February 2, 2012

From zero to close to good.

For whatever reason, I've always found it difficult to get into new music.

My tastes tend to lean towards bands from the 70s and 80s, some of whom still release new albums (some terrific, some less so) and offer up the occasional tour. I like to dig deep into their back catalogs and unearth new gems, which - for a long time - soothed my musical appetite.

But music that came out in the 2000s and beyond? Meh. "Just not my cup of tea," I'd say. During freshman year of college, I'd laugh at the guys who'd crank Muse, Coheed and Cambria, Death Cab for Cutie or whatever new band happened to strike the fancy of young people everywhere (not to say, in those specific cases, that I was wrong).

It got to the point, however, where I couldn't tell you whether my preferences stemmed from genuine disinterest or casual stubbornness. Was I really giving new music a chance and then deeming it uninteresting? Or was I refusing to listen to it with an open mind, mostly to maintain a consistent - if powerfully uninformed - opinion?

At some point, I was able to move past all that and appreciate new music for what it was. Limiting yourself to only certain eras or genres of music is silly; even if I think "classic rock" is better than whatever most rock and roll bands are pumping out these days, that doesn't mean I should write off entire generations of music on a whim. Those are the kind of lazy assumptions I generally despise in other areas of art and culture, so it made very little sense to allow them to persist in my own life.

Looking through my Spotify library these days, I still see a bunch of Bruce Hornsby, Yes, The Band and Paul Simon. But I also see Architecture in Helsinki, The Black Keys, Holy Ghost!, M83 and Passion Pit. A year ago the only one of those bands I listened to was Passion Pit, and that was mostly because "Little Secrets" sounded so much like something from the Streets of Rage 2 soundtrack.

I attribute a lot this to the "(almost) anything, all the time" power of Spotify, which has improved my music-listening life to the point that I recently shelled out $9.99 a month for the premium version. But I also give a lot of credit to my good friend Kevin. He taught me what "shlong" and "bunghole" meant in the fourth grade, and he's also the drummer for Philadelphia-based band Close to Good.

He's recommended numerous bands to me over the last few months, including the aforementioned Architecture in Helsinki and Holy Ghost!, both of which I enjoy tremendously. And his great taste carries over to his own band, self-described as delivering an "aggressive burst of progressive dance-funk that often builds into a tightly composed tension-release, peaking in kick-driven melodic reprisals of their distinct central lyrical themes."

I'll admit that Kevin originally sold me on Close to Good with their focus on video game tunes, not to mention the occasional Talking Heads cover:

Because who doesn't love David Byrne and Final Fantasy VII? If I had a band, we'd open with "Blind" and then bring an NES on stage to attempt this:

But after enjoying one of their shows in South Philadelphia a few weeks ago (which can devolve, or evolve, into liquor-fueled dance fests), we put their album in the CD player for the ride home. You know, to sit down and really give it a listen. It may be a band comprised of/supported by my friends, but I can say with objective certainty (because I still feel a mostly beaten-down urge to disregard music outside my wheelhouse) that some of the songs were quite exquisite.

I'm not used to encountering skill like that so close to home, and it makes me feel good about expanding my horizons a bit and accepting music that I might previously have disregarded. So thank you, Kevin and Close to Good, for helping illuminate the error of my ways. If you're ever in the Philadelphia area, check them out. You won't be disappointed.

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