Who’s Arcade Fire? Why Should You Care?

Guest blogger Cindy Wall shares with us her thoughts on the Grammy’s and how everyone in the StyleBlueprint demographic (we have college – grandmothers that read) can stay current and sane on music matters.  While Cindy’s post is aimed at the “baby-boomers of a certain age,” a gal like me in her 30’s found a lot of good tips from Cindy’s “seven-step guide to help us navigate the new music maze.”

From Cindy:

After the Grammys a few weeks ago, I noticed a distinct trend in the post-show “buzz” among my particular demographic (i.e. baby-boomers of a certain age). It all came down to three questions. What was Lady Gaga wearing? How old is Mick Jagger anyway? And who’s this band I’ve never even heard of that won best album?

I’m afraid I can’t help on the subject of Lady Gaga’s wardrobe. But Mick Jagger is 67. And I can tell you that the band awarded the Grammy for best album, Arcade Fire, is really darn good.

If you grew up listening to music (and who amongst us didn’t?), a show like the Grammys can make you feel a little old and a little out of touch. And a little nostalgic for those days when “new music” was your music…
After all, I remember my first 45 (“Windy” by The Association), my first album (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), and my first record player (a little red Sony). And even now, if I hear a band from the 70’s and 80’s, I’ll remember exactly where I was when I listened to them decades ago. I bet you do, too. There’s great music from every era, of course. But I figure if we loved the latest stuff “back in the day,” there’s no reason we can’t stay (reasonably) plugged into new music. And, perhaps, like it just as much…

So here’s a seven-step guide to help you navigate the new music maze. Along the way, I bet you’ll be impressed by lots that you’ll hear. You’ll definitely impress your kids or a few 20-something’s you know. And I’m pretty sure that when you watch next year’s Grammys, the best new band will be old hat to you.

  1. Pick your genre(s). If you didn’t like heavy metal in the 70’s and 80’s, you’re not going to like it in 2011.
  2. Get an iPod (if you don’t have one already). No, I’m not on retainer with Apple, but there’s no music player that’s better, easier or more fun. There’s a reason 250 million iPods have been sold. Even if you know nothing about technology, the iPod (and the iTunes library you’ll set up) is a cinch.
  3. Look out for free downloads. There are always a few free songs available on iTunes. Or next time you’re in Starbucks, grab the Pick of the Week card, and use the code to download a new song by a new artist for free, every week. And more and more, wonderful indie bands offer a few songs as free downloads or sometimes, entire albums.
  4. Notice what’s playing at your favorite restaurant. Bad 90’s-style Muzak has pretty much bit the dust (thank goodness!). So, if you’re in a hip store or a cool restaurant, chances are they’ve got interesting music in the background. And chances are they can tell you what it is if you like it. (Or if use apps on your phone, get Shazam. Hold your phone near a music source, and the app will show you the tune’s name and artist.)
  5. Try Pandora on your computer. Imagine designing your own radio station. You pick a genre you like, or a specific artist or band, and Pandora will provide you with similar music. Some of it you’ll know, but lots of it you won’t.
  6. Read Rolling Stone. Still going strong after 40 years, Rolling Stone remains a great place to read about new music, new bands, new artists. You’ll be surprised, I promise. And the online version is very user-friendly. NPR is also a wonderful source for new music. I adore the “Tiny Desk Concerts” – bands that play live right in the offices of “All Things Considered.”
  7. Most of all…ask and share. I ask people ALL the time for music recommendations. I particularly ask people who are 20+ years younger than I am (having offspring in their teens and 20’s are a bonus resource). And I write down what they tell me (usually next to the grocery list or a random phone number). Some of it will be ridiculous; some of it will be great. If you’re on Facebook, post this: “What’s the best new band you’ve heard this year?” You’ll get lots of replies, I guarantee. And in return, when you find stuff you love, tell others (like me!).

This works, I swear. It’s why I have an iPod packed with both old and new music. It’s why I’d heard of Arcade Fire long before the Grammys. And it’s why I like the new songs I heard last week just as much as I liked “Windy” in 1967.
Cindy is a Nashville-based communications consultant and social media strategist. She’s got 20 days worth of non-stop music on her iPod.

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