15 February 2007

Am I sweating? 'Cause I'm sure seeking heat!

Do you remember the scandal that erupted a few years ago because someone dubbing himself "The Masked Magician" was threatening to reveal all the secrets of stage magic in a television special? There were enraged death threats being hurled from boardwalks and dank cabaret theaters everywhere. "Don't you dare show them how this rabbit got here!" the magicians cried.

Well, change "magicians" to "music insiders" and "rabbit" to "hip new album" and you've got a sense of the curtain I'm about to draw back here.

In other words: Do you want to know a great way to find new bands before most people have heard of them? Go look at the Heatseekers chart on Billboard.com. It tracks albums by artists who have never appeared in the top half of theTop 200 Album Chart. The bands that do well on the Heatseekers tally--meaning they hit number one or linger in the top ten for several weeks--tend to be up-and-comers just breaking through. Often, these artists are making music that's riskier than most of what's on the radio. Sometimes, though, they're producing very pop-friendly stuff that just hasn't found its audience yet.

It's through this chart that I first learned about Regina Spektor, Scissor Sisters, Keane, and a country singer I really like named Mindy Smith. And then I got to feel totally awesome for knowing them a few months before they had hit singles. (Okay... Mindy Smith never had a hit single, but you know what I mean.)

This week's number one Heatseeker album is "Carnavas" by a group called Silversun Pickups. The Silver-wha? I know! I'd never heard of them either, but seeing them atop the chart led me to check them out on iTunes. And it turns out they're pretty good. As the iTunes review says, they're like the rebirth of Smashing Pumpkins. Same melodic-yet-fuzz-drenched sound. Same use of "S.P." for band initials. And the woman in Silversun Pickups? She plays bass. Just like D'Arcy Wretzky!

Anyway, they're absolutely worth hearing. I've enjoyed having their songs playing as I write this, and I think that's where their music fits... as interesting texture for the background. More challenging than Enya, less distracting than Cher. (Have you ever tried to write a paper while listneing to "Believe?" Nothing can withstand that song's command to start dancing.)

So I encourage everyone to take a Heatseekers tour. It can be an exciting way to discover new artists, and, really, discovering good new music can be so hard sometimes. It's always nice to have a new outlet.

(P.S.--Debuting at number 18 on this week's chart is Sondre Lerche. After listening to that album several times, I can say unabashedly that I love it. Every song is great. My favorite is this piece of ear candy caled "John, Let Me Go." Delightful!)



At 1:54 PM, Blogger N said...

Hey, I like Mindy Smith, too! I came across her music by accident a couple years ago while listening to some internet country radio station. And then I saw her music video for "Jolene" with Dolly Parton on CMT and I was sold.

And as for Regina Spektor, you'll be happy to know that your informative blog made me feel all hip and ahead of the times. A few months after reading your entry on "Fidelity," I heard it playing in a local Starbucks, and then it started showing up in the little VH1 "You Oughta Know" segments, and now it's everywhere.

So yeah, haha, I'm beginning to consider you my main source for great new music (and even some great old music)...thanks for making me feel cooler than I actually am.


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