Dear 100 Hour Board,
I don't know a lot about music, but I do know what I like: that part of the fuzzy line between rock and metal that also has violins. However, after hanging around some people who do know a lot about music and listening to the stuff they like, I have begun to suspect that I might actually have bad taste in music. Since I know you of the Board have excellent taste, I've come to you for help.
Here are some of my favorite bands: Nightwish, Within Temptation, Leaves' Eyes, Apocalyptica, Epica, Two Steps From Hell, Les Friction, Skillet, Breaking Benjamin, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Plumb, Evanescence, Dragonforce, etc.
What do you think, musically-educated Boardies? Do I have poor taste? If so, can you you recommend some music in the same general vein but more artistic and intellectual-sounding, that I can play when other people are around? Thanks for helping me increase my self-awareness!
-Pandora's Music Box
Like Kirito below, I have a hard time defining a "bad" taste in music. Just because you like music that most people don't like doesn't mean that you aren't appreciating the art in it. I think the only time that I would feel justified in saying that someone has bad taste in music is if all the music they listen to sounds the same, with little variation in the lyrical themes, chord progressions, and instrumentation.
I actually really like some of the groups that you mentioned, especially Breaking Benjamin, Apocalyptica, and Two Steps from Hell. I've listened to some of the others before, like Nightwish, Within Temptation, Skillet, and Evanescence, but left them behind because they started to sound repetitive to me (it doesn't help that some of them release new albums with old songs on them). That doesn't mean they're bad; I'll go back and listen to them every once in a while, I just can't listen to them on repeat anymore.
That said, regardless of whether the music you listen to is good or bad, it probably wouldn't hurt to have some music that you know most people will enjoy to play when they're around. Something I've been planning to do (but haven't gotten around to) is finding a really big playlist of popular music from a lot of different genres and then deleting any songs that I just can't stand. After that, I might add any of my favorite songs that are missing, to give it a little more variety.
I'm finding it difficult to define what "poor taste" would mean when it comes to music. Art is in the eye of the beholder, so I don't feel that "different" taste has to mean "bad" taste. I think it's fine to listen to what you like listening to, but if you feel like you want to refine your tastes a bit, that's an excellent endeavor.
Music can have many different purposes. When you're listening to something, it's worth asking yourself, "Is the purpose of this music to excite my body, or is it art meant to elevate my mind and spirit?" Both are fine, but I've found it worthwhile to try and have more of the latter. That's why I personally listen to a lot of classical music, and a bit of jazz. Lately I've been really enjoying Yo-Yo Ma.
I don't know much about the bands you mentioned, so I'm not in a place to say how refined they are. However, I will make the comment that it's not violins that makes classical music great art, it's the genius level of composition, thought, and expression that has gone into it. Adding violins to metal doesn't make good art by itself, though I suppose it would be possible to find real art there if it was done well.
Find music you enjoy. Don't try and force yourself to listen to music you don't like, but at the same time, give yourself a little time to get used to something new. Engage your mind rather than just your heartbeat. Let yourself get lost in the music. In order for this to really work, you might have to upgrade your speakers or headphones. Cheap or overpriced equipment can't reproduce the nuances of real art, and so the exciting stuff with a beat is all that sounds good. When looking for good, musical headphones, I've found the wall of fame on innerfidelity.com to be an extremely valuable resource. So much out there is either overhyped or overpriced, so it's worth doing some research to find something that will enable you to really enjoy music.
I've been talking to Vienna about music a lot recently, and she's been helping me expand my musical horizons. So, I asked her for recommendations as far as discovering new music; specifically, I asked her which music blogs/websites she follows. Here's what she had to say:
So, Pitchfork is my favorite and generally considered the most reliable in music reviews. I read a few others, though. I like Stereogum because it's less pretentious than Pitchfork. Metacritic is also great because it takes critic scores from a variety of sources and gives you a composite score for a wide variety of albums. You can also find a lot of best albums lists through the years there. Finally, Best Ever Albums is a great place to discover the most acclaimed albums from various years, decades, and all-time.
If you listen to some of these critically-acclaimed albums and find you don't like them, don't feel bad. It doesn't mean you have bad taste. Like art and food and basically anything else, I think the important thing is to be willing to experiment and try something new to see if you might like it. Odds are that you'll probably find something new and unexpected that you absolutely love.
-Frère Rubik, who was absolutely jamming out to Jim Croce in the car on his return trip to Provo this morning (Thanks Vienna!)