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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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My Ever-Changing Musical Tastes
Monday, May 30, 2011

The other night I was at the Dinner at the Thompson’s show in Bridgeport, watching FabLive go to town on his MPC, creating insane beats while Lucille Tee melodically sang over them (both pictured above), when I realized how radically my musical tastes have shifted over the past few years. I refuse to use the world evolve, because that would mean my tastes are getting better, which in turn would imply that there was something wrong with them before. I still love all the old music I used to love, I just happen to be in a phase right now where the music I’m enjoying most wavers between good underground hip-hop, which has always been there for me, and electronic based music, whether it be downtempo, or something funky and jazzier. Interestingly, I think I know what’s led to me enjoying so much electronic based music – I’ve been searching for something new because every other genre has been coming up short.

Hip-hop: I’ve always been a huge hip-hop fan, and I still feel that my friends make some of the best music around. That being said, I can’t listen to hip-hop radio stations anymore. There isn’t a single artist they play that I like. Everything in their rotation is terrible, both from lyrical and production standpoints. It wasn’t that long ago that I could cruise down the street with one of the four hip-hop stations I get here blasting from my car’s speakers. Not anymore. In addition to the radio failing me on this front, most of the hip-hop I’m getting from publicists ranges from mediocre to awful, as well. I’d say I can get through, and enjoy, a complete album somewhere in the neighborhood of 30% of the time. There’s a glut of hip-hop out there right now, and finding the good stuff is like finding a needle in a haystack. When I find that needle it’s inspiring, but it can also be soul crushing going through that haystack (though big ups to the actual Haystack), and even worse when I hear other writers praise hip-hop I feel is sub-par. So over the past few years hip-hop, with the exception of my friends, has been failing me.

Pop: Pop music is genre I’ve always appreciated for its feel-good nature and instant disposability. I don’t feel the need to own most of my favorite pop albums because their singles stay in rotation on pop radio for so long, and I have five pop radio stations where I live. Album cuts aren't normally impressive on a pop album. I mean, we’re not talking about classic Prince here. So I enjoy pop music for what it is, some mindless fun while I’m in the car or at the gym. It’s not going to be the soundtrack to my nights.

R&B: I loved, I mean loved, R&B in the 90s. Boyz II Men, Mint Condition, Blackstreet, Tony Toni Tone, Babayface, Shai... there were so many great artists putting out fantastic albums back then. Musiq and Usher held the torch for a little while in the early 2000s, but for the most part, with only a few exceptions, the R&B genre has been flatlining over the past half decade. The artists either want to make club hits, work with rappers, or be pop stars. True R&B is hard to find and it rarely shows up in my inbox, or my mailbox.

Rock: I think there are some great rock bands out there right now, but listening to a rock album can be a tiring experience. There’s so much going on and there’s no break from the breakneck speed many rock albums move at. I can appreciate cranking it up to eleven, but I can also appreciate a well crafted album that has musical peaks and valleys. Covering Warped Tour is always one of my favorite days of the summer. I always find a new band to love there, but that’s usually the only place where I find a new band to love. Plus, I’m just not jumping into a lot of mosh pits right now.

Electronic-based Music: So in comes electronic-based music. I’ve always dug this genre a little bit. There’s something about the vibe. It puts me in a chilled out mood. I think this started back in 1998 when I picked up The Cardigans’ Gran Turismo album. Although it’s not technically electronic-based, it shares that same vibe. Fast forward ten years and I’d receive a CD by a group called Shock of Pleasure that was so chill - they dubbed themselves electro-lounge music - that I wanted to spin it all the time. It made my year end top albums list. In 2009 I discovered electro-pop singer Lights while at Warped Tour and instantly fell in love with her music. Just like Shock of Pleasure, she made my year end top albums list. In 2010 I saw Blockhead and Machinedrum live at the Mercury Lounge in NYC and developed even more of an appreciation for artists who can program on the fly. It may initially seem odd to see an artist up on stage with just a MacBook, MPC and turntables, but what the good ones can do with that set of instruments, and yes they really are instruments the way they use them, is amazing. This year I have acts like Dinner at the Thompson’s and Love Inks in heavy rotation, I’m revisiting Portishead (Dummy is a classic, but you already know that), and even finding a few artists I missed the first time around, like Little Boots.

This is the music I want as my soundtrack, at least right now. In some ways it mirrors jazz in that the artist can take it wherever he or she wants to go at any given moment. The albums aren’t necessarily the blueprint for the live show, they can be two totally different things. Both, however, provide the vibe I’m looking for right now. It makes me feel good and its replay value over time doesn’t diminish in the least.

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