Getting good music without reading reviews

album-fat-cityBack when I first started buying CDs, prior to the internet, I ended up with some stinkers. I bought many an album based on the cover art alone. Sometimes it worked (Shawn Colvin looking cute on the cover of Fat City), sometimes it didn’t (4 Non-blondes were non-talented).  With all the music I listen to, I never get a bad one – and it has nothing to do with reviews. As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t trust them.

I’ve seen a few bad reviews over the past few months of albums I’ve ultimately thought were pretty decent. One that comes to mind is Ida Maria’s album Fortress ‘Round My Heart. I’ve also seen some middling reviews on Wilco’s new album Wilco [The Album]. Let me say that both deserve better, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

idea_mariaWith all the resources available to people, the purpose of a review seems rather dated. Wilco streamed their new album for a month prior to release; Ida Maria was all over Myspace prior to breaking it big. With all the access to free, legal ways to sample music – relying on reviews doesn’t make sense.

I’ve already written about the virtues of Daytrotter – but I can’t say it enough – they provide great access to some of the best up and coming (and some already there) musicians. And it’s all free. Speaking of free; often going to a band’s website will get you access to free music.

Finally I’ve used Metacritic for years; like Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic provides a rating based on averaging a broad number of publications. That way you’re not basing it the opinion of one. If you insist on reviews, this is a great way to go.

I’m not saying that reviews don’t have a purpose. They often point me in a direction. What I am saying is to use the resources available to make your experience better.

  • Julie Coleman

    My friend Kurt has been doing a series about criticism and reviews on his blog (piecesofplastic.blogspot.com). Thought you might find it interesting in relation to this post.

  • Beth Gronning

    For all those non-believers iof Ida out there her unplugged sets are amazing. This video on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvlvZfcBfCc really made me fall in love with her!

  • http://www.cotellese.net Joe Cotellese

    I agree, I generally don’t take reviews on there own. Aggregate reviews are certainly more accurate. I just suffered through Paul Blart – Mall Cop. Afterwards, I checked Metacritic, it received a 35. Lesson to self, watch no movies with a Metascore <=35!

    You should also not discount the value of social media. Last.Fm is a great tool which can help you see trends in new music and expose you to bands similar to ones you already like. You can sample their music and decide whether or not it's worth the purchase on it's own merits, not the opinions of a critic.

    I'll have to check out Daytrotter.
    .-= Joe Cotellese´s last blog ..White Roofs can reduce Global Warming =-.