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How This New Music Will Make You Smarter (Thanks, Science)

This is your brain on sound.
This is your brain on sound.

A good 90 percent of my job as a music journalist is keeping my finger on new music, continuously discovering the vast spectrum of sound that human beings can create. Another 9 percent is attending concerts, where I destroy my liver and my hearing for shits and gigs. That final 1 percent is being a cynical asshole and judging everyone, but I promise I am (somewhat unsuccessfully) trying to improve that about myself. Yeah, I should give boring mainstream music a break once in a while, stop being a hipster dick without trying, yadda, yadda, "All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not," blah, blah, blah.

 But let's focus on that 90 percent today. A fancy schmancy article came out this week, edifying me about my undying thirst for unheard tunes. It claims new music is "rewarding for the brain," which is like, duh, but now we know why, all because a bunch of researchers with too much free time and access to an MRI machine played fresh music while poking around in the nucleus accumbens.

What's that? It's this funky region of gray matter that perks up when you do something good for your survival, like eating the flesh of another animal or boning something. So it's pretty fucking cool that our skull sponges also give us bursts of feel-good fluids when sweetass new tunes tickle our eardrums. No other animals (that we know of) get that same result.

More: Five party jams about dying alone in the darkness of space.

There's a lot more sciencey mumbo jumbo that I find fascinating, but I'm too lazy to explain it. I'd much rather share some jams that have been on my radar lately. And if you were one of the few who got offended by snidely writing about Katy Perry or Justin Timberlake, the amount of dopamine I'm gonna have soaring through your nervous system by the end of this article will make us even. Here: Have some new-ish albums.

Let's start with

The Terror

,

the latest from mind-blowing masters

we call The Flaming Lips, who have spent like 100 years churning the butter in our ears. Their latest work forgives their weird attempts at

covering Pink Floyd and King Crimson

, by a fucking ton.

And OHMYGAWD the new Knife album makes me want to explode. Consequence of Sound wasn't kidding when they said it's the "bravest and most challenging album of the year -- quite possibly the decade." Even if you don't "get" it (my roommate made me turn it off during the 19-minute "Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized"), it's nice to double-dog-dare yourself and try something new, even if you don't like it.

Lastly, Tyler, The Creator made me think he could save hip-hop in 2010. He wasn't concerned about jewelry or sneakers or blacked-out bitches or stupid bullshit like that, unlike some idiots I know. He was gonna make hip-hop relevant again with his whole posse of weirdos! Awesome! I don't know why, but that feeling faded when ol' Ace started pranking idiots on MTV. With Wolf, I have my hopes up again.

After the jump: Some '90s music that will probably also make you smarter.

 

Have you ever heard of Royal Trux? I hadn't until last week. That (probably) isn't a sin. I can't possibly know every band ever, but I heard of them because

Tobacco

of

Black Moth Super Rainbow

just released a split 7-inch with

Black Bananas

, the newest manifestation of RTX.

Coincidentally, their album Sweet Sixteen was mentioned at spot #17 in SPIN's "Blame Nirvana" rundown, a look at 40 albums that rode a post-Nevermind wave to freedom and then obscurity. It's taken me way too fucking long to sift through, but without it I would've probably never heard of Mercury Rev or Rollerskate Skinny or Unsane. Anyway, I love all these bands.

Sorry for all the name-drops just then, but that's kind of the point, isn't it? Get researching. Your encephalon will thank you.

Next: Some jazz that will make you pay more attention to jazz.

 

People who are really into jazz (like really, really into jazz) are always complaining about how jazz gets no attention. I think it has a lot to do with equating it to Muzak, which is the boring shit they play in elevators. Fun fact: Ex-President Lyndon B. Johnson owned the Muzak franchise in Austin, and since LBJ (probably) orchestrated JFK's assassination, that makes the Vietnam War accelerator even more evil.

More: Phoenix Band Vial of Sound Is Living in Analog.

Anyway, my favorite jazz singer is Nina Simone. If you like her, maybe you'll like Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday. The most obscure jazz (which may not be much) I can think of is Willie Hobo's "Fried Neckbones and Some Home Fries" or Paul Bley Trio's "Ida Lupino." Keith Jarrett Trio is also fantastic and so is Dizzy Gillespie. That should keep you going for a while.

Woo, I'm pooped. That was just the tip of the iceberg. And the rest of the iceberg is also a thousand other icebergs. We could be here until we're all dead and still probably wouldn't get to the bottom of challenging, interesting, beautiful, wonderful music. That's something my brain juices can thrive on until my carbon drifts away into nothing.

Don't be shy. Add whatever I've missed in the comments.


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