Pandora. Most may recognize this name from Greek mythology:
Pandora’s box is an artifact in Greek mythology, taken from the myth of Pandora’s creation in Hesiod’s Works and Days. The “box” was actually a large jar (pithos) given to Pandora (“all-gifted”, “all-giving”), which contained all the evils of the world. Today, the phrase “to open Pandora’s box” means to perform an action that may seem small or innocuous, but that turns out to have severe and far-reaching consequences.
Today, dear reader, I’m going to refer a lot to Pandora, but I’ll actually be talking about the streaming Internet radio service. Just like its mythological roots, this Pandora can open a whole new world of listening possibilities. Over time, as you indicate which songs you love (and hate) you can actually cultivate a personalized radio station tailored just to you.
My favorite method for discovering new music is to build a station around my current musical obsession. Recently I discovered Walk the Moon. This Cincinnati group has taken my world by storm. I love everything about their music: the energy, the lyrics, and just the way the songs make me feel when I listen to them. The music is upbeat and cheers me up, and the lyrics are so catchy I can’t stop singing. Songs like “Jenny” and “I Can Lift a Car” can be heard at any given moment in my home. But “Shiver, Shiver” has risen to epic status in my mind. Play it any time and I’m guaranteed to dance. Although I’m not nearly as good as the friend-of-the-band who gets his groove on in the music video, I can’t possibly give him a run for his money.
So I created a Walk the Moon station on Pandora and came up with some great new favorites, as well as re-discovering some old ones. Pandora has some sort of mystical algorithm (aka magic) that selects music based on the similar characteristics of the group or style you started out with. Without further ado, here are some of the best artists I’ve discovered (or re-discovered) as a result of my Pandoric adventures.
Empire of the Sun: These guys from Australia have exactly one album we can get our hands on here in the States. From 2008, Walking on a Dream feels like a total throwback to 80s era new wave synth. And it is. But it’s also highly addicting. The album title is appropriately named: if I had to choose a soundtrack for my dreams, it would be this. If you get a chance to listen to this album, take a moment (not while driving, please) to close your eyes and see where your imagination takes you–you won’t be disappointed. Unless you were driving, in which case I wash my hands of you.
Discovery: This is another group I’d never heard of before Pandora. Granted, I cataloged their album LP back in 2009, but I didn’t need to listen to it. Finding out that your library owns the entire album of the incredible song you just heard on Pandora is comparable to how Charlie felt when he found the golden ticket that would open the door to Willy Wonka’s factory. The two guys who make up Discovery, Rostam from Vampire Weekend and Wes from Ra Ra Riot, had already captured my heart through their more well-known bands. This little side project of theirs has me humming throughout the day.
Temper Trap: I kinda sorta had heard a song of theirs on AltNation (SirusXM satellite radio channel 36 for those not in-the-know). I also kinda-sorta took advantage of the fact that I work for the library to beg and plead for the music selector to purchase their older stuff, which I actually think is more fun than the newer songs. It worked, and I have been spreading the word about Temper Trap ever since. Temper Trap is another Australian group that is informing the whole sound of indie rock worldwide. While their eponymous 2012 album features an emotionally satisfying “Trembling Hands,” 2009’s Conditions sizzles with hits like “Sweet Disposition,” “Love Lost,” and my personal favorite, “Fader.” In fact, I say if you give “Fader” a listen you’ll become a fan.
Foster the People: Like most people, I first heard about this LA group a couple of years back when they started receiving big name music award nominations from the likes of Billboard, Grammy, and MTV. “Pumped Up Kicks” has got to be their most well-known song. Me being me, however, I am hooked on the lesser-known “Call It What You Want” and “Houdini.” It’s super-difficult to classify these guys as just one style of music. “Call It What You Want,” for instance, has many elements found in disco, of all things. But Foster the People know what they’re doing and so I am content to sit back and let them take me on a musical journey.
The Postal Service / Death Cab for Cutie / Ben Gibbard: Ben Gibbard is a musical genius. If you listen to any of his projects, including his solo effort, you’ll probably not notice anything too outstanding or obviously revolutionary. But that’s why he’s so good. He and his various band mates create songs that are a bit subliminal in their genius. The melodies and lyrics enter through your ears and into the ear canal. Before you know what’s hit you they’ve entered your soul and you’re forever changed. I know a lot of people will disagree with me, but sometimes the most incredible artists of all just keep it on the down-low. And that’s fine by me.
So there you have it. Yet another reason why you should definitely pay attention when the world changes around you. Had Pandora passed me by, I would never have gotten such a wealth of new music infused into my life.