Monday, April 25, 2011

Watch the video and find out you stupid retard

How I Decide What To Listen To

The other day I commented on a post at crustcake about the stupidly named band Weekend Nachos. And I got a response from an anonymous poster.

"Watch the video and find out you stupid retard." My first instinct of course was to thank the commenter sarcastically and explain that I didn't have access to the video. There are places where video is not available, like my work, or platforms that don't support the most common video formats, like the iPad. Or to explain that I was in the middle of listening to an album, and wouldn't interrupt that to watch the video anyway. There was also a part of me that wanted to discuss grammar, or insensitivity to the mentally handicapped, and the fact that nearly every Internet asshole posts anonymously. But then I realized there is a deeper issue at work here.

Can this anonymous commenter really tell, from one video, how good a band is?

I know I can't. I've been burned in the past by watching a video and immediately assuming that I will like the album because I like the song. Demonic Resurrection, Falkenbach, and Abysmal Dawn are perfect examples where the band has a great sound and can write a great song, but the album isn't really special. On the other hand, a band might not be so impressive if you just hear one song, but the album as a whole is great. Negură Bunget springs immediately to mind.

I rarely decide to spend time and money on an album without reading about it first. A reviewer who's spent time listening to an album more than once, and spent time thinking about it, is going to have some valuable insight that I can't get from a single listen to one song.

That's not to say that I don't ever listen to a song before I decide to dive into the album. But nobody just goes out and listens to a song from every album out there. The quantity of music I would potentially want to listen to is increasing steadily, while the amount of time I have to do it has stayed constant. So, when I read Decibel or Terrorizer, I mark up the magazine if something catches my attention. When I read blogs at work, I take brief notes in the handy-dandy Notepad application, and send myself a half-dozen or so e-mails through the course of the day. When I get a chance to actually sit in front of Youtube--maybe an hour a week is available for this--I use those notes to decide what to listen to.

I decide what music to listen to based mostly on the insights of others. And when I say insights, I mean just that. I don't mean "thumbs-up" or "thumbs-down", as those are not insights. I also tend to give it a listen first. I almost never rely entirely on my own superficial contact, nor do I rely entirely on the opinion of someone else. There are rare exceptions to both rules, of course.

So, how do you decide what to listen to?

By the way--Weekend Nachos aren't bad, judging by the one video I saw.


  1. I spend a lot of time online, so I typically make my decisions based on a combination of reviews, individual recommendations, and random chance. Often I'll hear a band's name that intrigues me and listen to them on Youtube, then follow other songs that come up in the similar searches if the name or album artwork catches my eye. I usually spend a couple hours a day poking around Youtube, though, so my listening doesn't require the same level of structure as yours does.

  2. I actually find a lot of my stuff completely randomly. Sometimes I pick something up because the cover art looks cool. On some occasions, I will read reviews and listen on youtube, but that's not exceptionally common.

  3. @ Patrick
    It sounds like you put more stock in hearing it for yourself than I do. I definitely find some value in that, but like I said, I don't like to go completely in that direction.

    @ Metallattorney
    I enjoy finding stuff randomly. It's somehow very rewarding to have discovered something on your own. As my music discovery is mostly online now, that doesn't happen so often. Though I did just pick up a Pantheist CD after finding it in a used record store this weekend.

  4. Like you, I'm always emailing myself band names and links. By the time I get round to some of them, I've forgotten why I sent it or the moment has passed. I use Spotify and its star function as well as YouTube. I find new stuff by wandering round the web, reading reviews, recommendations - generally trying to find more music like the stuff i like already and enjoying the tangents and serendipities along the way!