Musical floods, musical islands and Pandora are great, no doubt, but for real introduction to new music either you need to work a shift at a college radio station or … befriend a bunch of people with broad taste and an expansive collection. Not being in college, I choose the latter.

In the past nine months I’ve grown my music collection (in sheer filesize) by probably 15-20%. My musical horizons, much more than that. This is almost exclusively due to meeting new people and swapping music. Social networking indeed, but it has all been offline. The Long Tail is a remarkable phenomenon but it is damn long and there’s no roadmap. For me it comes down to it trust in a live human being for recommendations — still my favorite way of experiencing new tunes. Here’s a selection of artists that I’ve taken to in (let’s round up) the last year.

Sufjan Stevens
Four Tet
Boy Least Likely To
Richard Villalobos
My Morning Jacket
Chicago Underground Trio
Badly Drawn Boy
Imogen Heap
Mojave 3
Sigur Rós
The Arcade Fire
Charlie Hunter
Broken Social Scene
The Kleptones
James T. Cotton
The Notwist
Detroit Experiment
Alex Gopher
Midwest Product
Lali Puna
Claro Intelecto
Casino Versus Japan
Matthew Dear
The Avalanches
DJ Cam
Mike Relm
DJ Shadow
Tadd Mullinix
Porcupine Tree
Ulrich Schnauss

It has been a good year.

And yet. You don’t know what you have until it is gone. A few days ago, the network card on my home fileserver crapped the bed. In an instant, I was cut off from all music and media. Being headless, the Linux machine that I store everything on was totally inaccessible: obviously I couldn’t log into it, but I couldn’t even work on the machine without lugging a monitor out of storage. Before I figured out what was going on I went through the five stages of data loss: (1) Concern, (2) Anxiety, (3) Panic, (4) Lightheaded Otherworldliness, (5) Viewing Sharpened Pencils as Implements of Suicide. But I did lug that monitor and the files are alright. I bought a NIC (for — not kidding — $5) and should have it all back soon.

It has been an interesting period of deprivation. All I can play is what I had loaded on my iPod at the time of the failure. Like being frozen in time, my music queue is now only a sliver of a catalog, a snapshot of what was last updated. It is pleasant, in a way, to have fewer choices. There was a time when you only owned so many CD’s — no vast digital archive, no P2P, satellite radio, or streaming music. You just had to listen to what you had at the time. A few hundred megabytes stuffed into a bottle floating in an ocean that you just can’t drink.

3 Responses to “Musical floods, musical islands”

  1. chris says :

    it’s a two-way street, my friend.

  2. Paul says :

    erm JT something so critical surely should have some sort of redundant network path, dust down another Abraham and get another NIC! Have I taught you nothing!

  3. Arne Kuilman says :

    Wow, last year I went through all the “best of 2005” lists and nearly came up with the same list as you. This is some great music in this list and I am sure to check on the ones that are (yet) unfamiliar to me!