Moms Mabley watches the New York Mets
As submitted to a thing that makes me rank albums. Hopefully I’ll have more to say about a lot of these in the weeks to come.
1. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
2. Kurt Vile: Wakin on a Pretty Daze
3. Rhye: Woman
4. Haim: Days Are Gone
5. Majical Cloudz: Impersonator
6. Foxygen: We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
7. Quadron: Avalanche
8. Iron & Wine: Ghost on Ghost
9. Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold
10. Kanye West: Yeezus
11. James Blake: Overgrown
12. Cass McCombs: Big Wheel and Others
13. Mikal Cronin: MCII
14. Phosphorescent: Muchacho
15. Phoenix: Bankrupt!
16. Arcade Fire: Reflektor
17. Kelly Rowland: Talk A Good Game
18. Shuggie Otis: Inspiration Information / Wings of Love
19. Helado Negro: Invisible Life
20. A$AP Rocky: LongLiveA$AP
21. The Besnard Lakes: Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO
22. Jim James: Regions of Light and Sound of God
23. Gap Dream: Shine Your Light
24. Oneohtrix Point Never: R Plus Seven
25. Atoms for Peace: AMOK
26. Courtney Barnett: The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas
27. Laura Marling: Once I Was an Eagle
28. Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels
Lots of smart people have written lots of defenses of selfies recently, though no one has really addressed what I think is one of the most interesting things: that people always caption a selfie as such while posting it online. No one ever posts a selfie without captioning it “selfie.”
Why? because if you just post a photo of yourself, there’s the risk you might look narcissistic. Saying “selfie” is a self-conscious/cutesy way to evade this. I think “selfie” (it’s from an Aussie messageboard, no? Like “barbie”?) caught on globally because it’s a cute little word that allows those of us who post photos of ourselves to subtly evade feelings of narcissism. Not like selfies are necessarily narcissistic, but people worry about that. That’s why they pre-emptively say “selfie.” It makes one’s photo of one’s own face look sort of cute and ridiculous, and not self-obsessed.
EDIT: Because people seem to be attracted to the “people always caption selfies as such,” I should clarify something. The word “selfie” applied to a photo makes the photo a “selfie,” as determined by the photo-taker. In my opinion, if it’s not captioned as such, it’s not a selfie, because the person posting the photo isn’t self-conscious enough to need to frame it that way. If someone else reblogs a photo and says “selfie!” then cool—that photo enters into a different frame of discourse.
Perhaps a better, briefer way of phrasing it is that “selfie” isn’t a photographic technique (we’ve always been able to take photos of ourselves), but a technique of discourse, very unique to the current moment when ostensibly personal photos are everywhere.
I just watched it now and although I have only seen a few of them this was not in my opinion one of Chris’ better videos. I looked at twitter several times today and saw quite a few “reactions” so maybe that raised my expectations, but this seemed to me to reiterate some of his regular talking points.
A few specifics:
As far as Liz Pelly’s piece about some bands in Boston, I honestly have no idea at all what he is talking about. My guess is that he reads a piece like this and tries to frame it in the terms of like a circa-1989 Everett True piece, where Liz was maybe trying to say that Boston is “The Next Seattle” (if you’re not sure what that means, kids, ask Chris.) But that was not my take on Liz’s piece. I don’t think she was really trying to say “This scene is going to be huge and needs to be paid attention to” but more “Here are interesting things going on in this place, where people are trying to carve out an individual space to be creative with music, a space that, having been involved with them, I can tell you about now.” He wonders if this should be international news in the NME and in my opinion this is exactly the kind of thing an NME reader might be interested in: a tight-knit music scene making their way, trying to do their own thing halfway across the world. That’s kind of what music magazines do, as far as what I see.
Chris uses some examples of old bands he might have known in the 80s and 90s and do they matter now? Uh, in the context of Liz’s piece, who cares? I read her piece and don’t remember the writer saying anything like “Here is what you are going to be listening to 15 years hence, when you are in your late 30s and looking back on your life in indie.” Chris has forgotten more NME articles than I’ve ever read, and he knows the last 40 years of the magazine is basically half things that seemed interesting for a moment and were later proven to be not such a big deal. Will these Boston bands fall into this zone? We will see! But to extrapolate from that piece to whatever his point may have been, well, that was in my view the biggest weakness with this video.
A broader point here, that advertisers and corporations are very interested in what young people think is “cool” and make it their business to find out what that is and capitalize on it, I think there is truth there. And in the digital age, with so much data, it becomes a precise science. Some people cash in on that. They become consultants or social media gurus or something. Being aware that this is going on (is anyone not aware?) is a good thing. Skepticism is good. Think. Act, based on what you know.
Does being paid for music writing necessarily mean entering into a morally dubious sphere related to advertising? In my opinion, and from my experience, it does not. But I know very little about advertising, and I’m in a business where it’s a source of revenue, so you should listen to me (or not) based on that. When I am at the keyboard I write what I want to write and I have never once thought about advertisers and all my checks have cleared. Still, I am not you.
As far as you, Juana, I hope that despite Chris’ video you will not be discouraged. I really, deep down, bottom-of-soul kind of stuff, believe that this comes down to expectations. Not a lot of people get to make a living writing about music. If you are thinking you might be one of them, it makes good sense to arrange your life so that you will have another way to make ends meet if that doesn’t work out. But if you can free yourself from just worrying about money and write about things that you truly care about, and if you do your best to render into words this thing and figure out why it matters and why it might matter to someone else, I think you might be able to make some money writing about music, and in a way that could be a part of a happy life.
In 1967 a 16-year-old Boston kid named Jonathan Richman was obsessed with a New York band called the Velvet Underground. He wrote an article about them for a tiny local rock magazine called Vibrations. And in that article he included this diagram, showing what he projected their career trajectory to be relative to some other fashionable bands of the time. (via this fine book)
Cher’s Dressing Room Playset by Mego, 1976.
Notes from Underground
In the early days of the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed and John Cale had a day job playing Batman and Robin at birthday parties.
Aaaaand we’re back, with a playlist featuring every artist that made the Modern Rock Tracks Top 20 between Billboard issue date September 29, 1991 (the week “Smells Like Teen Spirit” first hit the chart - see my previous Modern Rock playlist) and August 6, 1994 (the week before Woodstock ‘94, alt’s big post-Cobain coming out party).
Despite the title and image above (screencap by me because it is shockingly hard to find a decent shot of Lewis Largent online), these 180+ tracks don’t represent some kind of superfuzz bigmuff monolith (Mudhoney’s “Suck You Dry” only reached #23!) Instead, you hear the industry’s gradual reception of the “please rock more, and be younger” memo. This was the dawn of Alternative Nation, before Modern Rock success inherently meant substantial crossover airplay. This is the time between The Pixies and Weezer. A time that begins with Big Audio Dynamite II and The Psychedelic Furs and ends with Big Audio and Love Spit Love. This is Jesus Jones at #1 for six weeks in 1993, with a song that didn’t even make the Hot 100, followed by a stretch that goes Shaggy-PSB-UB40-Big Country. I mean, what? (“All That She Wants” would also be on the playlist if I didn’t disqualify songs whose Hot 100 peak was within four places of their Modern Rock Tracks peak.)
I’ll post the full tracklisting in the wee hours of the night, but here are the artists whose qualifying songs are not available on Spotify: House Of Freaks, 5:30, This Picture, The Psychedelic Furs, Curve, Top, Cliffs Of Doneen, Midge Ure, The Origin, Ian McCulloch, Happyhead, Jah Wobble’s Invaders Of The Heart, Chris Mars, Utah Saints, Kitchens Of Distinction, Mary’s Danish Mark Curry, Peter Gabriel, Daniel Ash, Starclub, X, Trash Can Sinatras, An Emotional Fish, Deep Forest, Therapy?, One Dove, Dig, Fury In The Slaughterhouse, General Public, Stakka Bo, Cause & Effect, Frente! and the Dambuilders.
Read that list into a mirror at midnight and your clothes will grow three sizes bigger.
Ken Nordine - Word Jazz (1957)