When I was a kid, we were always forced to try new things. The rule of thumb was, “try it, if you don’t like it, you can spit it in a napkin.” It wasn’t always thrilling, but on occasion I’d come across something great. The goal of that exercise was to expand our palettes. I believe we should do the same thing with music. IMHO, a life without music is like a life without color, taste, texture, and smell.
Years ago, my oldest daughter Beth began to work on helping me expand my musical palette. She started by teaching me the difference between Rap and Hip-Hop. Kanye West was the first Hip-Hop artist she shared with me. She also turned me on to Norah Jones and John Mayer. Beth’s cousin, Tim Walsh, introduced me to the Utah Saints and Moby. This has gone on for years (although I have not, much to my sorrow, heard from Tim in a long while). I chew on offerings from Beth, some I enjoy and others, I spit out. It has gotten to the point where I even introduce her to stuff, although 80% of the time she tells me, “Dad, I’ve been listening to that for years.” Her other response is “Dad, you wouldn’t let me listen to that when I was a kid and now you like it?”
Something else that Beth turned me on to is Pandora. There are plenty of Internet radio stations out there, but Pandora does something better than I have seen others do. Like other stations, you can give it an artist and it will build a radio station for you. Pandora’s selections are great and unlike their competitors, Pandora dips into some really old and obscure material. It is not unusual to hear a scratchy vinyl record that has been digitized for Internet play. Pandora also has this thing it calls “The Music Genome Project.” If you look at the track information panel in Pandora, it will tell you why, according to the Music Genome Project, the track is in your mix.
Pandora also provides a way for me to expand my own palette. I create a channel with an artist I like and then I listen to the associated artists. When I hear an artist I like, I make a station for that artist and repeat the process. Each new station introduces me to artists I have never heard. I started this process with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and it has introduced me to artists like Ben Harper, G. Love, Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Adele, The Black Keys, the White Stripes, and Sara Bareilles to name a few. I am an old-time techno-guy, having started with listening to Kraftwerk in the 1970’s. That led to my affinity for the Blue Man Group. I made a Blue Man Group station and through that I discovered The Yoshida Brothers, The Crystal Method, and a host of others. You can go on this palette expanding journey and never get to the end.
The best thing is, you can have Pandora for free. It runs on everything I own including my Blu-Ray player, my iPhone, my Kronos Android tablet, and my various Windows-based computers. If you like it and you don’t like the commercials, shell out $36 a year and get commercial-free radio.