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How to Keep Your Playlists Current (Even if You Lost Track of Rock 'n' Roll Circa David Cassidy)
In Boardman, Ohio, Val Haller brought upbeat tunes by the '60s pop band the Hollies to her raucous high school cheerleading practices. When she drove off to college in 1975, Haller tossed a box of records and eight-track tapes--Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Carole King--onto the passenger seat of her Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. These days, when she goes to friends' dinner parties in the Chicago suburbs, Haller brings an iPod filled with songs by bands like the Portland indie rockers Blind Pilot. "Life feels flat unless there's music in the background,"she says.
When a pal complained about her teenager's thumping Top 40 songs, Haller, a stay-at-home mother of four, was inspired to launch the Web site Valslist, which helps fellow baby boomers--not to mention busy working moms and anyone else who hasn't followed music since before the days of MTV--find tunes of their own to play at top volume.
Valslist is now stocked with purchasable playlists, including both new and "vintage" music, to suit any mood, from "all dressed up and looking good" to "pensive tunes for a pensive day." Most songs are by bands with names like Rubblebucket and Communist Daughter that Haller delights in discovering on arcane music blogs and Web sites. But she also sprinkles in tracks by better-known artists like Adele and Jackson Browne. A "sounds like" page helps readers find new songs that channel their old favorites. (Love the Dave Matthews Band? Try singer-songwriter Pat McKillen. Former Deadhead? Queue up the band Moe.)
Haller's offbeat, adventurous taste has already won her fans of all ages: Her site has readers in 33 countries, and this summer she'll release an iPhone app. Meanwhile, her college-age twins--who once teased her for starting a Web site when she could barely navigate her cell phone--admit that she's often the first to discover artists who become popular on their campuses. "Sometimes when my kids call me with a band they're excited about," says Haller, "I pretend I haven't heard of it, just so I don't embarrass them."
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