Finding your summer soundtrack

BY JEFF LEVEN

Ah…summer. You don’t have to be too much of a starry-eyed dreamer to instinctually associate the glitter-kissed rays of sunlight that fill long days of summer with the familiar caress of a favorite song, or give a pulse to the long warm nights with the gut-level jump of a catchy beat. The season basically begs a soundtrack….

As such, in my last piece for the RECORD this year, I wanted to leave y’all with a few leads in assembling your own summer soundtrack: a few websites, albums, tours and other sources for broadening your musical horizons. In the humble hopes that one of these avenues might turn up a song or a rhythm that propels your own musical memories, here is a quick-and-dirty blueprint for musical exploration in the months ahead:

The Web

While many people this summer might not have the same hot-and-cold-running-T1-access that we take for granted on campus, there’s no reason not to check out the following hot music websites in between Westlaw sessions at the firm:

http://www.mediaunbound.com/demo.jsp- Imagine a program that basically ferrets out the preferences that undergird your overall musical tastes, and then uses those preferences to introduce you to a realm of stuff that you are almost guaranteed to like. Well, as it turns out, the demo available on this website does exactly that. Participants fill out an extensive survey, ranking different songs against one another, entering the names of artists who they enjoy, and commenting on the types of things they like in a song. Then the program generates a playlist featuring both familiar favorites and new finds. On the first try I was determined to beat the thing with the sheer depth and eclecticism of my musical tastes – confuse it by rating country crooners, ska bands, gangster rappers and operatic tenors with the same high marks. But, like the chess playing computer, it beat me at my own game – not only did I really like just about everything it suggested, but I ended up with a playlist with a varied, yet fluid tapestry of styles that even college radio at its best can barely pull off. While it scares me that there is some algorithm out there that can predict musical taste with eerie accuracy, I’m also pretty psyched that it has given me a few hints at what to look for next time I’m at the record store.

http://www.epitonic.com- One of the best, most eclectic legal MP3 sites. Aside from having an excellent collection of electronica, epitonic also features an extensive and cross-referenced array of indie rock, punk and folk listings. Just a few hours on this site will give you a great survey of a lot of music you might never hear on all but the most cutting-edge radio stations.

http://www.acidplanet.com/- Ever wondered whether you could be the next Paul van Dyk, John Digweed or BT? For those with a hankering to test their mixing and composing skills, acidplanet provides an interactive electronica production experience that may well be a harbinger of things to come. The site gives users the tools to remix favorite songs or compose new ones using a variety of loops and samples in conjunction with their free downloadable software. New wave phenoms New Order were so taken with it that they recently hosted a contest to see which users could create the best remixes of songs from their most recent album. After a few addictive hours putting your best tracks together, you’ll see why.

http://www.rapstation.com- A treasure trove of cutting edge hip-hop, Chuck D’s rapstation is another free, legal source of an amazing variety of MP3’s, with offerings from established artists and up-and-coming groups. With a healthy selection of hip-hop styles, this site is yet another revelation for those seeking a new groove or two.

http://www.pitchforkmedia.com- While it won’t turn you into Ken Walczak overnight, this site is quite possibly the best way to stay abreast of all the happenings in the indie rock world. Thoughtful interviews, thorough reviews and extensive coverage of some of the genre’s best bands make this an indispensable site for any music lover.

Tours

Although a revamped Lolapalooza will be MIA for at least another year, this summer still features a host of interesting road shows:

Queens of the Stone Age – In between battling Courtney Love in court and fronting the Foo Fighters, ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl likes to relax… with some brutal, crunchy, bone-rattling stoner rock. Having produced Queens of the Stone Age’s newest album, Grohl plans to tour with them this summer behind the drum kit, an addition which promises to add just a little more octane to what is already one of the most kinetic outfits in rock today.

Elvis Costello – The word on the street is that his new album is his most gritty and propulsive since My Aim Is True. A big statement to be sure, but looking at the set-list from his NYC expo the other day, it seems that Costello has announced his intentions to return to guitar-rattling, brain-punk form, pulling out such favorites as “Watching the Detectives,” and “Oliver’s Army.” Touring a variety of large-and-mid-sized venues this summer, Costello and the Imposters will likely replicate the earnesty and magic that has made him one of rock’s most hallowed cult figures.

Warped Tour – Of all the festival tours, the Warped Tour has quietly been one of the most successful and best. This year’s lineup remains strong, featuring the Mighty, Mighty Bosstones, NOFX, Reel Big Fish, Bad Religion, No Use for A Name, the Damned and more.

From the Vaults

While you’re checking out new sounds on the web and catching shows at your favorite venues, don’t forget to catch that classic album you might have missed:

The Day the Earth Met the Rocket from the Tombs – The lost Rosetta stone of late 70s American rock, Cleveland’s Rocket from the Tombs (not to be confused with Rocket from the Crypt, who named themselves in tribute) was not just the launching pad for such luminary punk and new wave bands as Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys, but it was also the place where Dylan and the Ramones first met in grit and beauty. This recently released collection provides the only document available on CD of the group’s largely unrecorded career, including early versions of what would become Ubu’s “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,” and Peter Laughner’s chilling “Amphetamine.”

Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers – There’s blues and then there is blues, and on his 1971 debut, the eccentric six-fingered (I’m not joking) slide guitar player Hound Dog Taylor managed to cut some the greasiest, skronkiest, most godawfully rockin’ roots music ever put to wax. A forgotten classic if there ever was one, this album is quite simply a boozy rollickin’ party in every track.

So there you go – just a few off-the-cuff suggestions for the musical season ahead. Enjoy.

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