And first off, hello all, it’s been a while but work got busy and then there was a vacation and etc. etc. However! Back with this because my sense that this would be the year of increasingly higher profile stories would keep appearing has proven true. To quote August Brown:
A tiny but busy tape-based music culture is growing from roots in economic necessity, thrift-store crate-digging and, yes, a pride in being difficult for its own sake.
But cassettes also carry a different nostalgia, one not tracked by SoundScan. They evoke high-school mixes from nascent crushes and trips to the beach soundtracked by sun-bleached tunes recorded off the radio. The emotional archaeology of trawling through shoeboxes of cracked cassettes has a resonance that iTunes doesn’t offer.
Etc. etc., the usual explanations and frankly the usual ‘doth protest too much’ assumptions to my mind, given my lack of romance about said emotional archaeology or what have you — though this piece has the advantage of focusing more on local LA outlets and microlabels and so forth. Being that it’s the LA Times it’s a broad net cast but they hit understandable names like Not Not Fun and Burger so on that front this functions as an appropriate kind of story, not simply ‘hey did you see cassettes are back?’ waffling.
I will say it’s been interesting sensing my own feelings about cassettes this year — not that I’ve suddenly bounded into getting a slew of them, but I do pick them up as I see them at shows now, partially because I have a cassette holder like a minibookcase which I mostly emptied earlier this year and which I might as well fill up a bit. Also, it is a case of getting money directly to a band, especially if they’re on tour. Still, pretty much my first and only listen of a cassette itself is to immediately dump it into my computer, so I can carry it around on my iPhone as I’d like. So when I see this kind of sentiment:
"I get so nervous around iPods," Amanda Brown said. "If someone made a hot-pink ghetto blaster, I swear that every kid at Hollywood High would have one."
…I really can’t recognize it because I can’t imagine getting nervous around my phone. But that’s me.
“But the greatest difference between the musical past and present is what we might call musical teleology: the belief that music progresses over time. That belief had consequences that many contemporary listeners and musicians would find shocking. Throughout much of Western history, older works held little interest for average listeners—they wanted the most up-to-date styles in singing and harmony. Seventeenth-century Venetians shunned last year’s operas; nineteenth-century Parisians yawned at the elegant entertainments written for the Sun King. Composers like Bach, today viewed as cornerstones of Western civilization, were seen as impossibly old-fashioned several decades after their deaths. In his 1823 Life of Rossini, Stendhal wondered: “What will happen in twenty years’ time when The Barber of Seville [composed in 1816] will be as old-fashioned as Il Matrimonio Segreto [a 1792 opera by Domenico Cimarosa] or Don Giovanni ?” Stendhal’s musical crystal ball obviously had its flaws.”—
There’s a lot (A LOT) going on in this article that’s interesting, but the section that’s built upon the quote above rings really hollow for me. I’m still puzzling out why, but I know it has something to do with the way one talks/thinks about the history of popular music and the way one talks/thinks about the history of concert (not “classical”) music. Which is to say, isn’t something like the DEMAND FOR THE NEW mentioned above happening now, just on a much smaller scale? And hasn’t that kind of always been the case in popular music? It seems that the blind worship of What Came Before (i.e. canon-building) is a distinctly 20th century notion, as MacDonald points out. And we all know that’s what 21st century holds: The final act of canon-smashing!
Ok, this study is really about priming with music, as opposed to other outside influences — but maybe I’d get more dates if I hired a cute band to follow me around and play twee love songs? Then again, that might attract the wrong kind of dude. Maybe Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, or the Twilight Singers would be more effective?
Wow! Well, this feature sure is a mess, isn’t it? Did anyone even think to edit the surveys for clarity and … relevance? Cull out the crazies and the fakes? Cheap and nasty content generation!
Also: can’t help but wonder if the artists submitting surveys “anonymously” didn’t realize that the extensive details they also gave about the projects they’re in/have been in would completely blow their cover? Bad form, NPR.
I’ve clearly been hanging out with The Consultants for too long: Just had an idea for a white paper (?!) about the importance of constructive mentorship relationships among music writers at all levels now that the traditional journalism model is bust.
I mean, is it just me, or would stuff like this, this, or this not happen if the newbies had someone to watch their backs (i.e. fact check, nitpick, educate, recommend, encourage, give tough love, explain laurie anderson, discuss the history of the melodic bass line)?
Something more friendly and accessible than ILX, like an actual “industry organization”? I realize what I’m saying is mostly crazy, but I’m SERIOUS, you guys!
ps — I just realized no one is going to read this because everyone but me is at Pitchfork, which, I might add, I didn’t even know was this weekend!
I was drawn back to Matthew Perpetua’s epic REM exegesis tonight (perhaps because of the Fables reissue?) kind of out of the blue, and I had forgotten how brilliant it was, particularly the wonderful coda of JMS’s candid answering of every REM lyric question ever. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a critic tackle an artist’s work with such fierce…fairness (and likewise Mr. Stipe’s candor). Instead of taking the facile route and dismissing later REM, Matthew really considered each song as an individual work. I probably defend some REM records I shouldn’t, but I have found much to love on the last four or five studio albums (Around the Sun excepted). I’m not saying they’re perfect or even great, but there is something almost ageist in the excessive “THESE GUYS AGAIN” critique of older artists while younger artists get a pat on the head and a Participation Ribbon (or Best New Music) for a song or two that sounded good on a blog. I’m not going out on a limb here and saying that Reveal is some masterpiece or something, but I think it’s worthy enough of being considered as something other than the product of misguided old fogies, but maybe this is me reacting to the fact that so much of our criticism (mine, too!) is just tacit dismissal rather than careful dissection and consideration. I’ll stop before I start really rambling!
Anyway, even though this project was a big deal when it happened, I feel like it should have been an even bigger deal. Is this a book yet? I’d buy it.
OMG, I finally figured out “the song that’s in all the commercials” — it’s been driving me nuts for months! The culprit: Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister.” This was revealed to me while listening to the preview clips for Kidz Bop #18. Really. (Thanks to Eric Harvey for that!)
“As for an overarching Woodsist aesthetic, Donaldson hazards, “It all fits together somehow. I’m sure a lot of these bands cut their teeth on classic indie stuff like K, Majora, Homestead, Rough Trade.” He adds, “Also it’s not polished. It has a spontaneous quality, but that quality is cultivated not accidental.”—
It’s suddenly all come clear! I don’t like any of the bands in this “scene” because of that one key word above: cultivated. I mean, I knew that was always the problem, but now I have quote straight from a primary source to back up my outrage. Lovely.
Is this a non-issue? Granted, some of the cited albums are downright bad, if not uneven. Some of them deserved the drubbing. Others didn’t.
I was looking for some way to stab at this list that makes sense, but all I can come up with is this: It seems to me a good chunk of the reviewers involved are young men (ok, and a teaspoonful of young women), and they’re discussing the mature, late-career creative output of women who are the same age as their mothers. I can see the disconnect here.
[Also, they left out a few more examples: Kate Bush’s Aerial. Pitchfork: 6.4. Metacritic: 81%. And if you were making a case for consistent bias, the 5.6 (76% at Metacritic) given to Tracey Thorn’s Out of the Woods and the 4.6 (78% at Metacritic) given to Goldfrapp’s Seventh Tree would bear mentioning, too.]