The Truth About Music: Play It Loud

"What's hot, what's not, and whats next in pop music"

A Bad Music Year Doesn’t Have To Be Your Bad Music Year

1999 was an awful year for music. Obviously it had it’s hidden gems (Dismemberment Plan, Beck, and Beta Band come immediately to mind), but by and large that year was a barren wasteland. Grunge and Alternative, the twin headed beast that had driven Rock to dizzying heights in the first half of the decade, had largely run their course. Nu Metal kept the angst of grunge while ditching the maturity, and Lou Pearlman’s Bubblegum machine scrubbed MTV of the ironic edge that had defined it’s early 90’s embrace of Alternative Nation.

It was into this dismal wasteland that my 14 year old self was set loose. I wanted to be engaged with music, but more importantly I wanted to love it, wanted to be excited about a band, a rapper, whoever’s latest release. Unfortunately, 1999 was a tough year to have those aspirations. It was a time when the modern internet was still in it’s infancy, with double digit bit rate MP3’s taking longer to download than they were worth. Meanwhile, magazines like Spin and Rolling Stone were there, but they still seemed alien, like a stream of culture that I wasn’t ready for yet. So it was that after one too many days watching one of N’Sync’s lesser ballad’s rule the roost at TRL, I decided to delve into the last resource of any adolescent; my Dad’s CD collection.

As I ravaged his meticulously organized shelves of music, I devoured songs from the past that flew a little under the radar. I wasn’t exploring John Cage’s back catalog, but I listened to the deeper cuts on Ziggy Stardust, the instrumentals from Are You Experienced, and other Classic Rock that fall outside of the 22 songs they play on every Classic Rock station. At the same time, I asked older friends of mine what music to listen to. Some of it I wasn’t ready for (Radiohead) others I never came around on (Nine Inch Nails), but I still remember hearing Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair” for the first time that summer before forgetting the name of the band with no way to look it up, such was life in 1999.

This brings us to 2014. While I don’t think anything short of the literal apocalypse could produce a worse year then the one where Limp Bizkit sold millions of albums, 2014 has been a pretty down year for music. Again there have been bright spots, and part of it is the hangover from how incredible 2013 was, but there just hasn’t been that much electricity. While I’d love to have more great music coming out, that hasn’t stopped me from finding great music to listen to. While the modern streaming era has a lot of problems, one can’t argue with how easy it is to listen to just about anything. I listened to Jawbreaker and Superchunk’s classic records, enjoying the latter more than the former, I went back and rediscovered Jens Lekman, an artist who I had appreciated years ago but mostly forgotten about.

The point isn’t to brag about my depth of knowledge, or imply that you should listen to those specific artist’s, the point is that there is an incredible wealth of music from the past for you to discover. Maybe you always enjoyed Jazz peripherally but never really listened to it, maybe you should listen to one of your favorite musician’s biggest influences. In 1999 it was pretty difficult to find a reliable source of musical suggestions, let alone a copy of that recommendation. In 2014 it takes a few clicks to find an unlimited range of recommendations and outlets to hear them, so enjoy modernity, take advantage of the past.

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