco in New Orleans and Brooklyn, U2 in Charlottesville, and . . . yes, fine . . . Morrissey in Norfolk. Yep, you'll usually pay a little more than face value. But won't you do so gladly if it's not exorbitant and your alternative is sitting home and hearing about it later? Love this technological advancement.


To Learn More About the Artist:

Official Artist Sites
Okay, there are countless good to great official websites by rock and rollers. I don't have the time or patience to do your work for you. If one is particularly good, comment on it or e-mail me and we can add it here. (That rule applies to this entire post.)

Wilco: Tour dates are a staples of artist sites, but few let you listen to entire shows from a few days ago.
Wilco (not official but close): Want to see somethign impressive? Go look at every setlist from every show Wilco has ever done. Ever. Starting in 1994, up through last week. It's "wow" if you have mild interest in the band, and a serious time-eater if you are a longtime fan.
Dave Matthews Band: Say what you will about DMB's "overvalued" status (as a friend put it). The site is impressive. Buy mp3's of a boatload of shows. Yeah, that makes it commercial, but availability is pretty cool.


That should give you something to do this afternoon . . . besides checking back here every 10 minutes for comment brilliance, it goes without saying.


16 comments:

rob said...

that's impressive. also, footbaw!

Mark said...

FOOOTBAW!!!

I've got tomorrow off and I'm legitimately pumped for tonight's Boise State - Oregon matchup.

Jerry said...

I salute you for writing all of that. I'm not likely to read it, but I do respect it.

Looking forward to Sparky's breakdown of how the Gators match up with ChSo.

This Boise game is going to be good, late, and long.

Mark said...

This game should be over. NC State is trying to give it away in an impressive array of ways.

Here's my writeup on Carleston Southern-Florida:

I'll be there. I'll be drunk. I'll be in a bar by halftime. Florida won't cover. John Brantley throws 3 tds. I think that about covers it.

Mark said...

Hell of a catch Moe.

Jerry said...

Moe, Moe, Moe...how do you like me...nobody likes me.

Jerry said...

One thing about a home run hitter...they hit home runs.

Mark said...

I wish that guy was announcing this Boise St.-Oregon game. And that's only partially because I hate Mark Jones.

Mark said...

I like everything about Oregon's unis but the feathers.

Mark said...

This game would be great, if somebody could snap the fucking ball.

Mark said...

0-0 in the second quarter...didn't see that coming.

zoltan said...

wers.org is worthwile too.

Mark said...

Boise State is dominating and I've started the season with a loss.

Moral of the Story: Never trust a guy named Chip.

Jerry said...

Credit to Bob Davie for saying that he didn't think Boise could compete at the elite level in a top conference. Announcers never say stuff like that.

TJ said...

I enjoyed the Oregon RB punching that Boise dude in the face after the game. Classy stuff.

Trott said...

BandToBand is cool. You might want to check out Music Routes. Similar concept, but based on performers on a track, rather than band members on an album.

There, Beastie Boys to the Beatles is only 4 steps rather than 6 thanks to Paul McCartney guesting on an Elvis Costello song and Mike D appearing on a Mike Watt song. It also often (though not always) has links to play songs in the routes, so if you see something that looks like it might be cool or weird, you can check it out.

(Disclaimer: I built the site.)