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A couple thoughts on Hype Machine

I love Hype Machine. It’s the only sort of radio that I listen to. Like any other radio station, it plays a particular slice of music: the newest of the new indie rock. Seriously, I’ve listened to tracks mere minutes after their release before. It’s also pretty particular about what it doesn’t play, which is what has me thinking about Hype Machine in general.

1. I posted last about Guster’s fantastic new album Easy Wonderful, which has incredibly catchy pop tunes on it. If this CD had been released by anyone else, under any other name, it would have been eaten up at Hype Machine. Magic Kids, the Format, The Sea and Cake or any other number of bands that play pop songs could have released Easy Wonderful and enjoyed a healthy (not fanatical, because straight-up pop is not the thing right now) response from the blog community.

But because Guster has been bagged and tagged with the “hippie” label (ignoring for right now the fact that many HypeM-approved bands like Cloud Cult are even more “hippie” than Guster in their practices), they get no love. One blog trashed their album as “too white” and another said it was inevitable that they’d hear it around because of “local flavors.” And that was the totality of the response to what I believe is one of Guster’s best and most accessible albums to date. In comparison, bands like Wolf Gang and Gemini Club (you’re allowed to say “who?” at this point) are all abuzz in Hype Machine.

At some level, this is exactly what blogs are for. Lots of people know and love Guster. Guster doesn’t really need the promotion. Gemini Club, on the other hand, could use the love. They probably still tour in a crappy van, while Guster tours on buses. That is, if they tour yet. Yeah.

On the other hand, I feel as though the blog world is missing out on good music because of preconceived notions. This is not major news (“Hipsters discovered to be pretentious! More at 10.”), but it’s still disappointing every time it comes up in a quantifiable way. I think a lot of people who like blogs would like Guster’s new album. They probably won’t ever find out about it.

2. Whereas I’ve overshot the tolerance of the blog community for music toward the pop end of the spectrum, Hype Machine itself may have overshot to the other side of the ditch. They put up Hauschka’s Foreign Landscapes for streaming play a week in advance of its release. This is all well and good, except that Hauschka is a modern composer (like, with strings and stuff). Modern composers just don’t get that much play on Hype Machine. To listeners’ credit, there have been 4,361 plays of the first track; but by track four there are only 1880 plays, dropping to 956 plays by the end of the album (track twelve).

In comparison, Whole Foods is still streaming Easy Wonderful (are you catching on to how much I love this album yet?), and its first track has 8638 plays, dropping to 4507 by the end of track 12. Given that there are different audiences for the two bands, it’s still notable that Guster’s stream, which is on a decidedly un-music-related website, is performing at a much higher level than a Hauschka stream on a site that is expressly dedicated to new and strange music.

The fickleness of Hype Machine listeners strikes again, it appears.