Missy And Friends Are Happy At Smorgasburg in DUMBO on Sunday Morning
Some friends and I filmed one of these “Happy” in NYC videos over the weekend. It gave me a new appreciation of the song, and how much joy it brings even people who are confused as to why there’s a flashmob happening in the middle of an outdoor market where they’re just trying to buy some pork belly tacos. Anyway, we are stupendous dorks, and our dance moves are pretty lame, and there’s definitely an energy dip in the middle. But I’m glad we did it anyway.
Have been writing a lot at the new job and beyond, really loving every second of it. A few recent things I quite enjoyed doing:
Dare We Dream That Weezer Will Make an Album That Doesn’t Suck in 2014? // Flavorwire // why I’m scared to believe Weezer could make decent art again, after 12 years
Mac DeMarco album review // SPIN // why I couldn’t stop thinking of American Hustle while listening to the new Mac album
‘Nashville’ Needs to Solve Its Character Problem // Flavorwire // this show is a mess, albeit one I love
Kurt Cobain reading list // Flavorwire // an excuse to highlight my all-time favorite writing on Kurt, including a bunch of early interviews (god bless fan sites for their archives)
Catfishing in the Content Farm: Angela Cheng’s War on Lady Gaga Drags Stan Culture Into the Spotlight // Flavorwire // a deep dive into the Stans that made pop music troll Angela Cheng’s existence possible
Anonymous asked: what if you don't have good writing skills, but really want to write a great piece? if you're passionate can you develop skills to become a better writer? you say you've been writing since 12. that scares me because when i was 12, i was wearing pepe jeans sweat suits and listening to usher. i had no idea what the fuck to be, and certainly didn't think about writing.
I know it’s possible because I’ve seen people with, in this editor’s opinion, little natural inclination towards words morph themselves into stellar communicators. Writing is not one of those skills that you can master in 10,000 hours (or whatever number Malcolm Gladwell claims). It’s a lifetime process, and it takes practice. I think it begins as blind practice, or at least it did for me when I started writing bad poetry and Livejournal entries in middle school. From there, the practice turns into self aware improvement: knowing what you are not successful at in your writing, by your own account and some editors’ too. The self aware improvement phase is where a lot of writers exist for a long time, if not forever. So I guess my thought is that you just need to get to that point. You need to write something every single day, self-edit after you’ve slept on it, and essentially catalogue your flaws as a writer (and then address them one by one). You also need to read religiously, I mean just devour great writing; the hope is that osmosis will strike. You seem self aware enough to know that you have work to put in, and I wouldn’t sweat the past too much. It’s not like the sort of blind practice at forming sentences I was doing when I was a kid were accompanied by awareness or intellectual thought about the writing process — it was just a way to express my emotions. I suspect that’s also true for other writers who started young.
I’ll add two things: 1. I have many friends and peers who did not come to professional writing until later in life and they worked it out. There’s no right path to follow with this stuff. 2. Your ideas — you know, what you have to say — is just as important as how you say it, if not more.
on bossiness and the banning thereof
Buckle in, folks, this is gonna get “ninety minutes and a lot of unpopular opinions”-y.
I thought this was an insightful read, from a perspective we haven’t heard. Read it.From my own perspective, as a woman who is and has always been sorta naturally bossy (via my mother), it can be a drag being this way without trying. It would be nice to be able to turn it off, because there are a number of situations in life that simply don’t benefit from my bossiness. It can be socially chafing to me personally (I’m not even considering how others feel), and sometimes I exert a lot of energy trying to be laid-back. That’s a bad feminist thing to say, oh well.
Young Music Writers + The Problem With News
This isn’t directed at anyone. Actually, it’s directed at myself. Fuck, it’s directed at everyone.
I’ve been thinking and reading a lot and generally preparing to start a new gig soon, as I have obnoxiously mentioned already in this space, and in doing so I have been able to take the time and appreciate. What, exactly, have I been appreciating? Well, a lot of superb writing about culture that, in a typical working week would have sat in tabs on my browser until 5:17 on Friday. At which point I’d read half of a really long, really great piece and just accept that my brain was making fart noises, slowly and steadily, like my dad’s old junker running out of gas on the freeway.
The thing that no one tells you when you’re a young arts writer — and I’m not rewriting that Ira Glass quote that I swear to god I’ve seen printed on American Apparel tees selling for $24 at Brooklyn Flea — is that if you’re lucky enough to be on staff somewhere, news duties most likely will become part of your day-to-day existence. Even when you move out of a job that doesn’t directly have news in the title or the description, if you work on an editorial website that has a news section, it will still fuck up your shit at one point or another. You will get into a fight with your asshat boyfriend and go to bed, for the first time since you were a single-digit human, at 8 p.m. on the night Whitney Houston dies. That’s just one really extreme personal example, but I’m telling you, news changes the way you live your life. No one tells you that, and you probably won’t realize it until Lou Reed dies in the middle of Sunday drunk-brunch. Put away your personal feelings about it because this news post needed to be up 10 minutes ago and there’s a typo, dear god there’s a typo.
Please understand: I am not complaining. I am privileged beyond belief to have always made a living as a journalist. But a couple weeks away from the grind of daily music news has made me recognize the damage nearly four years of doing it full-time has caused my thinking and my attention span. To everything. Sure, it’s made me a faster writer and editor, and a much more rigorous reporter. I’ll give it that. But do not underestimate how difficult it can be to ping-pong between a capacity for news and a mind for criticism. They value different things.
Most of my peers did not get into music writing to cover Justin Bieber’s multiple arrests. Because honestly, that has nothing to do with music. That’s celebrity shit. Most of them probably wanted to convey something real about the art (myself included). News is not art, though a few 20-somethings making $20k-something will make that mistake because of one bad pun they get to make in their lede. I understand why it’s like this, of course. It’s easier to trust a recent college grad not to spell Thom Yorke’s last name wrong in a headline (oh but I did anyway) than it is to trust her to say something meaningful about, say, a new Bob Dylan album. Because oops, Greil Marcus already said everything essential there is to say about Dylan, so let’s just focus on tacking that -e on the end of the Radiohead guy’s name, k?
The point of all this was not to take a dump on music news, though it never fails to amuse me how the patterns of it all are so predictable, the way site A will post this thing only after site B does, even though it’s been on site C for seven hours at this point. (Oh, and then the next day you get a press release about it, after you’re so over it already, ugh.) The point of this was to note that in my moment of appreciating I have been reading in a way that is not hurried, not exhausted after a day of staring at a screen, not wedged in when I should be editing a two-graph post about a new Pitbull video or something else as equally disposable. And in doing this leisurely reading style normally reserved for my weekends on all seven days of the week, I am able to see that we all have a lot to learn. By ‘we’ I mean my own class of music writers, people who’ve been in the game and even around the block a time but probably are still mediocre, for reasons we can’t even help. Between second jobs and third jobs and who’s getting what and he has how many Twitter followers, we can forget the point of this whole thing. I read older writers and wonder how they know stuff. Nineteenth-century composers, the bluesmen who didn’t influence Clapton and co., obscure ’60s soul labels, the musical tradition in Thailand. They know it because they’ve lived and obtained knowledge organically. That’s how life works, unfortunately. If I could cram all there was to know about music history and not have to learn it through natural curiosity, I’d do it. (I saw how that worked out with a history of jazz class I took in college, which I cared zip about at the time; all I can remember is Ornette Coleman, Dave Brubeck, “Straight, No Chaser” and a bald prof who leaned on PBS docs.)
I’ll give you a recent example. Carl Wilson wrote this great Slate piece about Angel Olsen, Lydia Loveless and Hurray for the Riff Raff titled “Young Women, Old Music.” Now, I am so glad someone my age didn’t write this article. I’m around the same age as these musicians, and you know, that’s a different kind of piece. Not to say someone my age couldn’t research the idea and nail the references Wilson does, but he does it in a way that’s effortless, like he’s known this stuff longer than I’ve been alive. Sort of reminds me of the big hullabaloo that cropped up a couple summers back over the It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back entry in NPR’s (not great) “You’ve Never Heard?” series. Music writer Twitter was annoying over this, but one smart thing someone said — I believe Evie Nagy — was that it’s more appealing to have a young person explain Drake than to have him spend time publicly grappling with the historical significance of Important Art before his time. I’m not saying us under-30 music writers should stop writing about albums released pre-Y2K, but can we just stop for a second and recognize that we pretty much don’t know shit? It’s sort of a comforting cycle once you give in. The older I get, the more I realize what I don’t know — and that it’s a lot.
Life update: I’m going to be joining the staff at Flavorwire in a couple weeks as their music editor. I’ll retain some of my freelancing, but I’ll be writing more personally every single day in this new role, so expect more aggressive linking in this space.
Writing update: I tend to not share my work all that much on Tumblr for some reason, but I want to link a couple recent things.
I already wrote my first piece for Flavorwire: a quick thing about the time I got dumped with a Smiths song, the changing concept of a music library, and re-imagining their debut - which turned 30 today - without “Miserable Lie.”
And I’m fond of this review of the great Hospitality album I wrote for Pitchfork last month, so there’s that too.
Chillaxation update: I’m on day three of a staycation between jobs, and oh my god I am bad at this. If anyone wants to come over and teach me how to meditate, I’ll put on some Enya and a pot of tea. That’s not even how you meditate, stupid, that’s how bad I am at relaxing.
Music update: Current soundtrack highlights consist of excellent upcoming albums from Real Estate, Eagulls, Kylie Minogue, Cloud Nothings, and Death; Pulp’s Coming Up; Eric Church’s The Outsiders, Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Small Town Heroes; and still, Sun Kil Moon’s Benji, my favorite album of the year thus far.
Bonus: I’ll be covering SXSW for Flavorwire, so shout at me if you’re also going down!
Home’s All Relative
This weekend I went back to Ohio to participate in an alumni event at my former J-school. On the flight I listened to the great new Sun Kil Moon album that’s largely set in Ohio and read that semi-recent essay collection about leaving New York (“Goodbye To All That”), feeling particularly wistful about where I came from and what I left behind.
Winding up Rt. 33 back toward Columbus this afternoon, however, I was tired and ready to get back to New York. One day in Athens was enough. I’m too old for that shit. I always did remember things better than they actually were.
A few stoplights and the width of Pennsylvania was all that separated me and New York growing up. The on-ramp to I-80 teased me: “New York City, 400 miles.” Had I not been terrified of freeways at 17, I would have wheeled my dead grandfather’s 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme up that ramp and drove until I reached the center of the universe.
By 20 it was unbearable. I would stare out at the stunning Appalachian foothills of my college town and yearn for a skyline, just one fucking skyscraper. I talked my way into an internship in the city, found a sublease on Craigslist, sent a check for $2100 (for the whole summer!) to a stranger, packed up the jersey dresses my mom bought me at Kohl’s (we thought that’s what employees at music magazines wore), and set out on I-80 for my very first New York trip. We were pleasantly surprised to find a very nice Williamsburg condo on the other side. We ate slices of pizza at a hole in the wall on Lorimer I still frequent from time to time. It wasn’t so scary, my mom thought. My dad took a 30-minute nap in my new bedroom before they got back in the van and drove the seven hours home. I watched “True Blood” and tried to pretend I wasn’t terrified of street noises.
The next day I started my internship. That first day sucked. I sorted CDs for one of the chart guys. When I left it was storming, and my jersey dress hung in clumps as I went into a Blockbuster on Broadway. I couldn’t drink legally, I had neither friends nor money, and I thought every neighborhood was unsafe. It was the perfect moment to rent old movies on my mental bucket list. I tried to get a Blockbuster card but was denied because my first debit card had not yet arrived in the mail. I thought to myself, ‘I could have sorted CDs and rented movies back in Ohio. This is a mistake, I don’t belong here.’
It got better. For as long as I’ve lived in New York it’s gotten better. I’ve gotten smarter at navigating (both directionally and figuratively), found more of my people, carved out my own modest home. But I think I’ll understand that it’s time to go when the momentum halts. I’m not a lifer. I’m not sure I’m a lifer anywhere, except in my own nostalgic mind.