Thursday, July 16, 2009

Expanding Your Music Tastes

Today I’m going to write about the nature of music tastes and how to expand the scope and styles of music you listen to. I think the best way to begin is with a metaphor to wine and food tastes and how this is similar to your ear’s tastes. In wine tasting and food people often talk about developing their palate so that they can not only discover more discreet and interesting flavors but also so they can actually enjoy them. The same goes for music and like wine you must actively acquire these tastes (your ear's have a palate of their own).

Food is the same way, for instance I tried sushi maybe three times in my life and hated it. Then about two years ago my sister decided to take me out for sushi but this time she covered mine in ginger and wasabi (knowing that I prefer strong and spicy flavors) and now I am addicted to Sushi and don’t even need to overpower it with spice, instead I enjoy the flavor of sushi itself. The same thing happened to me with melodic death metal but in a different way. My friend played me some Children of Bodom and In Flames songs and the guitar work really impressed me. However, I thought the vocals were horrible and the darker tone of the music was a bit disconcerting at first. Soon the guitar melodies got caught in my head and I HAD to listen to more melodic death metal. Eventually, I began to tolerate and accept the vocals as a different and unique stylistic approach. Now I am obsessed with harsh vocals and I’ve critiqued all kinds of screams, growls and shrieks in past entries. I also dove head first into bands that create darker moods and morbid lyrics, thus expanding my “ear palate”. Don’t get me wrong though, I am not saying that death metal is for everyone, sushi certainly isn’t and I think cauliflower is terrible.

We each have our own tastes, our own palates but with an open-minded approach, we can also expand these flavors over time. I’m still shocked to find kids that have never had Indian food but as they grow older they get exposed to more exotic foods and eventually decide whether or not they like them. The point I’m trying to make is that you should trust in your own palate but also consciously pursue new and different flavors or in the case of music, different styles and genres. Even my own tastes in music have evolved dramatically in the past couple of years. During middle school I began listening to punk rock and then discovered heavy metal in high school and finally the floodgates burst open and I started bumping industrial, reggae/ska, hip-hop and electronic music. The same thing has happened to me with wine, which is the ultimate in acquired tastes. At first I couldn’t tell the difference between Carlo Rossi and Opus One but now I can pick out subtle flavors and describe them to other people accurately. It took my own conscious tasting of hundreds of different wine varietals and vineyards but now I can tell you why I like California Pinot Noir over an Italian Chianti. Just like music genres and bands, I am discovering new and different wines that I didn’t even know existed.

Even now I find myself more open-minded than ever to listen to different styles and types of music, doing away with my snobbish Metal mentality. I still think Heavy Metal is the best and most interesting genre, but there are thousands of other styles out there that I have yet to experience. People that know me personally have heard me trash talk female vocalists in the past and recently I have realized that there are amazing female singers and songwriters so I am still evolving my music taste. I think the other important thing to realize is that there is no such thing as “guilty pleasure” music. It doesn’t make sense to feel guilty about the types of music you like and you should be proud of whatever it is that rocks your world. Shit, I’ll admit that one of my favorite bands is Blink 182 not only because they were one of the first bands that I got into but because I’ve enjoyed all their albums (they are THE Gods of Pop-punk).

So here is my message: Embrace whatever music styles you like and don’t be afraid to expand your musical horizons. The worst thing that can happen is you will find new amazing bands and will be compelled to purchase their music and attend their shows. My new goal is to begin reviewing more diverse bands and different genres since I’ve really only written about metal and punk so far.

P.S. I’m going to add a new little comment to each entry known as my Non-Metal Moment. Since I write mostly about more extreme music, I’m going to admit to liking other genres or artists that a pure metalhead or punk rocker would never dare mention. Today I will admit that I dig the music of British singer/songwriter Dido. Check out her album No Angel, she has an incredible voice and writes really interesting songs.