Why I'm Done with CD Swaps

Except in tightly pre-screened groups, I'm finished with online CD swaps. This isn't meant to be a dig on people I've traded with in the past, because I've had mostly positive experiences, but I'm just not getting what I want out of these swaps.

When I listen to and explore music, I find trends and ride those trends until a new one comes along. And new ones do come along, often on a tangent to whatever I was riding before. Example: I was listening to a lot of hip-hop, and wanted to track down a sample that caught my ear. As a result of that ongoing search, I've been exploring funk and soul music. By exploring funk and soul music, I've rediscovered my love for Motown, stumbled on Funkadelic (who I had never listened to), found Eddie Bo and Maceo Parker and Billy Wooten and Fontella Bass. All of whom are (or once were) vital musicians that blow away most of the music I hear produced today.

By exploring funk and soul, listening to Quasimoto's The Unseen is a more enriching musical experience than it ever could have been before then. By exploring funk and soul, I'm doing the research that brings much of the meaning to hip-hop, which is where this journey started.

So I'm into funk and soul these days, you probably get the picture. But the problem is that in a CD swap, I get four or five collections of hit singles by today's most popular bands. I'll often get music from the six same bands, plus some filler songs in the same "indie rock" genre. I don't want this to sound all genre-elitist, and if I come off that way, I'm sorry. Indie rock isn't less valid than Philly Soul or New Orleans Funk, it just doesn't appeal to my ears. Perhaps if I took the time to go back and listen to the roots of the form I'd appreciate it more.

But I remember the roots of the form. I remember REM, Pavement, Jane's Addiction, and Nirvana, and I don't think they're particularly good. Of course, I love Modest Mouse, so that goes to show you kids, there's always an exception.

So why am I not participating anymore? Is it because I don't like indie rock? Well, yeah, kinda.

Back in the original MeFi Swap, the Jizzohn made a disc that explored Camper van Beethoven and the various spinoffs. It's a great mix CD. yhbc sent me a disc of Boston-area bands, which was at least interesting, if mostly filler tunes (though I'm still crazy about that Mission of Burma song).

What I want now is someone to send me a swap CD that's a compilation of Africa-based soul and protest music from the 60s. I want someone to send me an overview of hard bop. I want a disc of Stephen Foster tunes covered by a variety of artists. I want a comp of sea shanties, or a solid introduction to musette.

I do not want another disc with the latest Franz Ferdinand and Strokes singles, a Polyphonic Spree B-side, and a Beatles cover by a Japanese punk band. Hey, even send me a disc of cover songs (thanks litlnemo!) that I might find interesting. But since most folks are sending me discs of music I can hear by tuning into my local college radio station, it's not worth the effort.

I thought I was sufficiently selecting a crowd by joining a Metafilter swap. It is Metafilter, after all. But then again, it is Metafilter.

So if you've got some tunes to share, lemme know. But so you know, I may not be interested, and I will let you know. It's nothing against you, it's just who I am.


At August 19, 2004 at 2:32 PM, Blogger pinky pinkerson said...

Not that you know me (or care about my opinion on anything) but those college-radio comps sound good to me. Then again, I already own all that stuff, so for someone else to send it to me would be redundant.

If you want faux-sea-shanties (chanteys?) try the Decemberists. But they may be too girly/annoying/lit majorish for you.

At August 19, 2004 at 2:43 PM, Blogger Sam said...

I've tried the Decemberists, but they aren't really singing sea-shanties. They're singing sea-shanty-influenced pop songs. The original styles were songs written with a beat to match a physical task, like rowing or pulling an anchor.

See here.

At August 19, 2004 at 2:44 PM, Blogger Sam said...

But the Decemberists are doing good work, which I appreciate.

At August 19, 2004 at 3:02 PM, Blogger pinky pinkerson said...

Oh, you don't have to like them just for *me* - they have an odd misogynist streak to their writing that I find a little disturbing anyway.

But ah, the sea shanties. That link is the real deal. Sadly for me, I am sort of a purely pop person at heart, so I am much more the "likes the bands who are influenced by" much more than the original source material.

Although it sort of cracks me up to think of listening to music like that in the car. A-sailoring we go, indeed.

At August 19, 2004 at 8:21 PM, Blogger Tom said...

my favorite band sucks.

At August 19, 2004 at 11:48 PM, Blogger dfgdfgasg said...

I really like Mission of Burma too.
Somebody played a CD at work today by The Liars.Within in the first 20 seconds I had to fight the urge to throw the stereo out the window. I really , really hate so much of whats happening in indie rock..

At August 20, 2004 at 1:06 PM, Blogger Tom said...

You should have titled this "Why I Have Better Taste in Music Than You Do."

At August 20, 2004 at 2:50 PM, Blogger Sam said...

It's true, I do have better taste in music than you. But I still like you, Tom.

At August 20, 2004 at 5:36 PM, Blogger Tom said...

you can take those duncan sheik cds and shove them up your ass.

At August 23, 2004 at 8:37 PM, Blogger litlnemo said...

Well, I'm glad the covers disc wasn't totally off-putting, at least. ;)

Really, though, all you can do with these is send a collection of stuff you like, and try to put it together in a way that works for you. (Am I the only one who finds the segues on a mix cd just as important as the track selection, and who will like a song I would otherwise dislike if it's in the perfect place in the mix?) And there's no way that's going to please everyone.

From this last swap I got one that is really really not my interest, one that I really like, and one that I haven't had a chance to enjoy yet but looks intriguing. (And I think I'm forgetting another... hmmm.) I probably won't do it again but it's mostly because of the pressure of having to come up with something that everyone won't think is cheesy. I'm a pop geek (and by pop, I mean music with a hook, not music that is 'popular'), so my taste is inherently cheesy to many (I have other dimensions, though -- I love a lot of funk and soul, for example). I don't want to send out CDs knowing that people might think they are too happy, too "pop." I just like to keep making goofy mixes that I enjoy without worrying even the slightest bit about whether the songs are new, old, respectable, or cheese.

I also frequently make mixes as sort of audio scrapbooks; I recently put George Michael's "Father Figure" (yes, really) on a Driving at Night mix cd because the first time I drove cross-country, every damn non-country radio station I could find seemed to be playing it. (From that info you could probably figure out exactly when I did this drive.) I couldn't escape it. I hated it so much. But now if I hear that song while driving at night, it puts me right back where I was then, driving a back highway through eastern Montana late at night, watching for snowflakes, hoping I would make it to Minneapolis in one piece. There's something to be said for that, I guess. So I wanted to make a cd that expressed that.


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