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658138 Posts in 9262 Topics by 3396 Members Latest Member: - vlozan86 Most online today: 63 - most online ever: 494 (Jul 01, 2007, 02:59:53 PM)
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Author Topic: New piece up 10/27: Double Take  (Read 34091 times)
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John
edit0r
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« on: Oct 27, 2007, 09:30:02 AM »

Jess is a good writer and a friend and is pretty right-on in his piece but I thought I'd just do my "yes, but" thing 'cause that's how I roll
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coldforge
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« Reply #1 on: Oct 27, 2007, 10:21:57 AM »

I've been called a hater before, but I think your man is actually probably pretty right with this one. Some of it, I think, derives from the general tastes of the age: we are, in general, in a contraction period for pop music (at least guitar music), where people generally are still digging on smaller songs, simpler, with maybe one really good hook, more accessible, more human, more humble. But a side effect of those preferences is that they're easier to fulfill than their opposites. So you actually do have an awful lot of bands coming out who write one really good song, or maybe five really good hooksóbut that album or those songs don't really have any lasting dividends. It's easy to listen to this kind of music and be immediately very excited, because it's simple, and vital, and bright and easy to notice; but then to, upon listening next week, not even remember what it was that gripped you so strongly.

That exact pattern has happened to me on more than one occasion. I think metal is the same way, actually. Its practitioners are generally more skilled than indie rockers, so our standards are a little higheróbut if it is crunchy, heavy, loud, fast, precise, if there's a good riff in there, that's what we look for. Our expectations are very well-defined according to genre, and if the newest band is aping as closely as possible, say, the thrash-crossover of the early 80s, we are still happy. Because we like that music, because it fulfills our genre expectations for thrash-crossover, and its virtues are rather plain to see and immediately accessible.

But those relatively low expectations do mean the bloom can fall off the rose. It's not bothering me as much; naturally, for pretty much any metal band that a) can play and b) got the scratch together to get a good sound  you are going to have someone on the internet say 'ALBUM OF THE YEAR' or 'THIS SHIT SLAYS', but that's a minor irritation. If it goes away in a week or two, the metal gods will know their own. I think a difference here might be that there is much less material consequence for success in metal, as opposed to indie rock; even if that dude on the internet says THIS SHIT SLAYS, the band he's talking about is still going to be a bunch of five hairy burnout kindergarten teachers from Slovakia. There's no chance of anyone unjustly getting shot to the front stage at CMJ.

But I think the thing to actually take away from this, John, is something both you and Jess agree on; hype or for-real, there's no excuse for the kind of regurgitated PR releases or unconsidered 'GROUNDBREAKING!' accolades that a lot of indie bloggers (even the successful ones!) regularly engage in. You yourself, though you set yourself in opposition to the dogmatists and haters of the past, are still quite critical; criticism by omission. You may only write about stuff you like, but you still obviously wait a moment or two before leaping to your keyboard at the first listen of a record, and anything you write is going to include some analysis, aesthetic, philosophical, or musical, rather than a simple kneejerk these-guys-are-really-really-good, post it on the internet.
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John
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« Reply #2 on: Oct 27, 2007, 10:38:42 AM »

yeah I also don't post mp3's - where Jess and I agree most is that criticism is & was a worthwhile effort, a good thing in itself. People who thought of criticism as a way of just deciding whether they were gonna like or dislike something have sort of taken over the playground. The general belief now is "why would I read someone's opinion when I can just hear for myself?" which is an infantile approach to understanding music, but as Jess says, you can't fight city hall
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Illest Waffle
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« Reply #3 on: Oct 27, 2007, 11:14:45 AM »

I look forward to the day when music crit blogs forgo writing paragraphs of useless words and quantify a band or album's worth with a huge 72point bold (perhaps italicized if they are really trying to tell you something) numeral, like
4


Re: Tastemakers, that is a slippery slope which most music bloggers have gladly lubed up for and even rolled out the proverbial Crocodile Mile for. I don't think there is much to gain from saying "THIS SUCKS! THAT'S GREAT!" versus talking about the nuts and bolts and dissecting things into what works and what does not. Matchbox v. Legos here.
« Last Edit: Oct 27, 2007, 11:24:14 AM by Illest Waffle » Logged
John
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« Reply #4 on: Oct 27, 2007, 11:22:43 AM »

if half the music bloggers took even a tiny bit of time and/or thought into design & presentation like waffle just did in his post, the situation wouldn't be so dire
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coldforge
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« Reply #5 on: Oct 27, 2007, 11:40:13 AM »

or bothered to go back and do an edit once they fucked up the first time
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Andrew_TSKS
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« Reply #6 on: Oct 27, 2007, 12:40:23 PM »

man, i totally agree with everything both harvell and coldforge said here (EDIT: and john too! i hated the gerard cosloy "let's be way too cool for everyone and trash everything" aesthetic just as much as he did). i've been posting mp3s on my blog for the last year or so, but they're always at the bottom of a multiple-thousands-of-words screed (some of which are written better than others, but hey, it's a blog, not my first book on simon and schuster, right?), and besides, they're generally by obscure bands from 30 years ago or something (see my current top-of-page post). the only reason i really post mp3s is because too many readers were complaining that they had absolutely no way of hearing a lot of the bands i write about, since they were so obscure that they couldn't find their records anywhere. so yes, even though i will occasionally write about a new band, i doubt i count as "part of the problem".

hell, i myself am really bothered by the state of "mp3 blogs" these days. i like the ones that post full albums by 60s era garage rock bands whose releases have been out of print for decades, but the ones that jess harvell is talking about, when i look at them, are typically like "I'M DIGGING THIS NEW CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH JOINT! HERE'S AN MP3!" since i can find roughly 200 entries like this a day, and since i've got my own shit to listen to a lot of the time, the question is raised--which of these songs should i actually bother to listen to? the answer for me, a lot of times, is "none of them", which is why i generally don't hear whatever new hyped bands are coming out unless there's a big thread on this very board about them and i feel like i must listen for myself in order to voice an opinion. but see, i tend to think that keeping up with indie rock is an overrated pastime. when i was younger and there was way less of it that actually hit my radar, i checked out the new bands most of the time, but back then i think things were a lot more like jess harvell thought they should be--bands weren't getting the hype until they deserved it. that was the era he mentioned when a local scene fostered a band's creativity for years and no one heard them until they put out their fourth or fifth release. things ARE different now, and i think it's for these exact reasons that i'm often heard proclaiming that indie rock sucks nowadays. maybe it doesn't, but there's no fucking quality control on what bands get boosted, so i end up feeling exactly what coldforge is talking about, with the bloom off the rose, about EVERY new indie band! honestly, it happens with metal bands too, though not as much. i could really relate to what he's talking about there. i'm always going "well hey, this is really good", and then not listening to something again for a month, then going "why don't i ever listen to this?" putting it on, going "hey, this is really good!" and then not listening again for ANOTHER month.

i dunno, i guess what i'm (rather incoherently) saying is "i agree".
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howardfinkel
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« Reply #7 on: Oct 28, 2007, 02:44:45 PM »

Just read through the comments for Harvell's article. Lots of interesting points outside of "You're part of the problem yourself yanno!" Harvell even leaves a comment sayin' that he just filed his long-overdue resignation for Pitchfork.

And yeah, John's last graf about reaching a new ideal of neither praising nor damning hit me pretty hard.

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douglas martini
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« Reply #8 on: Oct 29, 2007, 05:20:53 PM »

I think both Harvell and John had very valid points regarding this whole "hype machine" situation that seems to be taking over internet criticism. It's kinda paradoxical, because the whole ideal of slagging something off never really made any sense to me; if you don't enjoy something, don't write about it. When John said that he started Last Plane to exclusively write about stuff that he liked, it was the exact sentiment in which I had when I started my own blog. Lately, however, it seems that most blogs are made with the same sentiment, only magnified intensely. I totally agree with John's statement about using criticism to merely describe something instead of heralding it to the high heavens or casting it to hell. I try to do that with my own writing about music, and admittedly, I fail miserably most times. I don't remember who said the thing about the acceleration of celebrity culture in America, but they were absolutely right; I think it's habitual for most of us to want something to get excited about. And although I think that getting all hot and bothered over a new band is way better than dissing one to show how cool you are, I do think that perhaps this method has been taken too far.

Re-evaluating the whole "hype" thing, when I first started writing songs under the name Fresh Cherries from Yakima, I sent my demos to blogs in hopes that they would get itchy under the collar and start proclaiming me the "next great American singer/songwriter." When I completed my debut album and leaked it online, I foolishly hoped that there would be some kind of bidding war to sign me. In fact, my feelings were kinda hurt when that didn't happen. However, now that I've matured a little bit (as a person, not necessarily as a songwriter), I realize that Fresh Cherries being blown up all over the blogosphere would have been the worst thing to happen to me, because I wasn't ready for that type of praise. For the most part, I've realized that too much hype could be detrimental to the development of a young artist, which we know is the point Harvell was trying to get at in the first place.
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Swimmy
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« Reply #9 on: Oct 29, 2007, 06:08:37 PM »

There was a blog around for a very short time titled, "The Shins Will Change Your Life." To quote the good doctor, it was "a collection of excerpted gushing music 'criticism' presented without comment." I wish it were still kicking, because it seemed like the perfect remedy: all of that ridiculously overt praise on full display, with no surrounding rambling to hide it. The blog even got some attention from the NYT. Someone should revive this project.
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YojimboMonkey
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« Reply #10 on: Oct 29, 2007, 06:15:20 PM »

I had a similar idea way back for a publication called "Blurb Magazine" that would exist solely to write embarrassingly positive reviews for every piece of dreck that came along, in any medium.  The more we were paid the more great poster-worthy quotes the review would contain. 

Then I figured out that every "legitimate" reviewer pretty much already does this.
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Andrew_TSKS
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« Reply #11 on: Oct 29, 2007, 06:38:07 PM »

good grief, the shins. if there's one band that i definitely can't imagine changing anyone's life, it's the shins.

ok, actually, i can imagine belle and sebastian having even less of such possibility. but the shins' music does not sound lifechanging to me, on any level. pleasant, catchy, sure. but if a band is supposedly going to change my life, i expect their music to have some aspect that is shocking. the shins have no shock quotient at all.

but i've said all of this on here before, so i'll stop now.
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I just want to be myself and I want you to love me for who I am.
Bernard
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« Reply #12 on: Oct 29, 2007, 08:21:44 PM »

"does that sound like something our culture, macro or micro, is really equipped to do"

That's a pretty interesting question - what sort of equipment do you need? Do you need to know any music theory? Critical theory? History, musical or otherwise? Do you need to be a good writer? Or do you just need to really love music?
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Swimmy
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« Reply #13 on: Oct 30, 2007, 02:59:42 AM »

good grief, the shins. if there's one band that i definitely can't imagine changing anyone's life, it's the shins.

ok, actually, i can imagine belle and sebastian having even less of such possibility. but the shins' music does not sound lifechanging to me, on any level. pleasant, catchy, sure. but if a band is supposedly going to change my life, i expect their music to have some aspect that is shocking. the shins have no shock quotient at all.

but i've said all of this on here before, so i'll stop now.
Exactly. Better yet that the movie in question used the song "New Slang," which, of all their fairly standard songs, is easily the least innovative. (And my, isn't this comic perceptive?) It was pretty much the perfect title for the blog.
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alistarr*
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« Reply #14 on: Oct 30, 2007, 07:35:01 AM »

good grief, the shins. if there's one band that i definitely can't imagine changing anyone's life, it's the shins.

ok, actually, i can imagine belle and sebastian having even less of such possibility. but the shins' music does not sound lifechanging to me, on any level. pleasant, catchy, sure. but if a band is supposedly going to change my life, i expect their music to have some aspect that is shocking. the shins have no shock quotient at all.

but i've said all of this on here before, so i'll stop now.

WHY ANDREW WHY DO YOU HATE ME

besides which, "shock quotient" is a really appalling way to measure anything other than, um, surprise. besides which, you're measuring it all wrong. belle and sebastian have changed my life as much as any other band, besides which i get this horrible feeling you're mistaking shock for abrasiveness, or something.

anyway that's all a side-issue and i apologise for maintaining the tangent. but you just can't pop up and needlessly hate on b+s like that and not expect a reply! it's not possible!
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Good Intentions
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« Reply #15 on: Oct 30, 2007, 07:46:58 AM »

belle and sebastian have changed my life as much as any other band
But then again, aren't you pretty satisfied with your lot in life?
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Daniel
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Posts: 529


« Reply #16 on: Oct 30, 2007, 08:08:18 AM »

The fact you're allowing people physically and psychologically into your head means everything you listen to is going to change your life one way or another. The fact that B&S and The Shins are so apparently amiable is liable (perhaps) to let their messages slip through to the keeper and make you wear cardigans and non-prescription spectacles, perhaps arranging your deliberately thinned scalp with hair wax. And that's not shocking?
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YojimboMonkey
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Posts: 12034


« Reply #17 on: Oct 30, 2007, 08:19:13 AM »

wear cardigans

Perhaps.  They are hardly the exclusive territory of the twinkletoed set are they? Though the most famous examples of men wearing cardigans that come to mind presently are Kurt Cobain and Mr. Rogers; that and the quick GIS search on cardigans I just did don't exactly support my argument

and non-prescription spectacles

NEVER

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alistarr*
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« Reply #18 on: Oct 30, 2007, 09:07:20 AM »

belle and sebastian have changed my life as much as any other band
But then again, aren't you pretty satisfied with your lot in life?

without getting into a further further digression, i don't think you could say my current situation bears much resemblence to the one in which i discovered belle and sebastian for the first time. really though, my post was a reaction to the notion that a band making soft-sounding music can't be shocking or influential on a person. maybe andrew just hasn't listened to the right quiet bands enough, or properly enough, or maybe they're just not for him. but there's nothing inherent in "exciting" sounding music that makes it more likely to change or affect a listener than more subtle forms. (andrew, if i've misunderstood what you were saying, i apologise).
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C of heartbreak
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« Reply #19 on: Oct 30, 2007, 01:20:11 PM »

Geeze, could we please leave the class-angst-based shitting all over indie rock in the Sufjan thread? I'm as neutral about the Shins as the rest of you, but I can't see what it has to do with music criticism and hype. There are plenty of abrasive, strongheaded bands that also receive too much hype--haven't you guys listened to anything released on Dischord in the last 5 years?

And yeah, I think Harvell and John have gotten to the core of the problem of hype-machines. I mean, people complain about pitchfork and tastemaker blogs all the time, but rarely do you get an accurate description of what's actually wrong with them. Consumers of mass-media don't want to read about something, they just want to know what to like. The whole indie culture--and I hate to use the term but I can't think of a better one, and I mean it as inclusively as possible--is supposed to be a movement that shuns the mass-media in favor of something more substantial. I hate to blame the internet, but the problem with most sources of hype seems to be their desire to raise above the shouting voices on the web, and they do so by attaching themselves to a bands success rather than through meaningful criticism.

I've got more to say but I fear I'm starting to sound redundant.
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HOW WOULD I BE? WHAT WOULD I DO?
edison
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« Reply #20 on: Oct 30, 2007, 01:40:59 PM »

Grace, I respect your decision of course, but I really hate it when you (or other people, for that matter) write long, interesting, well-articulated and insightful posts only to delete them later. Seriously!

Me, I'm still chewing over some of the highly interesting points made in both these pieces, as they address what I think is wrong with a lot of music and a lot of music criticism. I really want to try and contribute later, but that'll be when my own computer comes back. Thanks for the food for thought, anyway!
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jebreject
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« Reply #21 on: Oct 30, 2007, 01:55:08 PM »

Why do you feel weird talking about it, Grace? I thought your post was great.
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KJ
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Posts: 864


« Reply #22 on: Oct 30, 2007, 02:02:24 PM »

Geeze, could we please leave the class-angst-based shitting all over indie rock in the Sufjan thread?

Re: Pitchfork. I know I've said this before, but PF gets way, waaaay too much of a bad-rap. Yeah, the hype machine next-Jesus bullshit that started up around bands like C.Y.H.S.Y. is annoying*, and the eternal millstone that is any quantified rating system doesn't help, but PF is still a home, perhaps one of the only homes, for actual invovled, 1000+ word thought-peice reviews left in the spotlgiht. Certainly that's true once you move beyond retro-themed mags like Mojo. As tastemakers go, it could be so much worse.

*Interestingly, ever since the site started getting serious publicity I've noticed this stuff happening less often. Or if not that, then the hype given definately seems to be a lot less breathless than it used to. PF: living up to the responsibilites of fame?

-edited for nonsense
« Last Edit: Oct 30, 2007, 03:58:34 PM by KJ » Logged

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Andrew_TSKS
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« Reply #23 on: Oct 30, 2007, 03:22:40 PM »

belle and sebastian have changed my life as much as any other band
But then again, aren't you pretty satisfied with your lot in life?

without getting into a further further digression, i don't think you could say my current situation bears much resemblence to the one in which i discovered belle and sebastian for the first time. really though, my post was a reaction to the notion that a band making soft-sounding music can't be shocking or influential on a person. maybe andrew just hasn't listened to the right quiet bands enough, or properly enough, or maybe they're just not for him. but there's nothing inherent in "exciting" sounding music that makes it more likely to change or affect a listener than more subtle forms. (andrew, if i've misunderstood what you were saying, i apologise).

you haven't. gi is fucking with me about something else.

maybe you're right, maybe i haven't heard the right soft music, but yeah, in my mind, how could anything mellow really have that sort of effect on me? sorry, that's just how i feel.

maybe it's different for people with different sensibilities, too. but i can't relate.
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I just want to be myself and I want you to love me for who I am.
Andrew_TSKS
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Posts: 39426


« Reply #24 on: Oct 30, 2007, 03:27:04 PM »

Geeze, could we please leave the class-angst-based shitting all over indie rock in the Sufjan thread? I'm as neutral about the Shins as the rest of you, but I can't see what it has to do with music criticism and hype. There are plenty of abrasive, strongheaded bands that also receive too much hype--haven't you guys listened to anything released on Dischord in the last 5 years?

well, maybe i'm crazy and completely misunderstanding everything discussed in this thread, but as far as i can tell, no one's bringing up the whole train of thought about indie rock from the sufjan thread. this is thread is about something completely different--that being the tendency right now in the indie press to hype to the skies every new band that comes down the pike (that's an oversimplification, i know)--and the bit about the shins being too mellow to change anyone's life was a tangent off that discussion, and really had nothing to do with the main point of this thread or the sufjan thread. so i think you're conflating three different discussion threads, all of which are occurring in various places on this board right now, but none of which have anything to do with each other.
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I just want to be myself and I want you to love me for who I am.
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