Plug Your Favourite Band Here

I listen to music 8-10 hours a day. The MP3 revolution has been a godsend to people like me. I just set iTunes to “Party Shuffle” and wade through my playlist.

Despite owning 5635 songs and recent rewarding purchases, my current musical tastes are a bit tired. There are thousands of artists and bands out there that I’d probably like, but I don’t have the time or acumen to go find them. I recently surfed around the excellent MusicPlasma, but it wasn’t overly rewarding.

So, I’m opening the floor to musical recommendations. I’ll take all comers, but let me try to describe my preferences so that no one recommends any death metal or polka. There’s nothing wrong with death metal or polka (or death metal polka, for that matter), but they’re just not my bag.

I think this calls for Visio.

Whew. You can’t know how much I enjoyed making this chart (I am such an information design hack), which I’ve called Darren’s Spectrum of Musical Tastes. It’s an attempt, I guess, to make a mental map of what I like and dislike. For the sake of scale (it’s already a huge image), I’ve eliminated my shameful fondness for musicals and less-shameful tastes in instrumental jazz.

Now that you’re equipped with this chart, let the mockery begin. Between jokes about my affection for Tori Amos, please suggest some new artists that your fellow readers and I might enjoy.


  1. You want new, but I offer old but gold.

    You might want to give Radiohead’s OK Computer a try, you may be surprised.

    Coldplay I’ve heard already, and they’re called U2.

    The Hip rule.

    Try a sample or two from my private stash of The Weakerthans. First one’s free… They’re a wonderfully addictive Canadian band. Definitely collegiate, but really quality soft alt.

  2. I’d never mock a person for their musical tastes. To each their own. I might suggest that you look beyond the easy listening genre though 🙂

    I’ll make some suggestions, starting with artists I think are close to your musical stylings and moving to those which I’d guess are outside your comfort zone:

    Erin McKeown – I love Slung-Lo by her.
    Jack Johnson – not bad for a surfer.

    The Shins – The album “Oh, Inverted World” is great.
    The Constantines – brilliant band
    Dirt Bike Annie – pop oriented with male and female lead singers
    Dressy Bessy – also a catchy pop sound

    Interpol – “Turn on the Bright Lights” is in my top ten albums right now.
    Veruca Salt – edgy pop sound with female leads.
    Pretty Girls Make Graves – “New Romance” is probably also in my top ten list.
    Sparta – emotionally charged guitar rock. Some might call it screamo, but I wouldn’t.

    Social Distortion – considered a punk bad, but more along the lines of The Ramones than Minor Threat.
    Murder City Devils – “In Name and Blood” is a great album. Raw guitar rock.
    Young Heart Attack – Kiss meets PGMG. High energy guitar rock. I listened to “Mouthful of Love” about 4 times in a row when I got it.

    If you want to try any of these guys and want a somewhat reliable source for them, email me and I’ll set you up an account on my ftp server. As long as you promise not to abuse it.

  3. Second the interpol suggestion. Other bands worth checking out:

    Calla, who I checked out due to this rave, and I’m glad I did.

    Cooper Temple Clause. Rocking.

    Queens of the Stone Age, keepers of the riff. (See Kyuss)

    Modest Mouse, who are indie hype kings right now, or something, but their latest album is _good_.

    PJ Harvey. Whatever It is, Polly Jean has it.

    Bebel Gilberto. Sexy Brazilian jazz. Smoooth. By the way, I’ve yet to go wrong with a Six Degrees release. I especially dig Ekova.

    Low: best mormon band ever. Plus, they dig on Vancouver sushi, so.

    With the more traditionally structured stuff out of the way, some stranger stuff that I just love:

    Godspeed You Black Emperor. Beautiful music. Read a recent description of them as classical music for indie kids, which has an element of truth to it.

    Do Make Say Think. Label-mates with Godspeed. Instrumental, jazzy, experimental.

    Sigur Ros. Ok, they’re a bit precious, but there’s an emotional core to their music that speaks to me. Their live show here a few years ago is one of the best I’ve ever been to.

    Apocalyptica. Four classically trained cellists playing Metallica sounds like a joke, but dammit it works I tell you!

  4. Heh, I think I enjoyed reading your side comments more than the band names. Luckily, none of my favorite bands/artists were in the red sections — so we can stay friends. 🙂

    Seconds on Kyle’s suggestions of Veruca Salt (got their album) and the Constantines (saw ’em live, good show).

    More suggestions, keeping in mind that my tastes are a little folky and definitely “estrongeny.”

    Po’ Girl — fun little folk band, with really cool instruments. Maybe from BC or Washington?

    Bic Runga — my favorite artist for the moment. Neat artist from New Zealand with an odd, haunting voice.

    Jem — I’ve already recommended you check out this Welsh grrrl.

    The Waifs — new band I’m trying out from Oz. Still making my mind up on this one.

    Joss Stone — here’s a new (alive) jazz singer to add to your list. She’s only 17, but you won’t be able to tell.

    I should make you a CD.

  5. I’m not really sure where it would fall on your list, but you should check out Bishop Allen. They’re young upstarts that I got turned onto through eDonkey promotions. Check out “Busted Heart.” Also take a listen to “Ring of Fire” for enjoyment of a cover.

    On the other side of pop culture, I like to listen to a lot of neo-traditional arrangements from other countries. Of particular interest would be Hedningärna or Gjallahorn.

  6. I second the Interpol and Shins recs; Both Shins records are great, the second being a little more mainstream – not as quirky as the first, but a little more mature and accomplished sounding. Wait, that sounds like a backhanded compliment, and I don’t mean it to be.

    As you are an Aimee Mann fan, I assume you’ve listened to Michael Penn. If not, give him a try. His most recent record is from 2000, but hopefully his new one will be out soon.

    Maria McKee – amazing voice, beautiful songs

  7. We all interpret your spectrum subjectively, but it does give us a loose framework to base recommendations. Here’s what I’m picking up from your visio: Your space is very firmly defined. You have a penchant for introspective & classic rock, you’ll occasionally wander into alternative. You have little patience for pablum, and prefer strings to keyboards.

    Some thoughts:

    Mazzy Star: Sleepy, dreamy, poignant; Mazzy Star maps right in there with the Cowboy Junkies. I’m thinking that you’ll like this band.

    Lou Reed: Hmm, what do you think? He’s so hit and miss, and liking one Reed album means hating another. Since you’re not into Cash, you might not like Reed either, they both share that whole “Leonard-Cohen-Singer/Songwriter” voice, that you seem to despise. On the other hand, the Velvet Underground is arguably the ancestor to some of your favorite bands. I got turned onto Lou after watching Trainspotting. I find the emotional connection that a good film (or any visual medium) can make to a musical artist is simply amazing. Tarantino is so best at that. I digress…

    Beck: Requires at least some sort of commentary on your spectrum; To me, loving or hating Beck says more about your musical tastes than any other artist can.

    Jimi Hendrix: See commentary on Beck above.

    Sly & The Family Stone: If you ever expand into soul/funk, this is your stepping stone. (Pardon the pun)

    Zero 7: Not sure if you got into the whole “Air” kick, like the rest of us in Vancouver, but Zero 7 maps nicely into that whole downbeat ambient electronic vibe. Again, not sure where this fits in, since you seem to be more of a “guitar” kind of person.

    Lenny Kravitz (Pre “Circus” only): I really enjoy those first three albums, but he got it all out of his system too early. I don’t like how his sound evolved in the past decade, nothing left to say.

  8. If you don’t mind Coldplay, you may like Pilate. Less mainstream.

    I agree with Becky’s suggestion of Joss Stone since you’re a big fan of jazz.

    My personal favourite is Hawksley Workman. His albums are great, and his live shows are better.

    You may like Sarah Slean or Ron Sexsmith.

    Also, what about Blue Rodeo? Great band, but I don’t see them anywhere on your spectrum.

  9. If you like Dylan, you might like Dan Bern. His first album (“Dan Bern”) is brilliant.

    I’m also quite enamoured by the Waifs, the Aussie band that Becky mentioned. Their most recent album, “Up All Night”, is their strongest.

    Great recommendations, btw, and that’s a lovely chart… Tufte would be proud!

  10. Geez, too much, but try Rilo Kiley (The Execution of All Things is the best album ever), The Softies, Charming (, Mates of State, Morphine (esp. Cure for Pain), and Camera Obscura. All are excellent.

  11. Go get yourself James Brown’s Star Time if you don’t have it already. He defined a lot of what popular music has become. Plus you’ll shake your booty.

    More recently, Massive Attack’s Mezzanine and Groove Armada’s Lovebox humanize electronica/dance music.

    Craig Northey used to be with Vancouver’s the Odds, and is a very talented, skilful songwriter and performer. He spends most of his time now playing with Colin James and writing songs for people like Rosanne Cash. But his 2001 solo album Giddy Up, though short (8 tracks) is fabulous.

  12. Luka Bloom – irish/folk singer – wicked guitar player – perhaps a bit ballady at times – I recommend ‘Riverside’.

    Martin Sexton – incredible singer/songwriter with a voice of angels – I highly recommend the ‘Black Sheep’ album.

    Blackie and the Rodeo Kings? – a fine combinations of Tom Wilson, Stephen Fearing, and Colin Linden, all Canadian roots/rock/folk heros – I’m not the biggest fan of the Colin Linden blues stuff but some of it is great.

    The Sadies – alt-country-surf-circus 6 ft tall brothers.

    Corb Lund – alt-country-rodeo cutie

    Spearhead – the ‘Home’ album circa 1994 is fantastic.

    and last but not least – Jim Bryson from Toronto is fantastic. Enjoy!

  13. I second the Shins recommendation. I picked up their “Chutes Too Narrow” today and really dig it (had “Oh, Inverted World” for a couple of weeks now — good, too). I’ve also been enjoying Jesse Malin’s “The Heat” lately — this album is making the rounds, and while some people love it, others call it Ryan Adams Poser-style. I think it veers much more toward Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, and really like it. Finally, although it’s not a new artist for your list, try Warren Zevon’s collection “Genius,” which is a superb best-of collection and has a ton of great songs.

  14. Artist: Diamanda Galas
    Album: Malediction & Prayer
    Track: I’m gonna live the life (I sing about in my songs)

    Check it out. It will rewire your brain.

    I heard her live in Vancouver in ’98. Bought the cd the next day.

  15. Darren did I miss it in the Visio list?? but what about Holly Cole. (How Diana Krall became bigger than Holly I’ll never know?)

    OK here goes 150 CD’s, you’ve got a way to go to catch up but try some of these

    Jolie Holland “Catalpa” and “Escondida” ex Be Good Tanyas and both superb.

    “Heather Nova” if you like her you’ll fall in love

    “Amy Rigby” witty literate feamle singer song writer

    “Tarnation and Paula Fraser” spine tingling

    Early “Walkabouts” from Seattle and still playing after all these years

    Cindy Lee Berryhill “Quirky singer songwriter”

    “Bettie Serveert” Dutch band with honey warm vocal courtesy of Carol Van Dijk

    “Tracy Bonham” Underrated I think

    “Sam Phillips” Check out “The Turning” and all her other stuff

    “Drugstore” Amazing female vocalist Isabel Monteiro” sp?

    “Fiery Furnaces” blew The Shins off the stage @ the Commodore and I like the Shins

    “Juliana Hatfield” consistently strong hooky melodic pop songs

    There’s more but that’ll do for a start


  16. Hi Darren,

    What do you think of jazzier funkier tunes. I’m thinking about bands like the Brothers Johnson. I think Strawberry Letter 23 is one of the best singles EVER. An amazingly well-crafted song. Parliament?

    Steely Dan? Songs like Time Out of Mind are sensational. Jazzy and easy listening, but without the annoying pablum characteristics, IMO 🙂

    There are other soulful artists like Earth Wind and Fire, George Benson, etc. that you might find enjoyable.

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