There's something about music that feels so incredibly current. If you're not on the ball, plugged in, or obsessively following the scene you'll miss it. I suppose you could describe all culture that way, but because I pay more attention to music than to visual art or fashion or film or theater I feel a greater responsibility to know what is now.
But why do I beat myself up, figuratively of course, about not discovering a particular band until well after their moment in the sun or 15 minutes of fame? Why does it matter when I find out about something I like? Do I feel like I missed out on a collective societal experience - a moment in time that will never be recreated? Well, yes.
One way this happens is, especially living in NYC, you don't find out about a band you like until they 'make it' and then it's impossible to get tickets to a show when they come to town (She & Him, Animal Collective, etc etc etc). Or you miss the tour supporting a particularly great album (Of Montreal- Hissing Fauna). Or you don't realize you like a band until they no longer exist (Uncle Tupelo). Or you feel silly suddenly liking a band because you heard them in a commercial and their 'real' fans think they've 'sold out' (this list could go on forever but Nick Drake comes to mind first even though he was dead well before someone put him in a Volkswagon ad).
This is perhaps not the best example but this week I started listening to a Manchester, England based band called Working For A Nuclear Free City, specifically their 2007 album Businessmen & Ghosts. They were on Pitchfork's radar way back in '06 but didn't make much of a splash in the US until '07.
I guess I should give myself a pass on this one - they've been playing in the background (literally) with some songs in everything from video games to movies. But when I heard them for the first time this week I was hooked - I hear an amazing distorted harmonica from time to time, Chemical Brothers-esque electronic loops, shoegaze-y guitars that burst into rock anthem-worthy solos, and some lyrics worth straining to hear. Each song, while contributing to the whole of this massive album, seems to have its own unique influences. (I also think Animal Collective must have been influenced by some of this when they made Merriweather.) Then all of a sudden out comes a poppy drum beat, like on England, and you're bopping your head and toe tapping before you really know what the song is. Love.
Needless to say, I'm now a fan. I discovered them for myself. Am I behind the times? That remains to be seen, but now I know about them and can happily anticipate their new album coming out later this year, Jo Jo Burger Tempest.