This week, National Public Radio launched a new site, called NPR Music. I haven't relied on NPR for music since I was scraping the bottom of a hitter box and fumbling to get a tape in my boom box before "The Grateful Dead Hour" started. Since ditching the station, and radio in general, for other forms of musical discovery, I have come to appreciate NPR for news, features, and quirky audio documentaries. Going into NPR Music, I figured that, even though my local NPR station did not impress me musically, the organization as a whole just might have it together in genres other than jazz and classical.
I tend to tire of websites quickly, so I decided to put NPR Music on the clock and see how long NPR's new music site could keep me in one place.
8:07 PM - Welcome to NPR: Music Home. It's not that stuffy in here. No one's playing croquet anyway.
8:10 PM - I clicked on a featured studio session of Animal Collective from member station KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle. The intro stated: "Listening to the Animal Collective CD made me a little nervous about an in-studio session." Included was a link to listen to an interview with the band and watch the studio session, or so I thought. Hmm... Bose In-Ear headphones mandatory commercial. Those look expensive. I thought this was going to be a video of them in the studio and had a joke all queued up about how they keep Monster Cable in business. It's only audio, which is probably for the best. At least you didn't have to read that horrible Monster Cable joke. I listened to three minutes of "Fireworks."
8:18 PM - NPR Music: Discover Songs - Guest DJ Jens Lekman has three of his own songs on his six-song playlist. A bit vain? Listened to his pick of "Kim Ki O" by Dogru. He also chose a tune by The Tough Alliance, a band that I've been enjoying lately.
8:23 PM - Checked out All Songs Considered featuring David Byrne, Beirut, and Dirty Projectors. Listened to "The Sound of Business" off David Byrne's 1985 reissue, Knee Plays. Byrne is in "Seen and Not Seen"-weird-storytelling mode backed by a brass band.
8:28 PM - Listened "St. Apollonia" from the new Beirut album. I still haven't gotten around to checking this out. Sounded like a Latvian wedding reception, which I guess is the point. Kind of interesting.
8:32 PM - This could be a quality time-waster. The NPR 100 is a list of the 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century. I thought it was just going to be the songs, but clicking on the title of each lets you listen to a short documentary on the artist and the work's creation. I started with an eight-minute Fats Domino tutorial. I had no idea he was a recluse. NPR picked "Ain't That a Shame." The list isn't very contemporary. It looks like "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is the youngest inclusion by far, but there are still some great bite-sized history lessons here. No Bowie?
8:45 PM - I'll be back to that NPR 100. Let's see what else we got. 2007 SXSW sessions. Listened to a hunk of Okkervil River's 30-minute performance. You can download a few of these sessions as MP3s, which is nice.
8:52 PM - Fujiya & Miyagi's SXSW set sounds good. These clips load really quick on NPR's own player, which keeps a playlist of everything you've listened to for quick reference. The NPR 100 mini documentaries play on RealPlayer.
8:57 PM - In the "Urban" section, I listened to a story on a proposed Dallas ordinance against sagging. "The No. 1 mission is very simple: pulling up your pants. That's all we want," said Deputy Mayor Dwaine Caraway. That's good stuff. Just like at Sam Goody, at NPR, urban means black, not rap. The section included stories about Prince and Chaka Khan. I was looking for something about the new Wu-Tang album.
9:05 PM - Back to Discover Songs. There are quite a few "best albums of 2006" lists, staff picks of the week, and video sessions. I checked out some lists. That Lily Allen song is pretty catchy. I didn't say good, but I may have listened to it twice. She was on a list for best debut albums of 2006. I think I have to get that Black Angels album. They were on the same list.
9:14 PM - Every story includes audio clips, most often full songs. You could get lost in here. Now, even if your local NPR station only carries "This American Life" and "Car Talk," you can still tap into the station's vast musical knowledge and lit-major sensibility.
9:18 PM - Notice, as I just did, that I steered clear of the site's vast "world" and classical sections. That's not my job.
9:21 PM - After realizing that, I thought I'd better take a quick peek. I'll finish typing this up while listening to a Toots and the Maytals concert, which is in the "world" section. They open up with Otis Redding's "Pain in My Heart."
This is a great site.