I always though NPR (National Public Radio) was supposed to suck.
I spent an entire summer internship in stuck listening to it 8 hours a day in an "office" with two heavy smokers and their pet bird, who often flew around and perched on my chair while I worked. So, maybe it was just the atmosphere that got me off on the wrong foot with the ever-popular radio giant, but it seemed that even when I did give it a chance it was some hushed-tone vegan droning on about environmental awareness and world events that didn't matter to me.
I know this is making broad and surely unjust statements about one of the most popular radio formats in the U.S. (if not the world), but I'm the type that takes quite awhile to come back around to something once it's given me a bad first impression.
Lately, however, I decided to give it another try. It was one of those things that wasn't a concious decision but more of a matter of coming across it enought times that it couldn't be called a coincidence. I caught a few minutes riding home in a friend's truck one day and they were actually talking about music that I had heard of, something that I rarely remember hearing in those intial college days.
A few days later I noticed there was an iPad app avialable for NPR music. "Interesting," I thought, but I didn't bother to download it.
Finally, just a few days ago I saw a Tweet from hip-hop artist Black Milk (@black_milk) that you could listen to his entire new album "Album of the Year" via NPR First Listen. "Great!" I thought. "I love when artists do cool promotional things like this online. But wonder why he did it through NPR of all places?"
Turns out that NPR First Listen is much more than just an experimental effort with a single artist, but a well established feature that dates back nearly 2 years -- the first entry I could find was Bob Dylan's 'Tell Tale Signs' on Sept. 30, 2008.
After perusing the site a little, I started to notice a whole bunch of albums that I wanted to listen to on First Listen and after even more browsing found a good deal of good "hip" music I had never even heard of before. And what's even cooler was that it was fully compatible with my iPad and also plays well on mobile devices.
Suddenly I had access to a whole bunch of new music from my pocket and felt like I was sitting on a goldmine of great content I never even knew existed. There's still alot more to look at withing First Listen -- not to mention the expansive NPR Music site -- but within only a few days I've found a plethora of great stuff.
Here's a couple good ones I've heard already, and this is just one week worth of releases (it looks as those at least 4-5 albums are available each week):
- John Legend And The Roots, 'Wake Up!'
- Chromeo, 'Business Casual'
- Bilal, 'Airtight's Revenge'
- Of Montreal, 'False Priest'
It's safe to say that NPR is signifcantly cooler than I thought just based on First Listen and the more I tell folks about it, it seems like everyone but me already knew about some cool little nugget of NPR content that specifically appeals to their interests. Definitely going to keep an eye out for new music coming through the site and will keep my mind open to NPR as a whole going forward.