Getting down with the cool kids

If it weren’t for the RSI, bed sores and my slightly pungent aroma, I’d be utterly convinced that spending a lifetime online is a healthy and constructive way to live which has turned me into the cool, trendy guy I am today. Certainly, if one wants to be down with the hipsters of the music scene (you know the type, they sing along to every song in the Toffs indie room), then keeping up with what’s hot online is a must these days.

Sure, any old hack can tell you Arctic Monkeys were discovered on the net and got big through Myspace, but look a little further and a whole universe of music is open to you, much of it destined to bubble up to the mainstream. It’s really just a case of knowing where to look. Allow me to be your guide.

Keeping abreast of what’s going on over the Atlantic is a good start for the aspiring scenester. The New York Times’’s podcasts (http://www.nytimes.com/services/xml/rss/nyt/podcasts/musicreview.xml) and NPR’s (http://www.npr.org/programs/asc) bring insightful and intelligent reviews on new releases in pop and rock. Because they’re podcasts, there’s not even any reading to do. Easy work so far. Another short-cut is provided through metacritic (http://www.metacritic.com/music). This website compiles reviews from all over the media, both print and online, and averages the reviews albums get into an overall percentage score.

Next on our itinerary is the much-hyped ‘blogosphere’, the community who write and share journals online. There are a number of dedicated music blogs where users talk about music they like and, luckily for us, put mp3s online so everyone can listen. Some other geeks, I mean bloggers, have taken it upon themselves to compile all these mp3s in one place. If you pay a visit to Hype Machine (http://hype.non-standard.net) or Elbows (http://www.elbo.ws), you can download hundreds of mp3s of the hottest new music for free with none of the virus risks associated with Kazaa and the like. Elbows also provides a chart of artists that bloggers are talking about the most. If a band is getting blogged about a lot, chances are they are a) pretty good and b) destined for big things.

The Hold Steady are a band I heard about online and, upon listening, discovered them to be ace (think a modern version of classic Springsteen). Last week, lo and behold, Radio 1’s Colin Murray was raving about the record on his show – clearly someone with his eye online.
So what if you’re not feeling too adventurous? You have a particular genre you like but want to explore music within that? No problem. Pandora (http://www.pan-dora.com) allows you to create your own personal radio station. Just type in the name of an artist or song, and, through what can only be magic or complex algorithms, it creates a playlist for you based on that type of music.

So we’ve got our new music, but what on earth are we going to say about it when we’re trying hard to be cool? Song Meanings (http://www.songmeanings.net) is a website where users can post what they think the lyrics of a song mean. Some people just write bollocks, but every so often you find some pretty insightful comments.

There it is – instant cool, and all just a few clicks away. Now if only the internet could make me a better dancer.

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