Being that I am putting myself out here as a reviewer of music, I suppose it is only fair to tell you a little about my musical interests.
I don't think that there is a single style of music that I can say that I out-and-out dislike. The stuff I listen to is all over the map, although I will admit that there is a high concentration of Canadian artists in my CD collection.
I never got into contemporary music until the 6th grade. I sang in a church choir (treble/castrasti) and we went on a choir retreat when I was 12. My friend Aaron introduced my to three pop culture icons of the 80's on this trip - Styx, the Police, and Eddie Murphy. Up until that point I was a talk-radio listening pre-teen. The music I had heard at home consisted of my mom's Grand Ole Opry and Elvis Presley records. I loved the Police (and still do), but Styx got to my heart and became my favorite band. Within a short time I had graduated from Mr. Roboto to owning all of their albums, and marveling at their quasi-classical construction and harmonies.
When I got to college I was still very much in my Styx/Police/Yes mode. Styx was still very much my favorite, but had been on hiatus for nearly five years by then. Dennis DeYoung, Tommy Shaw and James Young had all put out solo albums in the meantime, but it wasn't the same. The rise of Damn Yankees and the return of Styx without Shaw in 1990 was a plus, but I had been listening to Styx for 7 years without new material and I think I was starting to look for a little different sound.
I found it in a quintet from Ontario and a little yellow tape they were selling. My friend Tom asked me to listen to this tape he had one afternoon, and I absolutely loved it. I was hooked about a minute into the first song. The music was incredible, the lyrics were funny and intelligent, and there was this irreverent spirit that I very much enjoyed running through the music. The Barenaked Ladies had won my musical heart.
Through BNL I became acquainted with a number of other Canadian bands. My first BNL show involved an opening act named the Waltons. Little known in the United States, the Waltons were an incredibly melodic folk/rock band with intelligent lyrics and a melancholy, if not downright depressed outlook. Their lead singer and spiritual leader, Jason Plumb, is still doing wonderful things. His most recent work, "Beauty In This World" is an absolute must-listen. I was also introduced to bands like The Lowest of the Low/Ron Hawkins (my generation's Bob Dylan), Sarah McLachlan, Moxy Fruvous, Spirit Of The West, Great Big Sea, Captain Tractor, Weeping Tile/Luther Wright & The Wrongs/Sarah Harmer, The Skydiggers/Cash Brothers, Dig Circus, Big Rude Jake, Big Sugar, The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir and others.
These are all artists who either went the independent route at some point in their careers, or had enough of an independent start to craft their own sounds before a record label got hold of them. The music I heard on CFNY (RIP) in Toronto while I was in college blew away what was being spewed by American radio. It's not that I had a problem with the grunge era... some great music came out of the early 90's, I just got tired of hearing the same 20-30 songs in rotation all the time.
I grew up in a time of great pop music (the 80's), and I believe that it may have been the last golden era of pop. It was a time when the music industry was putting out good product in spite of itself. Now we are in an era where the industry itself is bloated and self-reflexive and incapable of growth. That's not a comment on the music of today, but on the major record labels. I think music is thriving today as much as ever, in part because the labels are dying a slow, protracted death. Many artists today are going the independent route. The internet in general, and sites like YouTube and MySpace in particular are making it easier for bands to market themselves and stay independent. This makes smaller bands more financially viable in the long run because they maintain control and ownership on their songs and sound.
That is why I am here. If I can help out independent artists in gaining some exposure, and along the way help to promote music that is original or unique or laden with talent, then I want to do my part.
Submissions may be sent to:
PO Box 562
Buffalo, NY 14207-0562
Please remember that screener copies will not be returned. Other promotional materials are welcome, and I will be happy to mention upcoming gigs, etc., in reviews!