Tip #2: Getting informed
Last time we recommended taking a chance, grabbing a new album on a whim because it had a cool cover, or a weird title, or maybe a voice in your head said “buy buy buy buy buy buy buy buy buy buy buy buy buy buy buy buy buy buy buy.” This time let’s take a look at a few ways to find out new albums and/or read up on older releases to figure out what should go into your record collection.
As far as new music goes, a popular (if somewhat contentious) choice is Pitchfork. The site is updated daily with reviews, news, videos, and opinions that are sometimes maybe a little too cool for school, but if you read between the lines a little you can take in what new releases are worth the hype. And if you want a more Canadian point of view then Exclaim! is a good place to start.
[bonus tip: if you want a site that is more directly in line with your taste try going to Google, in the search bar type in the title of an artist and album you like, add the word “review” after the title and see what links come up. Usually whatever sites are looking at that album will also have info on other albums you might be interested in… say Lindi Ortega “Faded Gloryville” as a rootsy example: Pitchfork again pops up first, but americansongwriter.com is the third result, and if you click on the articles tab you can read a great piece on Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch. You win!]
If you want to do research on genres, well the fastest way is to type the genre name into Google and assuredly there will be a site/database to suit your needs… like “Progressive Rock” yields progarchives.com, a ridiculously exhaustive repository of prog information. But if you just want to browse reviews, discographies, artist lineages the two places I’d recommend are Metacritic and Allmusic.
Metacritic.com is a site that links to and compiles the average scores many many other review sites, magazines, newspapers. In this way they can provide you a consensus rating of (mostly) new releases along with links you can follow back to the individual reviews (and hey, even put you onto yet another great music site maybe). A bonus is that they cover movies, television, and platform games as well.
Allmusic is essentially an encyclopedia of music information. You can search artists, albums, even song titles to find out which Elton John albums have the song “Rocket Man” listed [there are fourteen]. There are album reviews and ratings too, but the site is mostly valuable as a fact base resource, though I enjoy the “Related Artists” section that can give you a sense of each artist’s predecessors, their contemporaries, and those who were influenced by them in turn.
So this tipfest obviously concerns itself with online information (guess what, your reading this online right now). But if you want to feel all “old fashioned” you can always go down to your neighbourhood magazine stand and leaf through a few selections from the music section. I assure you these things still exist!