I was recently asked, "what are you listening to these days?" I explained that I listen to a lot, and it's because every day I aim to listen to an album I've never heard before.
A couple of years ago I was writing a 'best of' list and came up short for my top ten favorite albums of that year. I realized I didn't listen to a lot of new music and that made me feel stale. Of all people, especially in my line of work, I should be on top of what's new. And one of my most enjoyed pastimes is discovering new music.
I made a pact to listen to an album a day, and one I had not heard before. It doesn't have to be a 'new' album, just new to me. Bonus points if I'm not familiar with the album artist, too. I keep track of my progress by posting the day's album on my Twitter feed and my personal Facebook page. I'll often add short commentary and post a link to an informative review or article about the work.
Digital streaming powers this process. Spotify is my personal choice, and the freedom I have to check out and discover new albums is exhilarating. It's also addictive. And I know your next question: how do I find a new album a day?
I get my money's worth out of my Spotify subscription fee as I'm using the service almost non-stop. Because of this, Spotify knows my taste well, and its suggestions are usually spot-on. My Discover Weekly playlist is fascinating every time it refreshes. You know the algorithm is doing its job when a song I loved a decade ago but haven't thought of since pops up. And the Discover tab under Browse yields terrific album choices regularly.
However, I like getting outside of my comfort zone. Spotify's choices reflect my taste as the algorithm sees it, and that's cool. But I sometimes want to get outside of my perceived taste and find entirely new (to me) artists and sounds.
So, I pluck titles from the review pages of a few music web sites. The ones I regularly visit:
- The Quietus - I love that the music The Quietus reviews is all over the place. I never know what I'm going to hear.
- Resident Advisor - Almost always in the electronic spectrum, RA's album reviews are diverse and filled with treasures, and aren't as dance floor focused as you might think.
- Pitchfork - I know I'm not supposed to go here, but this is where I find what's new in the broader sense. Relatively mainstream albums rub shoulders with underground gems, and I'm willing to sample it all.
I do have a few rules. I grab an album from the bottom of whichever review list I visit. The ones at the top might not be out yet, thus not available for digital streaming. I'll give any album a chance for two or three songs. If an album doesn't float my boat, I'm not going to listen to the whole thing. I move on and select a new album when a selection doesn't satisfy or pique my interest. When I find an album that I'm into enough to finish, I'll read the review to learn more about it. I'll also do a quick search for the artist and album to see if there's anything else I can glean. Then I'll post it on my pages.
Know that when I post an album on Twitter or Facebook, it's mainly for my benefit. I'm keeping a running tab on what I've been checking out, and I like to look back to see what made a lasting impression on me. I'll listen to those again someday, but only after I've digested something new. If you, the casual onlooker, consider my postings as recommendations and listen along then I'm flattered.
That's the process. An album a day. I've missed days – in fact, I've missed a lot of days lately – as life and travel get in the way. But this has proven to be an enriching practice that I'd like to make into a daily routine. If you also love discovering music, then I'd recommend giving this schtick a try.
Side note: Here I am on Spotify. I don't make my listening private, so you are welcome to see what I'm checking out in real time. I'm also proud of the playlists I put together and would love for you to give them a go.