I was born in January 1978. That makes me 45 years old.
And I say today, with confidence and no equivalence, that 2023 is the best year to listen to music that has ever existed.
Not only is the music being made now fantastic, but there has never been a better time to discover music from the past! The mainstream music is terrific, and it’s incredibly easy to find music off the beaten path. Here’s a mix I made this past week with fairly minimal effort — certainly less effort than it used to take to make a mix tape in the old days.
Admittedly, I’ve been scanning the dials since I got my first radio and listened to X100 (Top 40 hits) in the Bay Area. I still love pop music. Beyonce, Harry Styles, Taylor Swift. Yes, yes, yes. I also love the classics. Phil Collins, Gloria Estefan, Whitney Houston, Fleetwood Mac, Talking Heads.
But I rarely choose to put these artists on at home, because I’ve just heard them too much on the radio and out in the world, and there’s simply so much good new stuff it’s a shame to keep listening to the same old stuff.
The reason I’m writing this is that I keep running into people or seeing them online who say that music was better in the past. It wasn’t, nor was the music listening experience better then. At least that’s my opinion. And I thought I might document my music-finding process a bit for anyone who does want to hear more new stuff, but has trouble finding the time.
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The main way that I find new music is keeping an ear out all the time throughout the day, both at home and going about my day or night out. I flag songs I hear, and then later track them on my streaming service. I pay for Youtube Music, but I’m sure Spotify, Apple Music, or Pandora work just fine.
I used to just look up songs and artists I liked in the search bar of my streaming services. But this is labor intensive, and leads you to picking the same songs all the time.
What truly revolutionized my listening was when I first started “liking” songs. It’s so easy to do. I now have over 800 songs liked since the start of 2022. And you know what? It’s the most wonderful mix tape I could have ever imagined. Even better than the ones I used to make taping songs off the radio back in 1995.
To give a little glimpse of how this works, I wrote about 18 songs I put on a mix in the past week or so. The only thing I did to alter the mix was drop a few songs by artists with two songs on the list, to keep things fresh. Mixes reflect where a person is musically at a particular time in life, which this past week was in a jazzy, R&B place with some hip hop and folk stuff thrown in. There would be more country, dance, and indie rock if I choose a week from this past summer. Click here to listen to mix as you read.
This is easily my favorite category for finding new songs. Staying alert to the songs you hear as you move about your day is the most fun way to find new songs. You absolutely have to download the Shazam app and get use to pulling it out to identify songs.
Flower — Moby
I was sitting in liquor store parking lot at 6:45 AM this past Sunday, waiting for my daughters’ running team team to swing by and drink all the water and Gatorade I had set up for them on a plastic folding table. A cycling fitness studio across the street had their door open, and all of a sudden this song started pumping into the street, and I had to run across the street to Shazam it. After a bit of googling, apparently this song is part of a “Bring Sally Up” exercise routine for doing push-ups. Turns out it’s a b-side track that didn’t make it onto Moby’s great Play album, given new life by this exercise trend.
Ladyfingers — Herb Alpert
I walked into my neighborhood Tiki Bar later that Sunday afternoon with a friend, and this was the first song that came on after we sat down. That was a few days ago, and I’ve played this short gem from 1965 several times a day since then. I’m still in love with the gorgeous trumpet line that anchors the song.
Mayer Hawthorne — Get to Know You
Another song from the Tiki Bar. A great romantic ballad, the kind that you don’t hear as much on commercial radio anymore. He’s a bit campy, but I think he’s really good.
I try to limit my social media because the more time you spend on it, the less good you get out of it. But while I duck into Instagram sporadically, and by staying alert I find a ton of good music, often in the background.
Rising Son — Takuya Kuroda.
Sexy Dance — Masayoshi Takanaka
No idea how he showed up in my my feed, but I now follow a young black American guy on Instagram (Rashadarman — check him out) who is chronicling his discovery of Japanese jazz. He posts short intros to the Japanese jazz albums he is into, and flagged these two songs. The first song here is laid back by a current Japanese trumpet player who fuses hip hop and jazz, while second one is an up tempo track from a Japanese guitarist from the 1970's.
Pretty Girls Walk — Big Boss Vette
Don’t play these lyrics in front of your kids. The lady rapper who sings it seems to be big on TikTok. I found song because I follow a bunch of hip hop dancers on Instagram, and a clip popped of of a couple of Asian teenager girls absolutely killing a dance to this song. When I hear this song, I think of their awesome choreographed dance moves in huge baggy pants. I get a lot of songs from various dance videos — they list the song snippets they feature at the bottom, so I just go and and grab them for my mix!
You should always be listening to the radio in the car. All of it- the mainstream pop stuff, the classics, and the weird station at the end of the dial as well. Pay close attention at odd hours of the day and week, when the special shows come on. They often have great stuff.
I’ll Know — Bill Charlap
At 6 AM, all the commercial pop and rock stations in LA play infomercials for real estate scams and vitamin supplements, so I had to head over to the left side of the dial where the jazz and classical stations are. The jazz station had a show with a lot of talking as well, but the hosts were musicians talking about different songs. They started talking about a guy named Bill Charlap. and played this song. Just beautiful — I’ve been listening to the whole album it comes from.
Love Had Found It’s Way — Dennis Brown
There is a black R&B radio station that’s more hip and edgy that the R&B stations in most cities, which are smooth but can be boring. I get a lot of songs from 102.3, especially on Saturday afternoons when I’m driving around town, because they play a fantastic show called “World Wide Hits” hosted by Hugh Fuller that stretches into reggae and world music. I’ve found so many gems from this show, like these two from Jamaican artists.
Polka Dots and Moonbeams — Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra
A lovely old-time song. Easily one of the coolest aspects of listening to music in 2023 is how accessible really old stuff is. This is a standard jazz tune from 1940, and twenty years ago there was no way you could hear it on the radio, pay enough attention to who did it, and care enough to track it down in a record store. Now all you have to do is Shazam the song and look it up on your music streaming site later. So great.
Gjeilo — Ecce Novum
I don’t care for a lot of the classical music played by the great composers. Like a lot of jazz, it’s too busy and intellectually demanding. But I check out the classical station once in a while because you find good calm stuff like this, which can be a nice palate cleanser from a lot of the other stuff I listen to.
YOUR STREAMING SERVICE’S ALGORITHM
Do You — Miguel
Love this guy. Silky R&B. Great lyrics. Youtube Music seems to know I like him, and keeps slipping more songs by him into my stream.
Wild — Dijon
The song I loved this past summer by this guy was called Dress. But this one is nice too. I like what might be called alt R&B, which can be hard to find if you don’t put effort it. The algorithm solves this for you, because you put one artists in and it shows you others like it. You could not do this in 1997!!!
Voyage to Atlantis — Robert Glasper
Love this guy. A jazz piano player who collaborates with other musicians a lot on more accessible yet cool stuff. The algorithm constantly throws his stuff my way.
Heart Strings — Oh Wonder.
Same as above. I like all their songs, and only know about them from my Youtube music algorithm.
The Way That You Feel — Leif Vollebekk
The algorithm threw this Canadian guy my way, probably because I have a few other songs by him in my favorites stream. He’s got a great contemplative vibe, with terrific lyrics.
Always ask friends for new recommendations. I’m always adding songs friends send me. I don’t have any of those here because it was a slow week I guess. I would also add Uber drivers in here. I’ve picked up many a song from those folks, particularly a lot of music without English lyrics.
Again this is the great feature of 2023. You can drop songs from your mixtape much easier than in the past. Be ruthless. If a song isn’t earning it’s keep, let it go. Unlike it.
man i is — Logic
A few songs by Logic made their way into my stream in the last two days. While I’ve heard this name before, I had never really been familiar with his music. His songs involve rapid rhyming and jazzy beats, and I’m more into the latter than the former. I’m trying them out, and if I find I don’t like them over time, I will drop it from the mix.
Beck — Thinking About You
I saw on my Youtube Music app under the new releases section, so I clicked it. This has got a nice mournful feel. Since I find myself skipping it though, this is one of those songs I might “unlike” because while it isn’t bad, I find myself skipping it.
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So there you go. 18 new songs on a mixtape for you. Send me one that you’ve made sometime!