What To Read: Mitch Blum is hunting for the best music

This week, we interviewed Mitch Blum, a music enthusiast who writes Exile on Newbury St., a newsletter where he and three friends compete for the best musical taste.


What's your Substack about in one sentence?

Exile on Newbury St. is a weekly newsletter competition between four friends to see who has the best taste in music.

The format of your weekly music competition is so fun. How did the four of you come up with the idea?

We’ve been friends and concert buddies for a long time, and while we love arguing with each other, we hated that our music debates always went unresolved. So we came up with the idea of creating a game where each week, one guy pitches an album and the other guys rate the album and the pitch. We saw what Substack was doing and knew it would be the perfect platform to help us bring back that fun, old-school blog vibe from the mid-aughts.

Where did your passion for music come from, and how would you describe your musical taste?

When we were growing up in New England in the ’80s, our entertainment options were pretty much limited to music and Brady Bunch reruns, so we all developed a strong passion for music. There’s a lot of overlap in our musical tastes, but there are some stark differences as well. I like to describe our tastes as hard rock, folk rock, classic rock and space rock, and at least two of us are hardcore Deadheads.

What’s your process for discovering new music?

Research shows that our musical tastes peak as teens, so it’s actually atypical for people to keep discovering new music as they get older. The most important thing is to keep an open mind and open ears – don’t define yourself by the artists or genres that you’ve liked in the past, and try to sample everything you can.

Spotify, Bandcamp, and the Live Music Archive make music so accessible compared to when we were kids chasing down the latest 45 seconds at the soda shoppe. Our hope is that people will find new albums and artists they love through Exile on Newbury St.

Nowadays, so many people listen to individual songs instead of entire albums. Why do you choose to go through albums from start to finish?

We focus on albums out of respect for the artists. So much thought and care goes into the song selection and sequencing of an album that it seems unfair to chop an album up and put it on shuffle. Even when we don’t love a record, we still respect the artist, and we hope that our passion for music comes through in every newsletter. Plus, we’ve all been stuck inside for a year, and we thought highlighting overlooked albums would give people something fun to do in quarantine.

What’s one album that everyone should listen to?

It’s still hard to believe that Eddie Van Halen went to the great gig in the sky. We’d recommend that everyone listen to the first – and best – Van Halen album. Actually, we’d recommend that everyone buy a convertible, head to the Pacific Coast Highway, and then fire up Van Halen 1. It’s the perfect road trip album.

Who's another Substack writer you'd recommend?

Geoff Shackelford is a great writer, and we love reading his thoughts on all things golf at The Quadrilateral. Music isn’t the only thing we like to argue about!


Subscribe to Mitch’s newsletter, Exile on Newbury St., or find all four authors on Twitter @mittbum, @CeejKap, @kenwarshaw1970, and @thedonlane.