I have a problem when discovering new music, and I know I can’t be the only one. It’s somewhat traumatizing, sometimes embarrassing, and ultimately disappointing. Does anybody else out there suffer from Outlier Syndrome – liking the first tune you hear from a band then realizing none of their other songs sound like that? If so, please read on. If not, it’s because I just made it up right now, but please read on anyway.
Do not confuse Outlier Syndrome with One Hit Wonder syndrome. One Hit Wonders are bands that write in the same style, but only have one song that really catches your ear. It’s like a chef who only cooks burgers but managed to get just one out of a few dozen cooked perfectly. Outlier Syndrome is much worse. Being a victim of Outlier Syndrome is like getting a delicious burger from a restaurant, and then finding out that every other thing they serve is bland, uninspired pasta.
The first sign I suffered from Outlier Syndrome came in the mid 90s when I heard Radiohead’s “Creep.” Between the chill verses, the huge guitar kick-in to the refrains, the great used of mixed modality, and the wailing falsetto bridge, I was in love. I wanted to learn more so I asked a friend who was always singing other Radiohead to himself (very, very poorly) to borrow some music. I then found out that my friend wasn’t singing poorly, he was singing accurately. To this day, I can’t get into Radiohead, despite the fact that they’re legends with a huge fanbase (including many of my favorite musicians) and tons of critical acclaim. I know now that Radiohead actually hates “Creep,” but honestly, I think it’s the only thing they got right.
Outlier Syndrome in Adulthood
Fast-forward many years to my sister’s wedding where she and her groom danced to Michael Bublé’s “Everything.” It’s the type of song I hate admitting I love, but I really do. It’s the perfect romantic pop song and features a really punchy bassline on a 5-string (let that low B roar!), a schnazzy acoustic guitar solo, and stellar baritone vocals. I immediately listened to more Bublé, and though I give the guy credit for his excellent musicianship and song selection, I was so bummed to hear nothing but swing and jazz standards. It’s so hard for me to get into that kind of stuff because, well, I’ve heard it all done so, so, many times before. My dad plays in a local swing band after all. The Bublé experience might be the only time I’ve ever wished for more romantic pop.
My most recent, and most disappointing, brush with Outlier Syndrome came just a few months ago when I actually clicked on a Facebook ad for a music video. The next 3 minutes blew me away. These two guys, called the Glimpse Trio, packed so much musicianship and technicality into a really simple setup. The music is a perfect blend of math-rock and post-rock, two genres I really admire. Take a look for yourself.
Well, whatever plans I had that day were cancelled. I was immediately on a mission to find more of that. Instead, I found this:
What. The. Hell? That’s the most poorly executed, incredibly cheesy, uninspired blues I’ve ever heard. Not only is this in a completely different genre than the first video, it’s done so poorly that the guitarist has to be the first guy’s slow twin brother, with a twin guitar that needs a luthier. Further research on Spotify revealed 2 albums full of the blues garbage, and not a single other listenable tune.
There is Hope
When pulling up videos for this article, I did find another Glimpse Trio song in the math/post-rock style. It’s not as brilliant as the first, but maybe it’s a sign. Sometimes, your outlier discovery is just a band’s first step in a new direction. Sometimes it’s their last gasp before breaking up, but it at least inspires new artists. Sometimes though, you’re just going to end up with an iTunes library filled with single tracks from hundreds of artists.
We’re not alone in this. Remember, there are others like you, and there is hope. Dig in and stay strong.