I’ve been meaning for ages to start some sort of organised music blog going, because I enjoy writing about this stuff, and because I reckon I have original things to say once in a while. I’m going to lay out my goals in this post, think of it as a sort of mission statement.
This blog is about, and exists because of, the near-complete availability of music in the digital age. It’s not that I’m condoning illegal file-sharing, it’s that I recognise that we live in an age where we can listen to any record we want, from genres we would never otherwise have experienced, created by legions of musicians who would otherwise struggle to find an audience or even lack the motivation to create music. And for any given artist I talk about in my blog, there’s no point in me either suggesting or warning against you copying music from them because the practise is so widespread.
It is both liberating and daunting. I think it’s incredible that we have access to so much art, that we never have to mistakenly buy bad records again (usually!); at the same time, we don’t physically have time to even find out about, let alone listen to, these vast swathes of music. By what criteria do we decide which music to explore?
Of course, “scenes” will always exist, and the media will always promote “mainstream” music that will inevitably be more popular than independent-minded music. A large part of it is being “cool” by whatever definition, and I’m certainly not exempt from whatever pretense this entails. But what constitutes said “scenes” is constantly changing, with the availability of music and of platforms for its release.
Music journalists are growing ever more eager to sing the praises of unknown, independent artists, who are getting famous for their creativity; whereas without the internet, journalists would have to rely much more on label promotion to discover new artists. This is beginning to manifest itself as more and more independent musicians are making it big. James Blake is a good example of someone who just wouldn’t have this much exposure a few years ago, his music is simply too weird. And artists like Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All are getting the opportunity to play on Jimmy Fallon; a year ago no one had really seen their tumblr, now everyone in the world seems to be blogging about them.
And it’s this blogosphere that’s getting so important now as well – this thing we think of like it’s a hive mind, generating buzz in distributions and stats rather than the pithy comments we still get from broadsheets and magazines. And to which I suppose I’m aiming to contribute. Because you’ll often need a second opinion on all the stuff you come across on the internet – I often only find myself checking out an artist after the third recommendation.
It’s because there’s so much music that it’s difficult to register all of it. And so many music bloggers and journalists that it’s difficult to register those as well, and we skim over so much of this text. A lot of it doesn’t stick out because it aims to emulate other criticism.
Which is a problem because of the quality of a lot of music journalism. Descriptions of music are frequently far too broad, abstract, and subjective, which is ok if you’re talking casually about music, but it doesn’t contribute anything to discussion of the artist in the context of the blogosphere. This makes it sound like I’m going to be mechanical and cold when describing music, but I think you can hit a midpoint where the description of music resonates emotionally, using objective statements about the music, which is what I aim to do – without enforcing prescriptive listenings. Another problem is the self-referential nature of music criticism; there are far too many comparisons to other artists in reviews, which is ok if there are solid links to the given artists, or a very obvious influence, or if the reference works as a recommendation – but a lot of the time it’s just linking artists to others arbitrarily to show how expansive the reviewer’s music knowledge is. There are other problems – it’s always going to be hard to evaluate a record itself, free of outside influences, but I’ve identified some real problems of very blatant prejudices, for instance I’ve written at length before about sexism in music journalism (I’ll edit and repost that article soon).
In other words, I want to write articles that aren’t instantly forgettable and allow you to discover, or even re-evaluate, music. I want to provoke questions about the nature of the listening experience and the evaluation of music.