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Tim Walters

Aren't those all (except for Joanna Newsom) Nineties bands? Of course, everyone knows that Nineties music was way better than today's crap...

In theory I agree with you. In practice I seem to be really, really liking Henry Cow's 40th anniversary boxed set.


It reminds me of 15 or so years ago when all the TV critics were lamenting the fall of SNL (and this was the David Spade, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler era!)... while I never felt they were given a fair shake at the time, I did agree that the original cast had something that couldn't be recaptured. But then I saw a few UNCUT early episodes (up until then, I'd only seen "The Best of SNL" 30-minute edits, which were of course, only the best). My eyes and ears were assailed with bad timing, flopped jokes and pure drivel! The bad certainly does fall by the wayside and is forgotten.

Greta Christina
Aren't those all (except for Joanna Newsom) Nineties bands?

They're all bands who are playing and recording now. Some of them got their start in the '90s, but that's not my criteria. They're playing and recording now... and they're relevant now. They're not dinosaur bands. They're touring regularly, they're writing new music, they're getting reviewed, other active bands are listening to them and being influenced by them, they're part of current musical movements, yada yada yada.


there are two other factors that I think play a role for me at least.
1) when i was younger, i was less discriminating.
2) some things i'm fond of just because they're familiar.
the result of which is obvious...


I'm 39. I hardly ever listen to the bands that were my favorites in my good old days :-) I think I mostly got bored with them. Though now and then I do take a trip down 'nostalgia lane'. I do still listen to a lot of old music, but mostly they are bands that I more or less missed, or didn't appreciate, when I was younger, and so even if it is old music it's more or less new to me!

I also have a net-friend who I often chat with, and who is 15 years younger than me and she "forces" a lot of new music on me :-) It's great, I've discovered a lot of new bands and even whole genres that way, that I have really come to enjoy. I HAVE got increasingly lazier with age when it comes to finding new music, and keep being interested in what's around now, but a younger chat-pal won't let you stay in this comfort zone :-)


I googled Varttina, and have now added them to my 'must-have' list. Thanks! both for their music and for the (ahem) really cute triplet of singers. I'm sure that had nothing to do with your recommendation. :)

Jimmy Jazz

Said welcome to the spirit of 1956
Patient in the bushes next to '57

Richman does have a habit of summing up everything good about life, no?


Well, this weekend I picked up a bunch of CDs, including David Bowie's Space Oddity (1972), the Dead Kennedys' Plastic Surgery Disasters (1982), and the Strokes' Room on Fire (2003).

I also listen to Real Synthetic Audio to hear new electronic/industrial/EBM music, and read Popdose for everything else. And, of course, Pandora isn't biased toward specific decades, so it serves up modern music similar to what you've said you like.

Which is not to say that the music of the 80s, when I was growing up, wasn't the absolute best in the history of music (except for all the crap). But yeah, the kids are all right.


Oh, and another good thing about the modern world and music:

Back when I used to listen to music on CDs, I'd often skip over albums because there was only one good song on there, and I didn't feel like listening to the whole album for the sake of that one song.

When I ripped my CDs to MP3s, I discovered that a lot of those one-good-song albums had other good songs that I'd completely forgotten about. Having all my music online, accessible whenever I want, and easily-skippable, allows me to remember the good stuff while ignoring the crap.


I haven't listened to commercial radio since high school. I don't miss it (the crap:good stuff ratio is way too high), but I did notice that it became much harder for me to learn about new bands that I might like. I ended up not listening to much music since about the year 2000, but just recently I have started finding new bands that I like again, through random avenues like NPR, Rock Band, and word of mouth. My current favorites are Espers (an absolutely gorgeous freak folk band, especially their album called II), Rasputina (an all-cello rock band), Gogol Bordello (slavic folk / punk awesomeness), Lacuna Coil (Italian female-fronted metal) and Coheed and Cambria (prog rock: great sound, lyrics aren't my favorite but they might make more sense if I had read the accompanying series of comic books). My perennial favorite, They Might Be Giants, is also still putting out good stuff although by no means are they a recent band.

I still haven't come up with a reliable way to find new music that I like that doesn't involve listening to a bunch of stuff I don't like, which I have very little patience for. I've pretty much been relying on serendipity to expose me to new stuff, so if anybody has any tips on that front, I'd be happy to hear them.


You left Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin out of the 70’s? The 60’s gave us Motown, the Beatles, Janis, and 90% AM radio crap, which is why being a teenager is so confusing. And wasn’t the 50’s something like Elvis + 97.8% crap?
Nowadays I find new artists in the strangest places and from unpredictable sources, but it does take some work. My father of all people introduced me to Shelby Lynne (I like her post-country stuff), I discovered Mazzy Star from an episode of “House” (the TV show music editors are great sources), John Gorka came from someone’s political blog, and my sister sent me “Come as you are” by Mindi Abair (sax and vocals).
And I’ll forgive you the Lulu slight; you had to pick somebody to put down and she of course was an easy target. There is a brilliant book by Joe Queenan called “Basalmic Dreams” with the major premise that the boomer generation, who had so much going for them with Hendrix and Jim Morrison, just laid down and quit when we embraced “Tapestry” in 1971, but he made the mistake of also putting down Sammy Davis Jr., and I never forgave him for it. I can go from Santana to “To Sir with Love” without missing a beat (‘so I contradict myself – I am multitude’ WW).


Hi, I love your blog for all kinds of reasons, and it's pleasant to have my first post on a more lighthearted topic.

I'm 36, and a lot of people my age are already whining that music today is nothing compared to what was going on when we were 17-18. I have to remind them that, yes, our time produced Public Enemy and Neneh Cherry, but we were also to blame for Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer.

Anyway, my recommendations for musicians who have debuted in this decade:

Dizzee Rascal - UK hip-hop/electronic/dancehall. US audiences never got used to hearing a black man with a UK audience, but his marvelously quirky voice is every bit as distincive as Chuck D's or Andre 3000's.

M.I.A. - This decade's Yoko Ono*, and I mean that as a huge compliment. A truly global musician.

MGMT - Probably the most commercial of my recommendations, but wonderfully bouncy and infectious electro-prog.

The Hidden Cameras - explicitly gay folk rock church music. Imagine a more rapturous REM.

*speaking of Yoko, this decade, she's hit #1 on the US dance charts four times, most notably for a pro-gay marriage anthem called "Every Man Has a Man, Every Woman Has a Woman." A new generation of alternative.experimental/ electronic musicians worships her, which has to be the most radical reassessment of the musicial past I've come across.


Whoops, for Dizzee Rascal, I meant "a black man with a UK accent."

Also, I was tempted to include Kelis, but her debut - with the single "Caught Out There," AKA "I hate you so much right now!" - came out December, 1999. Please go to youtube and check out "Millionaire," her collaboration with Andre 3000.


we don't read the mediocre 19th century novels;

Wow! That confirms it. I am really weird. I actually read Shakespeare and Dickens and Austen. I love it because it helps me learn what people did and thought way back then. They may be mediocre by they tell the stories of their time really well. They were there!


Lorena - Greta wasn't saying that Dickens and Austen and Shakespeare were mediocre - exactly the reverse. They survived because they were great, while we forget that lots of their contemporaries wrote junk that we've completely forgotten about now.


In Southeastern & Central Pennsylvania we have what must be one of the best public radio music stations in the world, wXPN. They constantly turn me on to a wide range of new musicians and groups, and a great many older ones that I might not have heard of before as well. They spend a great deal of time and energy searching for and reviewing new music from all over the world, and they have fantastic specialized programming, from folk shows to blues shows, prog rock shows to purely instrumental or classical shows, and more. They also host the World Cafe in Philly, which showcases live performances from new and old performers (the Indigo Girls were just on there today in fact). And they can do all of this because they are a publically supported station, and not beholden to corporate radio/record label interests. They do play some of the stuff that makes the Top 40 or commercial rock stations, but only the best, like Radiohead. Every city needs a station like that (though with the advent of the web, frequency strength ain't the handicap it once was!).

Funny thing too... I find my musical tastes extending equally through the present day and the past. For example, in the early 90s (my late teens) my favorite band was Def Leppard. By college it was Queen. By graduating college it was (and still is) Pink Floyd. I think it's because Floyd was able to adapt over the 30+ years of their existence.

Alan Winston

I guess I was born a crank. (It took me until my late twenties to find my inner teenager, and I have to say that the (painfully loud, painfully stupid) music I was exposed to in the early 1970s - pre-disco; seems in retrospect it was kinda proto-metal - turned me way off. I started liking 50s to mid-60s rock/folk-rock/pop when I was listening to an oldies station as I drove around on sleepless nights in college. I still like that stuff, although, believe me, I'm not nostalgic for that time. And I like new stuff that sounds like that.

Now I'm grumpy, in my little cranky world, that the couple-dancing kids today want to dance to music that wasn't meant for work for the kind of dance they're supposed to be doing. (Eg, noticing that the drummer is doing a kind of slow schottische riff in the background of an Enya tune and deciding that's a schottische.) But I don't have any problem with people doing stuff I like today - I just tend to like things where I can either hear the lyrics or enjoy the melody.

My usual answer to the "don't you wish you could live in Jane Austen's time" - which I get some of, as a Regency dance leader - is "dude, electricity."

Alan Winston

Oh, and lay off Lulu. I don't need to hear "To Sir With Love" more than once a year or so, but I like it when I hear it.

Tim Walters

Greta, I was teasing about the "Nineties band" thing, and I agree that all of your examples are still doing vital work.

That said, there may be an interesting question there--at what point does keeping up with a favorite band's latest work become a bit of a nostalgic exercise in itself? I mean, the Stones are still putting out records, but I don't think buying one counts as keeping up with new music... or does it?

A couple of recent discoveries from eMusic: Future Clouds And Radar (a stealth Nineties band, because they're fronted by the guy from Cotton Mather) and Efterklang (who are very young, and all have mustaches like the guy in Soft Cell who wasn't Marc Almond, except for the female member, of course).

Donna Gore

Do you watch Penn and Teller's show BULLSHIT! on Showtime? They had an entire episode about nostalgia. I do listen to all kinds of music, and befriend people of all ages. I find that listening to music at work helps me concentrate and does make me less irritable and stressed. But I dunno, this other side of me says I've earned the "right" to be crabby. This other side of me wants to get a cane and just hit people with it when they piss me off. Hahahaha.

Greta Christina
That said, there may be an interesting question there--at what point does keeping up with a favorite band's latest work become a bit of a nostalgic exercise in itself?

Interesting question, Tim. I'm inclined to answer with "I know it when I see it," but I realize that's weaselly. And you're right, old bands do keep coming out with new music... and yet, while I will happily keep buying records by R.E.M., and while I don't automatically consider it a sign of old farthood, I also don't count it towards my "keep up with at least some new music" discipline.

I think I'd go with a constellation of criteria. Is the band still recording and touring with new music? Is the band being seriously reviewed by critics? Are other musicians paying serious attention to this band's new music, or just to their old stuff? Is their music part of a current musical movement? Have they made significant changes to their style of music over the years? (And not in a pandering, trying- to- be- hip, "Pat Boone does speed metal" way.) Are they still acquiring new fans -- are the people who are going to the shows and buying the records the same people who've been going to the shows and buying the records forever, or are a significant number of fans people who've just discovered them? (I think this may be a big one.)

I don't think the answer to all of these questions has to be Yes. But I think the answer has to be Yes to most of them.

And since this is my own silly rule that I'm imposing on myself, I'm going to impose, let's say, a 20 year statute of limitations. If a band started up in the '90s but I didn't discover them until a few years ago, I'll still count that towards my "listen to new music" points (assuming they meet my other criteria). But if they started up in the '80s... no dice. If I discover a cool band from the '80s or before, that'll be swell... but I don't get any "keep up with new music" points for it.


I've never understood the whole "everything modern sucks."

Anyone who says that about anything isn't looking hard enough.

Not to mention a lot of good stuff gets forgotten for no good reason. Movies like "Sansho the Bailiff," bands like Bachdenkel. Books like "Galaxies."

It doesn't necessarily take a lot of work (at least not noawadays. the internet is wonderful), but a lot of time, to find those things and to read or listen and watch. I think it's easier to indulge in the familiar rather than take the time to invest in the new.

Blake Stacey

I generally count on my friends to find the good new stuff and know where the good old stuff lives. Knowing a fair number of musicians helps, particularly when they work in different genres: one plays French horn in a good old classical orchestra, while another does bleeding-edge electronic "sound art" and a third is just an out-and-out stoner.

At the risk of losing whatever indie cred I had, I'll have to admit that my own tastes are not spectacularly original. I got myself out of bed this morning by playing the beginning of Who Killed Amanda Palmer and "Chant 3 - Resurrection" from the Ghost in the Shell soundtrack.


If you like Mountain Goats and Joanna Newsome and you haven't already, you MUST check out Bill Callahan. He's been recording since the 90s (under the name Smog), but he just released a new album (Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle) with a 9 minute anthem to Atheism called "It's Time to Put God Away."

Nosmo King


Just came back from Coachella, where among all the buzz bands and DJs-- the wacky young'uns and their jungle music-- the largest crowd by far was drawn by some vegetarian emo kid named Paul McCartney. So it's not just us old folks who suffer from nostalgia, really. Having said that, I now need to say this-- Paul absolutely burned the place down, an amazing show. And the new stuff is better than you think, a thought that initially horrified me, but now pleases me. It's nice not to have to write off all the idols of my extreme youth (hey, I watched the Beatles Saturday morning cartoon show when I was four, OK? Now get off my lawn.).
OK, new music that's cool, from the same festival-- the Black Keys (best duo out there, including you know who); Tinariwen (real nomads in a real desert, very cool). Not from the festival-- I See Hawks in LA (stoner alt-country, with surprising depth. "Slash from Guns and Roses" is one of the best songs ever written about Los Angeles.).

--Nosmo King


I just wanted to point out that Dave Barry is making the same point in his comment that you are in this post. I'm fairly sure I remember the Barry column you're referencing, and he was poking fun at the inherently silly nature of nostalgia - "The music of my adolescence is the best music out there - what a coincidence!"

absent sway

This is such a fun comment thread! Sometimes I fear becoming nostalgic even though I'm in my twenties 'cause there's still so much music I'm discovering from the past that's easy to come by, and bands that I didn't get around to checking out for years. The most contemporary music I've been listening to is M.I.A. and MGMT, I guess, fun stuff. I hope to check out Chrisette Michele's new album this year. Greta, have you heard Mike Barnet? A lot of his music has folk qualities but it's a unique sound with many other elements. I don't think he's performing or releasing new work at this time (see, I'm old) but check out the album "Religion for Robots" if you get a chance.

Dave Haaz-Baroque

I think that part of the 'nostalgia phenomenon', particularly when it comes to music, stems from the fact that most of us were far more emotional in our teens and early twenties than we are now that we're older. When you're young, particularly in High School, everything has monumental significance, small things in your life are a REALLY BIG DEAL.

So while you may find music that you like quite a bit as you grow older, when you're a teenager the music that you like has the ability to inspire and devastate you in ways that become increasingly rare as time goes on. It becomes harder and harder to find music that can, emotionally speaking, shake you up and throw you to the floor, because as time goes on you become more unshakable.

That being said, as far as today's music goes I have to whole-heartedly second the endorsement of Amanda Palmer, as well as her band The Dresden Dolls. When their first album came out, I was ecstatic that I'd found a band whose music floored me as much as the music I listened to in High School.

Aside from that, I listen to a lot of local bands... And Greta, since local for me is also local for you, I'd highly recommend checking out Jill Tracy, Unwoman or Rosin Coven if you ever get the chance (although with the disclaimer that I'm recommending music without really knowing your musical taste).

Greta Christina

That's really scary, Dave -- since I'm already a big fan of Rosin Coven. Have been for years. Attend the Edwardian Ball every year. And yes, they kick ass. (For those who aren't familiar, Rosin Coven is a self- described "pagan lounge" band, sort of jazzy classical avant- rock, except that makes them sound appalling and they are amazing.)

And I think your point about youth is a good one.

Dave Haaz-Baroque

Did you go this past year? You know the giant, 17-foot sea monster that came down from the ceiling during the Gorey sketch?


I built that.

I wish I'd have known you were there! I would have given you backstage absinthe!

Greta Christina

Damn. You made that? Cool! We didn't get as good a look at it as we would have liked -- we had seats on the floor all the way on the right side, and if we took even five steps away from them people tried to sit in them -- but I got a pretty good look, and it kicked ass. I'm impressed. (And I never cease to be amazed by how small a world it sometimes is.)


I think I have a leg up on avoiding nostalgia, since I spent all of high-school lamenting the general suckitude of 90s music. The music I listened to my youth is the music of other people's youths - early Metallica, Black Sabbath and such. (What can I say? When you have hair to your waist at 17, many people feel the overwhelming urge to make you a metalhead.)

Since then, I've been introduced to some quite amazing stuff out of those years, and I'm kind of sad I missed it, but if that's the price I pay for dodging back-in-my-day-ism, I think it's worth it.

Now my taste in music ranges all over (though I remain a metalhead at heart), and a wide variety of friends who know I'll give anything they bring a listen. I addition to previously mentioned Gogol Bordello, Dresden Dolls and others, I'd recommend Flight of the Conchords (their show wasn't great, but the music is), Basshunter, and Emily Autumn. If you can find it, Dr. Steel and Abney Park are also worth a listen, but they're both rather heavy on the shtick, so if that's not your thing, you may not appreciate.

Oh, and if the crap we got are the GOOD 19th century novels, I'd hate to see the BAD ones. Seriously.


Excellent article!
I was just watching 'The Elephant Man' and 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' (both good films) and feeling an overwhelming sense of gladness that I live now, with its freedoms and technology, rather than in some bygone era such as Victorian times.
Lyra, have you ever checked out Devendra Banhart's music? I resisted taking him seriously at first (I was, and still am, annoyed by his self-conscious 'stranger-than-thou' swaggery) but I found that he's one of my favorite modern songwriters and performers: he creates incredibly innovative, beautiful, and witty work. 'Rejoicing in the Hands' and 'Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Mountain' are incredible albums.

Lou Doench

I was listening to my ipod whilst driving the other day when I flashed on the perfect measuring stick for what Greta is talking about. You should always be familiar with at least half of the songs from the polka medley on the most recent Weird Al album.

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