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658305 Posts in 9264 Topics by 3396 Members Latest Member: - vlozan86 Most online today: 50 - 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 34861 times)
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C of heartbreak
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« Reply #25 on: Oct 30, 2007, 03:59:42 PM »

Heh, sorry Andrew, I pulled an, um, Andrew and didn't realize GI was joking. I had no problem with the aside about the Shins, just didn't wanna see the thread go that way.
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Bernard
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« Reply #26 on: Oct 30, 2007, 06:29:00 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?

Could you guys please shut up about the Shins now and talk to me about this: "criticism as a way of just deciding whether they were gonna like or dislike something"

What do you want to get from writing about music?
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lastclearchance
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« Reply #27 on: Oct 30, 2007, 06:49:28 PM »

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?

I think all of that helps, although I don't think any of it is strictly necessary. (Of course those types of prerequisites inherently favor well-educated music nerds, whom I always love hearing from even when I don't agree, but whose criticism might not be for everyone.)

I remember we recently had a debate about criticism wherein Andrew claimed that he could identify exactly the musical reasons why he liked anything he liked, and some one else was talking about the type of criticism that was "it's like X meets Y!" but I don't remember what thread that was. Personally I'm interested in the why rather than the what, and I don't really think Andrew's approach will work for everyone, which leads me to believe a meta sort of approach is sometimes helpful. Sometimes a different aproach is sometimes just refreshing. A few people somewhere recently seemed to make reference to an article comparing Britney Spears to David Bowie. If such an article exists I haven't read it but as I understand the thrust of the article was to draw comparisons from Spears' current travails with Bowie's very public struggles with drugs and other issues. I get the impression that the article was just making the same point as anyone saying that Spears' music shouldn't be judged negatively because of her personal life, but by drawing on Bowie's position in the canon found a stronger position from which to argue. Douglas Wolk's 07 EMP paper on the life's work of Clydie King, who was a very successful backup vocalist but failed to achieve the success she desired as a frontwoman in a rock format, raised interesting questions about race and place in rock's history while implicitly touching on questions of authorism. Our edit0r wrote a number of great pieces on Amnesiac. Carl Wilson has a great critical voice. Those are some of the things that I look for in criticism.

Is that what you're looking for?
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jebreject
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« Reply #28 on: Oct 30, 2007, 07:03:43 PM »

What do you want to get from writing about music?

A dialogue?
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joseph scott
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« Reply #29 on: Oct 30, 2007, 08:17:51 PM »

What do you want to get from writing about music?

There are so many things people can talk about beyond consumer advocate reviews. I love pieces that delve into the aesthetic choices bands make - why do they sound this way on this record and that way on that record? What happened, either musically or personally, to make them change? I love articles that place music in a cultural context - the whole Sasha Frere-Jones/Carl Wilson thing last week (race & class & indie rock) got a little exhausting but was nonetheless hella thought-provoking at times.

Then again you can just look at many of the threads on this and other boards. So many topics might begin with a simple question of quality, of likes and dislikes, but these boards get interesting when people talk about their personal reasons behind their taste. Take for example Andrew's stance on what constitutes a "life-changing" album, and that for him the very definition of life-changing must include volume. I find that totally fascinating, especially since one of my most life-changing bands is Low. That is a topic that he (and I, and many others) could really talk about. Likely it could just as easily devolve into boring lists, but the actual discussion of taste is ripe for dialogue (or monologue).

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Bernard
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« Reply #30 on: Oct 31, 2007, 02:52:59 AM »

Douglas Wolk's 07 EMP paper on the life's work of Clydie King, who was a very successful backup vocalist but failed to achieve the success she desired as a frontwoman in a rock format, raised interesting questions about race and place in rock's history while implicitly touching on questions of authorism. Our edit0r wrote a number of great pieces on Amnesiac. Carl Wilson has a great critical voice. Those are some of the things that I look for in criticism.

Is that what you're looking for?

Yes, thank you! I will look up this Wolk article, it sounds interesting. So maybe the reader doesn't need to be well-educated or even especially articulate, but insofar as music criticism is still a genre of writing, music critics need to be writers, and thus informed and able to put their ideas across with some clarity and grace.

I'm with you, I really like hearing smart and passionate people talk about what interests them. Even if a lot goes over my head, I still learn a lot, and the ideas I hear about find their way in to my thinking about other things, not just music. What's Carl Wilson like?
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Bernard
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« Reply #31 on: Oct 31, 2007, 03:00:30 AM »

That is a topic that he (and I, and many others) could really talk about. Likely it could just as easily devolve into boring lists, but the actual discussion of taste is ripe for dialogue (or monologue).

I don't have the... whatever it is that enables people to sit through all the... japery. I think I read more of the main LPTJ articles simply because they do what they say on the tin, rather than out of any particularly keen interest in metal. Every so often I go out and buy some of the metal that's raved about and none of it has clicked for me yet. This is ok. It can be a slow process, I don't mind that. But then there's no dialog, which both you and Jeb identify as something desirable. What do you get out of dialog?
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lastclearchance
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« Reply #32 on: Oct 31, 2007, 05:05:38 AM »

What's Carl Wilson like?

www.zoilus.com

Don't skip the Toronto stuff just because you're not from there--he is really invested in his city and writes really interestingly about it.
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Bernard
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« Reply #33 on: Oct 31, 2007, 12:45:59 PM »

I won't skip it. Thank you!
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joseph scott
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« Reply #34 on: Oct 31, 2007, 01:27:07 PM »

But then there's no dialog, which both you and Jeb identify as something desirable. What do you get out of dialog?

For me personally, in addition to listening to music I love thinking about music. I think about music all day, even when headphones or speakers are nowhere nearby. I like the dialogue because it can make me think about music in new ways. For instance I've honestly been thinking about what constitutes a life-changing album for days now, based on the few things that were said here. What were my life-changing albums, why and how did they change my life, how are they different from a simply really-terrific-record-I-played-a-lot-at-one-time-in-my-life. I wouldn't have moved onto that train of thought if the stupid Shins joke had been ignored.

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AdamGreenbrier
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« Reply #35 on: Oct 31, 2007, 05:23:15 PM »

I recognize in myself the same tendency that MP3 blogs and such have of hyping a band to the nines even when said band may not yet be ready for the attention.  I've found myself at times hyping bands and albums that I wasn't that crazy about because I wanted to be on the cutting edge of musical taste.  Down the road, I wanted people to hear about this great new band that I had already been talking about so that I could say, "Yes, ha, I heard them first."  It's stupid, very stupid, but I think that it comes from a natural human impulse to want to be the best at something.  In my case, I'm a lousy musician but want to be a good critic and have felt at times that the best way to prove my critical abilities is to be one of those people who hears a band in their early days and knows the genius that will follow.  It's a validation of my own worth to catch a band before it's all over the place.  I suspect that many bloggers work for this same feeling of validation and end up throwing up a lot of bands in the hope that something sticks.  Eventually, one of the bands they hype has to be universally lauded.  To be clear: I don't think that all bloggers work for this sort of validation, but I suspect that many do.
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coldforge
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« Reply #36 on: Oct 31, 2007, 05:38:43 PM »

the notion of any critic championing any band at any point in their career is much less what a good critic does than developing insights about said any band, at any time in their career.
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AdamGreenbrier
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« Reply #37 on: Oct 31, 2007, 06:35:18 PM »

the notion of any critic championing any band at any point in their career is much less what a good critic does than developing insights about said any band, at any time in their career.

I agree wholeheartedly.  I agree, I should say, now that I'm older.  I wouldn't have always agreed.  There's a line between critic and tastemaker that isn't always distinguished but ought to be.  The one requires insight, the other does not.
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Bernard
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« Reply #38 on: Oct 31, 2007, 07:56:23 PM »

I wouldn't have moved onto that train of thought if the stupid Shins joke had been ignored.

I apologize for not sticking to the Shins.
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maggiego
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« Reply #39 on: Oct 31, 2007, 11:59:06 PM »

the notion of any critic championing any band at any point in their career is much less what a good critic does than developing insights about said any band, at any time in their career.

I don't know if I agree. There is an activism present in the best of critics-- almost proselytizing, yes-- but I think the most generous critical minds in any arena do bounce between coach and judge. And while one wants to apply a degree of rigor to what one writes about, the choosing can be, and perhaps must be, prescriptive if one loves the art form.
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coldforge
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« Reply #40 on: Nov 01, 2007, 01:23:03 AM »

Honestly, I can't think of any time when assuming the coach role was a good move for a critic. It's that kind of 'with the band' impulse/desire that makes so many want to be a music critic, and makes a poor music critic of so many. You can love, of course, and cherish and pull for the underdogs and rejoiceóbut you've always got to judge. You've always got to write *critically*, in other words, and if your favorites fail you need to be able to say it. I stand by this: there's never been any good come, ever, of someone choosing to write so that they could be someone's champion, so that they could be seen to have been there first, so that they could have been associated with a band in someone else's eyes.

Even the writer who writes an article saying 'this is the best band in the world and none of you fuckers know it', if they are to possibly do it worthwhile, are not championing the band. They're championing themselves; their own worldview, their own picture of music. They're trying to make a case for their own tastes. The band is just some schmucks making music. It's the stuff they make that's interesting. This, coincidentally, is where the "criticism that's more than a buyer's guide is the good stuff" point can come along as well.
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maggiego
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« Reply #41 on: Nov 01, 2007, 01:33:50 AM »

I will get back to you coldforge, but I am too altered to make a cogent argument. I can't imagine certain art movements of all kinds developing without a more porous version of artist/critic than the one you describe, though. I will give examples later.
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Andrew_TSKS
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« Reply #42 on: Nov 01, 2007, 12:11:00 PM »

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?

I think all of that helps, although I don't think any of it is strictly necessary. (Of course those types of prerequisites inherently favor well-educated music nerds, whom I always love hearing from even when I don't agree, but whose criticism might not be for everyone.)

I remember we recently had a debate about criticism wherein Andrew claimed that he could identify exactly the musical reasons why he liked anything he liked, and some one else was talking about the type of criticism that was "it's like X meets Y!" but I don't remember what thread that was. Personally I'm interested in the why rather than the what, and I don't really think Andrew's approach will work for everyone, which leads me to believe a meta sort of approach is sometimes helpful.

haven't read any farther in the thread but i need to respond to this now. first of all, ravinglunatic was the one who was challenging the legitimacy of music criticism, and i was arguing with him about it. second of all, it's not nearly as cut and dried as you're making it sound--i certainly am not someone who goes "i like this song because of [insert really nerdy musical theory point here]"; fuck, i can't even come up with a fake musical-theory point to use in my example, that's how little i know about musical theory! i'm more someone who talks about songs and albums in detail, point out the things i notice within them, and talk about how they make me feel. i once wrote an entry for my blog about how i liked the first album by a static lullaby better than their second one because on the first album, the screamed vocals and the sung vocals were pretty much on an equal level, while on the second album the screamed vocals were put into the background. the reason that mattered to me, though, had to do with the feelings i got from each album. probably half of the entries on my blog end up delving into personal experiences and emotional states that i go through on a regular basis, as a way to explain the context songs and albums have in my life. i don't know if i succeed, but if there's anything i base my criticism on, it's that. it's a technique i learned from lester bangs, i guess. i see john do it sometimes, too--a good example being his articles about eyehategod.

anyway, just wanted to get that in there.
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Andrew_TSKS
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« Reply #43 on: Nov 01, 2007, 12:17:45 PM »

i agree with a lot of what coldforge is saying, though i'm not sure that there isn't at least a little bit of a place for the criticism he's standing against. i'll need to think about it more.

joseph scott, maybe i haven't heard enough low to make a valid judgment, but from what i've heard, they play loud. like, their songs are written in this kinda quiet way, but the amps are fuckin loud and their records sound better loud. plus, in the tradition of codeine and galaxie 500, there are times when they kick on the distortion and slam the listener's head through a wall. am i wrong? because i can TOTALLY relate to that as life-changing. i can't relate to pleasant little pop songs as life changing. i think alistarr's embrace of belle and sebastian as life-changing is much harder for me to wrap my head around.
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jebreject
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« Reply #44 on: Nov 01, 2007, 04:23:27 PM »

i agree with a lot of what coldforge is saying, though i'm not sure that there isn't at least a little bit of a place for the criticism he's standing against. i'll need to think about it more.

I think it's more that, by definition, that stuff ain't criticism.
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joseph scott
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« Reply #45 on: Nov 01, 2007, 04:26:50 PM »

joseph scott, maybe i haven't heard enough low to make a valid judgment, but from what i've heard, they play loud. like, their songs are written in this kinda quiet way, but the amps are fuckin loud and their records sound better loud. plus, in the tradition of codeine and galaxie 500, there are times when they kick on the distortion and slam the listener's head through a wall. am i wrong? because i can TOTALLY relate to that as life-changing. i can't relate to pleasant little pop songs as life changing. i think alistarr's embrace of belle and sebastian as life-changing is much harder for me to wrap my head around.

Re the Codeine comparison - no, not really. They don't do the dramatic quiet/loud thing. They keep the song volume low most of the time. They spend their time instead moving between beauty and tension - that's what gets me about them. Check out their ep Songs for a Dead Pilot, for instance. "Be There" is pretty but also ominous ("I don't wanna be there when you're wrong / I don't wanna be there when you find out / I don't wanna be there when you break glass / and i don't wanna be there when they drag you out"). Or the tension in "Landlord" - I could listen to Alan Sparhawk strum that one chord at the end forever--and that's almost how long he plays it for.

I don't even know that Dead Pilot is my favorite or "most life-changing" album by them, but I wonder how you'd like it if you listened to it.

I guess my thing about Low is that their music puts me in a near-Zen state - my body gets still, my heart rate drops, etc. - but simultaneously they run me through a hundred different emotions, from joy to rage to sorrow to sweetness to detachment to sentimentality to disappointment to reassurance. And back again. But I remain still throughout the listening experience.

Fuck, I need to go listen to low right now.
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Andrew_TSKS
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« Reply #46 on: Nov 01, 2007, 04:41:05 PM »

ok, i'm gonna check that out as soon as possible and report back.
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jebreject
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« Reply #47 on: Nov 01, 2007, 05:08:14 PM »

Fuck, I need to go listen to low right now.

Shit, me too.
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alistarr*
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« Reply #48 on: Nov 02, 2007, 08:37:36 AM »

i think alistarr's embrace of belle and sebastian as life-changing is much harder for me to wrap my head around.

i've switched this into the wrong order because i wrote a load of stuff about belle and sebastian and then a little bit of stuff that might actually be interesting, so i'm putting the interesting stuff first.

less specific paragraphs (short through lack of necessary tools to properly address question):
--------------------------------
maybe it's just that you don't appreciate belle and sebastian in particular, which is fine - most of their songs are annoyingly half-formed, they never made a start-to-finish great album, they're also fairly precious. i can understand not liking b+s. but the way you phrase your dismissal ("pleasant little pop songs", as if anything soft or small couldn't affect you - okay, bring on the penis jokes) makes me think that any record's ability to impress you correlates with its loudness/harshness, and there i must confess imcomprehension. even the way you write about low, how what you understand about them is that despite their quietness they're "still actually a loud band", so to speak, and that's why they're good.

i guess all i really know how to say is that if loudness/harshness is the only thing that can affect you so profoundly, that's a real shame. but i still can't quite believe it's true.

b+s specific paragraphs (long and not particularly valuable):
--------------------------------
a lot of the music i like is - for me - about people. by which i mean that the songs are people, almost; at least, that the reason i love the song is that it captures a person feeling a thing. dh lawrence said a similar thing about his "pansies" (short "poems") - that their object was to capture one moment or feeling. sometimes the moment is something that has nothing to do with a person, and yet the only way the moment can exist is by being observed by a person, and so it is entirely understood in terms of the sense it rouses in that person.

and so anyway, i'm i don't know how old, not much younger than i am now in world chronology terms, and i listen to "expectations", say, by belle and sebastian, and it brings me one moment or feeling i've never had described to me before. it's the world through someone's eyes that might as well be my own, but something's different and it feels good - and i work out that the difference is something to do with belief. these eyes see their subject exactly the way i'd see it only with one important difference, that being that they have the audacity to see it all the way i'd see it and then argue that this is the right way to see it. and that's a moment or feeling i'd never had before, least of all from a song.

the eyes in that song are soft and shy and full of this tangled rush of lights and experiences they're not sure they understand but they know they're in love with, and they're fully aware that they don't quite fit with the way everything around them wants them to be. so we're talking simultaneously full of wonder at the world and knowing that the scene they're looking at isn't right, that there's a problem somewhere inside it. and the problem isn't the girl not fitting in, it's the world not fitting around the girl (lest you misintepret my meaning, the melody, instruments, sounds, music are all as much to do with it as the words - without that specific chosen context, the words can't say what they mean to me).

so far, so teenage. but the important part isn't the alienation (alienation being anyway and as we'll see just the background noise to life), it's the way it's dealt with. most of the music i embraced before then did one of two things - it embraced alienation, sunk deep into itself, investigated and enunciated every possible facet of the simple feeling of not being happy and wanting to be happy in very personal terms (i'm thinking early radiohead, muse, sad stax songs, etc), or it denied alienation, strode out and took no prisoners and basically just was, with all the "fuck you" attitude that some have used as the very definition of rock and roll (oasis were my favourite). in belle and sebastian and so much of the lyrical music i now enjoy (as opposed to the metal, ambient, electronic, drone, instrumental etc music which i enjoy differently), alienation is just the background noise. the life-changing for real comes in with with the idea that i don't need to worry so much about feeling alienated from the world - i can let it happen and ignore it or i can celebrate it and enjoy it, or i can do whatever i want because it's no big deal really and there are better things for me to care about.

a handful of belle and sebastian songs showed me something about how i could go about being alive in the world when "you know the world is made for men, not us", to quote a different song. the fact that they were songs as full of life, truth and wonder as any of the great poems, novels and paintings is a secondary concern.
--------------------------------

sorry and thanks to anyone who read all of that second bit - hope it made sense.
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lastclearchance
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« Reply #49 on: Nov 02, 2007, 12:59:09 PM »

sorry and thanks to anyone who read all of that second bit - hope it made sense.

Don't apologize!

P.S. That's how to big-up a band without just reposting a press release.
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