Friday, February 4, 2011

From Puppets to Mary Onettes

It happens in a flash. One day you're helping your best friend's son play with fire trucks and set up Lego castles on a braided rug in her family room, the next day he is a deep-voiced high school junior handing over a CD he's burned and saying "Nancy, I think you'd like this band. Check it out."

I spent half my earlier life reading music magazines, album reviews, and listening to the radio - back when it had some variety - hungry for insider tips on worthwhile new music and always, as the same young man once described me to his mom, "In the know. In the now." But times have changed; mostly there's less of it, and now I take my music tips wherever I can.

In 2008 I bought all the albums on the Time Magazine Album of the Year list, officially ceding my credibility as a hanger-on to the leading edge. Pandora's been a godsend, because I can play it in the background while I'm doing six other things and then prick up my ears like Achilles when something good pierces my nonstop internal monologue: "Ruh roh! Who's this band?"

Shazam's another great iPhone app - point it towards the source of a song you don't know, click the big "Shazam" button, and the technology spits out the name, rank, and serial number of the song in question. I could, but will not, reveal the names of friends who have a family game which involves taking the Shazam app into the closet, singing a song into it and seeing if they can pass as the original artist. (They can't.) Another friend almost got into a road rage incident when she Shazamed her iPhone at a van blasting some classic Def Leppard.

I just have to make peace with the fact that one of my prime sources for discovering new music these days is now someone who used to attend the Puppets and Pie summer camp with my daughter.

I bring you: the Mary Onettes, which was included on my Christmas mix CD from him. That's pronounced Marionettes, not Mary Won-ettes as I originally thought (and was frankly much more impressed by.) At any rate: every one of their songs sounds like they took one '80s band from Column A and another from Column B and wrote a little mashup thereof.

Here's a track, the formula for which is (the Cure)  +  (Joy Division) = Slow. So simple, a child could do it.

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