Trying to Fit a New Song in a Square Hole

12/13/2010 03:57 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Taryn Haight Marketing Manager at Ultra Records, Freelance Music Writer

I am hugely critical, and hypocritical, of the way people categorize musicians. It's not that I'm some omniscient music guru or even fully immersed in the industry; I just hate how everyone (myself included) tries to squish some artist into a premade mold in order to make sense of his or her art -- although as humans, it's really only natural.

I'm immediately turned off by a press release boasting some scruffy-chinned boy in a flannel as the next Bob Dylan and I have to consciously stop myself from rolling my eyes when someone plays me a song with any thumping beat and asks, "Would you consider this house or tech-house?"

Honestly, I don't give a shit. And neither do most people listening to it on their en-route-to-work playlists or while dancing through a sea of sweaty people at Webster Hall on a Friday night. Everyone just wants good music -- the kind that moves you and intrigues you and makes you want more. And if it's good, that typically means it's not some square peg we can just plop into a square hole.

Although I know I'm a hater and I try my best not to categorize, there are certain things I can't help (i.e. blurting, "This sounds like Placebo" the first time I ever heard a Silversun Pickups song). There are also those certain few artists who, no matter how hard my head googles for a comparison, can't be traced back to anything that's previously been done.

The interesting phenomenon is that as we create more genres and sub-categories to try to fit these new artists into, we are actually chopping them away until we are so confused and so annoyed that we are left with only two types of music: the good and the bad.

From the time I was just a little peanut in my mom's belly, my parents played the connector role between my brain, my heart and the good kind of music. I was exposed to everything from the Fleetwood Macs to the Michael Jacksons to the stuff my dad wrote and played on guitar during the lull between school and dinner. I was stretching my feet to piano pedals at the age of four and squeaking horse hair against cello strings for hours a day. I was told that music theory was a necessary subject just like math or history and I was told to make up ditties and write out notes when I had no other assignments to practice.

Although my parents are now divorced, living states away from myself and one another, I can credit them for feeding me the musical nutrients necessary to grow into an appreciator of good music, despite its particular species. Like learning anything at such a young age, music became second nature and I became accustomed to needing as much of it as I could get my hands (ears?) on... the more unique, the more exciting.

It's a quality that is easily taken for granted and one that so many other people haven't had the privilege of attaining. For those with similar childhoods, thank your mom and dad, and for those who want to expand their palettes, I challenge you to abandon the categories and ignore what the radio or the songs your friends tell you are hot. Try new genres, or try ignoring genres altogether. Stop putting songs in square holes and start putting them on your iPod to experience rather than categorize.

What I'm listening to now:

Polarsets - "Morning"

I missed the boat on the first single from these guys ("Leave Argentina") but fell head-over-heels, as I often do for stunning vocals and punchy beats, after hearing "Morning." The trio, comprised of Rob Howe (vocals/guitar/synths), Mike Smith (bass/synths) and James Rudd (Drums), are completely on point in every aspect of their production. They've turned the heads of Paul Oakenfold and Erick Morillo and have shared the stage with Ellie Goulding, De La Soul, Everything Everything and Fenech Soler, showing versatility and support from both the indie and mainstream scenes. The best part about this song is how it was written. According to a post on their Soundcloud page, "the bones of the song were written by Rob in an hour while James and Mike were out getting lunch," which only reinforces how spontaneous and quick the best ideas can be.

Morning by Polarsets

Hype Jones - "My Mixtape is Better Than Your Mixtape" Vol. 3

This is one of those mixtapes that goes well with anything, kind of like ketchup. Play at work, on the subway, pregaming to go out or cleaning your apartment... I've listened to it while doing all of the above and, I'm not sure how, but I haven't worn it out just yet. Hype is a pretty talented dude on the production front. It's clear that he knows how to thread songs from one to the next and I have no complaints about the tracklist... and I'm not just saying that because he is a friend of mine. Hope you all enjoy this one. There will be more from the mysterious Hype Jones to come.