Too often, our appreciation of Detroit music is aimed backward: the sweet love songs of Motown, Dilla's extraterrestrial beats, grimy guitar strings quivering in Jack White's hands.
A new music website wants to give the city's rappers, DJs, rockers, country artists, singers and folk bands the same critical review and fascination that we so often direct to the past. That's where Detroit Sounds Like This comes in -- a new online music site launched by two Detroit music scene diehards, Carlos Padilla and Mark Szymanski.
Detroit Sounds Like This will cover live shows around the city, write up interviews and review albums and EPs, staffed by a small army of freelance music fans. Part of their aim is to give these acts exposure.
"Our site wants to focus on covering the best of Detroit, the artists who are putting all their effort into their music and maybe just not being heard enough," Padilla said.
The past is certainly alive at Detroit Sounds Like This: the homepage currently shouts out Funk Brother Dennis Coffey and a Pharcyde track produced by J Dilla. But those throwbacks are featured alongside DJ Tony Olivierra, bassist Damon Warmack and tracks of the week spotlighting Richie Marciano, the Rogue Satellites and Nightmerica.
But for all their passion, the Detroit Sounds Like This staff aren't blinded by Detroit love. "Just because you are a Detroit artist, doesn't mean your album will get a 10/10," he warned.
"The idea really began on a caffeine binge road trip from Detroit to Boston in May of 2012," Szymanski told The Huffington Post. "I was literally listening to this playlist that was mainly local artists and thinking what a great musical multi-genre mecca Detroit has been, is and will continue to be." The idea stuck with him all the way to Beantown. "When I arrived in Boston and checked into my room, I registered the domain and began mocking up the site," he said.
Padilla and Szymanski met at Motor City Wine where Padilla was photographing local acts who would play upstairs. He and Szymanski were always talking about Detroit musicl Padilla was running a blog documenting the city's Funk Night parties. Szymanski said his new partner's background in business, photography and blogging made him a perfect fit for the project.
"Mark approached me one night before a show at Motor City Wine with the idea," Padilla said. "I was hooked. I love music, I love Detroit, this was perfect. I always felt that Detroit has so much to offer musically and not many people understood or even knew where to look for all of this great music."
They didn't have outside money to launch Detroit Sounds Like This -- just "sweat equity," both men said. They haven't ruled out new investors or a Kickstarter, but Padilla said he thinks making money will happen naturally.
"Our revenue stream right now is geared towards local businesses, and of course any others who want to help Detroit music thrive," he said.
That means a site that treats raw indie rock and jazz fusion with the same amount of care, in the hopes of appealing to music lovers beyond the typical 18- to 25-year-old demographic catered to by other entertainment sites. Both Syzmanski and Padilla agreed that their ideal readers are in the Motor City, but their first readers have by-and-large found their site from across the globe.
"Detroit has a huge listener base in England, France, Oslo and Germany," Padilla said. "I am proud that listeners around the world listen to our music, because we have nothing but quality, I just wish our music was listened to more in our hometown."
Beyond their current staff, Detroit Sounds Like This is accepting submissions. But without a budget, they're hoping to attract writers, photographers and videographers who could invest in a growing project.
"We feel that if people write about music because that's what they love doing, the final product will be of much better value," Szyymanski said.
Head to Detroit Sounds Like This for the latest Detroit music news and reviews.