An Everlasting Book: A Song of Praise for Last.fm
Part Five of Look to Listen
This essay is the first part of my “Finding Music through the Goddamn Internet” segment of this column.
What would this writer turn out to be if he never stumbled on Last.fm?
Maybe out enjoying a more social life or taking up sports or something and actually becoming a fit and healthy person. Like discovering a lifechanging book, the discovery of Last fm remains one of the most significant moments in this writer’s life, for I attribute the shape of my music taste mostly on that CBS-owned website.
It is music discovery with the convenience of convenience stores. Last.fm itself is a social media platform which also acts as a global online music encyclopedia. Like a Wikipedia, but with user accounts. The FM in the site’s name refers to its radio feature, as all users have their own radio stations (automatically) based on whatever the hell they’re listening to.
In terms of the artists, every artist or band has a page on it and they don’t even have to make one, cos when you listen to something completely new, the site will automatically generate a page for that artist.
Probably the most notable aspect of this site is the “scrobbling” feature, where site users are able to show off to the internet what they are listening to on their respective musical platforms, through a little desktop app. Whatever is being listened to on their computers, it automatically transfers to one’s profile page.
The scrobbling feature is kind of like guys showing off the size of their genitals and bragging about it in public. Even if it is the most notable aspect of the site, the point of it is not just about showing off your superior music taste.
Over the years, my knowledge and love for music and certain artists developed mostly though browsing through the “Similar Artists” category or sometimes genre tags. You discover a lot of interesting and weird ass shit you never knew existed in this world… like Russian alternative bands named “Indonesia”, for one, or Indonesian porngrind chiptune bands named Delayed Desire.
I have been using the site since the early years of junior high, and have continued to use it as a source to find new music. Trawling through the artist pages is like surfing your way through a literal world of music, handpicking them and sharing them with like-minded individuals who either share your taste or horribly contradicts it.
You meet a lot of interesting people there once you actually talk to them. I’m not sure about how artists use their pages though, but the comment box garbage cans under every artist profile are a nice way to find cool people (once you filter through a lot of garbage comments). Amazingly, a lot of the people I talk to on the site are now my good friends today. Some people I talked to on the site, seven years ago, I have only seen their flesh and blood only recently.
Artists I found through Last.Fm and still listen to this day, through the songs that were (once) downloadable from their pages, include This Will Destroy You, Death Grips, Nadja, Olafur Arnalds, and amazingly enough, I am now a member of one of the bands I found on the site: the enigmatic Shorthand Phonetics. The free downloads on some artist pages are like those bonus levels on Crash Bandicoot: gems that are hard to find, but become valuable to you once you get them.
But alas, with the advent of those years gone past, I believe Last.fm is dying as a global music discovery platform. Of course, we have services like Rdio or Spotify to count on when discovering new music, but like iPads replacing books, the knowledge gets lost in favor of exposure.
Also, what I am seeing is that it has slowly developed into yet another social site, with its trademark radio stream service cut off in 2010 and with more emphasis on the showing off (scrobbling) rather than discovery.
Especially the Indonesian accounts I have seen on the site, though mostly belonging to kids, the emphasis is more towards getting follow backs and showcasing profile pictures. The thing with most Indonesians is that they go crazy over social media and any site (or trend) which allows and offers them the chance to show vanity, they will immediately eat up.
I don’t know, maybe I’m just ranting like a bitter Luddite on how the present has now become very different from the past, replaced by the spoils of the future and damn kids these days. I’m just glad that it still exists, and maybe a person can stumble upon this site someday and it changed their life too.
Wonderful Free Wonderful Downloads on LastFm
Switzerland is a defunct UK 90s emo-influenced band, not unlike what you may hear in Mineral or Owls. If they were to resurface now during the heyday of the emo resurgence, they would surely become one of the most outstanding acts.
Also a defunct 90s emo- influenced band, the only free download here is their excellent Fuck Your Emotional Bullshit EP, which defines the best of this Pennsylvania group.
Pretty awesome project from Wok the Rock, one of the managers of Yogyakarta-based label Yes No Wave, and quite the humor too.
Death Grips is Death Grips, ‘nuff said. Their breakout 2011 mixtape Exmilitary is still available for download on their page, so is their 2012 record No Love Deep Web.
Fun ass Fugazi x Wu Tang Clan mashup project, straight outta D.C. (actually from Minneapolis).
The finest chiptune porngrind band Indonesia has to offer, a smoldering but shiny remnant of Indonesia’s chiptune trend of the late ‘00s.