4 Web Sites To Help You Find New Music And Look Hip

After studying music production, making music for several years (trust me, you’ve never heard it), booking tours, and doing scant engineering work here and there, I wet my toes in the world of music journalism for about two months, working as an intern for a startup music magazine a few years ago. It was a supremely messy operation and definitely not the field for me, but I did take away two things: First, live event photography is fun; second, and more relevant to this post, how to stay ahead of music so that you look cool when your friends are talking about music. Oh, and also so that you can listen to a vast diversity of bands and enjoy yourself doing so.

The internet makes it easy (thanks, internet!), because there are a few extremely thorough release calendars, a few of which are accompanied by reviews. My favorites, in order, are:

1. Album of the Year: I love AOTY for several reasons. First, albums are have aggregate scores from both critics and listeners, which can be informative about what’s technically good and what’s actually enjoyable to listen to. Second, the scores actually mean something — well-scored albums generally are very, very good. Third, it has rankings for the worst of the year, as well, which is entertaining. Fourth, albums are categorized in a way that by and large makes sense. And, finally, its release calendar is extensive, which allows you to plan ahead for your listening.

2. Consequence of Sound: Consequence of Sound doesn’t have reviews along with their calendar, but occasionally they’ll put an album on their calendar that other sites — including AOTY — miss. The inconvenient thing, then, is that you have to go search for reviews.

3. Wikipedia: Weird choice, I know, but because anyone can edit the entry, the Wikipedia calendar tends to be extremely comprehensive. There are other perks, too — for one, it’s annotated, so you can jump down to articles about whatever album or artist you’re curious about; for another, if you don’t know something about a band, the link to their Wikipedia page is right there. In terms of research and information, it’s extremely convenient.

4. Pitchfork: Obviously Pitchfork’s calendar is awesome, and the reviews are solid. The thing I really don’t like about it is that the release calendar is posted quarterly, so there’s no time to plan ahead.

I should note: One of the virtues of knowing well ahead of time that an album is going to be released is that you can be fairly sure that the band will be touring around the release date. Having an accurate release date well ahead of time isn’t just about being on top of obtaining the album itself, it’s about planning for concerts, which beyond being a scheduling issue is also a budgeting issue.

I check in on AOTY about every month to see what’s up and what’s well-reviewed, and generally if someone asks me if I’ve heard about a band, I can at least give them an informed answer. I don’t care if it makes me an ass, it is supremely satisfying to know about bands before my friends do. It was also supremely satisfying that Scottish hip-hop band Young Fathers just won the Mercury Prize, because I have been digging THE HELL out of their album, DEAD, since March.

Speaking of which, here are some amazing albums you might have missed this year (if you like hip-hop, punk rock, and indie rock):

Go on, cool kid! The season for Top 10 lists is upon us.

[Album of the Year]

[Consequence of Sound]

[Wikipedia Album Releases]

[Pitchfork]

[The National]

[Anticon]

[Wild Beasts]

[Future Islands]

[Hardly Art]

[Constellation Records]

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