D o you suf­fer from mu­si­cal paral­y­sis?

If you’re over 30, the an­swer is prob­a­bly yes. In an era of un­lim­ited choice why, asks JOHN MEAGHER, are so many of us stuck in a mu­si­cal rut

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - & -

Let’s play a lit­tle self-assess­ment game. Do you find your­self re­turn­ing to the same old al­bums? Have you found your­self moan­ing about “mod­ern mu­sic all sound­ing the same”? Did you glance at the line-up for this year’s Lon­gi­tude fes­ti­val and strug­gle to iden­tify any of the artists?

If you found your­self nod­ding along to any or all of those ques­tions, you may be suf­fer­ing from ‘mu­si­cal paral­y­sis’, to use a term dreamt up by Deezer. The French stream­ing ser­vice has quizzed a thou­sand peo­ple in the UK and have dis­cov­ered that the age when this mal­ady sets in is 30. It found that re­spon­dents were most keen to ex­pand their mu­sic lis­ten­ing land­scape at 24, but from the Big 30 on­wards, they were far less likely to seek out new mu­sic, es­pe­cially from artists they hadn’t heard of or from gen­res they were hith­erto im­mune to.

When Deezer drilled down fur­ther, they found that peo­ple from this co­hort on found them­selves with less time on their hands due to work com­mit­ments and/or chil­dren and of­ten reached for the com­fort blan­ket of much-loved and fa­mil­iar al­bums and artists.

Oth­ers sug­gested they were over­whelmed by the huge amount of choice that has been avail­able to us ever since Spo­tify launched a decade ago. What should have been manna from the mu­si­cal gods, has turned into an em­bar­rass­ment of riches — and one that too many are sim­ply un­will­ing to ex­plore.

And too many of those who pro­fess to love mu­sic are sim­ply clos­ing their minds. I found my­self speech­less some weeks ago when in­ter­view­ing an Ir­ish DJ who talked lov­ingly about the great mu­sic of the 1960s and 1970s but had no in­ter­est in seek­ing out any­thing con­tem­po­rary on the spu­ri­ous ba­sis that ev­ery­thing that could have been done in rock and pop­u­lar mu­sic had al­ready been done. If a vinyl ob­ses­sive like him seemed as nar­row-minded to the great stuff that’s re­leased around the globe in 2018, what hope ev­ery­one else?

In fair­ness, it’s not al­ways as easy to uncover great new mu­sic as one might imag­ine. Day­time ra­dio — and we’re a na­tion of ra­dio lovers ac­cord­ing to the lat­est JNLR fig­ures — tends to play the same small band of songs and artists over and over again. Lis­ten to 2fm for the next hour or two and there’s a fight­ing chance you’ ll hear Drake or Ed Sheeran or Gavin James. Some years ago, the sta­tion boss de­clared that no mu­sic re­leased more than 25 years ago would be played. It was a soul-sap­ping pro­nounce­ment, but he was try­ing to re­verse a slid­ing lis­ten­er­ship and it’s a ploy that’s largely worked be­cause 2fm’s share is greater than what it was.

As some­one work­ing in the print me­dia, I am loath to ad­mit that news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines and on­line sites can be very con­ser­va­tive when it comes to es­pous­ing great new mu­sic. Of­ten, it’s the same old faces that are sub­jected to the long in­ter­views you might read — al­though said old faces have usu­ally done a lot of liv­ing and have far more to say for them­selves than the shy fledg­ling acts that seemed stumped by a ques­tion as rou­tine as, “What are your in­flu­ences?”

More and more in mod­ern life, we’re be­ing en­cour­aged to seek out the sort of stuff we al­ready like. If you make a pur­chase on Ama­zon, the global gi­ant will of­fer rec­om­men­da­tions based on what you bought — so if it’s an al­bum of Brazil­ian samba or a Swedish crime novel, you’ll be pointed to­wards more South Amer­i­can mu­sic and Scandi-noir.

If you watch a box set or stand-up com­edy on Netflix, you’ll be prof­fered a list of sim­i­lar pro­gram­mers in the ‘Be­cause You Watched’ sec­tion. And, like those of us who some­times fall for Ama­zon’s sug­ges­tions, we of­ten binge on a new Netflix show that’s re­ally quite like the one we’ve al­ready con­sumed.

But play­ing it safe with our cul­tural choices, we’re miss­ing out on so much. It seems re­mark­able in an era of un­lim­ited choice that we’re re­vert­ing to the same mu­sic time and time again. So how can you get your­self out of a rut? Well, first up, there’s noth­ing wrong with re­turn­ing time and again to beloved mu­si­cians and al­bums but per­haps it’s worth tak­ing the time to lis­ten to their more ob­scure work or to lis­ten im­mer­sively to their best.

My own lis­ten­ing plea­sure has been en­hanced by the bril­liant pod­cast, Dis­sect, which uses the long-form stan­dard of true-crime shows like Se­rial and ap­plies them to al­bums. Kanye West’s epic My Beau­ti­ful Dark Twisted Fan­tasy is among the al­bums fea­tured and the pod­cast ex­plores the al­bum in breath­tak­ing de­tail: each episode is roughly 30 to 40 min­utes per track and man­ages to be both won­der­fully schol­arly and en­ter­tain­ing at the same time.

For new mu­sic rec­om­men­da­tions, it’s best to avoid the al­go­rith­mic sug­ges­tions from the stream­ing ser­vices — they won’t take you out of your com­fort zone at all. It’s hard to beat the touch of a mu­sic lover with an en­cy­clo­pe­dic knowl­edge and ex­cep­tional taste. The English DJ Gilles Peter­son has be­come a favourite goto fig­ure and his BBC Ra­dio 6 show, Gilles in the Mix! , is never less than en­gag­ing. It’s billed as a show that joins “the mu­si­cal dots — soul, hip-

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