A few months ago, Spotify scared the living shit out of me. It all happened when an old music buddy from college started raving about his weekly Spotify algorithm-selected "personalized" recommendations based on what he's been listening to with the fervor a religious zealot. Now, I'd gotten used to this phenomenon about five years ago or so when I woke up on the couch of an old high school friend--one whom I distinctly remember playing If You're Feeling Sinister for and being made fun of for it--and I suddenly heard the Penguin Cafe Orchestra emanating from him dinky computer speakers?
"When did you get into the Cafe?" I asked, genuinely baffled as this was not a friend who would have actively discovered this themselves. "Oh, it's on Belle & Sebastian radio," he replied. As far as I can recall, that was my first memory of experiencing the effects of a streaming algorithm, and frankly, they didn't seem so bad as Pandora seemed to nudge people out of their comfort zones and towards finding new music. And to this day, despite the fact that it's almost neck-and-neck with Spotify in terms of web traffic, everytime I encounter it in an office space or, well, usually in a business environement frankly, it's at least prone to playing a song I like here and there. And it doesn't seem to breed quite the degree of passivity in listeners that Spotify's aggressive algorithms do, making listeners almost dependent on the platform as their source for new music.
So getting back to that initial Spotify chat, my friend was growing nonplussed with my dismissive attitude as I start fuming at the thought that an algorithm could actually supplant the knowledge and experiences I or any record clerk and head will happily dispense. Actually, I believe the word he used was "cocky" and rightfully so. I've long been haunted by the question of "How do you find such cool music?" And while I don't possess the snark to respond as one dear friend does to such question--"Try Google, dumbass"--that moment of having a music friend so enthralled by an algorithm so as to doubt the taste of someone who spends way too much time seeking out new music of all types was an eye-opener. Not to in any way to take away from that friend's enthusiasm, but as he's only two years younger than me, he came up going to record shops religiously and generally having to hunt for the music he actually liked, not just what was played on the mainstream radio or MTV. I mean, I get it. Like so many others, he works all the damn time and thus devoting the time to sussing out new music hiding online is just not an option.
Today, bands are made by playlists. Meaning, much of the energy and resources that once went into, say, print marketing or, since 2003, wooing Pitchfork's editorial team now go into wooing Spotify, or so it would seem. Of course, these are publicists and marketers doing the wooing general and those whose general job is to "sell" a band to a new audience. It's not like being a hit on Spotify translates to record sale money. In fact, while there is no definite "average" payout per stream--as there are many factors that come into play--it typically works out to an infinitesimal fraction of a cent.
But Spotify is only a recent symptom of a problem that has been festering throughout this young century: the decline of music journalism, one that I believe music website par excellence Pitchfork has played a massive role in shaping Now, if you've visited this site before, you might have picked up on my not exactly being a fan of the site, be it due to their aggressive SEO strategies and willingness to wear the mantle of "the most trusted voice in music" when fundamentally not understanding a genre like IDM. Or the fact that the site's place within the Condé Nast portfolio has coincided with a marked decrease in what little quality existed in their music criticism and reporting. Hell, you might say that my rants and thorny asides are more like that of a scorned lover than a well-tempered, er, music blogger.
Well, you see, that's just the thing. My whole reason behind starting both this blog and several before it was to shed a light on the music and stories that didn't fall within P4K's mile-wide-inch-deep scope while trying to open a space to talk about dance music as something more than a mere curio, a quality that has marked the site's coverage of house and techno for almost as long as it has existed. But more importantly is the fact that though it might be diminishing in its tastemaker status as Spotify grows into its role as a passive shaper of 'taste.' Nonetheless, for much of the past fifteen years, we've been living in a P4K-defined world that mirrored the increasing corporatization and commercialization of indie rock, adding a degree of critical heft to stadium-sized bands like LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire while seemingly taking part in both bands' rise to fame. Simply put, Pitchfork redefined the music publication away from the template that prioritized the development of an editorial voice and towards one that could actually make money by expanding its brand to include a series of festival and failed sites like the actually good Dissolve.
For those somehow unfamiliar, Pitchfork is the paradigm-establishing online music publication of the past fifteen years that is basically third only to Rolling Stone and Billboard in its audience size and is arguably still the most influential music site even after eighteen years of existence, the past fourteen of which I've personally found to be one of steady decline in quality. And please note, I have read Pitchfork every day since 2002, often opening it before I read the Times, though fortunately I will now sometimes even go a day or two without scoping it (though I always get caught up). Thus, I feel quite confident in my abilities to assess its development, having read every review and list they had archived on their site at that point and while their archives today seem to be missing some noteworthy odds and ends*, one that is still gratefully there is Pitchfork's founder and still-editor-in-chief's Ryan Schreiber's vicious takedown of Andrew W.K.'s classic I Get Wet.
Before we mull over the sad state the site sees itself in today, let's travel back to happier, more informative days. Specifically to the year 2002--I know it was late spring or the before-the-Fourth part of summer--when I did a Google search for "Andrew WK I Get Wet reviews" and up popped, at the top of the page-one SERP (Search Engine Result Page) was some site called Pitchfork with the meta description that had captured the first 160-or-so characters catching my eyes with a passing mention to Jock Jams. Re-reading the poorly-written and pretentious review (meaning the authority with he wrote felt forced and, well, not actually authoritative or informative) that was the style of the site's founder and still-editor-in-chief Ryan Schreiber, t's kinda amazing that it's still on the site, especially since site later gave it the 'honors' of Best New Reissue almost ten years later. But back before Pitchfork became something much more than a dinky music review site, it was reviews like these, no matter how much I disagreed with them, that presented a refreshing take on the music review format. I spent much of the next year reading almost every single archived review, interview, year-end list, feature, and anything else I could get my hands on as the site's admirable five-reviews-a-day quota. The site's impressive commitment to reviewing such a wide range of music meant bands that were otherwise ignored by every other online and print publication got not just a review, but often an exercise in creative writing that ranged from awful to great. Still, there was a playfulness and an almost self-deprecating quality that made the site a genuine joy to read for an eighteen-year-old blossoming music fan who was just at the start of a fifteen-years-and-counting love of music and music criticism.
It wasn't until 2003 that things started to get weird. That was the year they introduced what would become their trademark signature of approval: the "Best New Music" tag. And for the sake of keeping it a hundred, that first year of BNM-tagged releases were truly eye-opening, turning me onto (and breaking) such acts as The Books and a lot of other albums I loved at the time. As the year wore on and the site became credited with turning the world onto Broken Social Scene, things started to feel a lot less organic and a way more calculated as Pitchfork the music site gave way to Pitchfork the Brand. To this day, I'll still never understand how the site was able to briefly convince me that The Wrens were a band worth my time, but I got an idea at least when I went to see another BNM-approved band in Iowa City during the January of 2004. I had adored The Unicorns' brand of souped-up-yet-bare-bones indie rock on Who Will Cut Our Hair When We Die? alongside many other albums from that period in my life that are no longer relevant to me. But that love died a quick death when I found myself at a surprisingly packed gig for a band not really known outside of the P4K-dictated canon of "best new music." Then it dawned on me. We were all here because Pitchfork had told us to be, had told us that this was a good band and that seemed to be enough for the majority of the scenester-heavy audience. It was hard to remember at that moment that just a few months prior I had found myself actually punching my classmates in the face during the pit that formed the second Lightning Bolt tore into their brain-scrambling set. And while that band had also gotten the P4K seal of approval, that had come well after they had already established themselves as one of the most exciting live bands in the American underground.
I mention that because in that show's place was a decidedly more self-aware-feeling affair with many of the audience members there just to be there. And while I sang along to the first few songs, my enthusiasm dipped into the nonexistent territory over the set's course, unmoved as I was by the band's willingness to scoop up that hype money (and hey, who can blame them for doing so?) Two months later I was at my first and only SXSW in Austin, TX and everywhere I and my two companions went, the hype produced by P4K was palpable, whether in the lines stretching around the block for TV On the Radio and The Walkmen or in The Unicorns near-comical ubiquity at every showcase that could be played. Little did we know that we were looking at the future of both that festival and indie music in general for the following decade as Pitchfork only grew in popularity and stature, with both the site and the festival growing increasingly corporate-feeling with each passing year.
By the time P4K had ushered the abominable Clap Your Hands Say Yeah into campus-wide popularity my second year of college, I had long abandoned following the P4K writers' words like the Gospel and set about finding music through other channels. I continued to read Pitchfork on a still-daily basis, but as my knowledge about music grew--particularly in relation to dance music--I soon found myself almost reading the site with a mixture of scorn and distrust, save for the helpful column here or well-written review there. But what bugged me the most was the site's inclination--one still found today--to treat dance music as a novelty, each positive review of a dance record doing the necessary recap of what house or techno even is as if it was some esoteric tradition that was far removed from the P4K world/brand. Amongst more learned/experienced music fans, Pitchfork soon became of a rhetorical punching bag. Looking back today, it appears a not-uncommon symptom of late capitalism's cashing in on the commercialization (and disappearance) of subcultures as scene reporting and lifestyle journalism, drawing lines from local scenes to the P4K brand and giving those chosen few essentially their careers. And so, I kept my kvetching to the circle of heads who shared my dismay and disappointment at the current state of music journalism and criticism That was, however, until Pitchfork took to calling themselves "the most trusted voice in music" and I started seeing the effects of a generation of music fans raised on P4K or P4K-lite journalism and Spotify playlists.
Simple put, things look bleak af these days, with the type of myopia typical of any young music fan becoming the de facto setting for the majority of listeners of all ages whose love for the genre of "everything" gives them a false sense of knowing when they really know jack about music history (with the occasional and wonderful exception). No matter how many lists Pitchfork creates with accompanying Spotify playlists to show off their breadth of knowledge and ever-expanding canon of "best" titles, the musical discourse in this country and others has withered to the point of nonexistence during this decade. This has left folk like myself looking like manic street preachers as we reek of outdated idealism, of a time when being a music fan meant that you had to put a little effort into things and, you know, go to actual stores to pick up the zines and mags that were your guides to genres and scenes far removed from the small towns that many music fans like myself hail from.
Now, knowing I will not stop anytime soon in my critiquing of Pitchfork, Spotify, and the countless companies that seek to emulate them or profit from an increasingly passive, FOMO-fueled audience, that still leaves the question of "how do persons x, y, and z find music well ahead and apart from the trends and hype propagated by crappy music journalists and potentially evil streaming services?" Well, as always, the ultimate answer is "through effort." That said, I tend to have quite a bit of anxiety over falling behind in the myriad musical discourses in which I participate or growing too comfortable in my daily routine of music sites that I visit. But discovering music doesn't begin and end online. In addition to collecting the online mags, rags, and podcasts that I've found valuable tools in the eternal quest to find new music, I've also outlined some general strategies for discovering new music via record stores, shows, and good, ol' fashioned conversation.
And no, this is not an objective list nor was I successful in keeping myself from editorializing. While all the sites listed have some degree of value to them, the varying quality creates a spectrum ranging from the identikit music-cum-lifestyle publications to the tried-and-true sites and resources alongside new but promising voices in the world of music bloggers (yep, us fuckers). Lastly, this is intended to be an open-ended post that I'll update several times a month, or whenever I find a new resource worth sharing and I urge you to do the same by leaving any insults and suggestions in the comments below.
*In the Wikipedia entry for the site, there's a section of some of the controversies [Pitchfork] has faced, chief of which is the deleting of particular reviews so as not to sound dated--which clearly didn't extend to the W.K. review--or past negative reviews of projects associated with bands they unequivocally championed, like Broken Social Scene, a band "discovered" by Schreiber. Personally, I find this practice ethically abhorrent not to mention just being totally chickenshit. We all say dumbass things when learning how to write about music. Lord knows I have. But to delete them would be to delete a part of myself, to hide my true opinions in the name of brand strategy or just saving face online, which doesn't really seem possible anymore.
General Strategies - IRL Edition
No matter how many sites that exist online, nothing beats going to a well-curated record shop. Or really any record shop as it's by having that physical contact with a record that you'll find yourself taking a chance on an album you've never heard of, getting recommended a band by the clerk, or at the very least, discovering a number of artists you've never heard of before and that look interesting to you. If you have a smart phone, I keep several different Notes at all times with my various musical discoveries and albums and projects I intend to listen to, divided up by whether it's digital or on record as well as the reason for listing it--be it a record to use in a DJ set or a long-lost library record I'm dying to add to my collection.
If you happen to collect physical records--be they in vinyl, cassette, CD, or 8-track format--the liner notes are your best friend. For instance, when I got into jazz during high school, I would pore over the personnel roster of each record while also taking note of the producer, engineer, and any other individuals whose work I felt deserved exploration. What's so fantastic about this method is that you tend to truly get the sense of exploring a particular scene, movement, or genre bit by bit, player by player. And while we'll get to Discogs in a bit, if buying physical records ain't your thing, then always remember all the information you need should be listed on the record's Discogs page (for instance, the list of players on Miles Smiles, an album that led me to seek out everything Tony Williams ever performed on. If a release page has more than one version of the record, clicking on one will usually reveal the liner note information you need.
Now, if you're like me and grew up in a town an hour removed from anything representing a city that bands would stop in while touring, finding out about shows by going to local record shop is likely not a viable option. Nonetheless, going to a show presents a young music fan with quite a few opportunities, not least to seek out and meet fellow heads--who you'll start to notice and identify the more shows you go to. Talk to them. Seriously. Now, I realize depending on one's gender, talking to an older person can be fraught with possible unfortunate outcomes. But listen to your gut. Pick out the person who you've noticed again and again at shows, who seems to be there for the music and not to be seen, and politely start up a conversation. I'm pretty sure there's a YouTube video on how to do that, and not to sound like your mother, but just being yourself and sincere in your enthusiasm will likely endear you to older head. And if they act like an arrogant asshole, well, it wasn't meant to be.
One benefit of meeting heads at shows is that if you end up becoming friends, you'll likely be invited to peruse their record collection--though if even the smallest part of you suspects he or she is after something more than just music, listen to your gut and avoid a potentially uncomfortable situation. That said, some of my fondest early memories of music discovery was when I first started making friends with actual record collections and spending hows digging through them, asking about the records I didn't know and just generally trying to learn as much as possible, both from the records and the owners.
When it comes to discovering new music in a way that both utilizes the near-instant speed of an ecommerce store and streaming platform but integrates a distinctly social element that is what make Bandcamp so utterly unique. In talking to various friends and acquaintances for suggestionsin preparation for this guide, Bandcamp was the one site or platform that every single person polled mentioned (with Discogs in at a close second.)
To perhaps oversimplify matters for the sake of narrative cohesion, Spotify is in many ways the polar opposite of Bandcamp in terms of how one discovers music. Whereas you only need to listen to what you already know and like for Spotify to generate suggestions via their Friday personal playlist feature, Bandcamp demands that you get your hands a bit dirty and participate in the discovery process.
For as intuitive and productive shopping on Bandcamp is, it also can take a second to really get the hang of the platform as the more you know about your own taste, the less energy is required as you'll be able to browse by genre, label, name, or keyword. But, the more you artists, labels, and users you begin to follow, the more time you will spend going through the many emails you'll likely get. Here are the three key steps to getting the most out of being a Bandcamp member.
1. What the Friday specialized playlist is to Spotify users, the daily Bandcamp newsletter letting you know what all the people you follow that day purchased. In general, following people is a great way to get a jumpstart in your browsing. Why? While the platform does give you the option to make certain purchases private--a feature that's a hit amongst DJ friends--generally speaking, anyone can look at what others have purchased. And Bandcamp does every user the big favor of delivering an email at most once a day that shows all the albums and songs bought by those you follow, which can include friends, music critics, writers, and musicians you like or whose taste your trust.
2. In addition to following other users, it is wise to follow every label and artist whom you want to be updated about as soon as they have a new record dropping. Of course, we're talking about upwards of a couple dozen emails per day depending on how many labels and musicians you follow. To keep track of your Bandcamp emails, create a folder in Gmail that can funnel all those emails to a designated folder inyour email.
3. Lastly, or firstly depending on how you want to approach things, start browsing! A great place to start is Bandcamp's own Bandcamp Daily section that covers the many different artists and labels selling their music on the platform. Another trick is to search using a genre term like "freak folk," a certain keyword like "sexy," or a time period like the "60s"--man, sexy freak folk from the 60s sounds awesome.
Ultimately, you only get as much out of Bandcamp as you put in regarding how you curate your Bandcamp collection, which mean by following others, being notified about updates from the artists and labels you follow, and using Bandcamp's own publication and search tools, you'll start discovering not just new music but whole new genres and styles of music.
While not nearly enough small record stores publish the kind of original content that could drastically improve their mail order business--I mean, outside of the internet, my main other place for finding new music is just going to as many record stores as possible. And if you live somewhere with a record store or several (you lucky dog, you!), the best thing you can absolutely do is befriend the store clerks. Why? Because you have to reallllllly love music to make the low hourly wage a record store clerk does. And for many it's worth it because you get to talk about music all day.
With more and more record stores translating that knowledge online in the forms of sites, newsletters, Instagram and other social media, and original content, stores can sometimes be better knowledge hubs than the above sites as they tend not to have an editorial bias outside of their own taste alongside what sells to their customers. More importantly, any shop worth its salt tends to develop its own particular niche or speciality and thus tends to attract plenty of like-minded individuals and push the musical dialogue forward. One only need look at the early days of dubstep when future stars like Artwork's Big Apple record shop in Croydon served as a beacon for a new generation of producers like Benga and Skream, playing tracks for one another and shop goers that included many of the scene's progenitors. The three producers would later get their Optimus Prime on and cash-in with their pop-friendly Magnetic Man project. And while this is just one example that received a lot of press at the time, as long as there are record stores, that physical space will serve as a nexus point for local musicians, giving rise to who know's what next. If you can't go to any of the below record stores in-person, subscribing to their newsletters--usually a combination of the ones that match your taste is best--will give you a much more holistic idea of what music is being released that matters to you, providing education through commerce.
I've been pretty direct in my love for this store as it definitely has filled in some of the holes left by both Other Music and Dope Jams. If you can go in person, that's the way to experience it, but the owner does list his top 5 releases per week and the store's IG is also worth a gander
Amoeba Records - What's In My Bag?
Recurring video series in which a vast variety of bands dig the bins at the immense Amoeba Records and then discuss their choices, exposing you to both new music and some often illuminating insight into it.
This Warp Records-owned digital music output has evolved into a handy store focused on electronic music with a dance focus.
The Forced Exposure of the UK so to speak, but with a bit more pull. Boomkat is legendary for staying at the front of pretty much any type of out-there music you can imagine and their weekly updates are always informative.
Keith Fullerton-Whitman's newish Australian-based online shop for old and new experimental and electronic music, anything this gentleman operates is worth investigating, especially for fans of odd sounds.
In addition to being one of the most mellow places in Manhattan, record, book, and clothing store Commend--which is part of the RVNG family--also features an ace mix series called "Sides" that has featured the likes of Robert Beatty, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, and Leo Svirsky amongst other heady souls.
Selling world music before it became "world music," Belgium'sCrammed Discs remains a solid resource for dipping your toes in non-Western waters.
Arguably the best place online to find both new and used phsyical records of all types, just go ahead and bookmark Discogs now as once you start really digging and discovering new music and developing preferred artists and producers, you can then look at the credits on Discogs and often follow the hyperlinked names to other projects they've done. Oh, and next to each release you can see the prices it goes for, which makes for sometimes pricy browsing. I often like to just start with a label whose catalog I'd like to know better--like Further Records and their associated seller's account, theslutbunny--and then before I know it, I find myself on a two-hour journey into labels and artists I'd never heard of. It takes some time, efforts, and half a brain, but it's also the best resource for finding out about different record pressings alongside perusing production credits online and digging into defunct labels alongside those not on Bandcamp.
Like a more populist Hard Wax--and in German to boot--this is still a solid window into the European side of dance in terms of what's popping.
This Columbus, Ohio-based online store has a great selection of records that has some overlap with Forced Exposure while carrying labels no one else does. Definitely worth signing up for their weekly release newsletter.
The OG of experimental music distributors, FE is what supplies many of your favorite record stores--in you're into the weirder side of things--with their wares. But as there are far more records than can be bought by any one store, receiving their weekly newsletter is a great way to get a comprehensive round-up of the more outré releases of the moment, both new and reissued.
A Brooklyn institution for noise and experimental records. Their weekly update newsletter and online catalogue always has plenty of records you won't learn about many other places.
If you live for that "west coast sound" of Den Haag, Nederland--including labels like Clone, Créme, and R-Zone, then this online store is perfect for you...if you live in Europe or can handle the shipping fees. Créme's digital catalog is also on Bandcamp if you'd rather save on the shipping;)
Founded by Basic Channel's Marc Ernestus and distributing some of techno's hottest records this side of Detroit, the Berlin institution's weekly newsletter is a handy guide to what in dance music you should be at least aware of.
A bit more gaudier version of Bleep, in addition to the DJ equipment they sell to aspiring Euro spinners, they also have a good deal of great content on their digital-focused outpost like this neat making-of article about NWAQ's "Trespassers."
This record shop in Portland, OR is ON IT when it comes to what they carry and they've done the vinyl nerds of the world a huge one by posting many of the more unknown or rare records they receive on their Instagram while their site has plenty more info on the many weird records they get. Always an education.
Once a fantastic email newsletter, albeit a hard-to-read one, Keith Fullerton-Whitman's online shop of eccentric curios and barely-reissued oddities is a must for any fan of experimental and just different music.
I've never been, but it's been recommended to me from basically anyone who's lived or visited LA since it opened. And while it's surely nowhere as good as going to the store IRL, their online shop has plenty of records you'll never have heard of before, prompting rabbit hole after rabbit hole of research.
If you dig UK indie, than this is a great online store to scope or get their mailer to stay on top of and learn about indie rock bands of all stripes.
A record store owned by reissue powerhouse Superior Viaduct, this online outpost is a great place to peruse esoteric titles both new and old.
There are more than a few experimental and reissue-focusd online record stores and SoundOhm more than holds its own, especially in the reissue department.
It makes sense when looking at contemporary music journalism to start with those flailing ships o' hype alongside more credible mags (and NME, just cuz). It kinda goes without saying that to run a music magazine in 2017, you're likely going to have a corporate backer. Though that's certainly not the case with every magazine listed here, though we might as well get two of the most corporate out of the way first.
THE music industry rag. If you're thinking about entering the field or just like watching an old machine learn new tricks, it's a look at music from a side most people don't often look.
While I can't remember the last time I read the print version of RS, my last visit to the site's homepage saw it absolutely covered in female artists of varying success, a nice change of pace from the mag's cock rock glory days.
I must admit, I was pretty shocked to learn that this signature magazine of Chicago's house music scene is still around and like the scene it once covered in-depth, its focus has turned more international over the years.
Well, for you younger readers, this publication seems like a far cry from the on-point hard rock rag it used to be. But for all the pop culture list fans, if rock n' roll (or whatever) is your thing, go hogwild.
Engaging zine that takes a more theoretical look at the club as 'safe space' by both challenging and expanding the concept club music.
The Brits love their culture-lifestyle sites. They also tend to love a lot of solid music, which gets plenty of play in both the print and online version of this UK magazine.
While this academic journal requires a subscription, you can access quite a few of the scholarly articles looking at the intersection of the academy and dance music.
Like Self-Titled, this is more lifestyle journalism that music site, but there's plenty of music-adjacent news along with some decent interviews to scope.
I'll just let them explain it: "Decoder Magazine is an all-volunteer music site devoted to reconciling the apparent forward motion of time with the proliferation of humanity, experience, and expression… to challenge ourselves and hear new things, or old things differently." Yep, sounds good to me.
There was a time where a Downbeat review could make or break a jazz musician. Of course, having been founded in 1934, its existence is tied up with the history of jazz itself and while it might not carry the same weight it did fifty years ago--or maybe it does, I honestly don't know--it's a must-read for any jazz fan looking to get a better sense of the genre's nuances and history.
Long-standing German dance music mag that also features an English arm. From articles detailing where you just must go in Ibiza to more in-depth features on topics like capitalism and techno, this is the dance music mainstream media.
Founded by Andy Warhol on the premise of artists interviewing artists, it can be a bit heavy on the celebrity fodder but also contains some decent music writing and, er, interviews.
Unlike other alt-weeklies that have withered in the internet age, the Weekly's emphasis on in-depth, research-heavy journalism keeps it relevant and they apply that same thoroughness to their music coverage.
Venerable house music print zine that also doubles as the online home for the record label Most Excellent Unlimited, which releases the excellent edits proffered by one Mr. K (the legendary Danny Krivit). Yes, you have to actually buy what's on this site to read or listen to it, but hey, there was a time when everything was like that and this is as about as legit as it gets.
Obsessively covering all things rap since 1996, this site can be more clickbait than constructive at times, but it has plenty to read and learn from as well.
If you're a European dance music fan, this is your Rolling Stone (well, when that phrase meant something). When not writing about Richie Hawtin, this dance music giant covers a wide spread of electronic dance music.
OG UK rock mag that is increasingly focused on the genre's glory days, but so are most other rock sites.
New Noise Magazine
New Noise Magazine comes out with a new print and digital issue every forty-five days, chronicling the latest in contemporary alt rock, from Rainer Maria to Mastodon.
Standing for "New Musical Express," NME was the kingmaker of British indie bands basically until the age of P4K came into being. Now content with being the UK's version of Rolling Stone, if you're looknig for overly-hyped music, come to the mothership.
Like so many of the other music magazines mentioned here, Paste was at one point just a music magazine and one focused on the rootsier side of indie rock. Today, the "music" section in the site's navigation is followed by a litany of other media (movies, TV, art, etc.) and the music they cover tends to focus more on established acts than those just getting started.
Rock Revolt Magazine
A print rock mag that also carries a hearty amount of daily-updated rock-related news.
Along with Dazed, Self-Titled helped pioneer the music-cum-lifestyle magazine template some time ago, but they still feature interviews and reviews of the some of the more interesting artists around with a focus on the experimental dance music world.
Back in the 90s and early 00s, Spin was my music magazine of choice as they were like the "cool Rolling Stone." Today, they're another corporate-backed music mag with a diminishing audience, but also a considerably wide area of coverage that goes from Top 40 to underground dance music.
The other big dog of the hip-hop print game, The Source was arguably the most influential voice in rap music in the 90s and 00s through their legendary "5 mics" status that was conferred on only albums that would likely attain classic status (not to mention a few stinkers). Today, it's not too much different from an XXL or Complex, but they're still reviewing records in their robust music section.
While I write show reviews and the errant article for this Seattle-based alt-weekly, their online edition shows why they've also stayed relevant with an ace music section that's more than happy to smartly tackle identity politics alongside informative primers.
Another 90s-born electronic magazine, the French-based Trax covers a healthy variety of European electronic music flavors while still maintaining their print publication.
Tom Tom Mag
So while this is technically more a musician's magazine, I write for it and they're wonderful people so it's going on the list. I mean, how many sites only focused on women drummers are there?
Has the reissue age killed Wax Poetics? Up through 2010, this was one of the few print music mags I'd pick up occasionally alongside The Wire as they took the crate digging and sampling of hip-hop as a launching pad to dive into long-forgotten and overlooked pockets of music history, but today people seem more inclined to just check WhoSampled than study where records come from. Oh well! Still worth reading every issue that you can find.
Ten years ago, The Wire was arguably the single most important music magazine for adventurous, open minded music heads. Many a friendship were formed in high schools, college, and skate parks around the nation as future heads found each other over a shared admiration for the magazine's willingness to put a band you could book for your high school on the cover and its commitment to covering the best of seemingly every type of music. Today, it lacks something that I have a hard time explaining, but its back issues remain essential reads and its site is a gateway into the weirder edges of the musical underground.
The OG of alt electronic mags from the 90s, XLR8R is still kicking and still hosting relevant podcasts and primers and the like. Their library is worth scoping if still up.
Before the internet, rap music journalism was embodied in the twin titans of XXL and The Source. While the magazine might not have the pull it used to, its site has your daily dose of rap news and reviews and the annual Freshmen Class feature profiles many of tomorrow's superstars and is still an "event" on the rap media calendar.
Unlike the other two below, this alt weekly is a long way from its glory days, but still worth scoping every now and then for the errant piece of solid music journalism and their year-end Pazz & Jop critics' poll.
So obviously this list is not going to have P4K included, but there are plenty of examples of sites that do a pretty good imitation. Of course, there's also a lot of far more niche sites that don't try to cover everything that's hot at this very moment, often looking back than at the present moment. But what about music sites focused on what's new and hot? I've tried to cover as many genres as I can with one big exception: EDM. Sorry, I'm being that guy and really don't care because your portal to so-much-better dance music is right here. That said, I know there are plenty of quality sites missing so as always, holler at me and I'll amend the list with any glaring omissions. Oh, and many of these sites are always on the hunt for new music, so if you're looking for coverage, consider submitting to the ones that make sense!
A staple of the rap internet, 2DopeBoyz is a solid source for daily news, reviews, and track debuts.
Presumably named for the famous Los Angeles highway, "The 405 is an online music and culture magazine packed with the latest music and film news, reviews, and interviews, plus mixtapes, features & much more."
A Closer Listen
While this list may have its share of experimental music-focused sites, A Closer Listen outdoes many with their on-the-fringes beat, wide-ranging mix series, and records upon records you likely don't know.
After the Garage
Like Disco Delivery, this site focused on music associated with the legendary Paradise Garage club in New York hasn't been updated in two years, but has enough informative and well-researched content that will likely teach even the most seasoned Garage veteran a thing or two.
All About Jazz
In case the name didn't give it away, All About Jazz is a handy resource for learning about jazz artists across the temporal spectrum.
An, you got it, alternative music site that's focused heavily on new music and submissions with a personal voice.
Another music site that doubles as a platform and service for musicians as well--though I'm not sure what either of those are exactly--this site perhaps contains one of the best encapsulations regarding the state of music criticism: "In order to keep negativity at bay, you won't find much criticism on this site-- if we don't like something, we just won't feature it." Yeah, maybe worth submitting your own music to, but I'm not feeling this one.
Another Night on Earth
While this site also has gone dormant, its archives are packed to the gills with twelve-inch dance music releases you're likely still sleeping on, so get to it!
Another site that I learned of only earlier this year and helped to prompt my compiling of this list. Fantastic music site founded by Justin Gage in 2005, this Los Angeles-based online music publication casts a wide-yet-finely-curated net in search of overlooked musical gems both old and new while featuring a pretty ace podcast series.
Focused on club music that is often as challenging as any "experimental" music goes, The Astral Plane "is a music resource, founded on the principles of fighting exclusivity and breaking down the norms of the music industry. We cover material stemming from a number of genres, but we tend to focus upon independent, younger, and lesser-known artists."
Solid and in-depth music site built around women writing about "music and culture."
Between the Notes
A "full-on music blog" that features a new song every Tuesday amongst more probing essays.
London-based party collective that also packs a pretty mean podcast series and other promotional materials for their parties and brand that are more interesting and involved than most.
Like a medium-sized HipHopWired, The Boombox covers both black pop culture alongside music premieres and features.
Around since 1996, Brainwashed has an impressive archive of music reviews, interviews, and features that serve as a great portal into the vast and nebulous world of experimental music.
Arguably the reason that so many music sites now double as concert promoters, this guide to shows in NYC also provides the pulse on whatever's hitting at the moment.
Review site focused on tape-only releases with a focus on lo-fi, experimental, and avant-garde rock.
Cereal and Sounds
An eclectic indie-focused site featuring premieres, interviews and review.
Music fan-founded site that is clearly a labor of love, this Brisbane-based pub boasts a robust comments section that's actually somewhat insightful while the site as a whole is geared towards the fact that "the greatest thrill is discovering great NEW music, music that is new to us: whether it be from one second ago or 100 years. "
CoS has undergone quite a few changes since its founding including laying off much of its staff at one point, which led to a particularly golden period of insightful music criticism before expanding to movies and pop culture. Just because you can cover everything doesn't mean you should.
Covering all things heavy, from hard rock to hardcore and heavy to black metal, alongside some genuinely interesting long-form pieces as well as film and art reviews.
While they haven't posted in almost a year, most of the download links are still active and provide a solid window into a lesser-known realm of synth pop.
Cut From Steel
Based out of Hamilton, Ontario, Cut From Steel is a wide-ranging music site that "is all about great tunes, honest reviews, insightful interviews, and good times. If you like learning about new music that speaks to you, unique sounds, and fun wise cracks – this is the music blog for you."
Diary of a Mad Black DJ
OK, as I discuss below, that Infinite State Machine list of recently-founded dance blogs was a doozy and while this blog run by the Detroit DJ and producer Jay Simon is only one post in, it's a whopper with him listing the many fantastic DJs currently operating that are terminally ignored by seemingly every major dance music site.
Considering that this digital art, culture, and music site was basically synonymous with PC Music alongside flirtations with vaporwave and seapunk, it's worth checking every now and then for their conceptual mix series and unique crop of artists that they cover.
A heavyweight back in the MP3 blog days, Swedish music site Discobelle has grown over the past decade to include rap and other electronic genres that both build on the bloghouse template while seeking out new styles and songs that will get your college party bumping.
From Christoph Neumann: "Discobres focuses on electronic music from Chile. Although it doesn't have many updates, it's worth to read."
Despite not being updated since 2015, this site is a solid repository for all things disco.
A recent listicle on the rap-focused site DJ Booth included "The Best Adult Swim Singles, Every Years from 2010 to 2016." I think that gives you a solid idea of what to expect.
Dollar Bins Jams
While still featuring the occasional dollar bin find, this Philadelphia site features "vinyl rips, obscurities, 12" versions, edits, dubs, remixes, bonzers, musings & other rhythms. A must-visit for the omnivorous DJ.
Ah, back in the day on MP3 blogs, this was one of my faves that apparently is still kicking. I suppose it's not fair to call it an MP3 blog as it's more a collection of users posting bomb tracks...kinda like an MP3 blog that specializes in psychedelic dance music of all varieties.
Drowned in Sound
The UK-based Drowned in Sound has been around since 2000 and features music reviews, interviews, and forums.
While the title of this site will never cease to give me a nasty mental image, if you like your music doused in hype, then look no further (except maybe a trip to ye ol' Hype Machine).
Yes, this is a pretty gross example of a corporation, T-Mobile, attempting to tap into the zeitgeist of dance music with their own publication (hey, kinda like Red Bull). That said? It's pretty good, featuring pieces on classic electronic labels, producers, and rising guns. There could be worse things...right?
Canadian music site providing daily round-ups of all things indie, whatever that means in 2017.
The Faders is an odd one. I can remember back to fifteen years ago when it covered primarily indie rock and today it's largely rap, club, and dance music. Not that change is bad, but be sure to mind the hype.
Fake Shore Drive
An excellent holdover from the glory days of MP3 blogs, Fake Shore Drive's focus on Chicago and Midwest Hip-Hop allows it to provide the sort of in-depth coverage and on-the-pulse reporting that many music sites lack.
Focusing on rock of all varieties, Gimme Tinnitus is a refreshingly sincere and funny take on an often self-serious scene.
Gold Flake Paint
A nice thing about smaller sites like Gold Flake Paint and Gimme Tinnitus above is that they tend to be much more welcome to premiering new songs, something the bigger sites shy away from as they don't generate the most click. This site's niche veers towards the more earnest side of indie rock.
Gorilla Vs. Bear
Once the big kid on campus in terms of the MP3 blog scene, this Texas-based music site gracefully weathered the decline of the MP3 blog era and morphed into a more extensive music site and all of the branding that entails.
The Grey Estates
Founded in 2013 by Lauren Rearick, this feminist music site trades in female-fronted indie rock both brand spanking new and more established acts like Widowspeak and my personal faves Girlpool.
Heavy Blog is Heavy
Covering a wide swath of underground hardcore and metal, Heavy contains a large reservoir of interviews, reviews, in-depth features, and a heavy-duty podcast.
Another stop on the rap internet, HipHopDX offers up a steady rotation of news and reviews while covering a wide spectrum of established and bubbling-up artists.
Though seemingly more interested in rap and celebrity culture than the music itself, we all know being a rap fan means keeping up on your gossip, which this site has plenty of (albeit music-related).
Home of the Groove
A site "for everyone who's is interested in the groovy history of Jazz and Funk from New Orleans. Important history lessons."
OK, so I really like The Hum. I know, SHOCKER. A site written by a truly sincere music fan Bradford Bailey who also happens to be whip smart, he operates both the main site and the blog, which "grew out of desire to share the very thing that I was consciously omitting from original site – media which I had encountered through chance and purpose on the internet." Whether it's a deep dive into the Carnatic or Hindustani traditions of Indian Classical music or a survey of Ored Records, preceded by a lengthy rumination on what it means for a blog to review a release, if you even remotely enjoy this site, Aquarium Drunkard, or Listen To This, add The Hum to your bookmarks ASAP.
Back in the days of MP3 blogs, this site served as the Metacritic of the scene, aggregating various blogs' metrics to rank the most hyped tracks. Yeah, if you're looking for one-and-done acts, this site is as good (or bad) as it gets.
Yet another OK UK-based electronic music and culture site with reviews and the like.
I Heart NoiseSelf-described as an "illustrated encyclopedia of audio terrorism (straight outta Beantown) this music site premieres a whole heck of a lot of music while featuring reviews and interviews as well of the contemporary indie and experimental rock world.
Now owned by Vice, of course, this pioneer of the youth-arts-fashion-music pub still manages to publish a few interesting music pieces a year.
Another OG of the music internet, this site once was a tongue-in-cheek and thoughtful look into the world of pop music. Today it has the word "gossip" in its slogan, so things might have declined a bit in the past decade.
Infinite State Machine
One of my earliest examples of what no-compromise dance music blogging looks like, ISM is legendary in my book though they piss plenty of people off...which these days in music journalism is often more of a good sign than not. Dance music critic/producer/DJ Thomas Cox recently did heads a big favor in charting the rise of the MP3 blog which gave rise to the dance music site boom of the early 00s that seems to be finally giving out, leading to a new wave of blogs that he highlights. Anyway, I recommend checking the original article for the full list of new dance blogs they deemed worthy, but I'm also gonna have to bite Tom's work and include a few of the outstanding ones here. [Full disclosure, my site was included as well, but I was a fan of Tom's and ISM's long before they became friends, so their spot was practically reserved.]
Inhale the Heavy
A hardcore-focused site that showcases new and up-and-coming bands with a focus on the UK and EU.
Impressive British-based electronic music site that focuses more on covering artists and tracks they genuinely like than chasing the hype train, at least more so than many of their peers.
The Jazz Page
Don't let the Flash 4 animation throw you off. This is a handy resource for digging through jazz's deep history, replete with songs and videos alongside wiki-like articles.
The Le Sigh
Lovely site highlighting female-identifying and gender binary artists.
Let the Music Play!
Another fantastic dance blog taken from the ISM list, Detroit house head Paula Jones writes about her experiences going out and dancing to a bunch of DJ's that tend to get the shaft when it comes to coverage in most of the above dance sites.
The Line of Best Fit
If you're like me, you're not familiar with the fact that The Line of Best Fit is the "UK's biggest independent site dedicated to new music." Featuring gobs of reviews, features, interviews, and more, the site covers the spread "from bedroom blog beginnings ten years ago, we're one of the world’s most trusted voices for music discovery, "
If you're into global record digging, than this is the site for you. Featuring record-finding expeditions to Morocco and highlights of obscure-ass records, it might be relatively new but it's one for diggers to watch.
Louder Than War
Seeing that I recognized one of the bands mentioned on this hardcore and metal site's homepage, I'm guessing this is a solid read for fans of the hard stuff.
Marcels Music Blog
So a general barometer for a site seeming 'interesting' to me is whether or not I recognize any of the bands that site covers, making this site quite interesting as it covers a variety of scenes and styles I know nothing about. Or as they put it, "this blog is dedicated to covering the finest art and music right now. Otherwise known as the cybernetic stream of prime mover Marcel F."
The Masked Gorilla
If the rappers you listen to seem to be more creations of the internet than their immediate environment, then you'll probably dig The Masked Gorilla, a site dedicated to looking at some of the more curious corners of contemporary hip-hop.
Daily metal news site with all the toppings.
The Metal Underground
Covering, you guessed it, underground metal, this zine-esque site features a ton of bands I've never heard of, which is usually a solid sign.
A business service site established in 2002 that counts Spotify as a client, their site is nonetheless a solid resource for all things music and tech-related, including daily news updates, in-depth white papers, profiles of different country's listening habits, and detailed analysis of the music and tech industries.
Music Business Worldwide
Even if you don't work in the music industry, this music news site founded in 2015 by Tim Ingham seeks to keep readers informed of the increasingly global nature of the music industry, "whether it’s the colossal US, UK and EU markets, the growing power of Asia-Pacific, Russia and Latin America or the streaming-savvy Nordics, MBW helps artists, managers and music industry rights-holders arm themselves with international knowledge to tackle international ambitions."
Music News Nashville
A thorough guide to business of the ever-changing country music scene in Nashville.
Probably not a site you'll read unless you work in the music industry, but if it's an area you're interested in, then this is a site to start reading.
I could be totally wrong here, but Nah RIght is just one more of the many rap sites I at least need to scope to feel like I'm getting a full picture of what's going on and where.
A heavy metal and hardcore-focused site offering up weekly recaps of notable news in the world of heavy music and a feature pairing an album with a libation of their choice.
Vice's music-related flagship that covers everything from NBA Youngboy to Napalm Death.
One of the many sites I'll now be visiting on the regs since first beginning to compile this list back in June, Nerdtorious is run by longstanding music journalist David Ma who collects his own writings alongside shockingly deep dives into obscure rap history, stories behind samples, and much more.
A quality review site "celebrating the late night Midwestern DJ," this long-standing outpost has pivoted its focus towards reviewing not every new dance twelve, but every new dance twelve that actually matters.
Not going to pretend this is a site I check on the regs, but if you're into American roots music and don't know this site, then you probably want to change that...like, now.
No Clean Singing
This "labor of love, sometimes a labor of lust" was founded in 2009 that covers a variety of genres, " 99% of it metal, and about 99% of that extreme metal."
Dance music review site looking at producers on the fringe.
A longstanding and reputable UK online publication that takes in a wide gamut of topics, their music selections are always a bit unpredictable and informative.
Pigeons & Planes
As Complex has morphed into more of a lifestyle hub a la Vice, its former rap music-focused days has been partitioned off under the Pigeons & Planes banner. Worth a look for sure.
Similar in scope and look to Pop Matters and Idolator, Popjustice offers a distinctly British take on pop music, replete with features on The KLF.
An old dog of the online music pub landscape, this site's broadly focused "on all things pop culture and we are the largest site that bridges academic and popular writing in the world." So if you're looking for chin-scratching essays on The War on Drugs, you've found your home.
If you're a Burger Records fan, post-punk phreak, or you like your rock all shades of garage, this site is loaded with content for you, including reviews, interviews, features, and mid-year and year-end lists
Psych Insight Music
An impressive and deep reservoir of all things musically psychedelic.
Pretty Much Amazing
While more like pretty middling, this indie and pop music-focused site covers the usual suspects.
If that title doesn't make you laugh, than this site is likely for you in its kinda-amaterish coverage of the contemporary punk landscape.
With Resident Advisor essentially a ticket-selling website, promoters have been taking a more content-focused approach to branding, resulting in not-terrible electronic music sites like The Ransom Note, which also hosts and reviews events in London and beyond.
More of a multimedia hip-hop site than most, RapRadar focuses primarily on music and video premieres alongside an interview-based podcast.
Rap music-focused site featuring music and video premieres alongside the latest in rap-related news.
Yep, the energy drink also invests in pretty decent-to-great music journalism largely focused on the more electronic side of things.
Latin American-focused culture site created to report on "new Latin music, culture, and events that no one was covering," their music section is an impressive cross-section of Top 40 and underground music in North and South America.
While RA formed online whereas MixMag and Groove still have in-print version, it has established itself as the P4K of the dance music world both in its influence and increasing focus on lifestyle journalism.
Man, I really wish there less "music sites" and more music blogs like RIvet Selects that simply lists ten albums each month, with a pretty solid hit-to-miss average.
Based in Portland, Rosey Music brings "you a well curated blend of tunes and thoughts from Portland and beyond."
Scene Point Blank
Formed in 2003 by four individuals who met on an AFI message board, the site has expanded its focus from punk and hardcore to "indie, hip-hop, pop, jazz and more." One cool feature in particular is that they will have several reviewers critique the same album to get a more varied perspective.
"Talks electronic music in northeast and midwest USA."
Though it's in French, Google Translate does a pretty good job in helping the non-French-speaking to navigate through this blogger's interesting selection of new records to review.
Soul In Stereo
A rap and R&B-focused site with the feel (and heart) of a blog, Soul in Stereo is an impressive collection of reviews, looks at classic albums, and genuinely insightful rants and commentary on both the indie and mainstream worlds.
Solid soul music-focused site that features some pretty damn on-point and rare rips of soul classics, lost, forgotten, or otherwise.
Sounds of the Dawn
With oodles of rare New Age cassettes you've likely never heard of, this blissed-out hub for all things mellow also recently started a label, cuz that's what music sites/blogs seem to do these days.
If you're concerned about what My Chemical Romance is doing in 2017, then this might be the site for you.
Stamp The Wax
This UK-focused online publication looking at British--and beyond--music from the dance music hubs of London, Bristol, and Brighton. Definitely more one on the trad side of UK dance music coverage, but worth popping by every now and then.
Well, I had to put at least one singer-songwriter site up, right? Growing up in midwestern college town coffee shop culture, I'm not a big fan of dudes with guitars, but I'm also aware that there's way more to the tradition than that and this site looks to keep readers informed with the stories behind their favorite songs.
I imagine the gear and production sites will be gathered under their own heading sooner or later, but for the time being, if you're looking for synth news, tutorials, and gear reviews, then go crazy with Synth Site.
While they might not update it often, DJ's Matt MacQueen and Dave Siska take their inspiration from the Electrifying Mojo and Jeff Mills' The Wizard DJ alias--click on those links to get an idea as to why--and "mix a wide variety of funky futuristic records from all styles and years." Needless to say, most if not all of their mixes are worth checking out.
In a vein similar to Rivet Selects up above, this site is ostensibly a list of all the records fit to buy from your local store--and not a "what's hot this week" list but rather a pretty eclectic grab-bag of whatever this blog's author and their considerably good taste is feeling at the moment. Also has movie lists and other media.
Formed out of the ashes of hard rock site American Aftermath, Svbterranean posts reviews and features that are "dedicated to bringing you the best in all things heavy and interesting." They're focused on all things underground, "whether it be metal, hardcore, noise, post-rock or everything in between."
A music site replete with interviews, reviews, and features, Syffal loves "music like we love our burritos: lusciously crafted, filled with meat, and portable." And it's a great place to submit your own music: "No matter the genre, location or intended listening audience, we're happy to give your audibles a nibble. "
Originally founded on the Interview-esque concept of musicians reviewing musicians, the site has expanded to other mediums like fans while still publishing music reviews that provide a different way of looking at an album.
Just like it's title says, a site covering the contemporary mainstream R&B scene.
Though it started off as one of the first P4K-lite publications that make up much of the online music world, TMT has evolved into a quirkier and wide-ranging site that covers a wide range of albums while sticking to their guns on what they like.
Toilet Ov Hell
Formed "as a positive community by a bunch of jerks " who have "have come together to shine light on our favorite bands, discuss our interests, and flush posers," this metal-focused site is no fuss and no bullshit.
Sturdy collection of, er, tracks and mixes aplenty focusing on the weirder fringes of house and techno.
Miniature club empire founded by Rushmore that includes mixes from some of the leading voices of club music alongside a clothing shop because it's 2017.
As this list/guide is admittedly slanted toward the more electronic side of things, I did my best to find rock sites that I was both unfamiliar with and that didn't look like total garbage. This was one of them.
Focusing primarily on club music of the UK and European variety with an eye abroad and a deep and abiding love for grime. Their podcast series speaks for itself in terms of how on the money they've been in the horses they've backed and the interviews are illuminating as well.
Twisted Soul Music
A suggestion from German music writer Christoph Neumann, who writes, that the site is "nice for contemporary soul, jazz, funk and more, sometimes on the edge to electronic stuff." Nice indeed!
Classic rock music news, interviews, pictures, songs and lists from those heritage acts that some people just can't get enough of...not that there's anything wrong with that.
Underground and Black
Less of a blog about finding new music and more about playing music as a black female DJ in a world less than welcoming to women of color in the DJ booth, Ash Lauryn's blog is a revelation to those unfamiliar with the bullshit female DJ's have to put up with and inspiration to those who are quite familiar with it as Ash shares her own experiences as an aspiring DJ. This post alone about her coming to terms with including it in this list. She writes, "Everything was all well and fine when I was simply the “techno cheerleader”; the girl in the front row of every show screaming and cheering for you, but now that I’m out here doing more than just being the cute black girl at the party folks acting uncomfortable." Seriously, I can't recommend this or the following site enough, especially to every white cis-male music fan reading this as I can guarantee that you're gonna learn a thing or a hundred about what it means to be a black female DJ you'll likely never experience otherwise.
The journalistic arm of CASH, discussed below under Resources, this has quietly emerged as one of the few online music publications to publish challenging, well-researched, and even revelatory articles exploring the economic, technology, culture, and health issues facing musicians." Recent highlights have included a critique of the regressive letter-grade system so many music publications use, the sexist way Meg White was covered by music journos, and a deep look into the politics of playlists.
We All Want Someone To Shoot For
Founded in 2008 by New Yorker Will Oliver to share what he was listening to, the site has evolved into a robust hub of concert and album reviews across a variety of genres.
Wire Club UK
Solid blog covering the many facets of underground UK dance music, including interviews with plenty of notable up-and-comers alongside established voices.
Very Small Album Review
As you might expect, this social media account posts albums daily along with severely succinct critical assessments that rarely exceed a sentence in length.
The Vinyl Factory
Not all label sites are created equal and just like the deluxe editions they print, the money flowing through this imprint extends to their online content, which looks at the top vinyl releases of the week alongside more in-depth features.
Zambian Music Blog
Like it says on the tin, if you're a fan of popular Zambian pop music, then you'll find plenty to dig into here.
While this section has plenty of growing to do, this is where I've collected those sites that are repositories of useful articles, mixes, and all kinds of in-depth looks at genres, periods, and acts.
The whole reason I started this list in the first place. While the entirety of the Trunk Records site is worth perusing, along with Andy Votel's Finders Keepers imprint and some other reissue labels we'll touch on, the 50p newsletter is a delightful letter us East Coasters get at 5am Friday morning offering some crazy, rare, and weird album for 50p download alongside a host of other curios that Anglophiles, weird British folk, and weirdos in general will appreciate.
One of the internet's oldest and most useful tools, the IA's Wayback Machine is where websites go to die as it take snapshots of every site's content over the course of its existence. Essential tool when conducting online research alongside the IA's massive repository of archived music, video, and other media.
Awesome Tapes from Africa
One of the founding fathers of the currently en vogue cassette blogs, you can't download the incredible tapes Brian Shimkovitz picks up through his many travels thoughout Africa's street music vendor scene, but you can stream then and get physical copies of those he's reissued via his imprint of the same name.
Your dad and mom's favorite music site after NPR, this handy compendium of music knowledge might not go as deep as some (re: me) would like, but it's a solid starting point.
Blog to the Old Skool
Whether or not you consider UK rave music from 91-96 to be the height of the country's musical tradition or not, if you're looking to find lost gems alongside stone-cold classics, this is your bible.
London venue for electronic and experimental music of all stripes that also has an impressive archive of past shows to listen to and hear artists live you might not otherwise get to experience in person.
CASH is an extremely cool site and nonprofit organization run by good people, which you can tell right off the bat with its host of readily available tools that are free though contributions are welcom. [It] "is a nonprofit organization and a new way of empowering artists and evolving past the mechanisms of industry that put musicians last." with the numerous articles breaking down the realities of being a professional musician. Co-founded by Maggie Vail, manager of Bikini Kill Records, twenty-year vet of Kill Rock Stars, not to mention sister of Tobi, it also host the promising magazine/site called WATT that I'm watching with a close eye.
The site for everything mixtape-related containing downloads for all the tapes hosted on the site.
Deep House Page
A grandaddy of the dance music internet, I'll never forget discovering this site ten years ago and going HAM on their enviable collection Ron Hardy mixes. Today, the site features a variety of mixes from the progenitors of House music like Frankie Knuckles and Tony Humphries while containing a forum and blog with plenty of useful info. But seriously, the mixes are perhaps the most valuable resource of all.
The millennial version of Women on Wax that expands the model to include booking and PR, Discwoman is about empowering female producers and DJ's through workshops, events, and their site features a solid mix series.
Similar in scope as the avant-garde archives of UBU but with a more tightly curated roster of artists, events, and labels, DRAM "features some of the finest experimentalist composers in the digital world as well as some wonderful surprising legends of the American cultural landscape of the 20th century." Be thorough as the site houses some truly useful pages, including this who's who list of every performer involved with Phil Niblock's Experimental Intermedia from 1977 to the present.
Drexciya Research Lab
If you consider yourself a fan of Detroit's Drexciya and the many projects associated with the two shadowy figures at the center of it all and have never checked out the Research Lab, leave this site now and hop on the aquabahn to electro enlightenment. This site's steady steward does a phenomenal job of keeping track of current Drexciya-related news and articles while providing a series of primers on fundamental aspects of the Drexciyan mythology that border on the academic in the breadth of their research. And if you're just curious why dorks like me still can't shut up about a group that effectively disbanded fifteen years ago following the death of founding member James Stinson, well, this is the place to go.
Found this one courtesy of Listen To This and it's a useful guide to the heady improvisation-focused catalog of Edition of Contemporary Music, the legendary label founded by Manfred Eicher in 1969.
What do you know about the UK genre of Electro-Funk, a pivotal genre that preceded the rise of British hip-hop, house, and techno? If you're like me and you're answer falls somewhere on the "Huh?" and "What?" spectrum, then get caught up with this fantastically rich-in-information site.
While most instrument and musician mags are fairly easy to find, I've highlighted a few that focus on particular niches like Emusician, which is a handy resource of articles and guides for the home producer.
Little White Earbuds
One of the most important sites to arise from the MP3 Blog era, LWE was always a class above by publishing well-written reviews, excellent podcasts, and must-read year-end round-ups. It might be defunct as of 2012, but that just means you have seven years of fantastic articles to read that doubles as a history of underground dance music in the mid-00s.
Listen To This
Run by the heady Jen Monrone, Listen To This contains an excellently-curated array of New Age, Italian Minimal, Post-YMO Electric Japan, and much more. And since she doesn't write a bunch for her posts, it's a great starting point to learn about a whole world of musicians.
The other prime spot to download the latest mixtapes from your favorite and least-favorite rappers.
A must-visit site during the MP3 blog heydays, Lovefingers called quits on this site at the end of 2009 and while the links to the songs he would post daily for years no longer works, this crazy thing called Google still does and almost every song listed is worth scoping. And he still keeps active his sprawling trove of mixes, which are also must-listens.
This mother of album download sites may no longer be operating, but it still holds thousands of pages of valuable information about records that are just now starting to come en vogue. These folk were seriously ahead of the game when it came to uncovering lost gems across genres.
So this is a straight-up illegal download site specializing in extremely underground dance music aka the type of artists who can afford to have their music pirated. That said, I've bought dozens of actual records due to getting to sample them via No Data, but if you're just looking to stock up on dance music MP3's, it's good for that as well.
No Longer Forgotten Music
A site that has outlived many of the other obscure album blogs out there, their focus is on "music that lies in cellars, dug out by a group of people who care about great music."
The online home of David Burraston (aka Dave Noyes aka NYZ), an artist and scientist who has been involved with music technology since 1971. In addition to his own recorded work, the site also contains illuminating articles on the "how's" of your favorite songs, such as his piece on "How Vince Clarke Made Yazoo's 'Only You' Synth Sounds."
Aphex Twin fan, meet your new home. Focusing on rare and unreleased Richard D. James material, it's also where you can find many of the artist's rare interviews, including the 2014 "Syrobonkers" interview by Dave Noyes.
Roots Vinyl Guide
While eBay isn't quite the hub for second-hand and rare records that Discogs has become, it's still a major marketplace for uncovering both rare and just unknown record. This site is an eBay auction tracker founded by a group of Ska and Reggae nuts.
Detroit-based collective focused on helping women Dj's and artists thrive.
Created as something of an online school for Carnatic music, download songs, dictation/musical illustrations, and readings of lessons to learn the fundamentals of the Southern Indian Classical music tradition that is Carnatic music.
I probably get asked at least once a month about whether a new What.cd has emerged and where to find it. In case you missed What.cd, Oink, and the other torrent communities that have popped and been shut down over the years are online communities where individuals share their digital music collections with oe another, allowing one to download a dizzying amount of free (and illegal) music. When it comes to torrenting music, there are plenty of how-to guides online, but what you need is a network. Soulseek has been around since the Napster days and thus when I answer the above question by telling them to just use Soulseek, I tend to get met with an understandably doubtful laugh. And while you might not be able to find everything, it's a really handy resource to have set up for downloading a lot of free music real fast. Of course, Soulseek is purely a tool, you need to know what you're looking for before you use it and hopefully you'll actually buy the albums you want to support (or go to see them live). But the reality is, if you can't buy an album on Bandcamp where artists can actually make a considerable amount of money by offering their albums for as low as $1 in many cases, then unless you're supporting an independent record store you might as well have Soulseek in your arsenal as well. The amount of money an artist will see from you using Spotify is typically insignificant so you might as well go the extra step and get yourself a digital copy. Unless you think a corporation that rewards a million streams with less than $5,000 in royalties is a corporations worth supporting.
Huge online directory of cassette labels across the globe.
Ostensibly a database of sampled music in pop, rap, and dance music, WHoSampled still has a few years to go before they're truly the place to go to learn about a sample, but if you're struggling to trainspot, then it's definitely worth a scope.
Women on Wax
Detroit dance music legend DJ Minx's record label and collective focusing on releasing female producers.
Obviously this section needs some work as well, but here is a good start as the British certainly kick America's ass in the music criticism department.
While Martin Clark has left his music journo days behind to focus on his successful careers as label owner, A&R dude, and all-around London dance scene doyen, his archives are rife with on-the-ground scene reporting from the halcyon days of dubstep.
This dance music-focused blog is now the home of critic Jacob Arnold's various writings.
In spite of his untimely death a couple years back, this Marxist theorist of British dance music and all other matters musical's site is chockfull of theory-heavy pieces that I might not be one I always agree with, but I would give about anything to have him or more critics like him heating the pot of online and IRL music critical discourse.
Formerly known as Cocaine Blunts, this site collects the writings of rap music scribe Andrew Nosnitsky.
A veteran dance music scribe who has written about house and techno from him home in San Francisco since the 90s. This site collects both his old writings alongside new reviews.
Reynolds has built several blogs to line up with his different books on dance music, post-punk, and, er, retromania over the years, all accessible from this overarching hub of this noteworthy critic.
Though he hasn't added to it in a while, Toop is one of my favorite music writers and an accomplished musician in his own right whose writings are generally worth a gander.
Radio Stations and Podcasts
While the radio dial has been a bit supplanted by podcast subscriptions, whether driving in the car or listening online, the radio stations and podcasts listed below are veritable masterclasses in particular genres as well as providing an entrée into a smorgasbord of different styles. And I know there are more podcasts than I could ever hope to list here, but just like above, if you see a glaring ommission, holler at yr boi. Yes, I know, descriptions are forthcoming...it takes a minute to write a couple hundred blurbs.
8 Ball Radio
I briefly had a show on this community-funded NYC radio and arts collective and while things didn't work out, there are plenty of wonderful DJ's making Eight Ball worth checking out.
Podcast series featuring "eternal influences of electronic music, infinite depth to darker atmospheres."
This long-running online outpost for all things forward-thinking in club music also features a banging mix series featuring far-from-established artists lending each one a certain quality of discovery that's rare in the world of online mixes.
BBC Essential Mix
The Essential Mix has been treating music lovers to some of the best mixes this side of the 90s mix CD industry for over two decades. And be sure to visit archive channels like this one on Mixcloud that collects some of the more memorable essential mixes.
Beats in Space
Having run this show since he was a student at NYU in the late 90s, DJ Tim Sweeney's legendary dance radio show has been burning up the dial and the web for nearly two decades on, showcasing its host unique blend of disco, house, techno, and much more.
Berlin Community Radio
The community radio station of the city of DJ's. Yeah, you could say there's some good stuff on here.
This video radio station has been broadcasting live mixes and debuting new singles for years now, becoming the standard for live mix programming online.
India-based dance music-focused online radio station.
Run by Pete Devnull, this mix series probes the outer reaches of the electronic and experimental universes.
Carl Cox Global
OK, the fact that Carl Cox has run a podcast series with over 700 episodes was news to me. If you wish you were in Ibiza right now, then you have quite a large selection of mixes to choose from that will transport you there while toiling away at your day job.
Country Fried Rock
Part radio show and part podcast, this Sloane Spencer-hosted interview and performance show features a who's who of the roots rock world.
I suppose I'll have to create a video show section soon or later, but for now I'm sticking this rather solid Revolt TV show in here as it features some genuinely nerdy record talk.
Though this Amsterdam-based dance music label is likely more busy with running its blockbuster summer music festival than maintaining a weekly podcast, the 136 episodes they did post made for an exciting label podcast that featured not just artists on Dekmantel, but kindred spirits and influencers.
Corresponding podcast series for the Swedish MP3 hype blog.
Dublab was definitely a trailblazer in the realm of online radio with a focus on smoked-out jams of all varieties that helped to form the backbone of the LA beat scene. Just scrolling through the archives on the station's homepage is a daunting task with eighteen years of musical history instantly at one's fingertips.
With their mix series nearing the 500 mark, Dummy features weekly mixes from some of the UK's hotly-tipped selectors and DJ's.
So this is like a LEGIT New Age music site that might leave you bouncing on first site of the late-90s burner font, but there's lot of treasures here for anyone into music that transports you to lord knows where. Though the main treat is their long-running podcast, which includes interviews with Ciani and a Delia Derbyshire special, so don't let looks deceive you.
Hosted by Houndstooth label head Rob Booth and originally founded in 2007, this mix show was born out of Booth's own radio shoow on BBC that started in 1997. His impressive raft of guests showcases his decades of experience playing and discovering electronic music of every possible vintage.
I only learned of this site earlier this year and holy cow, if you like your house and techno of the Detroit variety, then there are enough Theo, Rick, and Moodymann mixes and live sets to keep you grooving for weeks to come.
Sort of like a no-nonsense Boiler Room, this video-podcast series shows both label signees and associates spinning at clubs and events around the world, giving the viewer a front-row seat.
The legendary Dutch Electro online radio station formally known as CBS and founded by i-F
The podcast series for i-D magazine featuring an interesting range of DJ's that cover the wide spread charted by Britain's electronic music history.
Into the Blue
New music online radio show out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Joakim Best of Music You Can Dance To
The esteemed French selector and producer releases this mix once a year and it's always a highlight featuring many a dance number that slid past my radar.
The University of Berkley in California's legendary free-form college radio station
Through super smart curation of DJ's and one heck of a studio with a popular live cam and chatroom, The Lot has arguably become one of the most vital radio outlets in NYC.
A trio of Seattle-based DJ's, the Möbius Sisters are a techno-minded collective "dedicated to providing a darker and sexually nuanced vibe to the queer nightclub scene."
Music for Programming
Talk about a simple yet effective idea. Music for Programming is a mix series that has featured the likes of Konx Am Pax, Jo Johanson, and J.S. Aurelius weaving together song selections ideal for tasks that require heavy concentration, like coding or, hey, writing.
The Mexico City-based club label and NON Worldwide associates NAAFI's ongoing mix series.
It's hard to believe, but this Vancouver music nerd's obsessive radio show and interviews have been flummoxing artists for three decades now. This site includes transcriptions of the host's famed interviews alongside those on video.
Self-Titled Magazine's accompanying online mix series that only has a couple of dozen episodes but few that aren't at least worth giving a go.
New New World Radio
Exciting Moscow-based online radio station that trie "to avoid concentrating on musical trends from NYC, London and Berlin," looking instead for "fresh sounds from Beirut or Tampere" and elsewhere.
Noise in My Head
Originally starting on Melbourne's community broadcaster 3RRR 102.7FM from 2005 through 2013, this show hosted by Michael Kucyck has found a new monthly home of London's NTS Radio.
A more detailed breakdown of the many written columns and fantastic radio shows hosted on National Public Radio is forthcoming, but it should go without saying that if you're excited about new music of all varieties, NPR is always a solid choice. Let's just hope it's still around in three years. Oh, one that I've been instructed by my dad to include is his main main Bob Boilen, host of All Songs Considered.
For as much as RinseFM came to embody the radio outlet for dubstep in 00s London, NTS has arguably emerged as the radio zeitgeist of this decade with the DJ's sourced from within and outside of London providing an eclectic program of shows that cover every trendy genre and era possible. This is the sound of the 'nuum never mattering.
The NYC Downlow
OK, so this is an odd one. First formed in 2007 to showcase "homocentric music"--which they take to mean vintage house, disco, soul, and funk--this is an annual feature of the Glastonbury Festival in the UK that has assumed the form of several different manifestation of late 70s and early 80s NYC nightlife, with the current incarnation "an authentic reproduction of a Meatpacker’s warehouse in the heart of New York’s seedy Meatpacking District circa 1982." So yeah...a bit of cultural fetishization here, but also a great podcast series as well.
This internationally known collective and label featuring artists from Africa and of the diaspora also runs a cracking mix series featuring some of the leading lights of the globalized club scene.
This LA-based crate digger's Soundcloud channel is worth a gander especially for his deep dives into his Persian heritage. There's only two mixes up currently, but both are educations in music you might not typically hear or even encounter.
While providing a round-up of the month's best mixes is something P4K has done for a moment, Origin Peoples has taken the mix aggregator idea to a new and great extreme by posting the best mixes and songs they find on Soundcloud across a wide variety of genres.
Pop Your Funk
A reliable resource for all things funky since 2004, this podcast series "delves into the deeper side of electronic music and its roots." Mixes are done by the likes of Pop Your Funk's own Cez, as well as guest mixes from "John Tejada, Aybee, John Heckle, Tomoki Tamura, Miles Simpson (Thunder), Placid, Ooft, m50, Trackwerk, Kuri Kondrak and David Siska."
Pinchy & Friends
Mixtape collective creating numerous series of mixes based around certain themes and concepts with an extensive back library.
Very cool mix series with each one revolving around a different theme including a tribute to Drexciya, a mix of Boom-Bap beat, and a sonic survey of South America.
Long-running British online radio station boasting an enviable roster of young DJ's from across the musical spectrum, though with a focus on all things bass UK and beyond.
Housed in a shipping container in Munich, this German online radio station founded in 2015 by Leo Bauer and Felix Flemme gives listeners an ear into the city's thriving underground dance music scene.
This podcast is "devoted to experimental, electronic, avant-pop, and other unusual music." It airs from 7-10pm EST via the link above in addition to past episodes on iTunes here.
The radio station for the energy drink giant's Music Academy featuring a selection of professional DJ's and journalists/selectors exploring the many facets of electronic music.
Red Light Radio
Amsterdam's world-class community radio station based in the city's notorious Red Light District, Red Light Radio plays "everything from the obscurest afro, to the coldest wave, the blackest metal, the newest electronics and everything in between." Be sure to hop onto their massive vault of archived shows dating back to the station's founding in 2010.
Resident Advisor Podcast/Exchange
No matter what you or I might think of Resident Advisor as a publication, their long-running weekly mix series was beefed up with the mid-week Exchange podcast that features an interview with a legend of dance music, both on the industry or artist side of things
Founded in 1994 as a London-based pirate radio station, Rinse embodied the sound of dubstep in the 00s while boasting a much more diverse selection of sounds that reflects this decade's increasing hybridity in terms of what audiences want in a radio show while still featuring plenty of grime, bass, and other distinctly LDN sound. Oh, and they got an official license a few years back so they are now officially on the dial.
The French arm of the London pirate radio OG featuring a decidedly Parisian take on the British institution with many of the city's electronic music legends taking part.
Depending on who you talk to, Secret Thirteen is generally known as either an adventurous mix series or an artist interview site. It is in fact both, those their mixes have truly stood on their own.
A personal favorite, this is my go-to monthly radio show for keeping up on all things rap. They also feature a number of geographically-themed mixes that are all essential listening imho.
Tabs Out Podcast
While I'm not a big podcast dude, this is one I always mean to check out as it's been recommended to me by heads of the highest order and is an excellent survey of new cassette-only releases across genres.
Seoul Community Radio
Well, this is fucking cool. As much as I may love K-Pop, there's much more to South Korea's underground music scene and this is your gateway to it, running 24/7.
Including this one partially due to its sheer absurdity as Sisters in a Brooklyn-based bar and restaurant with a listening area in back. I've never been and doubt I will, but got to give a restaurant props for hosting forty episodes of their own mix series.
Berlin-based party promoters showcasing emerging voices in house and techno and their podcast series does the same.
Unlike any other mix series I've encountered, Touch Mix features over 130 downloadable mixes that are comprised of live recordings from the likes of Daniel Menche, Philip Jeck, and Mark Van Hoen.
In addition to providing a solid online blog for this label specializing in collectible vinyl editions, they also have a popping mix series that is just about to hit the 100 mark.
Perhaps the most enviable aspect of growing up in New Jersey is this legendary free-form radio station where you can play pretty much whatever you want, though the station does a fine job of cherrypicking a diverse set of DJ's to cover everything from Jersey club to modern classical.