I've been busy, but I really need to release some thoughts built up in my head before my brain turns blue. I've been quite busy putting together the last of my work for the site before I leave for two months this summer, but there's been a lot more discussion going on in the past few weeks that, admitting, has been quite distracting. So, I'm just going to touch on a few of them.
"Because I honestly don't feel the need to sit down and analyze why I like this album. Rather, I felt this thing in my bones, as iffy as that sounds, telling me that this was what I needed. Telling me that this piece of art was something that would stick with me, and to an extent, change how I thought about certain types of rock music....albums have become disposable whether we believe so or not. This feels more like a book, more like a page-turner that requires dissections and discussions of motif and theme....
For a lot of bands, it makes sense to release a bunch of EPs, because they are short and we don't have to wait to download them and they play by and we decide, yes no maybe. The album as we know it, with 45+ run times and songs or movements throughout, just isn't something we as a listening public cherish as much anymore. Because when you stop seeing the physical copy, the concept of album becomes a little less meaningful. Not to say that I don't like/love buying music through iTunes, because I do (mostly for space reasons), but I think we don't get as mad when an album has bad songs. Because we just delete them or re-order things...Not a lot of albums lately have forced me to hear the whole thing through on multiple occasions, but this one's musical bell curve, if you will, is so perfectly constructed that not hearing it altogether is almost as useless as not hearing it at all...." - Blake Solomon in the thread for my review of Manchester Orchestra's Simple Math.
Blake makes a lot of good points here. Some of the best things stated on this site in some time. Whether you like Simple Math or not, the point Blake makes about there being an album's worth of material versus an album that's really an EP with filler on the surface is a very rare things these days. While there is a lot of good music coming out in hindsight, I'm questioning myself to which ones are "albums" in a traditional sense as opposed to a contemporary sense with playlists and the sales of digital singles, on top of disposable illegal downloads that most don't have the proper time to sit down with because of our busy #firstworldproblems lives. So then we depend on others to tell us if 30-55 minutes is worth any real time in our "crammed schedules."
This brings me to an article I posted yesterday:
"People like us split music into genres and eras, but in reality, music is a continuum, formed by a long chain of artists and songs that—if you choose to follow it—will take you deep into the past or carry you into the future. Listening to “old” and “new” music side by side, in the present tense, re-affirms this view....Champions of the new want to argue that a dozen or so instant classics are released each year by musicians who are pushing their respective genres forward, while those who prefer to stay stuck in the past would argue that in essence, everything’s already been done." - AV Club article/discussion can be found here.
So here we sit behind our computers either bashing or praising something that in reality we may either not fully understand, or does or doesn't relate to us in a movement based on any sort of positive or negative subjectivity. Take it from someone who listens to a lot of music and dips his finger into not only the buzz, but continued interest in a new drug to get me through the day/week/month. I've written a mid-year top ten, but is it really in a particular order? Why is one ranked higher than the other? Going back to Blake's discussion, shouldn't the ones that are more of an album rank higher? Then, as I sit and just stare at a list that will more thank likely change by the end of the next six months when you're looking for my irrelevant opinion, I think of a quote I recently found from Tyler, The Creator on his formspring.
"It's just that my mind was set on some other shit because of my corny expectations. and that's just like people who read album reviews before buying an album...you already go in with an opinion sorta..."
Sometimes I wish I didn't have as much of an opinion. These are the times when I wish I were young again.
People are quite defensive these days. I've been pondering if that's a good thing in defense of the music we love, or are we getting to wrapped up in how far a record takes our individual subjectivity with it? I know I've been ranting for about a month about the idea of a review or if it truly has any meaning anymore in a digital age where everyone seems to be a critic these days *yuck, yuck, yuck* but it seems the past few years have been a battle zone - battle ground for discussion.
Enter sweet breakdowns and windmill kicks here.
Seriously, I don't care if someone doesn't like an album - once again, say it with me "sub-jec-ti-vity" - but I really enjoy the positive of people discussing why they don't like an album. I know it's the Internet, and I know it's so hard to write anything worth a fuck of grammatical simplicity (you would know by reading this blog regularly). That said, let us see every side of the argument. Things that need to disappear this decade:
(1) "Oh well you listen to __________." No fucks will be given on this one anymore. We all have diverse tastes and even when "in my arrogant thought" that I know I'm right, that's your thing and I'm probably not going to be the one to take you off the hard drug. Solution? Introduce people into new music you think is good. Remember, that's the point of sites like these. Never, fucking ever, be a dick about it. Remember, you're helping these people. They're not trying to land a spot in the Skulls, they just need a better playlist. We all once did.
(2) "Pssh, you (loved/hated) the last record, why the (love/hate) now?" We get it. The band isn't like they used to be (forwhateverreason). Most cases, this is what I want from a band. I can't think of a single favorite band sitting in my top ten, let alone top five or three, that has made an album that sounds like the others. There's going to be an album you may not absorb or like (as much/less/more) than previous records. Is the band wrong? Are other fans wrong? No and no.
(3) "Well, yeah, _______ did it way before _______ and was a way better record, kids today!" Okay, I'm probably guilty the most on this one, but it really combines the first two points. History is very important, and having a smug attitude about it never helped anyone. "Yeah, you like ________, you should check out __________. They were a big inspiration." Fixed.
(4) Scores. Please, just shut the fuck up about the scores. Read the review, listen to the record and form your own opinion. We connect on the art at hand? Cool. We don't? Cool too. There's more than enough great music out there, and if I could get rid of scores, I probably would.
I've found in the past (almost) two years working here that kids tend to really hash(tag) it out without any discussion. While in no way do I want to see the death of Internet meme on this site, I just want to see some expansion of libraries through embracing discussions and sharing the musical archive we're lucky enough to either legally stream (Rdio, Spotify) or illegally download (Mediafire, Megaupload, torrents, etc.).
As we slowly shift into the new comfort of AP.net 4G, I'd like to see more of a leaf turned for some. We're hitting a pretty big hill of great music right now, and as always, a new generation is coming up in it. We have the power, the smarts and the technology to continue educating each new group of kids foaming at the mouth for that song or album that "speaks to them." Sometimes they may not always get it right the first time.
I've still yet to hear the new Manchester Orchestra record. It's a shame on two counts, because (a) I'm the person set to review it and (b) the impact Mean Everything to Nothing had on my life. So, for the past afternoon I've been flipping through the band's catalog and have come up with an important question of connection between the listener and any artists' work.
Does having a greater connection to a piece of music enhance its positive subjectivity? Does personal connectivity matter most, or can you have a positive vibe and gratitude towards a piece of music, whether it's a song or a full album, without any sort of personal connection?
Let's take out this bullshit critic job that's really nothing more than free advertising and dig into the listener perspective on this one.
Punk music has always been about the outcast, and as outcast, we tend to magnetize toward other outcast creating a sense of this outside community looking in. Sometimes it works in positive ways like the D.I.Y. punk scene or collectives like Elephant Six. Sometimes we get what is deemed negative collectives like "hipsters" and "juggallos." Even then, can we even say that's a bad thing since it's relatively subjective anyway? Does it matter if some of us swindle Bud Heavy down our gut while listening to Brad Paisley solos, or if some of us wear eyeliner and find some sort of significance in the new Asking Alexandria album?
Now, let's jump back into the critical writing game, where should we as writers begin our praise and belittling of albums? For me, I've always come at it as the specific piece of work. But sometimes, as fans, that can be hard. We have attachment to some records, and we're only hoping to find solace and comforting in more to come from that band. But people grow and experience life at different rates and at different ages. They begin to learn new tricks and mold their opinions on the world and their interactions with any given year. Sometimes our paths cross and we connect, and other times we don't. For some bands, they carry weight across the board. They become our favorite bands not only because of what their audible music does for us (Mono, Russian Circles, Sigur Ros, Explosions in the Sky), but for some of us it's about what they have to say (Brand New, Rx Bandits, Get Up Kids, La Dispute). Some bands, even the ones mentioned, have the ability to crossover and flawlessly pull at both those strings in our neural senses.
I was having a conversation about reviewing with a fellow writer during South by Southwest who was explaining his approach of "If I was a fan of this band, would I enjoy it?" While that's not really my style, but I can see where he's coming from, and still respect him as a writer and his approach.
With that, before I've even heard the record in question, I'm wondering how to approach it. I remember telling Andy how much Mean Everything to Nothing meant for me coming out of college the same way Deja Entendu meant to me going in. He said that that was what he had hoped the impact of the record would be like in some way. I'm almost two years out of college, working a freelance job, two internships and one shitty serving job and having some of the best times of my life - but that's not to say I'm not without my own personal issues.
It's funny. I believe I'm more interested in seeing how I react to the band's new album than I am the music itself. As a fan, there's no way you cannot harbor a certain sort of attachment to something that helped you get through one of the toughest times of your life, and still resonates to this day. How do I approach this one? How do I approach any record in this realm for that matter? As a critic, who am I really writing for, an audience or myself?
As far as I know, these are all just spewed thoughts from my head.
It's been quite an eventful week when it has come to discussion pertaining to the music industry. But more importantly, it's been eventful to have ourselves a good ol' rowdy discussion (read: Holy balls Batman! We made it through with no one getting banned!) While I still stand by some things on both sides of the argument at hand, it's the fact that I stand on both sides that's needed. See, I'm not a person that believes in a definite truth to anything. There's always an exception. To me, it's never about finding the right and wrong of a situation, it's doing your best to understand the full spectrum of it. Keep asking questions.
Curious George, you were the man...err...monkey!
Better than an argument about how kids spend their money - fuck it, blow it on hookers and candy I say! - is when you read something that really grabs you. When someone says something that you've been screaming in the back of your head for most of your life.
Property of Zack ran a new guest blog this week with booking agent Matt Pike. Pike has the attitude that anyone in the industry should have, let alone anyone wanting to do anything with their life: "You see, I NEVER expected anything to be handed to me. I have always lived with the mantra that if you want it done you better go and do it your fucking self. I’ll take that mentality to the grave."
Think about it. It was rewarding to be second in line and snagging what I was hoping to grab this year at Record Store Day. People sometimes ask how I have this cool little job, it's simple, I worked my ass off in other media outlets four years prior - this ain't my first ro-deo! I did it all on my own terms, and reaped one hundred percent of the reward.
If you really want something bad, you'll do whatever you have to do to get it. It may mean mowing a few lawns (Do kids still do that?) to save up for that one concert you've been waiting to see or a small shitty part time job to fund your vinyl addiction. The point is, I think in anything in life, it's your path to your goal. The minute you let someone else start molding your decisions, it's no longer your goal, it now is morphed into another goal with another path that may or may not be your own.
I've been thinking a lot about what Geoff Rickly said about Omar Rodriguez Lopez's reaction to new material being unleashed onto the world. It's no longer yours. That's anytime you throw your ideas out into the pool, it's no longer your meaning. It's interpreted and possibly not interpreted wrong, but just in a different light.
Along with the new site, I would really like to see more open discussion about the changing of the guard in the music industry, but I would also like to see all sides of any argument to open themselves up more to opposing views. Even if in the end you don't agree with that view, at least you have a new light shined upon the discussion at hand. It's the only way we'll truly grow and make a difference, because sometimes you do need someone to guide you a better path to complementary goals.
Two amazing things happened the other night. First off, I was able to see Wire play a show. Albeit, the members are all quite aged which is a bit crippled with the absence of guitarist Bruce Gilbert. No matter that, it was how good the Pink Flag and Chairs Missing tracks sounded live a few decades later - that's what counted. Between the opener and Wire, a friend and I grabbed a bite to eat. We began having a typical conversation about music, the crowd that night and how so many know so little while others know their abundant history. She brings up the point of either sticking with the present on or going back archiving the past. Why has she talked to Green Day fans who have never heard of the Ramones? How does a person generally get stuck to a genre or sound without any history?
Maybe that's what separates some of us.
How many of you reading this even know who Wire is? How many of you know the band's influence is rooted in punk, alternative and contemporary "indie" music? I'm not saying this to berate your intelligence, because five years ago I didn't know who Wire was, let alone able to reflect on the attributions they helped shape in the music scene. It's okay, I never claimed to know everything, but some basic knowledge is power. That knowledge should never stop with your basic tastes. Pick up a Motown compilation. Enjoy the pop genius of new wave's commercial no-wave accessibility. See jam bands. Hell, embrace every guilty pleasure you so desperately hide for some of those radio hits you kind of like. (Example: Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars." Sue me.)
I'm addicted to musical knowledge. Again, I didn't say I've read up, studied every aspect, but I've taken quite a few classes and have watched my fair share of popular music documentaries along with reading some pretty expansive books on the subject: especially punk. Background is everything. That doesn't mean you have to be an elitist and cling to the most obscure of Orchid b-sides and wish Dillinger Escape Plan would play "crazy ass licks" again. No. You people need to shut the fuck up and get a life. There's talent moving through the musical cog every year. There has never been a time when "good music" didn't exist. Unfortunately there are ruts when what's left of the "good music" is outweighed by the downfall of any hot genre or sound at the time. Maybe Conley was a slight bit off by saying "This is what it is," and "I want to do that." There's always going to be a group of kids saying, "Fuck it, we think it's good. We're having fun," while other bands are trying to imitate. Eventually, for all argumentative purposes, this will eventually happen to the great things that are going on now. I say argumentative, because it's not necessarily true, but with any given time that a number of bands are leading a movement, there's going to be followers simply mirroring said movement. When that happens, we begin to feel the downward slope again.
For me, that's happened once in my life, and it was the past few years. That's not to say "good music" didn't exist. Some of my favorite records of the decade came out in those last few years. The special feeling of discovery and excitement seemed few and far between. Now, as some of you are saying, everything is great again. That's good - for now. When now is over, go back, and discover some older things. Find allusions throughout your catalog and connect the dots of the past greats to the future ones.
The other night, I was introduced to The Wipers, whose song "Youth of America" sounded like a primitive version of Some Girls' "Deathface." It's a crazy connection, and one I was glad I made. Even at 24, I still want to be wrong. I still want to learn, but I want to share that new knowledge with the world as a writer. Instead of catching the fish for you, I encourage you make your own trip to the pond (and definitely across it) in attempting to piece together your favorite artists.
We sit here and argue about who is going to make money off their art instead of embracing the internet as an instant hub of an archive for generations upon generations of music. One day, our generation will be gone, and someone is still going to want to know why everyone "did it all for the Nookie." Now, hopefully that's not going to be the case, and they'll be discovering the sheer rock of the Foo Fighters or the dark nuances of Brand New. There will be kids looking for at least a 3rd press of Thursday's Full Collapse or an obscure tour only press of one of our favorite bands they never got to see.
It happens every generation. There's a group of kids willing to dig deep. They're never satisfied. It separates the most casual of listeners from the most obsessive drug addicts. The drug addicts are the ones that make someone else's creation their own interpretation. Then again, maybe both do. Then we argue. We're never satisfied with a different answer from our own, and we're constantly bickering aimlessly among the community. No wait, that's some users on a number of curtained message boards.
So, instead of a hierarchy shutdown, I not only challenge you to discover "one band you've always wanted to check out" this week, I also encourage that you show someone something they've never heard of that came before their current favorite band. Time is no factor here. Show them Kane Hodder. Show them The Letters Organize. Go back further. Show them Still Life. Show them your favorite Fugazi record. Go back further. Show them The Zombies. Show them The Kinks. Just rock their world with something new, no matter how many others have heard or never heard their greatness before.
Once again this week, I got annoyed (read: not angered) over some childish backlash about "how much I know" or "how much I don't know." Well, I'm curious, how much do you know? I'm going to continue expanding my pallet. I'm always willing to hear something I overlooked.
Watcha got for me?
- love and respect
P.S. ---- I'll be taking a "leave of absence" from the site this summer. I'll be around, but hopefully in two months I'll have something awesome for you all!
Some years back, some friends and I went to see the Great American Noise Tour (I think that's what it was called) in New Orleans. We were all pumped to see Norma Jean and The Chariot, and I was super excited to finally catch The Handshake Murders. Whatever happened to them? Usurper was a killer album. Anyway, so we're driving down I-10 when we look to our left to see the most pimped-out (read: ghetto as fuck) hatchback. The scene: one guy rapping and driving at the same time, one guy chilling in the backseat and then a guy riding shotgun who, to this day, was the best "hype man" I've ever seen. He was flailing out the window. He was in the driver's face. Hell, we were getting pumped just driving next to the car.
Then I realized I wanted a "hype man" for every day things. Tests. Relationship fights. First dates. Partying - of course. Anything to build up a simple stack of confidence that I could pour sweet maple syrup on and devour! Mmmm...pancakes. Yes, we all need that bout of confidence in our lives no matter our path to whatever goal we individually seek.
"Hype" in all its glory is nothing more than the essence the word tells us it is. It's a way to get us excited, and the downfall to all the excitement is not living up to it. As reviewers, critics, general all around elitist dickheads that we can sometimes be - the "fanboys" you consider us - the hype seems to lie in the instant gratification of the score. What's in a score? Why is there a decimal system with Pitchfork? In the years I've read Alt Press, that entire system has changed at least three or four times that I can remember. In the upcoming site for us, we too look to have a new system. That system is still there - the simplest system of saying "Is this worth it? Where does my ten bucks belong? Is the extra five dollars worth a deluxe edition?" Why does that answer lie on a "star system" of sorts?
I'm quite possibly the worst reviewer contributing to Absolutepunk, and not just because of all the writing errors and babble. I'm either into an album, "meh" about it, or can't stand it. That's it. If I ride the middle ground, there's no motivation to creatively write. The simplistic of it is: It's not bad, check it out, it may or may not be for you. If I really love an album, then I'm all about telling you about it. That's how I am normally. I get excited about music and share my thoughts with my friends, co-workers and when drunk, complete strangers. Go ahead, ask anyone I partied with in college. Then there's the albums I can't stand. You either read about them in here, or I get my head chewed off about telling you how I feel. (Writer's note: Wow, I wrote even worse back then!)
Reviews are nothing but drawn out thought and "hype." Make your own decisions (once you actually hear the thing and spend as much time with it as some of us have) about any album. It's not a secret the only winners/losers in a review are the bands, publicists, managers, labels, etc. that rely on good words to further a career. But we should all be aware that at this point all the traditional models of "free advertising" don't mean shit considering leaks, streams and every other online wall now sits between the present and the days when we ran to spew money at the local retailer to grab an album with a single and a loaded (or unloaded) album of either killer or filler. (Now that Sum 41 album title makes sense!)
Do yourself a favor, listen to Chuck D, and don't believe the hype.
Well, unless you've heard Thursday's new album. Because the shit is all real son. Oh yeah, I forgot, to my knowledge only Jason, Drew and I have listened to it in this community. I think we're the only ones in this thread worthy of any sort of outstanding remarks. Seriously, keep the laughs coming.
Rebecca Black's "Friday" has been the jam of this year's South by Southwest. This isn't at all a good thing. On the heels of arguably the biggest music festival in the United States, Black released what could possibly go down as the worst song (read: abortion) to have happened to music in some time. I mean, have you heard that thing? Someone should get the shit kicked out of them for putting money into this. Something like "Friday" is beyond the point of subjectivity in music, in fact, I'd probably fund the next Attack Attack record just to have this go away.
Even after sitting through every remix possible (the dubstep one being my favorite, the actual GMA live performance being my least), I still went about most of the week of South by Southwest in the best possible attitude towards what is about to happen in this scene - scene being subjective, but generalized to the stereotypical parameters this site might endure at times. After working on putting on five shows months prior for the already busy week ahead - that produced six interviews for the site and three to four hours of decent sleep a night - it was still a blast through all the negative stress of my many jobs. Most importantly, I was able to do two things that directly effected how I foresee the future this year and in the next few while it lasts: I was able to witness the next wave of bands interact and have conversations about where they think things are headed. For one week I felt like Don Letts being part of the inside of the budding punk scene.
Let's face it. Music DOES move in waves. We were in tough times of good music there for a while. That's not to completely denounce the end of the last decade which DID produce good music, but for some reason the uncreative talents of some seemed to soar higher than others. In opposition of that, in communities of the Midwest, the Northeast and even spawning up in the Southern California area, bands were beginning to grow into tight friendships and touring families. Those families were melding into labels. Those labels were and now ARE coming together to form tours with substance and integrity. Instead of every band sounding like each other, bands are now unique again in their execution. While Level Plane and Revelation and Dischord are all but dead, labels like Topshelf, No Sleep, Sargent House, Bridge 9, Paper + Plastick, Count Your Lucky Stars, Mylene Sheath and Run For Cover are forming challenging communities.
My last day of South by Southwest was not spent rioting outside a Death From Above 1979 secret set or waiting for the late night performance of Kanye West down at the power plant. It was spent amongst some of my closest networks, and some of my new friends I've met over the past year since last year's outing. Yes, some of the bands I love are now friends, and I have no problem saying that, just as they have no problem with me being honest with them about their music. Saturday morning I spent the day at No Sleep and Atticus' showcase featuring some of the best bands around right now. Native, Defeater, Former Thieves, Felix Culpa, Touche Amore, Aficionado, Make Do and Mend and so much more. But it was a set from Balance and Composure that made me excited about the future of No Sleep. A band that I haven't payed much attention to, but caught my eye that afternoon as something special in our future with their upcoming release, and another nail and board in the ever growing structure of No Sleep. Stealing the set of the day, and unfortunately early for some because of time conflicts, Moving Mountains showed how a band can back up their buzz and anticipation. Showcasing easily one of the best sets of the weekend, the band showed why they have such a strong following, and how people are still discovering a bit of underrated quality about the group, including myself. Waves is looking to go down as one of the best this year; their performance said it all.
To cap off my week in highly anticipated style, I spent it with my closest network since beginning this sham I call a writing career. Sargent House is that label for me. There's a diverse roster (Gypsyblood, Adebisi Shank, Native, Fang Island, etc.) and a challenging group of bands at that. While I'm beginning to see that challenge set in among the bands and groups of friends across the rest of the labels I've mentioned, Sargent House still sits as that bar. Sure, label owner Cathy Pellow has been known to be very vocal, but that takes gull, and she's got a label and following to back it up. Back to the "challenge" ideology. The prime example is seeing Zechs Marquise's performance Saturday night. While everyone was mainly waiting for *cough* the Mars Volta *cough* Zechs Marquise gave the best performance of the day, and easily of the week. Though Omar didn't skip a beat, his brothers are certainly stepping up to pedestal that others see him on. That's awesome! David Sandstrom told me that the thing about The Shape of Punk to Come was the challenge of the rest of the bands in Sweden. The rest of their SCENE was immersed in the marketplace of ideas and expanding and melding new things and making it a game. I'm not denying Omar's talent, but I hope he looked at both his siblings Saturday night and thought about showing them up in the future, something of a supportive rivalry.
That's what is needed. It's one thing for us asshole critics and elitist fans to be subjective in our taste and outbursts of what WE find to be good music, but it's more important that those communities of bands that are rising up right now are challenging each other and feeding off the talents of their friends. When we reach that point at the end of the year when we just have this pile of good music, then we can say "Okay, this one was better than this one because..." setting a verbal bar and enticing even further progression amongst our favorite artists. It's about seeing a band like The Saddest Landscape, who were making music earlier in the decade, stepped away, and now they have come back stronger than ever. In our interview, they were commenting on the stronghold that this community of bands have. No one wants to go home, but when they do, they're already gearing up to be back on the road. It's not about the money per say, but it's about the friendships and experience outside the community one has grown up in. It's about expanding life experiences and molding that into your next album. Outside this specific group I'm speaking of, this can also be applied to great music across the board. The way Grizzly Bear choose a spot to record and feed ideas off of. The way Bradford Cox can just create a plethora of songs via his apartment floor. It's looking past sounding good on tape, but connecting outside Pro Tools and an ADAT.
The days of the rockstar are all but dead. Most of the bands I had stay at my place or hung out with all week had normal nine to five jobs back home. Most of the bands you love and support are living off the same part time wages you probably are. We tend to forget that being in a band is a job. As I sat there and watched one band plan best for their upcoming tours, you could feel the excitement of being added to certain bills, but the caution to do things right, because unlike some of the bands in the past few years, things aren't just simply given to them. I'm not talking just money, but critics blowing a load over a band before that band has time to hone their talents and then later basing criticism off of a still evolving bucket of talent.
2011 is going to be the year the dam breaks again. It's still hard to say or pin down an album or band that is going "redefine" or "rewrite" the past like Shape of Punk to Come or Relationship of Command or even Deja Entendu or Full Collapse did. Even if things aren't pushed that far, after my experience at this year's South by Southwest, I can say that any notion of dark times many still feel they are in with music (which they shouldn't be, I was at two labels' showcases of plenty of great bands on Saturday, not to mention other great label showcases all week), the next two years are going to shift the respect back to the artists that deserve it. Who will survive? How long will it last? Time will make fools of us all, and even I can only take so much in day by day.
The best advice I can give right now is to keep an open mind on the future, for so long I got caught up in how things were going to run and how the industry was going to shape its business models on the day to day. Honestly, I think I've worn myself out with all of that. Now I'm just ready to sit back and enjoy what's coming in one of the most exciting times for music since I was 16 years old.
- love and respect
[All photos are courtesy of Mitchell Wojicak. I have had the pleasure of Mitchell staying with me over South by Southwest, and he is one of the best dudes to be around and an all encompassing genuine guy.]
Last year was a different story. I was a fairly new name on the street, and as I wandered showcase to showcase interviewing and enjoying myself, I didn't feel like I was a big shot, I felt like I was just simply trying to take every sight and new sound in. Whether it was the discovery of Warpaint or meeting new friends and networks, South by Southwest was one of the best weeks of my life. While, I still didn't feel like a big shot this year, I had way more on my plate but much more direction. I was housing bands, putting on shows at work and still trying to take in as many sights and sounds as I could of the week(end).
All in all, I think I made it out positively, but that's not without seeing some of the negative. Lines wrapped around the corner for the Artery Foundation's morning showcase, while Equal Vision barely filled up most of the day. Kids packed in the small venue of Plush, hitting cap on and off throughout the day, and creating lines for the venue's headliners most of the week. It was certainly an uplifting thing to see.
While I never got a chance to slip into the Alt Press show to catch what Black Veils Bride is all about, or even to see if it was real, I was hanging out at No Sleep's showcase - a showcase of community, friendship and a fighting battle against what's being passed around as of the last few years. Good music has existed for the past few years, but now it's about to break. There will be a few gateway bands leading to even more great bands.
Tours will be better built and labels like Sargent House, No Sleep and Topshelf will continue to diversify their rosters, doing their best never to become stale or pigeonholed to a standard, or even worse, a cliche. Even better, each community will meld with the other communities and ideas will begin to flow, and in the most positive way, challenges will be set to keep the ball rolling on the creative end (and most important) of music and its ever growing marketplace of ideas.
With all the added work and stress and close riots and outrageous behavior of the past week, it was something to see bands like Zechs Marquise, Moving Mountains, Xerxes, Aficionado, Colour Revolt and Adebisi Shank absolutely blow me away in the best performances of the week.
I'm going to stop here and really sit down and get all these thoughts out to you by Friday. I've had some of the best conversations with some of the best people in this industry this past week, and there are a lot of thoughts running through my head. The next thing you read in here will either be a warning of a rapture or the bright light we will all soon see at the end of the next few months of a short tunnel.
Last night was "technically" my first night of SXSW. I stopped by Purevolume House to pick up my pass. I was able to meet PV's owner, Josh Rowe. Very nice guy. We talked a bit about working more in the future. Headed to IFC House and watched most of This Will Destroy You's awesome set. Then I picked up Kevin of Topshelf Records and went and hung out with pswingset while they were printing screenprints for their Friday show that I'm putting on. Ends up that it was at Joel of Junius' house. Small world, right?
I babble all of this because, I realize how big this next week is, and after recent events across the world this past week, I'm very thankful for being able to do what I do. I'm not going to get much sleep in the next week, but it's very well worth it. SXSW has a lot of stigma and negativity to it with egos and business-'tudes overshadowing it.
I'm glad most of my week won't be spent with that.
I was thinking about this last night:
Industry? I don't know. I'm just some dumb fortunate kid who gets to stand on a soapbox on the corner.
I hope to see some of you guys, gals and networks around this week. Show my town respect and leave your firstworldproblems at the house. Be grateful it's not floating somewhere in the ocean.
Interesting. I wonder what my blog count was at that point? I wonder if anybody actually cared? Then I think, "Well, does anybody care now that I have a red name? Does it matter? Who in the hell reads these rants?"
Then, I begin to wonder about my position, my words, my voice as it hurls itself into South by Southwest this year. Does it matter? I'm just a small fish in a bigger pond of writers trying to be that standard, and I just want to be some guy who likes music. As I'm sifting through weeks upon weeks of SXSW press releases, showcases, and VIP events, I've really had everything planned out some months prior. That's not to say there are showcases I'm missing - there are - but there's places I need my muse to be first and foremost.
At some point, I became a voice to sell some product through free advertising known as a profession. I just want to go back, or continue, to be some kid who enjoys music. I want to be that innocent 16 to 17-year-old who gets excited about hearing something new, passionate and beyond overwhelming to the senses.
At some point, these ideas began to helm badges of coolness and respect and admiration. I don't know who fought for these titles, but I'm not looking to be one.
Here in Austin, seven years ago, Brian Griffin was born - or at least according to the current programming on my television. A year and a half ago, some dumb kid wanted to escape the state just East of here, and move into a city where he would feel more comfortable. Here I am, and in some sort of way, a month into that relocation, here I am as a voice to this site.
Friends are always amazed at what I've achieved, but honestly, anyone can do it. It's the heart and soul that drives the nuances of the reward we all wish to seek. I can say, without a doubt, I haven't reached that reward yet. At this point in my life though, representing AbsolutePunk at this year's SXSW festival in my backyard is only one step closer in this banter I call a half-assed career.
I know this website started out as "Absolutepunk.net" but shouldn't it be changed to "Absolutemusic.net" now? i mean the music you guys cover is so diverse from pop, country alternative, hip hop, indie, metal, etc so why is it still called Absolutepunk???" - user submitted question for an upcoming feature...
There's a simple answer to this, but instead I'm going to write a long and very drawn out blog about this one. So, if you're ready to lose track and check your twitter feed for #johnnycraigslist updates, or are one of the eight people I think read this babble, you should continue.
When I was first told what "punk" was, it was probably a farce. It was probably some band that was so far away from punk, it made me look like an average Avril Lavigne fan. I still dove into and drowned in the history's undertow. The late '70s spark and quick burn, the early '80s post- age of no-wave and Manchester art school bands and of course the pop-punk, skate scene nostalgic of late-'80s hardcore but driven by more melodic chord progressions and heart-on-the-sleeve angst mixed with passionate fury. It ranges from everything from the '90s alternative to the newly surfaced early "emo" scene we all wished we were around, but were probably either a) digging through mommy and daddy's vinyls or b) clinging to radio hits we'll all scoff now.
We grow, and in our subjectivity and ever-evolving tastes, our minds are only building upon each new listen to each new album/song/artist like the drawn out book of Numbers. We find one thing that intrigues us into another that sets precedent well past the discovery years, months, and possibly even weeks prior. With the quick fire (illegal) way of consuming music these days, the transition only happens even more rapidly in our minds as we are constantly berated with new music. In fact, as many times as I've thought about "Well, what makes me the person to decide whether something is good or not?" I've thought, "Maybe I'm not, but I certainly have a quaint ability in picking out who is in it to win it, and who is in it to cash out - even that becomes a defensive case on both sides."
I can say, that I am constantly berated with new music with this job. That goes without saying for the other staff members, and in a wonderfully diverse way, we all adhere to what we've built our past catalogs of influence on. Sure, Eda and I are usually on way opposite ends of the musical spectrum, but that girl listens to some great music. Sometimes I'll hear something she posts about, and will say, "Meh." I'm sure it's vice versa too. (Actually, scratch that. I don't think Eda listens to much of my music...but maybe Keagan, Christian or Thomas...etc. It's all one big pot, and so on.)
I will confirm this and stick by it: we all usually despise the same thing, and that's a subject we all tend to agree on and hear ear to ear nicely. We know what has the ability to redefine our tastes, and that it has a possibility to redefine others. That is what "punk" music is in its simplest form. Real punk music is not defined by a snarl or out-of-tune guitar missing a B-string. It's an attitude. It's a push forward to reshape the future without rehashing too much of the past, but that's not to say that the allusions in the present don't run deep.
What's in a name? SPIN: On what? A little of this, a little of that? Rolling Stone: Rolled too far away a long time ago. Alternative Press: What are they thinking sometimes? Alternatively bad choices indeed. Pitchfork: The devil? Sometimes. What are all these stupid genres? Chillwave-thefuck?
Then again, I check, read and regularly agree/disagree with these publications on a daily and weekly basis. They are (or were) a staple at some point in my life. Also, at some point, Absolutepunk became the cornerstone. I've discovered a plethora of bands worthy of Thanksgiving Day cornucopia and feast that has been more than filling. The bands range from the brutalist (pronounced Br00tal) to the easiest of somber moving music.
There's a vast timbre that runs through much of what we don't deem as "punk" music. It's a stereotype used by narrow minded kids and old bastard critics to get a quick point across. There's more to being "punk" than a mohawk, studs in your jacket and chucks. It's an attitude and constant push against the grain (and even being smart about it) that is what being a true punk is.
Every day I get the privilege to wake up and log in and perform work for this site. (read: Seriously, thanks for giving a mad man a place to unload his aggression against _________ when he obviously needs to take another English course.) I work with passionate people my age, and even more passionate people younger than me that makes me feel older by the day - but never out of touch. There's a moxie to the ownership and staff of this site that defines what I've come to know "punk" as a an entity and certainly not a generic label.
With the diversity of music that comes off the pages of Absolutepunk.net every day, should the site change its name? An emphatic no is the evident answer to anyone who remotely lives or slightly understands what it is to be punk.
Oh wait, I forgot that some of you think Broadway shows on main stages and cheap riffs are "punk"....
It has been quite a weekend. I worked four straight shifts in a row, with about 4 hours each night worth of sleep between them. So, after an exhausting weekend, I of course went down the street to one of my favorite bars in Austin to grab some drinks with friends. Tonight, as I was swigging back a rocks glass of scotch, we were watching a local singer-songwriter play her heart out. Whether it was the exhaustion of work or the tip in the drink, it was wonderful. Her words cut and were simplistic and savage in their stab.
All I gathered from a name was Cass. As she played for "tips and booze, in no particular order," I was enthralled. A lot of thoughts ran through my head: Have I felt this way about something in a while? Was it the booze? Was it her voice, and the distinct, yet referenced sound and pitch it carried? Maybe it was her swagger and the way she carried the songs through indescribable passion, or was it just her executed flow?
You have to wonder when outside factors begin to present themselves in the decision side of art. When did "tips and booze" not cut the lifestyle? I'm not speaking in terms of touring bands and young upstarts, but as far back as someone making an art of your minstrel song to your "fair lady" or respectfully desired "wench."
Furthermore, when did I begin losing touch with discovery, and began looking at music with more anticipation and outlandish expectation? Should I - not only a critic, but as a generally passionate absorber of the musical spectrum - set my expectations low and let them ride out with absolute experience and absorption of the material - whether short-term and on the spot like tonight, or seeing an unexpected opening band, or what if it's a favorite band you've been following for a long time and can't wait for their material and it seemingly takes you just a few more listens than their last few releases?
We get so caught up in preconceived notions of not only what we think music should sound like, that we tend to forget why we fell in love with music to begin with it - its constant relentlessness in keeping us on our toes, of moving us or even, to an extent, being an outside force on our actions and involuntary and voluntary emotions of heat of the moment bursts of life.
I've had the humbled opportunity to hear two of my greatly anticipated albums of 2011 in the last two weeks. They're on repeat most of these days. They've lived up to my exceptions, but what are my expectations from your subjective ones?
Sometimes we get so caught up in all this squallier of anticipation, we tend to forget the innocence of connecting with music on a level that can only be measured through personal grandeur and movement: how loud you raise the volume, if you roll your eyes back at certain points in a song or album, or loose yourself in a paralyzing state of both mind and body.
I find that the recognition of ones involuntary actions towards music to be our greatest and most rewarding subjectivity and one that cannot be measured by some asshole critic like myself.
Welp, I can't seem to go a month without someone somewhere getting pissy with something I did. That's what you face when you put your words on(the)line. With the Internet, your words and opinion are constantly up against a firing squad. Someone who knows better. Someone who wishes they had your position because you "just don't seem to get it."
I must digress my thoughts to last night. While having a few drinks at a friend's house after work, one of his friends asked me what I thought about online blogs - not knowing that I work for one of the biggest. I abrasively told her it was all bullshit. No matter how many great writers coalesce into a publication to give itself some sort of online cred (because let's face it, the street cred of physical publications are dying as drastically as the majors' CD distribution), those great writers might not just get it in our eyes. Again, we all work for subjectivity and some sort of climb to be that "asshole that makes the discovery." It's petty glory - especially when you write them off months and years later.
So where does that leave myself? Bored with most writing styles, and even more "over" that blog/review/stupid interview question I wrote only weeks/months before. The worst thing you can do is to become stagnant in this game. So, yes, I always try to step out of the box as a writer - succeed or not I'm not going to be apologetic for it, and I refuse to slow down. Now, what does that say about my future. First off, probably jobless in the writing gig - but let's face it, I bet semi-touring bands are making more than most niche writers in the business today. So we're all in the same boat, just on different decks of the damn ship about to hit that iceberg.
What do you do in times of low end? Any damn thing you want to! That's what I'm doing in here. That's what I'm doing in my reviews. That's what I'm doing in just about anything garbling out of my stream of conscious. I'm an over-thinker, and it's reflective in my writing. Don't take this as bitching. I've been told I'm a difficult person to work with when it comes to things, and it's because I always come from a "nothing to lose" mentality. That's the true punk ethic. Just do it, and it may look revolutionary, it may look fucking stupid, or it may just bleed into everything that's already happening around you.
So I didn't write this entry to complain, I wrote this entry to say I have no remorse for the things that slide off my tongue and on this screen. Regrets are for people who hesitate. Believe me, it's always good to be careful, but sometimes you just have to play to twenty kids that care, and say "fuck it" to the rest.
I write for myself, and to maybe convince a few others. They'll have their own words as the marketplace of ideas travel. That should never be stagnant by any means.
It goes without saying that we are bombarded with a ton of music on a daily basis. Debut albums, follow-ups, sophomore releases that don't slump - and those that tank. Some of them we give a listen and enjoy, while others simply blow us away for the majority of the year. Then others garner repeat listens where it finally clicks. At the end of the year when we're struggling to make some list that won't really matter all that much in this subjective scheme, we tend to visit some of our honorable mentions - and then we get it. Here are five albums we didn't get until the last minute.
1) Hostage Calm are the sleeper hit of 2010 for me. So much so, that I slept on the band's self-titled before I decided to check it out a week before leaving home for Christmas. It certainly made for a few great listens on the eight hour drive to and from. Why Hostage Calm's self-titled is truly a sleeper is because it stands out among the other great pop-punk releases of the year with its diligent guitar work and anxious vocals. The instrumental work is as driving as Hot Cross, but as melodic as The Wonder Years. Hostage Calm are poised to be the next big breakout among the smaller independent labels we've been following this year. This release more than proves it.
2) The haunting, back-wooded swamp feeling of Menomena's Mines is what creeps so easily through the veins upon repeat listens. In the last few months, as I was spinning the album through and through (and among playlists at work), I realized my love only grew with repeat listens. To think how the talent of Kings of Leon has gone wasted - this is where they should have coursed their sound a few albums ago. There are tiny elements amongst Mines that sticks out and crawls across your skin, but the overall feel is mostly intense in how the band builds and builds and releases itself without ever straying from being accessible. Mines is an album, that with enough time, will become a regular return.
3) There's hearing an album, and then there's seeing an album played out in front of you. At this year's Austin City Limits, I was fortunate enough to see Gorilla Manor, the debut from Local Natives, blow up in my face in a room no bigger than a mid-sized loft. It helped me to go back and give the studio version a couple of more spins. In the last month, I've really grown a liking to how intricate and well placed each rhythmic scheme weaves itself throughout. Local Natives is one of those bands that I want to see crossover from their "indie hype" and tour with RX Bandits or Portugal. The Man. This is a band that lives up to more than stupid blogs that will write them off in two years. For now, Gorilla Manor stands as hell of a debut that should only gain momentum in this following year.
4) The Radio Dept.'s Clinging to A Scheme was by far one of the year's most catchy best kept secrets. All things considered, it was criminally overlooked. It had the chance to be a cult hit in more than one scene: Sure, Pitchfork dubbed it a "best new music" release, but Clinging to A Scheme has the kind of soothing, contagious melodies that could've caused quite a stir among the AP community as well. One peep at "Heaven's On Fire" was enough to convince me. Its seamless blend of melody, synths and creative pop energy had me addicted on the first listen. Looking to catch up on music you missed in 2010? Clinging to A Scheme is undoubtedly a solid starting point. (Matthew Tsai)
5) There are some moments where you just want to smack your head against a wall. But that's what this Five and Alive is about, right? It's about albums that we missed out on, that we should have heard and included on our EOTY lists. Well, Dessa's A Badly Broken Code is one that I slept on in the worst way. I've been impressed by Dessa's guest verses on other Doomtree releases, and her work on the collective Doomtree self-titled release in 2008 was probably her most impressive work. Her voice has a way of finding a place for itself in any song, and her ability to switch from smooth, soulful singing to rapid-tempo rapping is something that other female rappers should envy. This full length surprised me in the way that I was pleased to find out how much I enjoyed her voice and style over the course of over 45 minutes. Showing off her versatility from acappella tracks to full-blown, hook-infected rap opuses, Dessa shines throughout every track on A Badly Broken Code. If you missed out on it like I did, don't wait any longer. (Thomas Nassiff)
In last twenty-four hours, I've been flooded with an Inbox of new releases for 2011. After sifting through all of it, I'm more than pleased. At the same time, I'm noticing myself becoming less pleased with my own pleasures in my repeat listens, but conjuring up reasons others will bitch and complain once they hear it.
The reason I bring this point up is that I'm beginning to wonder if it's my own negativity transferred into a voice of defense, or self-denial in saying, "Maybe this album really isn't all I want it to be." Do we get so wrapped up in excitement that once we're let down by the most nominal of things that we begin a devotion of self-denial that turns into outbursts of defenses against an album that may not be what we were hoping for in our head?
Is it something greater? Is it an understanding? Is it about crushing our expectations and accepting the work of art for what it is? Are we judging reviews of records based on expectations or are we judging them for what they are on the surface - at their most simple form as new piece of art released upon the world? Can this band write the album that made us fall in love with them some months or years back? Can this new band write in the same style as their former band?
There were a lot of expectations sitting in my head, and once I started spinning these albums, they were either met, exceeded or I really had to take it for what it was worth. I think that's something I really need to work on this year. I think it's something all writers and casual listeners alike need to think about when approaching a new album, whether it's the band's fourth offering or a hyped debut.
Imagine you're hearing something without hearing about it, reading a press release, knowing the piece's history or word of mouth that surrounds it.
Imagine for a minute, that you were dumb to the outside world - now what do you think about this new thing playing through your ears?