The wild adventure of discovering music

There’s nothing like discovering (for yourself) a new band. Having migrated almost completely to the film music camp, long disillusioned with the formulaic predictability of popular music, it has been several years since I’ve known that experience. But I fondly recall the times in junior high, high school, and college when a song on the radio, a serendipitously soundtracked trip in someone’s car, or the linking of one favored band to another introduced me to an artist it seems I was destined to love.

Whether that discovery simply catches me up to the pace of popular culture, or ushers me into a secret club of “the initiated,” there is something profoundly personal about it—like making a new friend where everything just clicks.

The Denver station 97.3 KBCO introduced me to Moby (with his trancelike single “Porcelain”) and Chris Isaak (with the sweet, cyclical I-♭VI-IV lap of “Please”). Isaak became a constant companion throughout my high school years, his soulful crooning on numbers like “Somebody’s Crying” and “South of the Border” pouring out from my perpetually shut bedroom door—allowing me vicariously to experience romantic love and loss.

Then came the British occupation. I think it was my friend Padraic who introduced me to the Scottish band Travis, whose mellow albums The Man Who and The Invisible Band drifted through the open windows of my car like a summer breeze. And then, around the same time as rest of the world, I was bewitched by Coldplay—the seeds quietly planted with the oft-played “Yellow,” then coaxed to full bloom with my exposure to the lovely, lovelorn anthem “In My Place” through an episode of Smallville.

Some discovered artists were shortlived affairs, sustained only by a catchy single or solitary album (Tal Bachman, anyone?). Others, undeniably guilty pleasures, nestled themselves into my good graces far beyond their artistic shelf lives (I draw the jury’s attention to Exhibit A: the Backstreet Boys). And then there were the really special artists, with whom it was only a matter of time before I found and became lifelong friends: Elton John, Michael Jackson, and Rufus Wainwright among their elite number.

Discovering a favorite artist—discovering music in general—is one of life’s simplest and sweetest pleasures. An infectious melody surfing the airwaves directly into your head—the slow, adventurous journey through a prolific artist’s treasure-filled catalogue. No matter the scale of the band’s appeal, whether they play arenas or pubs, you discovered them and you love them. You proclaim them like an allegiance, and cherish them like a dear friend.

Through the referral by some music-savvy friends (and the instant gratification of the internet), I recently discovered the British band (this is a pattern), Elbow. Time alone will tell, of course, whether this new friend (whose layered, orchestral rock won me almost immediately) will remain in my inner circle throughout the harsh years of new releases, band breakups, and my ever-changing tastes. They may fall by the wayside of my life’s musical path, as so many others have before them. But that sheer rush of discovery, those first blessed listens to a captivating new album—when the brightest sparks of the best songs keep burning in my mind, driving me to return and listen again and again—that is an unparalleled pleasure which always has about it the wild, boundless texture of youth.

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