The Modern-Day Pen Pal.

It is hard these days not to gush about digital technologies. The MP3 blog world has for a while now been proving that a collective mass of audiophiles can generate more interest in music than the music industry alone. On top of this, as David mentioned in his inaugural Noise Narcs post, has revolutionized music listening, offering not only one free listen to any album on the site, but also a music listening community that disobeys usual caveats of such Internet communities. Lala is one community in which most people’s “friends” are not people’s friends at all, but people whose music a listener admires. As people listen to music on the site, Lala members see an updated stream of the music their “friends” are listening to–and recommending.This method introduces me to dozens of new albums each week.

Hype Machine is another blog to gush about. As most of you likely know, this site aggregates international MP3 blog postings, so that there is a constant stream of new music. What is great about this blog and Lala is their genre-bending quality. Click play on Hype Machine and when one song ends, the next begins, and the result is music salad. For all of the claims made about the isolating effects of the digital world, well, if you are reading this, you probably understand the spirit of discovery that motivates and unites this world’s inhabitants.

What I love is the gift of something new and unknown, from someone unknown; the MP3 blog entry has become the modern day pen pal letter. Below is one such gift, a tune from the Society Islands‘ upcoming sophomore release, Last Hero of the Western World. I learned about this through Hype Machine, channeling Tsururadio. Boris Rogowski, who appears to be the brains behind the unit, gives me a hint of the early twinklings of a Paul Weller, Daniel Lanois, or similar English vocalist, a pop influence twinged with just a hint of an indie sensibility. I would post his inspired cover of Frank Black’s “Don’t Ya Rile ‘Em,” but alas, the blogosphere has not made the MP3 available (yet). However, you can listen to it here.

The Society Islands, “Last Hero of the Western World”

And for no reason at all, another gift of the Blogosphere, Copenhagen Cycle Chic. A non sequitur, yes–but well worth it, pen pal. I do ride my bike with headphones in.

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4 Responses to The Modern-Day Pen Pal.

  1. David G says:

    I used to be very big into the future of music being in these virtual communities. The fall of consolidated radio and music video culture leaving open a peer-to-peer approach; people discovering music via algorithm (; Pandora) or finding “virtual” friends that they connect to. But I haven’t bothered to set up’s “scrobbler” on either of my last two computer installations (which I can blame partially on my constant fights with the heinous beast that is iTunes. And I don’t used Lala like you do. In truth,I’d much prefer hearing music from friends, even if our tastes align infrequently (like ours does: your hatred of Tune-yards will not go unpunished, btw). And I think part of that reason is that when you have affinity for a person that has (little) to do with their taste, there’s a greater chance that your musical taste will expand for it. Without you, I’d probably still hate house completely, instead of the 99.5% of current. Without Chris, I might not have gotten as into Nina Simone as I did. Without Adina, Elliot Smith. Billy, Miles Davis. Shopp, terrible hip hop. The list would go on. That said, I do have a few trusted friend blogs that I would share with you guys, but what would be the point of me stealing their music for my posts if I gave you the source?

    As to the Society Islands track: I dig. A sort of Pulp meets Dandy Warhols vibe I’m into.

    Note: HypeMachine is NOT a blog. Good lord. You Mac people and your technobabble mangling.

    And your non-sequitur is amazing! Next year in Copenhagen!

  2. I’m sort of with Dave insofar as it is not really my practice to take advantage of the social media elements of sites like lala or The irony of what Dave’s saying here is that in a way his friends are more alien to him than complete strangers on the internet, where presumably it’s easier for birds of a feather to flock together. I’m sure that’s not a universal experience, but I guess I take his point about having more patience to suffer the bad musical taste of one’s peers.

    • David G says:

      I think it’s a more universal experience than you might think, Chris: imagine a world where people only listened to Pandora or Last.FM: their taste would start to clump together in seriously homogeneous clusters because the associations are solely taste-based and because the groups are self-influencing. It’s more or less the same argument poli sci people have been making about political thought in the internet and cable age (extreme clustering, lack of diverse view points) except written even larger: the algorithm intensifies the process.

      • Cydney A says:

        I agree that Dave makes us suffer some bad musical taste. But I disagree that our taste expands more because of our friends in all or even most cases. I’ve been friends for Dave for years and still hate Bob Dylan’s music (although I do admit to liking Philly a lot more since he’s there, so maybe I’m more geographically influence-able.) There is a some taste clustering on Lala, but why it works for me as a model is that once you begin to find people with really adventurous, eclectic musical taste, it is practically free to explore it. I’ve found scores of albums I wouldn’t have otherwise, and there’s no cost penalty for testing them out. Same thing with hype machine (Ok, Dave, I’ll call it a blog aggregator, since you apparently are the word police now. Last time I checked, you have royal editing power). For instance, I’ve found a few individuals on Lala whose musical taste I trust–I’m willing to test out almost anything I see them listening to (such as one person who coincidentally lives in Madison, code name Lake Superior).

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