By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
The most significant change for me in 2005 was how I found and listened to new music. Now that, for me at least, the days of being pitched and wooed by the publicity departments of major and indie labels is mostly over and the old filters of print and alternative commercial radio no longer are the critical resource of discovery, I find myself using the internet and internet radio (note: not digital pay radio) to listen to quality music shows like Nic "Morning Becomes Eclectic" Harcourt on LA's KCRW and Tom Robinson's mix of all sounds adults might enjoy on BBC 6 in podcast form played on my schedule. I still read reviews. But the most challenging and engaging new resources are the music blogs of print journalists like Sasha Frere-Jones and the self righteous rants of very opinionated mostly young critics on web music zines like Pitchfork and literary sites like Salon. The challenge is to make myself aware of the bias of these new critics and how they swarm like bees in heat over the newest music that fits their aural bias.
To me, downloading just seems more controlled. I get the idea it doesn't challenge assumptions like twirling a radio dial or rifling through record bins can challenge assumptions. It tends to reaffirm what you already think you know. But on the other hand, mp3s also have the potential to put a far wider variety of music at a far wider variety of critics' fingertips, which is undoubtedly a good thing. And I'm sure there are people who shuffle through the thousands of websites on myspace or CDbaby and listen to random unknown bands they've never heard of. And maybe more people do that now than the people who used to (or still) shuffle through used LP bins, which people obviously had their own assumptions about what they might like. I wonder how many critics now do the shuffle-through-myspace thing. For all I know, it might be the future. Honestly, if I wasn't so bombarded with promos, Iprobably would. It sounds fun.
Sunnyside, New York
The Internet's promise of speed and synergy once again delivered. Bloggers broke bands. Lady Sovereign rose from myspace phenom to Def Jam signee in the span of a year. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, a mediocre rock ensemble with a webpage, became the biggest new indie band of '05, mostly 'cause two dudes on the Pitchfork staffboard thought they sounded good. Shit, man, last month I saw Diplo DJ a baile funk set at a Parisian club called Favela Chic, just after some French rappers gave me their remix album, which was chopped and screwed by a Swedish DJ. When did Arular come out, again? 1957?
Brooklyn, New York
M.I.A. was a flop for a major label. No one has ever spun Annie at a high school dance. Hot 97 would play Cowboy Troy before they play grime. How are blogs tastemakers again?
Before everyone slobbers about how this was the year of the blog and how it's going to change everything in the scribe world, a Pew Study reveals that 27 percent of Net users read blogs and 1 percent of users post daily. What's more, even Gawker's revealed that blogs aren't a place to make a living now. How's that for a brave new world?
Best NYC transit strike by-product: Finally taking off the iPod long enough to get to know co-workers and neighbors during our multi-houred interborough schleps. The sundry lawyers, housewives, administrators I walked/drove with, however, made me feel like I was on human random shuffle.
Brooklyn, New York
So this was the year iPods took over. After overpaying for mine, something happened. I started to care more about consuming and organizing music than listening to it. It wasn't just the new compulsion to walk around with access to six Tom Petty albums when six songs would do, it was that I started to listen to 30 second song-bites instead of songs. I'd dial up a song, prove to myself that I could listen to it right now and move on to the next one. Then my iPod's battery died and I went back to my Discman. Guess what? Full songs are pretty good. Albums aren't bad either! And if I lost the ability to perfectly soundtrack my walk to the bank, I gained a renewed appreciation for something that takes a little time to sink in.