By Jeremiah Tucker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
The comment I get most frequently from local readers whom I encounter in person is that they often have never heard of the music I write about.
I recall a friend a few months ago asking me why I was writing about the popular '80s R&B star Billy Ocean when, in fact, I'd written about the popular 2012 R&B star Frank Ocean. Considering I make a concerted effort to write about as often as possible the people currently dominating the Billboard charts, I'll take this as further evidence that new music is less of a force in people's lives than it used to be, or there are at least fewer household names.
This is a shame. Because there is a lot of good new music being made today. You just have to find it.
I, personally, have a fairly broad range of taste, so I realize not everything I write about it is going to be everybody's cup of single-origin fair trade certified herbal tea, so I decided this week I'd review some of my favorite sources of new music.
Because we're still near the beginning of the new year, a good place to start is The Village Voice's annual Pazz and Jop poll. If you want to take the pulse of 2012, that comprehensive coverage of new music from the past year is a good place to start.
Released in mid-January every year, the poll asks hundreds of the nation's music critics and journalists to submit their top 10 lists for albums and singles that the magazine then collates into a comprehensive list of the year's best music, at least according to the critics. Topping the Pazz and Jop poll for 2012 was Frank Ocean's "Channel Orange" for albums and for singles, Carly Rae Jepsen's inescapable "Call Me Maybe."
Along with the lists, The Village Voice always publishes a bunch of smart essays from prominent critics about the major music of the past year. In my years of reading music criticism, I've found a handful of critics whose taste is either similar to mine or whose writing is simply so good it often opens my eyes to stuff I probably wouldn't otherwise consider.
My favorite music writer right now, and someone I read every time I see his byline, is Nitsuh Abebe, the critic for New York magazine, whose long-form story about Grizzly Bear and the fairly depressing economic reality for even the most popular indie rock bands was widely circulated last year. But my favorite piece he wrote was a review of a lecture the outre rapper Lil B gave at New York University where he zeroed in on the smallness of mock affection.
I also keep track of bylines by Jody Rosen, a critic for Slate and Rolling Stone, who unveiled to me the hidden brilliance of country superstar Brad Paisley and whose strident defense of Top 40 pop is always entertaining; Sasha Frere Jones always writes crisply about new music for The New Yorker; Rob Sheffield, also at Rolling Stone, who I began following after reading his great memoir about death and pop music "Love Is a Mixtape"; Ann Powers at NPR's music site; and for hip hop Andrew Nosnitsky, a writer for Spin, publishes, in my opinion, the definitive list of rap singles every year on his site cocaineblunts.com.
Of the sites I check regularly, there aren't many. I often look at Pitchfork.com more for its comprehensive news section and original content than the polarizing, in-depth reviews that made them a juggernaut. I also read The New York Times arts section, the Vulture (vulture.com) blog at New York Magazine and Fluxblog. org, a daily mp3 blog I've followed since 2003, whose founder and author, Matthew Perpetua, is editor for BuzzFeed Music, which regularly publishes good stuff.
Then I basically just keep track of what everyone's talking about. I monitor Twitter or listen to Spotify, the web-based streaming service. With Spotify, it's easy to subscribe to playlists made by publications, such as the Billboard Hot 100, and friends whose taste you trust.
I don't know how helpful this is, but I find it interesting reading about people's reading and web browsing routines. My main point is that there is no shortage of good new music or ways to discover it.