Unformated

A lot has been written about the splintering of music.  While social media and technological advancements have arguably made movie-going and television a more social experience, the opposite seems to be happening with music.  Streaming services like Spotify and the instant gratification of looking up videos on YouTube means people can find exactly what they want when they want it.  They don’t have to settle for Top 40 if they don’t want to anymore.  As a result, very few of my friends and I are listening to the same stuff at any given time.

I have been a Spotify addict for a couple of years now. Let’s set aside the arguments about whether or not artists are fairly compensated on such a service and focus on the bright side: in exchange for $8 a month, I have access to a massive library of music and, with a refined search functionality and some interesting recommendations, I have steadily increased my musical repertoire.

Most of the time, I find one song from an artist on a soundtrack or an old mixed CD from a friend. Upon repeat listenings, I realize I might like more from the musical act.  Sometimes, like with Relient K, I discover the one song is the only one I enjoy.  Other times though, I unearth a heap of great music, like I have with The Avett Brothers, The Civil Wars, The Weepies, and yet another band that starts with “The”, The Format.

I first learned of The Format a few years ago when I searched for several notable songs from one of my favorite TV shows, Veronica Mars. Their tune “On Your Porch” plays a big role in the Duncan/Veronica relationship and, as I am a fan of emo sounding acoustic tunes, I was hooked:

Since then, while I wouldn’t skip past this song on Spotify when it came up, I hadn’t thought much about it.  For whatever reason though, it came on in the car a few weeks ago and I made a mental note to look for more from this band.

As I looked up The Format, I discovered that this is one of their only slower songs.  The rest were rather catchy pop rock tunes, several of which I added to my “Let’s Give It a Shot” playlist.  The more I listened to these peppy beats, the more I liked them.  Their lyrics tend towards the whimsical, making their songs perfect belt-in-the-car fare.  And if there is anything I enjoy more musically than the emo and acoustic, it is songs of the belt-in-your-car ilk, as I am a musical theater nerd through and through.

I eagerly added song after song to my Spotify playlists. As I dove deep down into The Format catalog, I started to notice something surprising–the lead singer’s voice sounded incredibly familiar.  At first I wrote it off, assuming my familiarity with On Your Porch explained the situation.  Then, I heard a Fun. song shortly after listening to The Format and put two and two together.  The lead vocal on all these The Format tracks was Fun. frontman Nate Ruess.

A little Googling later, I discovered Mr. Ruess had a band before Fun. and that band was The Format.  They released two albums, gained some traction, but nothing on the scale of the global popularity of Fun., then disbanded in 2008.  I had fallen in love with a band that had fallen out of love with each other five years ago.

There will be no more Format tunes to add. I’ve exhausted the catalog a mere month after stumbling upon it.  That is the problem with this new hunt and gather approach to my music collection.  I will stumble upon gems, get excited to hear new music from these artists, then discover nothing else is in the pipeline.

Disheartening as it may be though, I think about my high school days and realize option B would be the old days of never being able to stumble into The Format to begin with.  I’d have to settle for Fun., whose music I do enjoy, don’t get me wrong, but is still my second-favorite Nate Ruess-fronted band.  As I type this, I realize these are some #firstworldproblems for sure. I’m not crying myself to sleep at night at the lack of new The Format music, just still adjusting to the new world order of how we find new music to listen to in 2013.

So these days, music hunting feels more like antiquing to me.  Sifting through the piles and piles of old catalogs looking for the rare find, relishing the discovery, knowing that is where the adventure ends.  Sometimes I may find a band like The Avett Brothers that continues to produce new songs, but more instances like The Format are certainly on the horizon too.  There is always hope though. I mean, The Civil Wars got back together? Could Something Corporate be next?

I can hold out hope, but until then, I will take a page from The Format’s lyrics in what might be my favorite song of theirs, “Janet”–It’s time to forget the past and just learn to love what I have.  Because I have fallen in love with The Format, balloons or no balloons.

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