My hobbies include making charts about pop stars.
Nitsuh Abebe on Depeche Mode’s Music for the Masses (published on Pitchfork, 2006)
I wanted to re-blog this again to point something out: if you’re starting out writing music criticism, study this. This is what you should be doing. Think about how music works, how it’s being received and what it means to people. This passage says a great deal about the music of Depeche Mode by having insight into how it functioned for their fans. It says nothing about what Martin Gore was going through when he wrote these songs; it doesn’t try to dissect the lyrics and de-code them, it doesn’t list what synths were used. It gets inside the music and figures out what it does, which is very hard but ultimately very rewarding. Because getting at that requires a great deal of empathy—you need to be able to stand in the shoes of the people who heard this music.
I have not been able to get this advice out of my head since Mark Tumbl’ed it last week. Getting at “what art does” works on a number of levels, whether it’s criticism or talking to an artist about their work or writing a quick blurb. Good way to put it, generally.
A good friend left New York today. Everyone said this would start to happen, maybe five years in: the second wave of New York friends who move away, not because they couldn’t hack it but because they are smart enough to realize that there are other places to carry on a life.
Someday I will leave, too. I am not from here and I do not belong here. For now, I will use the city because I don’t know what else to do. I will love it like I chose it above everywhere else, instead of it choosing me when I was a child. I was drawn to it in theory, not in practice.
There are things I will miss about New York when I eventually domesticate somewhere quieter. The above video, a scene from Frances Ha, is one of them. I think of this scene every time I cross a street at dusk with any bit of strut or skip in my step. I’ve never full-on twirled across an avenue, but what I appreciate about New York is that I could. No one would bat an eye. It’s not like that other places, at least not where I’m from.
My parents visited a few weeks ago, for the first time in three years, and my dad was questioning the clothes he packed. “Can I wear these khaki shorts to the improv show? Can I wear this polo to brunch?” I finally told him, “Dad, you can wear anything anywhere in New York. You can wear a ball gown to the bodega and Converse to a Michelin-star restaurant.” I just like that. I just like that you can be whoever it is that you are in New York, and no one thinks you’re a freak — no, actually, they know you’re a freak, and they don’t give a fuck. I’m sure it’s like that in other big cities, but I’ve never lived in them so I can’t be sure. Not ready to take the chance that I’m wrong, not quite yet.
Go Baby Go… Until You Question Your Own Teenage Gospel
Thirteen years later, I still listen to Garbage’s “Cherry Lips” a couple times per month. I remember seeing the video on VH1 in the mornings before middle school. I didn’t know too much about Garbage back then, but somewhere around the 2001 release of “Beautiful Garbage,” VH1 premiered their “Behind the Music” episode about the band. I came to define Garbage based on brief, catchy snippets of their biggest singles, such as “Only Happy When It Rains,” “Stupid Girl,” and “Queer.” It was enough to get me to buy some Garbage albums, at which point I was a bit bowled over by what I heard. The band was surprisingly industrial and lyrically dark for post-grunge pop-rock that garnered VH1 airplay.
I came to know a bit about music by watching “Behind the Music” and various VH1 countdown shows during the early 2000s. I realize now that, in some ways, those shows perpetuated cliched ideas about rock history. I accepted the song rankings and oral histories as fact, building my own beliefs about pop music upon them. I’ve had to unlearn some of this stuff, much as I’ve had to separate my own opinions about old music from those instilled in my as a child by my father and Northeast Ohio’s overwhelming presence of classic rock radio. You know, commonly-held beliefs about which Pink Floyd albums are worth your time and shit like that.
However, these VH1 music countdown specials I obsessed over as a teen — essentially televised lists featuring talking heads like Rob Sheffield, Ann Powers, and Joe Levy — reinforced my desire to become a music journalist. They also created a false sense of professional idolatry that I’ve consciously dismantled as I’ve progressed in this field and socially interacted with these writers, whose immense talents I still respect and strive towards but now see in a more human light. In many ways, these talking heads were bigger deals to me than the rock stars they dissected. Musically, it was a weird period of time for me that I think of (and question) every time I hear “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go),” but I still trust my initial taste on the song: it’s the catchiest thing Garbage ever touched.
the death of love in the time of gchat
- me: i have never been excited about a reissue the way i am excited about the unicorns reissue and that is a scientific fact
- jill: ew
- jill: i cant
- me: what
- me: we're not friends anymore
- me: you just killed our friendship
- jill: sacrifices must be made
the words + sounds are coming out sideways
I’m going through one of those periods where very little sounds good to me. Even when it does, the words are coming out sideways when I go to describe it, which is just about the worst thing that could happen to someone whose job revolves around doing just that.
It’s not that I think quality music is not being released. It’s the difference between new music I have the potential to like and new music I like right away. Sometimes I wonder if pop music has ruined me to the former in some way, to music that takes real time to get connect with.
Anyway, I heard a new song today that I connected with right away, 30 seconds in, and it felt like a miracle. Like the first bite of watermelon at the start of a hot summer. Here it is.
made a flowchart//shots fired at flower crowns
Tré Cool, Winona Ryder, Billie Joe and Gwen StefaniHow is this a real picture???? ❤
Gwen’s bejeweled eyebrow phase too, <3
My song of the summer every summer since 2007. The crickets in the beginning remind me of Ohio summers. The way he stops and goes “aaah” reminds me of Tom Hanks in A League Of Their Own, letting out a sigh of relief when he takes a sip of Coke and realizes he made the right swap with Geena Davis. And the lyrics? A warning sign that timing is everything — a reminder I still need since I never seem to get it right.