The End of Music
As I furiously write to try and complete this article by the end of New Year's Day, I look back on one year of music discovery via what has now become a 7 year long process of leaning on my Discover Weekly to find me new and exciting music. Using the Spotify discover process has led to me following literally thousands of bands and in 2022, I attended 40 concerts in 4 different states. My process of Discovery, fueled by Spotify's Discover Weekly algorithm has allowed me to explore and find new musical horizons that I didnt even realize were possible a year ago.
At the beginning of 2022, something strange happened with my Discover Weekly (DW): it would spazz out, reset randomly throughout the week, and sometimes even start generating new suggestions while I was in the middle of listening to it, it settled into a new phase where it provided nearly 100% matches allowing me to start not generating one playlist each week (as it had for the previous 5 years of use), but actually two.
As a demonstration, from my DW from just a couple week's ago:
A Call to Larmes - Atmosperic Mood Pop Bolly Zac Mas - 80s Alt Rock Revivalist
These are two playlists, an A and B side, both of just around one hour in length from two completely separate genres, but with all the tracks provided from a single week's 30 song DW. All I have to do is find the "split" in the sound.
At two playlists a week for nearly the entire year that puts me at nearly 100 playlists (!) for this year alone. I have discovered bands I have previously scoffed at like Pavement, Mr. Twin Sister, Boards of Canada, Kishi Bashi, The Beach Boys, Flo Morrisey, and so many others as I found songs that previously had little meaning to me. Since it doesnt look like my DW is showing any sings of slowing down, that indicates that 2023 will most likely be equally productive.
This leave me with the question though: could it all just end all of a sudden? Could my Spotify go through another vortex like it did a year ago and revert back to its more "hit or miss" style? Could Spotify shut down (where would I be then??)? Or could Spotify simply exhaust all music that I like?
Or could I simply at some point have "heard enough" and not feel the need to assiduously dedicate several hours each week to listening to my DW getting the best tracks from yesterday, yesteryear, yester-decade and yester-past?
Since the first 3 scenarios are largely outside of my control I will focus on the final question of what would have to happen for me to get bored with the process of endless discovery.
First, can there only be so many genres to enjoy? Will eventually I just run out of different types of music?
The variety has been pretty expansive from my Discover Weekly; from psyche-jazz mood rock to Neo-soul to Supernatural folk to Abrasive Moodtronica to an AM by Arctic Monkeys clone. It would appear, that the number of individuals genres where artists are creating new an innovative music continues to expand, and there are still plenty of genres that I have yet to explore via Discover Weekly. And even if you have had experience with a single genre, 13-15 songs can hardly be the totality of sound worth exploring meaning repeats of genres still brings with it new music and new emotions. For instance, I ended the year on two related genres: depressive indie and upbeat emo indie. While it might seem like the same genres, the different keys are distinct enough for each to fit a very different mood. With ever micro genre having the capacity for an upbeat or downbeat or even mid tempo beat form, that alone triples the kinds of music I can find fitting any particular sound.
Additionally, while DW mostly provides me with recent indie tunes from the past decade or so, time and time again DW has surprised me by reaching back in time and finding incredible buried songs from the past such as:
Visions of Your Reality - Ultimate Spinach - 1967
Requiem For John Hurt - John Fahey - 1967
Its Not Easy - Ofege - 1973
Charlie Dont Surf - The Clash - 1980
Please Dont Step On My Rainbow - The Cleaners from Venus - 1983
The Goodbye - The Mermen - 1989
Sweet and Low - Fugazi - 1993
Screenwriting Blues - Ruby Vroom - 1994
Insinuation - Folk Imposion - 1997
I Would Hurt a Fly - Built to Spill - 1997
DW has little trouble spanning not just genres, but also eras to find the underrated, but progressive indie sound.
But what about going across culture? Again, DW excels (or at the very least does not keep me anglo-locked):
Hippie Hippie Hurrah - Jacques Dutronc - 1968 - 🇫🇷
Go Go Around the World - The Fishmans - 1994 - 🇯🇵
Uku - Dengue Fever - 2011 - 🇰🇭/🇺🇸
Bär mig - Solen - 2012 - 🇸🇪
Antabus - Makthavarshkan - 2013 - 🇸🇪
また明日 - OGRE YOU ASSHOLE - 2013 - 🇯🇵
おちゃんせんすぅす - Tricot - 2013 - 🇯🇵
中途 Midway - Elephant Gym - 2016 - 🇹🇼
Surprise Party - Grand Blanc - 2016 - 🇫🇷
Cosoco - Juana Molina - 201 7 - 🇦🇷
While perhaps somewhat concentrated to a few countries, at least DW does find non-English songs that I can enjoy right alongside English language tracks.
Overall, I have found nearly 1,600 new tracks and hundreds of new bands to follow (and maybe go to their shows!).
Second, is it possible that I will run out of rifts and themes for music?
If there is one thing you should have taken from this article so far it is: that I like NEW MUSIC. I love hearing another innovative, badass, lyrically mature rock or electronic song, and with my DW I have pleasure of doing that over 20x a week. Even when I hear a song with a similar echo of another song I already know (or find out that Jessica Lea Mayfield did not in fact write the song "David Bowie I Love", she just has an excellent cover), the songs all feel free and disparate enough I dont feel like I am hearing the same thing. There is just enough difference in the energy or feel or theme that makes the song distinct.
Yet that is not always the case, and sometimes two knowing about one song makes it harder to enjoy another song. For example when I originally heard this song (way back in 2016):
Palmless - dana falconberry - 2014
I was blown away by the bass rift and the overall tone and beauty of the song. I have listened to it 100s of times, and never once found a single flaw. And that's how I would have gone to my grave, if a few months ago my DW hadn't given me this track:
Candy Girl - Trailer Trash Tracys - 2012
which has the exact same bass rift. This means dana falconberry heard this relatively obscure indie song from 2012, then either legally or illegally stole the rift a year or so later to create a different song. I fail to see how this is any different than that Dave Guetta and Baby Rexa song that steals the entire beat & hook from Eiffel 65's I'm Blue. Yet, I still find the two above songs to be distinct and emotive enough in their own right that I dont feel the need to throw away the Palmless track in favor of only Candy Girl. I can like both, but I'll admit I like Palmless a lot less knowing that half the song is completely unoriginal.
This is not the only song where I have encountered this kind of issue, here is another song couplet:
Note the similarity in lyrics "take me out tonight" versus "take me out some time" and similar spacey feel, though the songs are from different genres. Again, The Light is a fairly obscure song, but it seems likely that the second band was aware of the song.
Finally, we have a most interesting case of a possible mimic track couplet:
Hearts of Oak - Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - 2003 Between Us & Them - Moving Units - 2004
which were only released 1 year and 9 months apart. Now the Moving Units track is more popular, at least by recent listening trends with 2.5 million total listens compared to Hearts of Oak which has just over 500K as of this article, but the similarities are undeniable. The opening rift and the angsty lyrics, with the only major difference being Between Us & Them is more downtempo. While Ted Leo was a DC based college rock band, and Moving Units formed in LA, it is entirely possible the bands crossed paths and Moving Units was subconsciously influenced to grab the rift, or perhaps it is just one of music's great coincidences.
Between these undeniable similarities between songs and the fact I am learning how many secret covers I am listening to, I wonder if at some point could it be possible to run out of new and exciting rifts and song ideas. There are only so many chords, variations, and words that can be used to create the output from 3-5 minute span of music.
Yet, that has not happened at all. I have found myself just as excited about all the music I have found in the past few months as I did at the beginning of the year. Despite finding similar songs the amount of what appears to be original music has not changed, even if every now and again I have to go back and decide whether a song is a forgery, or actually original enough that it rightfully stole the beat and idea from the other song.
And what about themes?
You can only hear so many songs talk about love or society before they begin to get repetitive. But, as the world grows, so too does the possibilities of subjects. For example, this is a song I discovered a few years ago:
Cradle Your Device - Tom Brousseau - 2013
A jangle-rock ballad lamenting how his girl spends all her time staring at her damn phone rather than engaging in their relationship. A song that would be nonsensical prior to the advent of smart phones, but is now an almost necessary song that all too many people can relate to. This year I have found songs that reference twinkies, cult culture, trash from past eras, meteorology, the Silver Jews, Egyptology, capitalism, modern Gender paradigms, the ferry to Canada, Satan and the occult, Los Angeles in the 90s, Richard Dreyfus, The Death of Pop, Vampires, Tamatgotchis, perverts, Los Angeles circa 2013, the fabric of space time, dead dogs, Star Wars and the late Princess Margaret(in the same song), lucky knives, shadows, not cleaning your room, etc. it seems there is no end to the ideas that musicians are exploiting to create new and wonderful songs.
And what of love? Can you only hear of heartbreak or happiness so much before you start to grow wary and cold hearted? Well again, its seems that no. The almost endless variations of focusing on different aspects of love from the beginning, to the middle and the end. The songs can be hyperbolic, or understated, or dealing with the loss, or a specific behavior, or unattainable love. There are songs that seek to validate, embody, and emulsify my own person experiences with love and loss that are being piped to me on a weekly basis by DW, helping me as much as any therapist could hope to (more on that in a later article).
In short: it appears new music continues to form, even if occasionally older rifts and song ideas bubble up under new artists consciously or subconsciously.
Will music progress endlessly forward then? That the discreet variations of music that I have listened to are only a fraction of the total possibilities?
What I can say is I fully-well plan to have made another 100 playlists by this time next year, with an equally diverse amount of songs and sound. And if this continues, this means within 4 years I will have made 500 playlists over 250 weeks, and if it continues until the end of my life I will end up creating somewhere between 4,000-5,000 playlists.
With Discover Weekly seamlessly reaching into the recent past, semi-distant past, far past, and sometimes even pre-modern music past (such as this 1958 song by Connie Constance), I predict another year of non stop genre perfect tunes. And while I may start running into technical issues on Spotify as the number of playlists I have begins to exceed several hundred to several thousand until death sets me free of my weekly obligation, it is with a level of straight up giddiness I continue to explore and discover in 2023, believing I am not near the middle, but rather only just the beginning.