Music, a seemingly innocent topic of conversation can bring me a great deal of pain when headed down the wrong direction. We ended up talking about what we like, what we don’t like, what we’re excited about, and what came to be disappointing, but no matter where we are, it always comes back to that one person who always gives the rest of us the classic excuse, “There’s just nothing new that’s good.” This is typically the fan of anything up to the late 70’s, a huge proprietor of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, maybe Pink Floyd, and is a devout combatant to modern pop stars like Lady Gaga, Justin something, and perhaps Lorde if he’s really spiteful. This person accepts what he is familiar with and detests whatever he catches snippets of halfway through switching radio stations that sounds remotely recent. If you are this person, you have a lot to learn about music, and even more to learn about how to find it.
The reason why pop music is pop is because the majority of listeners match their tastes to the broadest generalization of sound designed to latch onto as many people as possible. Pop music is engineered specifically to be heard on radios, exposing specific higher frequencies to as many bystanders as possible, making the music much easier to hear from a distance or from a car radio speaker. The business of engineering pop music serves to extend itself, not the artist or even the listener. Hypothetically, if the general public decided one day that all of a sudden they happen to like black metal, then the music industry will produce a broad, generalized reimagination of black metal and promote the bejesus out of it. They do this mainly to remain relevant and financially viable, praying that people will hopefully pay money to their outdated business model, hoping to scrape the remaining curd out of a customer who could easily pay absolutely nothing through downloading for basically the same product, if not better. The music industry does not encompass 100% of the music listening community, merely the majority of casual listeners. If someone is truly interested in finding new and interesting music, they must look further than what can be heard accidentally and spend their time finding what can only be found intentionally.
It should be known that popular does not equal bad. If you think something is terrible because it is well known, then please stop. You are ruining music. If anything, popular music is what sorts out the garbage from the listenable garbage, because I guarantee you a large percentage of all music that has ever been made is obscure and most likely unfitting to the tastes of a single person. Pop music typically serves to produce simplistic backing to the working day of the average listener, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There have been pop music groups that only function by making music to that standard and succeed very well at doing it, and there’s nothing wrong with liking that kind of music. If it appeals to you, then there’s very little basis to argue against your personal tastes. However, there have also been popular music groups who initially set out to produce pop-standard tunes who later went on to expand into more interesting fields and record entirely new, more challenging forms of music. Some of them even abandoned their well-garnered acclamations for the sake of maintaining the inherent conviction to making music for the love of music itself.
Talk Talk, a synth pop group from the mid 1980’s, produced a few interesting hits, some of which were occasionally weighed down by a couple throwaways. But in 1988, they left out the dated synth flushes and quick-paced dance rhythms and out of nowhere, recorded the single greatest album of the decade, Spirit of Eden. Containing four songs (one of which lasting a little over 20 minutes), the album has absolutely no filler whatsoever. Every piece of sound is given true intention with the correct spatial placement between one another, the proper inflection of every pluck, breath, hit, and strum needed to elicit the appropriate reaction from the listener, the tasteful layering of instruments and swells upon each other so as not to unnecessarily bloat the composition past its space of comprehension yet to maintain the mystery of a discoverable sound every new listen, and not a single second of wasted time. Everything comes in when it needs to, drops out when it has exhausted its contribution, and never wears out on the listener’s ears. This album is a subject to the discography of the suddenly awkward continuation of a late 1980s synth-pop trio, only given the praise of professional criticism, not massive commercial appeal. It could never have been promoted through the radio, in a commercial, or in a film. It had to have been found to be heard. And through this finding came one of the very few albums I could almost consider completely perfect. So if something is worth hearing, it may not always be handed to you. But if it’s truly remarkable, than the search will always pay off.
Remember that there is no true connection between the popularity of a song or album and its quality, and there will always be something undiscovered that can change your entire conception of music. For everyone, the perfect album is waiting somewhere to be heard, it’s only through your own determination that you will hear it.
If you want to discover new music, go to rateyourmusic.com. The site produces custom charts based on date, genre, and type of release. It is very easy to use and extremely helpful.