FINDING new music is often a serendipitous affair, at festivals, friends, music journals, random radio tracks etc. While suggestions from friends are great, there is something special about making the discoveries yourself, returning from strange lands with strange sounds, so to speak. And in turn experiencing the joy of sharing with others (or not). The sense of exploration and adventure involved in discovering new work is part of the thrill, but is made no easier with the sheer volume of music available from the mass media, and particularly the internet which does not necessarily make it easier to seek out diamonds from the coal face. In the UK The Jools Holland Show and 6music (amongst many) actively promote talented new artists from a variety of genres, and I have personally found many gems from both of these sources. But what of America?
A few years ago I stumbled across NPR’s Tiny Music Desk concerts on
YouTube, the brainchild of Bob Boilen, host of American radio show, All Things Considered. The NPR concerts take place in a small room lined with books and bric-a-brac, giving the artists work a stripped down intimacy within a warm acoustic atmosphere. As well as many new artists across all genres, established artists have recorded the fifteen to twenty minute sets including Mumford and Sons, The Pixies, King Creosote, Florence and the Machine, Lisa Hannigan and Bon Iver. YouTube has quite a large selection of artists performing at the NPR music studio and is definitely worth a visit.
Deciding to explore things a little further I checked out the NPR website, where it’s free to register. Like 6music, a huge emphasis is placed on the promotion of new artists, and you will find a full listing of all the NPR Tiny Music Desk Concerts of both new and established acts. As well as these you will
find live webcasts, studio sessions, music documentaries and interviews and podcasts, they also have live streaming links to a lot of the underground American Radio Stations. The website is strong in searching
for artists by genre, helping to explore and find new artists in the genre of your choice, or to dip a toe in an ocean of infinite musical variety and take a chance with something new.
On top of the extensive music section on the site, you will also find reviews and articles on current affairs, art, literature, TV and drama, so it’s more than worth a click.
At Electric Picnic a few years back, I chatted with a fellow festival goer from Portland, who was surprised that I knew some of the more obscure acts from the American Folk Indie scene (thanks to 6music). Surprisingly I found she had a greater knowledge of the Northern Ireland music scene than I did. I get the sense that by tuning in to the underground sounds of America, we will probably discover artists in our own backyard. Along of course with the excellent websites and Journals from N.Ireland and Republic of Ireland promoting local bands, ‘Chordblossom’ and ‘The Thin Air’ magazine being two of the trail blazers. Anyway, happy hunting.