One of the best things about the state of music is that there are many records that have becoming these weird quirky defining releases of their particular fanbases generation and that’s pretty much the greatest success anyone can ask for. It speaks to the incredible amount of music that was recorded in the 20th and 21st centuries that these micro-classics exist and they can’t help but to fascinate. These exist on such a specific level that it’s hard to know where to even begin when trying to find the sort of music that ended up defining a specific group at a specific time. Yet all of these records tend to be extremely powerful and exciting pieces of music. They don’t seem to vary in rarity based on genre, nor do they ever end up being overrated. Things always seem kind of fascinating and speak to the power of the genre in a unique way.

I think that the internet has been key in the cultivation of these micro-classics.

The most obvious example of this would be Neutral Milk Hotel’s genre defining masterpiece In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. It was an album that came out with the anticipation that it would be regionally respected and it slowly turned into something far greater and almost impossible to wrap your mind around. The internet obviously wasn’t the only driver for In The Aeroplane Over The Sea nor should you expect that your album which came out to poor reviews will be eventually hailed as a cult classic twenty years from now. That’s not the lesson. The lesson is that powerful localized groups of fans can help use their presence on the internet in order to turn a regional level band into a national powerhouse through word of mouth. It’s one of the oldest and most fascinating things about how music has propagated over the years.



It’s also important to note that a lot of these micro-classics came to popularity without the help of the internet. Look at a band like Bang! they were huge for a second in the 70s but not long enough to really be of note. Yet people looked back, dug in and started to spread the word. Again – good music is good music and word of mouth will always help. Similarly, look at pre-internet records like Slaughter Of The Soul which turned into an essential listen because of underground death metal tape traders selling records to each other and ripping tapes so that they could all get a chance to check things out. In fact, with the older tape trading demographic it was frequently a lot easier to get the good stuff because the amount of effort the whole process took was incredibly difficult. It meant that you weren’t going to send your friends things that you were just ‘meh’ on because then they might not take time to send you the next sick thing they found.

It’s also important to note that there are probably countless micro-classics out there and of those, most will never be discovered. We all have records that we find via playlists, recommendations or whatever that really connect with us for some reason and become records we cherish for the rest of our lives, even if they have only sold a few hundred copies. To hope that your record could become valued by even one person is kind of a weirdly arrogant thing, especially considering how few records the individual truly cherishes relative to the number that they wind up listening to on a regular basis. To become a crucial record in a genre, even a subgenre is a very hard thing and something that frequently takes time. It’s rare that an album comes out, dick swinging, authoritatively declaring itself as a defining statement for a certain type of music. Instead it’s a gradual and difficult slog that teaches us more the deeper we delve.



I also want to point out that this article is not trying to suggest that all the good stuff inevitably rises to the top and the bad stuff will get forgotten. This is patently untrue. You can write the best record in the world and it will probably be ignored forever and a day. That’s just what happens. Music, at least the creation of it, should be purely about personal satisfaction. If you can’t make yourself happy with an album unless other people appreciate it then you probably need to reevaluate their priorities. I mean – when I write music I want it to be objectively good and have people enjoying it, but also if I spend a few months to polish up a song (Which is what you usually need to do for songs not to suck) then I’m probably going to be pretty happy with the finished project no matter what the people around me seem to think of it. This might just be an attitude that comes from playing weird music, but it’s also one that has served me well over the years.

At the end of the day, the world of micro-classics is an addictive one.

It’s fun to hop from album to album that so many people find crucial, but it’s also fun to ask your friends for their favorite obscure little record that they love and jam it on Spotify so that you can figure out just what makes them tick. The existence of these micro-classics as albums that spread by word of mouth and help to craft new generations of music is fascinating and speaks a lot to what makes underground and independent music so interesting to me. You can’t escape the countless layers within it and if you try to avoid them you’re only hurting yourself.








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