Some time ago I unearthed a plushy Denon cassette tape case containing a few of my old 90’s mixtapes. I named all of them “Stuff Vol. x” for ease of organization. They were mismatched collections of my music of the moment. New or old, it really didn’t matter. I don’t ever recall compiling a themed playlist and I certainly didn’t find any in my old tapes. I didn’t believe in sonic constraints. From those tapes I created Spotify playlists to recreate the contents. You can find these “Mixtape Project” posts here, here, and here.
We music lovers of a certain age romanticize mixtapes. Sure, now we have unlimited access to music and can craft complex 100-track playlists in a wink and a nod because of our massive digital media collections. And that’s considered progress, but it’s removed the scrutiny and intent involved in making a 45- or 60-minute mixtape. Mixtapes were a labor of love.
I made all mine on a Kenwood stack system with a 5-CD changer plus extra tray. A Christmas present from my parents in the year 1991. The repetitive queuing and the corresponding play/record pressing on the tape deck. It would take hours to perfect one of these tapes, never mind the preparation and selection before the recording even began. I even used some of my dad’s records to add a scratchy, retro feel through a couple of vinyl-based recordings. I miss it, so I’m going to resurrect Stuff with a new weekly bl-g series. Each week, I’ll use some variety of prompt to create a new mixtape.
Thus I give you my first new offering, a mixtape of Halloween-inspired favorites new and old (but mostly old). If you’re back in the mixtape business, I’d love to see some of your creations. I’ll post links to fellow mixtapers in the posts. And if you created a Halloween mix of your own, post a link in the comments!
Let me start by saying that I did not select Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly as my favorite record of 2015. So this list at least has some novelty going for it. I read as many as five different lists from major music publications with Kendrick Lamar foisted up as the best tent-pole record of the last year. Hey, I liked the record as much as the next guy… okay, maybe not quite as much as the next guy since it’s not even on this list. Let’s just say I liked it fine, but it didn’t hold my attention the way that these 25 records did. It wasn’t ever played on repeat. My kids don’t subconsciously know the lyrics to “King Kunta,” (I’m awaiting my Father of the Year award. Please don’t take the “Baby Got Back” situation into account.) and I don’t own it on vinyl. That’s maybe the true test these days. Did I like the record enough to pick it up on vinyl? I’d wager that almost all of these records wound up in my vinyl stacks.
Also, my apologies for the lateness of this list. You probably don’t care about 2015 anymore and that’s gravy. But in my Killer Jams list I promised a subsequent Best Albums list. I don’t break promises. No, that’s not true either. I occasionally forget about promises, but I do not intentionally break them. Forgetting and willingly refusing are two completely different forms of betrayal.
30 Hz 25 Best Albums of 2015
…and yes I still call them “albums.”
Adele, Alabama Shakes, All Dogs, Amason, Beach House, De Lux, The Decemberists, Father John Misty, Floating Points, Joanna Newsom, Lower Dens, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Ratatat, Sleater-Kinney, Wolf Alice.
25. Wilco – Star Wars
And on the seventh day, Wilco created Star Wars, the record nobody f’ing new about. One day it just appeared, a fluffy white cat on the cover, apropos absolutely nothing. I thought I was being pranked, quite honestly. I didn’t take it seriously at first. Then slowly the album opened up. I just kept coming back, uncovering new moments of that rough and irascible Wilco beauty.
Friends don’t let friends create year end “Best of” music lists. It’s not good for your health. It’s an endeavor riddled with self doubt and soul searching that no one should be forced to endure. Even upon completion, the victory is Pyrrhic. You finish just to be done. You finish so you can stop scanning your list of 1800+ songs in your 2015 Smart Playlist. You finish so you can stop sifting through the “To Listen” playlist on Spotify. You finish so you can stop moving that Deerhunter song all over the rankings. There’s that bit of hackneyed wisdom about knowing when you’re done with a piece of writing — when all you do is remove or replace commas. Well, substitute Deerhunter in for the comma and you’ve got how I decided I needed to walk away from this list. Hit print. Run for the hills.
I will not declare 2015 a banner year for music. 3/4 of the year I spent complaining with fellow year-end lister and writer Michael Smith (@bsidesnarrative) about how 2015 was utter shite. And then the CHVRCHES record came out and I was appeased. The final few months rescued this year from the precipice, like storm clouds parting to reveal a triple rainbow. Cue unbridled squeals of euphoria.
10 Years, man! 10 years!
I freaked out! I made a list of songs. That’s what I do!
Speaking of unbridled squeals of euphoria, this list represents a milestone. This is the 10th consecutive year I’ve compiled a “Best of 20xx” list of songs with Michael Smith. It’s a bit of a benchmark for us. In 2015, I challenged Mike to put together a list of the best songs from 2005 — the catch: he had to fit it all on one CD. Yes, we were still making mixtapes on CD back in 2005, you wee lads. We even sent them to each other IN THE MAIL!
The following list of 100-ish songs best showcases the music that moved me in 2015. The artists and songs that chose me in 2015. Am I going to pretend that I’ve composed a list of the “best” songs produced in all of music in 2015? Of course not. I’ve listened to a lot of music, but there’s just so much out there to discover, so much to absorb. “Best” doesn’t always mean most enjoyable. I’ve picked a subjective list of tracks that resonated at the frequency of 30Hz. I hope you discover some new artists on this list that strike a chord at your respective receptive frequency as well.
Spotify listified (minus a few artists not on Spotify):
“Wildfire” – Mynabirds
“Waitress” – Hop Along
“Powerful Man” – Hop Along
“Octahate” – Ryn Weaver
“Here” – Alessia Cara
“Fuck the Government, I Love You” – Ariel Sharratt and Mathias Kom
“Affairs” – Skylar Spence
“Boys Life” – Small Black
“4 Degrees” – ANOHNI
“Bamboo” – Hinds
“Deja Vu” – Giorgio Moroder (feat. Sia)
“Pylon” – Lakker
“Shame” – Young Fathers
“Wherever Is Your Heart” – Brandi Carlile
Commence the Top 100 Songs of 2015! I mean, 101.
101. “Ripe 4 Luv” – Young Guv
This song is almost too happy. I’m like, hey song, let’s have a little moderation with the happy. And then I realize the lyrics are actually a slice of downer behind the peppy little synths and snappy beat. And I’m like WHOA, SHUT UP when I remember that this this funky power pop outfit is the brainchild of Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook.
100. “Feel the Lightning” – Dan Deacon
Dan Deacon is one of those artists that just hangs out on the periphery of my musical frame of reference. I always download his stuff and I like it but I never f’ing love it as much as everyone else. He’s the dude that hangs out with a bunch of people that are almost my friends and I nod to him at parties even though I can’t remember his name. In 2015 he finally said something interesting and I was like, “Dan Deacon, that’s very interesting. Tell more about that.”
99.”Touch” (Canvas Remix) – Shura
Canvas reduced Shura’s original silky, sexiful ballad to its component parts and clipped the vocals into jittery starts and stops, emphasizing the bass and airy synth. Some days I prefer the original. Today I prefer the remix. Both are good. Yes. Let’s just have both.
98. “Them Changes” – Thundercat
Due to a guest spot on Kendrick Lamar’s record, Thundercat is suddenly everybody’s favorite supporting player, but I’m pretty convinced everyone just has the retro-toon warm and fuzzies for Lion-O. Thundercat, bassist/singer/composer, produced this epic, funky 16-minute “mini-album” called The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam (“EP” is just soooo 2013.). Plus, the video features Thundercat dressing as a piano playing samurai. You’ll have to perform harakiri to get the bassline out of your skull.
97. “Feeling OK” – Best Coast
I’ll forgive you if you forgot that this Best Coast record came out in 2015. Hell, I forgot about it until five minutes ago. But we’re okay. It’s okay. My final list wouldn’t be complete without this sing-songy ode to false fronts and put-on placidity.
96. “Cat Food” – Aesop Rock
Remember when Drake and Lil Wayne were in some stupid tickle fight about who was the better rapper? Pfffft. That’s like two cotton balls arguing over being the sharpest tool in the shed. Fine. Come up with your own analogy if you don’t like mine. I’ve got 96 more of these to write.
95. “Today” – Jam City
Jam City (a electronic DJ/producer named Jack Latham) released a handful of finely crafted low-key electro-jams in 2015. You probably haven’t heard of Jam City until just now. So, you’re welcome. Don’t say I didn’t give you anything this holiday season.
94. “That Kind of Girl” – All Dogs
Not punk, per say. Just really loud pop music from this Columbus, Ohio quartet.
93. “Pass On Through” – Gun Outfit
L.A.’s Gun Outfit has been dubbed Sonic Youth’s folky doppelganger. To me they sound like a method-acting bad (method playing?) that’s spent the last week in a saloon on the set of a John Ford-esque Western directed by Noah Baumbach. Tie all those connections together and you win a prize.
92. “Saint Claude” – Christine and the Queens
French pop diva Christine could have had any one of three songs in this particular slot. Pick one of “Tilted,” “iT,” or “Saint Claude.” Consider #92 on my countdown a Christine and the Queens Choose Your Own Adventure Special. “Saint Claude” won the day probably because the lyrics are in French and the chorus is in English. Eccentric stylistic choices like that French tickle my fancy.
91. “Drive Past My House” – Summer Camp
The best pop music never even sniffs the radio. UK’s Summer Camp blends in with the dozen of other indie-pop bands that draw heavily on the 1980’s for inspiration. Elizabeth Sankey’s voice interplays nicely with the synths on this track, elevating it above the kitschy kindle incinerated to create Summer Camp’s laid-back rager about a girl that’s had it up to here with all this stuff.
90. “Electric Indigo” – The Paper Kites
Sometimes you hear a band and know instantly that it’s gonna be your jam. A bit of jangle-pop guitars, whispy and wanting vocals, dabble of electronic effects, some more jangly guitars.
89. “Fantasize the Scene” – Circuit Des Yeux
Truth time. I don’t know how to pronounce this artist’s stage name. Her real name is Haley Fohr. She’s from Chicago. She sings like how I’d imagine a Viking demi-god. Her music is entrancing, meditative and defies categorization. It’s laid-back… but urgent and demanding. If you honestly give Haley Fohr your ear, In Plain Speech will melt you.
88. “Vortex” – John Carpenter
The piano provides a glimmer of hope in a tragic soundscape of blissful, haunting synth and droning guitar. It’s vintage scoring from J.C. without the movie to go with it, but I’m certain that that nonexistent movie is amazing.
87. “If I Were You” – Holy Holy
I don’t know where I first heard the Aussie duo Holy Holy. I’m going to attribute this one to Twatter-quaintance @boinzy. By the time I set about compiling my “Final” list of tracks for 2015, I’d accumulated 4 different tracks from Holy Holy’s When the Storms Would Come. Let’s put this number in perspective: I had more Holy Holy songs in my preliminary list of 200+ than CHVRCHES songs. They’re like Band of Horses playing Neil Young covers.
86. “Every Little Bit Counts” – !!!
The !!! (or Chk Chk Chk) album avoided my ears until this past week. There’s a chance this song could have been Top 20 if it had wormed its way into my brain earlier. See how arbitrary this list thing is? “Every Little Bit Counts” isn’t the most innovative divergence from !!!’s regular output. BUT IT IS F’ING CATCHY AS SHIT. In case you missed it, I used capital letters for emphasis there because exclamation points seemed redundant.
85. “Happyness” – Molly Nilsson
The mysterious Swedish-born electronic artist this year dropped Zenith, a remarkable full-length LP. I was lucky enough to discovered her music through the excellent Gorilla vs. Bear music blog. She sings in a frequency normally reserved for drunken sailors.
84. “Reign” – Prinzhorn Dance School
Minimalist. Post-punk. The End.
83. “Cranekiss” – Tamaryn
I Shazamed this track three different times. I suppose it’s a miracle I remembered to include it on the list. Cocteau Twins by way of 1990’s-era shoegaze.
82. “Endlessly” – Guster
@bsidesnarrative says that Guster is my Neutral Milk Hotel. If that means that everything they do is worth mentioning and I will always and forever *heart* Guster… then yes, they are my Neutral Milk Hotel. Just simple, lovely, and underappreciated music. They’ve lost some of their bongos along the way to being proper adults, though, and that’s a shame.
81. “Run for Your Life” – Big Grams
Big Boi jumps in and whips this track into a frenzy. I’m dodging bullets but I’m sending back these missiles. Phantogram’s wooden block backbeat and Sarah Barthel’s vocals provide drastic counterpoint to Big Boi’s ballzy bragaliciousness.
80. “IF” – Paul De Jong
The co-founder and cellist for The Books explores the space-time continuum atop his string orchestration and acoustic dalliance. Beautiful and rambling, “IF” is at once experimental easy listening and challenging post-rock for the ears of the ne’er do well.
79. “Where You At” – The Bohicas
Reminds of the last British guitar-driven rock explosion, circa 2006. Bits of the Strokes and the Kooks and plenty of other “the” bands featuring people that hopefully say “blimey” quite a bit. 2 minutes and 49 seconds of shredding with a driving, incessant beat. Bob’s your uncle.
78. “Anything” – TOPS
A beautiful little Chromatics-like pop ditty with a synth-line to die for. TOPS released two songs in 2015 and both are worthy of year-end listing. Let’s try this one more time with a toy piano, eh? Just a thought. I do love me some sincere toy piano tinkling.
77. “Mr. Rebel” – Guantanamo Baywatch
The great mind-meld between Buddy Holly and Dick Dale that we’ve all been dying to hear.
76. “Hummed Low” – Odessa
Bouncing rubber ball. Rhythmic, lusty vocals with a tribal cadence. Ethereal, minimal, soulful.
75. “I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)” – The Dead Weather
Placed this Dead Weather song here because I love the transition from “Hummed Low” to “I Feel Love.” The primal, cathartic explosion after the outro of the Odessa song and the blast of Dean Fertita’s Jack White-brand guitar shocks the system with pinprick tinglies.
74. “Call It Off” – Shamir
Shamir exploded onto the indie landscape with the thumpy (but remedial) “On the Regular.” This bouncy dancehall track better uses the artist’s androgynous countertenor. The breadth of Shamir’s music has no true categorization, but I like Lizzie Plaugic’s (of CMT) description best: “a wad of pink silly putty dipped in glitter.”
73. “Ships & Lanterns” – Receivers
The Montreal-based band stormed onto my radar in December courtesy of a post on the excellent Said the Gramophone music blog. Epic vocals. Soundscapes like a cold front enveloping the entire Eastern seaboard.
72. “Come Home Now” – Day Wave
Happy times wall of sound for manic depressives. The jangly, guitar-laden refrain rescues lost souls. Formed in 2015, the band has only released a handful of tracks. Bring on the LP, fellas.
71. “Occupied” – The Radio Dept.
30Hz Killer Jams vet The Radio Dept. returns to the countdown with this challenging dirge that unfolds in four distinct parts over 7-plus minutes. You know what they say about a Radio Dept. songs. If you don’t like the weather, just wait 2 minutes.
70. “Dime Store Cowgirl” – Kacey Musgraves
Obligatory Country music track for 2015. It’s a good thing Kacey Musgraves is out there crafting pop ditties with a twang so I don’t have to look too hard to satisfy my arbitrary Country/Western quota.
69. “Singularity” – New Order
It’s New Order! I love New Order! Earned it’s slot due to the sonic deconstruction at 2:19 followed by the rebuild. Who’s Peter Hook again? (Also, what a twat that Peter Hook is.) Just listen to the bassline here.
68. “Can’t Feel My Face” – The Weeknd
There’s a hefty slice of Michael Jackson embedded in The Weeknd. His King of Popness comes out in full force on “Can’t Feel My Face” before shifting into Prince-mode for the refrain. At first I thought his greatest talent was keeping that Jean-Michel Basquiat hair atop his head, but now I’m a believer.
67. “Lampshades On Fire” – Modest Mouse
“Lampshades” feels familiar, like it’s been around since the dawn of Modest Mouse. The I Ching of Modest Mouse, reminiscent of the sonic breadth of the band and the band’s perpetual rage against the twilight. Or the rage against being pigeonholed. They’re raging against something most of the time, but in the nicest possible way.
66. “Strange Hellos” – Torres
This is what happens when you scorn this woman.
65. “Gray Duck” – Doomtree
Doomtree’s 2015 album All Hands is all up in your bizness from the opening moments. “Grey Duck” is a relentless lyrical assault, and the video features the freakiest looking duck this side of Howard.
64.”Clearest Blue” – CHVRCHES
I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry. There. Now that I’ve gotten those apologies out of the way… here’s the first of three CHVRCHES songs on this countdown. It’s the part when the song stops being a garden-variety amazing CHVRCHES song and goes into synth-bananas overload at 2:14 that makes it a keeper.
63. “Silhouettes (I, LI, LII)” – Floating Points
“Exhale,” a movement in three parts.
62. “La Belle Fleur Sauvage” – Lord Huron
Apparently I’ve got a thing for the French this year. Lord Huron’s not French; they’re an indie folk quartet from Los Angeles by way of Okemos, Michigan. Founding member Ben Schneider did complete his visual arts degree in France, though. “La Belle Fleur Sauvage” recalls the undulating rhythm lines of Johnny Cash, creating a blissful slice of plodding folk-inspired musicianship.
61. “Realiti” – Grimes
There’s a heaviness here that hasn’t manifested in other Grimes soundscapes. The result is a song that feels more like a composite of emotions rather than discretionary beats. As the song builds, you can be forgiven for awaiting a dub-step drop that never arrives. “Realiti” has a steady pulse.
60. “Cream on Chrome” – Ratatat
Ratatat’s earworm boasts nothing deeper than an infectious groove on repeat. And sometimes there’s just nothing wrong with finding your groove and sticking with it for 4 minutes. Most days, I’d kill for groove that lasts more than 4 minutes.
59. “Return to the Moon” – El Vy
Flashes of memory fragments rendered as nonsensical, lyrical gibberish. Childhood malaise seeping into the present consciousness, regurgitation through weary eyes now longing for the simplicity of youth. Plus, Matt Berninger drops an Eat’n Park reference.
58. “You’re So Cool” – Nicole Dollanganger
Nicole Dollanganger looks like a cupie doll that packs heat. Her often ribald lyrics betray something sinister… yet playful beneath the wide, doe-like eyes. “You’re So Cool” is inherently a love song, of sorts. Yet the words betray the violent ID lurking beneath the warm, sonic placidity. She sings about “the skulls of the high school champs you keep in rows above the bed.” Post-apocalyptic Barbie is coming for your ear holes.
57. “Dopamine” – DIIV
DIIV could have played some of their sweet jangly guitars over a broadcast of Let’s Make a Deal and I’d have tossed it no lower than 80 on the countdown.
56. “Hold On” – Papa
Skin deep anthemic indie-pop thumper with a raucous bassline and sing-a-long aspirations.
55. “Coastal Love” – Honne
A beachside jam band. New York ex-pats. A few plastic tubs for drumbs. Someone found a bongo in the weeds. The guy with the sad eyes and Hello Kitty tattoo has the voice of a trashcan Sinatra.
54. “Sedona” – Houndmouth
“Sedona” is the track that fillibustered itself into the Top 100+. Houndmouth’s done better stuff. Houndmouth’s even produced better songs on this record. But here it is, filling the angsty Americana-rock void left by Deer Tick.
53. “Go” – The Chemical Brothers (w/ Q-Tip)
When I was 17 I tossed a penny into a fountain and wished that the Chemical Brothers and Q-Tip would collaborate because it would be omyfuckingawd epic. The backlog in that particular wish-giving fountain might be 20 years long, but my patience has finally paid off.
52. “I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around” – Chromatics
Three years ago, the Chromatics were the first band to earn the #1 spot on my Killer Jams and Top Albums countdown. “I Can Never Be Myself” is a tease, a fuzzy, droning synth-pop tease of further greatness. The Chromatics operate on a different spiritual plain than the rest of us. But it’s okay, because they’re here to shepherd us with synthesizers.
51. “The Wolf” – Mumford & Sons
I’ll be that guy. Fine. Straight talk. The Mumford & Sons record isn’t a crime against humanity. It isn’t worthy of your scorn and it certainly isn’t worthy of being a 2015 punchline. But that’s where we’re at. Mumford & Sons achieved unfortunate media omnipresence with their 2nd record, Babel. The indie fans that championed their debut Sigh No More jumped ship because the band became too mainstream or too poppy… or “they just weren’t that good to begin with.” Now, oh boy, the band dared to shift their sonic spectrum. THE MONSTERS! BURN THEM! As a result the mainstreamers said Wilder Mind wasn’t a Mumford & Sons record, and the indie fans still consider the band an untouchable Top 40 commodity. ENOUGH ALREADY! If you can honestly say that this Mumford & Sons record didn’t have a few Killer Jams, that you didn’t find anything to enjoy about it, fine, FINE, I’ll accept your honest plea. Mea culpa. But let’s get a few things straight. Their first record actually was fantastic. Their second record was still quite good, if it fell short of rivaling Sigh No More. And this record is different. It’s not an abomination. Wilder Mind is still a good record. It’s not going to throw the planets out of alignment with it’s pure resplendent brilliance, but it’s still a far cry better than 95% of the shite out there demanding your attention. That said, maybe this is higher than necessary because I’m trying to make a point… or something.
It might only be Monday, but I’m calling this race early. A) I’m too busy catching up on episodes of Bob’s Burgers to watch anything new on the tele and B) This is amazeballs. These two guys manage to rock as hard on cellos as Slash did on his guitar. Okay, almost rock as hard. But you can tell they’re rock stars. Just look at their cellos. I, of course, had to do a little bit of research on these Croatian fellows (Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser), known as 2Cellos, and it seems they’re quite popular and have records and tour and stuff. I’ve watched a handful of videos now and I have to say that this riff on GNf’R is easily their best stuff. It at least includes the most cello headbanging you’ll ever see in a two-minute video. And there’s something to be said for that.
2Cellos playing Welcome to the Jungle: The Best Thing I Watched This Week
Sidenote: Is it just me, or could these guys also be a pair of excellent Bond henchmen?
I don’t think I need to say too much more about this. I’ll just mention that they played this on the Ellen Degeneres show so there are a few million housewives that are more in the loop than I. (edit: apparently they also appeared on Glee at some point, but that begs the question if you appear on a television show after everyone stops watching it, do you actually appear at all?) Since I’m taking the rest of the week off from scouring the globe for “Best Things” I’ll just abandon ship without my usual assortment of hyperbole and rhetoric. As always, no need to thank me. You’re always welcome.
Bonus: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Sidesidenote: the image they’re currently cultivating is a half-step removed from John Corbett’s version of a Yanni character in Serendipity. He plays an oboe-like Indian/Pakistani/Bengali/Iranian instrument called the shehnai.
If you’ve been reading this bl-g for any amount of time, you may recall that I founded this Interweb space on the premise that I would write about music and my rediscovery of vinyl records as part of my recovery from a bout of depression and anxiety that occurred in 2010. I know the exact date, you see, because I’d just returned home from the movies. I’d seen Black Swan on it’s opening weekend. I came home that night and after a short conversation with my wife about the movie, I broke down. I’d been experiencing these symptoms of depression for about a month by this point, but I couldn’t put the feelings into words, nor did I truly understand what was happening to me. I told her that I didn’t know what was wrong, that I knew I’d been distant. The things which had made me happy no longer had value. I’d largely stopped watching movies, reading or listening to music. I hadn’t been able to write. I told her I didn’t know what to do to make myself better. It felt very confessional. She says what shocked her the most about that night was when she asked if I wanted to see a therapist. Without hesitation I said, “Yes.”
After six-plus months of conversations with my therapist, I finally considered myself recovered. I continued to attend sessions for over a year, however. I’ve remained emotionally well (with one or two minor lapses) ever since. The existence of this bl-g represents the first step taken toward recovery. It reinvigorated my writing and gave me a focus again. Writing about music, just for the love of music, kickstarted my first steps toward wellness. As I dove into the vinyl hobby, I started going to concerts again. I wrote about all of it. I explored new music and what music had meant to me as a child as an 80’s youth. I wrote about the nostalgia that still fulfilled me.
Somewhere along the way, writing about music, however, became less fulfilling.
I don’t spend less time listening to new releases or scouring record bins for hidden gems. I just stopped writing about music.
Anyone who has spent any time writing knows that the endeavor is a very solitary activity. When writing and submitting fiction to literary magazations, publishers or agents, there’s no immediate response. Often not even denial. Often there’s just the kind silence that hurts more than negativity. Each and every story or novel is a slog with only the sound of that internal, nagging voice spurring you forward. Silence sides with that voice. Writing this bl-g proved helpful. Short bites of writing followed by immediate response. I was writing. People were reading when I wrote more about music and nostalgia. For awhile the topic of the vinyl resurgence held a regular audience.
But as my writing turned back toward new artists and new releases, response dwindled. I was again writing for the void. I didn’t need more silence in my life, so output lessened. I grew disinterested in the bl-g, and this space remained largely dormant until I conjured an idea for a post about some of that good old fashioned nostalgia. Even then, due to my less-than-regular posting schedule, I found myself begging for views. No one checks in if you’re not putting up words. Nor should they. That’s not what this is about, nor is it what I’d intended when I signed up for the writing-as-therapy gig.
If it’s not familiar, if it’s not already welcome or expected, it’s often not accepted.
But then there’s the other side of that coin. Much of my disillusionment stems from reading the greater oeuvre known as “music writing.” As “music writing” has grown, so too has criticism of music writing. We’ve reached a point with the proliferation of music blogs that criticism of criticism has become it’s own genre. I’m also implicated here. I read P-fork (as the spearhead of this particular genre of music writing) like rubberneckers view the aftermath of a traffic accident. I often blame P-fork for everything that ails music writing, but they’re not alone. This is part subjective disagreement and part fundamental discord. Even when I agree with the overall opinion of a review, I often can’t relate what I’ve just read to the music it intends to describe. Purple, expressive and flowery prose often aptly describes the feeling that a certain music inspires. P-fork (just as one example I apparently plan to beat like a rented mule) has allowed rampant negativity to cloud their reviews. “Listenable” has taken on a very negative connotation. Not all music has to break new ground. Not all music must “challenge” in order to justify its existence. Talented writers work in this music writing genre, but I more often than not feel that they’ve completely lost sight of the goal — to express their connection to the music — in favor of fostering aural elitism.
I’m generalizing, but I don’t have the time to write a full treatise here… so generalizations will have to do.
This culture of elitism has plagued music writing since the dawn of the Interwebs (probably before as well). The “I knew about this band when they were playing out of their garage” mentality spread. Soon it included the notion that most average humans haven’t yet developed the aural IQ necessary to appreciate said music/noise of choice. I’ve never to my recollection begrudged someone for “not getting” a particular artist or record. I believe, however, that music appreciation develops and adjusts over time. We become more discriminating, more appreciative of true greatness. Greatness does not require innovation. Greatness can be the evolution of something familiar or merely a catalyst for change. What I’m trying to say, through far too many words, is that music listeners, overall, need to listen to more music and rely less on the hyperbolic elitism fostered by the most visible of music writers.
This is where I radically change directions for a drastic juxtaposition (and to get to the point).
When I started writing about James Bond for The James Bond Social Media Project, I found connections that had eluded me while I wrote about music. Despite being joined at the hip, the online cultures for music and film couldn’t be more disparate. I’m sure others have had different experiences; I can only speak to mine.
When I started the #Bond_age_ live tweet series, I immediately made stronger connections than I had through two years of writing about music. There’s greater acceptance and exchange of new ideas and opinions. Guilty pleasures are discussed and accepted. Where social media has shifted the focus of film criticism and appreciation away from the tedious and nebulous elitism once fostered by a handful of film critics, it has only exacerbated that effect in music. As a result, I’ve gravitated toward writing about film — oddly enough where my writing began as a 15-year-old kid writing movie reviews for Mandel and Patrick’s Movie Corner.
My friend and I began writing that page in 1994 as high school freshman and continued until we went to college. Writing homegrown reviews now seems quaint at best, but this was 1994, goddammit. This was the future. We earned a full-page writeup in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and had our reviews syndicated by MTV’s Adam Curry (who at the time was more than just a forgotten punchline). Sadly little of that endeavor remains, only fossilized records in Google searches. We each wrote reviews for at least two movies per week. We even had our own Top 100 lists. I still have the PPG clipping, and you’ll occasionally see our names pop up in really random book citations, like this one for Accounting for Taste: Film Criticism, Canons, and Cultural Authority 1996-2006 by Jonathan D. Lupo.
…and you can still find us in many old-timey lists of favorite movie review sites that more closely resemble ancient Internet sea scrolls. That’s us down there in that list alongside the San Francisco Chronicle and Usenet! If you’re old enough to remember Usenet, you’ll also find that amusing. Or not. I’m no authority on outdated Internet humor.
Maybe writing about music was never my bag. Writing about music may have just served as that temporary dose of adrenaline to bring me back from the brink. It’s entirely possible I just don’t have the stomach and/or necessary disdain for humanity. For as long as I can remember I’ve written about movies; it was just James Bond brought it all back. Though I may never reach the lofty heights of Mandel and Patrick’s Movie Corner (some sarcasm intended), I’ve met people through talking and writing about movies whom I believe will remain lifelong friends and contacts beyond the Twitterverse, even when The James Bond Social Media Project too has also joined the legions of websites in the Interweb heavens.
Am I crazy in thinking that that’s what this is all about anyway? Are any of us doing it for fame or money? I hardly think so. Writing for free, writing with time that would otherwise be spent living AFK, all of this is about the connection with people who share similar passions. As long as this bl-g remains part-time therapy and subject to the whims and memes of my life, it will be about the movies, music, writing, literature and guilt-free nostalgia that fulfills me for just as long as the end result, the connection, justifies the effort.
A bl-g about classic and not-so-classic movies, music and nostalgia by James David Patrick