Back 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.
With 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.