Music

Super Scribing 2009

Gold medal: the best writing of the year.

Catherine AD: "I'm a Barbie Girl"

(MySpace blog, May 22, 2009)

In response to a Guardian article chronicling another supposed wave of female artists, this 'singerslashsongwriterexorcistbaker' demands to know why her sex is still treated like bizarre outcasts in the music world, and why every now and then a spate of articles toasting 'women in music' is needed. "It scares me that women are being demoted to a 'genre' when for the first time in many years we are daring to stand on equal footing with the boys club." Even better, she wants to know why "we are always the new Kate Nash or Kate Bush and never the new Bush or Crosby Stills and Nash." Not that being Bush or CSN is something to aspire to, mind you...

Dan Bush: "Dear Lily"

(YouTube, September 23, 2009)

A delightful response to Lily Allen, who's been braying against downloaders recently, this Streets-like Cockney kid delivers the goods in song in the form of a video in the form of an e-mail. It's like post-post-post-modern! Sing along now: "I love your singing but I'll just say this / I saw on your MySpace pages saying filesharing's a new ice age / But the industry's a recent innovation / Music's been alive, thriving since cavemen / Folk songs so long have had a place in communities that you should be amazed at it."

Tom Ewing: "The Strange Death of the UK Charts"

(Freaky Trigger, January 6, 2009)

With the advent of the Internet, you'd think that more acts than ever would have access to the singles chart. But you'd be wrong. It turns out that the mechanism for getting singles on the chart (promo, distribution) have broken down so that more songs 'linger' on the charts for a longer amount of time. Weird, ain't it? Fascinating too.

Bill Flanagan: "Bob Dylan on Barack Obama, Ulysses Grant and American Civil War Ghosts"

(Times Online, April 6, 2009)

Give Flanagan credit for setting him up with good questions, but as with most interviews, the star is the subject, who has fascinating thoughts on the current commander-in-chief, a great war general who was seen as one of the worst presidents, apparitions and Elvis. Ol' Bobby's mystical alright, and he tries to explain why: "I think it's the land. The streams, the forests, the vast emptiness. The land created me. I'm wild and lonesome. Even as I travel the cities, I'm more at home in the vacant lots. But I have a love for humankind, a love of truth, and a love of justice. I think I have a dualistic nature. I'm more of an adventurous type than a relationship type."

Anne Midgette: "Do Critics Matter?"

(Washington Post blog, July 1, 2009)

OK, don't act too surprised to learn that the answer to her own question is 'yes' but in typical thoughtful fashion, Midgette provides some excellent context about what a good music journalist ideally should be doing. "The role of a critic is to cover a field. This doesn't mean simply pandering to popular taste. It means doing one's best to convey a sense of what is going on in a given discipline by writing about every possible side of it... offering a thoughtful take that might stimulate a reader who does go to everything to see something in a different light. For part of our role is to foster dialogue and debate...." Of course, that's not necessary all the time (sometimes we do wanna know if a record's good or not) but wouldn't it be nice to think that we could expect this now and then when we read a music article?

Glenn Peoples: "Paper Sheds New Light on Music Listener Habits"

(Billboard, November 3, 2009)

People don't listen to the radio or buy CDs and mostly listen to music on computers now. Or so we think. Actually, a new Nielsen study says that's all bullshit. Young people are even buying CDs and listening to them much more than iPods. All of which doesn't necessarily mean good news, as the market for physical product is still shrinking. But it's nice to have a reality check like this every now and then about the state of the biz.

Rodrigo Perez: "Best Soundtracks, Scores and Movie Moments of 2008"

(Playlist blog, January 12, 2009)

The excruciating detail that Perez goes into is a must for anyone who geeks out on celluloid and tunes, picking out not just great match-up's of the two, but also great films that had crappy music, and vice versa. That's some serious dedication, and that's why you need to spend some time with this. Where else are you going to find out about "Best Electro-Acoustic Score of the Year" or "Best Tastefully Curated Indie-Rock Soundtrack to a Film" or "Best Atonal Score to a Gigantically Budgeted Superhero Blockbuster"?

Simon Reynolds: "Stuck in the Middle with You"

(Guardian, February 6, 2009)

Not just an article about Animal Collective's new album, but a meditation on why writers and fans love it or hate it and what it says about each side (as well as their favorite artists). Reynolds comes out in the boosters camp, but he details some interesting thoughts about what makes his side tick.

Greg Sandoval: "Q&A: A Front-Row Seat for Media's Meltdown"

(CNet, October 27, 2009)

Eric Garland, CEO of Big Champagne, tracks unauthorized downloads, even providing the data to the major media companies who wanna know what's popular in that world. In this interview, he talks about the failures of the music industry to deal with the Internet age and what's in store for the film industry. Needless to say, it ain't pretty, but he also insists that it's not hopeless and that maybe they can learn from the mistakes of the music biz. Pay walls ain't gonna work. DRM ain't gonna work. Lawsuits against consumers ain't gonna work. His prescription: give the people what they want instantly at a low enough price that they can compete with the free (unauthorized) alternatives.

Greg Tate: "Michael Jackson -- the Man in Our Mirror"

(Village Voice, June 30, 2009)

Probably the sagest of the many tributes to MJ, roping in not just musical but also historical perspective about who he was (to us as least) and what he represented, for better and worse. "Over the years, we've seen him variously as our Hamlet, our Superman, our Peter Pan, our Icarus, our Fred Astaire, our Marcel Marceau, our Houdini, our Charlie Chaplin, our Scarecrow, our Peter Parker and Black Spider-Man, our Ziggy Stardust and Thin White Duke, our Little Richard redux, our Alien vs. Predator, our Elephant Man, our Great Gatsby, our Lon Chaney, our Ol' Blue Eyes, our Elvis, our Frankenstein, our ET, our Mystique, our Dark Phoenix."

Matt Tyson: "Countdown: Top 10 Most Metal Classical Music Pieces"

(Earfarm, July 14, 2009)

For all of us amateurs of old-school-classical music who wondered if there really was a connection between powdered wigs and head-banging, Tyson makes a great case for it, complete with videos and modern-day examples and convincing threads going from Vivaldi, Mahler, Bartok, and Ludwig Van to Slayer, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Slayer, and Megadeath. Just pray that any hesher bands don't get the wrong idea and hook up with orchestras again.

Christopher R. Weingarten "140 Characters Conference speech"

(Blip.TV, June 16, 2009)

Though he comically pleads that he'll need to be looking for work within a year, the writer explains why his field is going down the crapper. It's not just newspapers failing and outlets 'drying up', but also the 'hivemind' of social networking that produces the most common of common bland denominators (what he calls 'NPR crap'). End result: we live in virtual bubbles and get fed the same wishy-washy music that pleases the most people. He doesn't get that good cult music still slips through the cracks and reaches small numbers of music nuts, but his points are well taken and pretty damn entertaining. And admittedly, I can't stand Kate Perry, but I actually wonder why so many other people do like her. For a good rebuttal, see Casey Newton's "In Defense of Crowd Sourcing."

Music
Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Music

Coronavirus Tunes: A Brief Playlist for Our Times of Self-Isolation

As coronavirus spreads throughout the world and many of us hunker down with online media, we offer eight songs that share our feeling of seclusion.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Music

PopMatters Seeks Music Critics and Essayists

If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by the quality readership of PopMatters.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Music

The Killers - "Caution" (Singles Going Steady)

The Killers go for the big hooks and singable anthems on "Caution", but opinion is sharply divided about the song's merits amongst our Singles Going Steady panel.

Books
Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Books

The American Robot: A Cultural History [By the Book]

In The American Robot, Dustin A. Abnet explores how robots have not only conceptually connected but literally embodied some of the most critical questions in modern culture, as seen in this excerpt from chapter 5 "Building the Slaves of Tomorrow", courtesy of University of Chicago Press.

Dustin A. Abnet
Film
Film

The Road to Murder in Love and War: Three Films from Claude Chabrol

The character's in Claude Chabrol's The Third Lover, Line of Demarcation, and The Champagne Murders are obsessively doubled and mirrored, reflecting and refracting their hunger for sex, love, money, and power.

Film

'Memento' Is the Movie of the Attention Economy

We are afraid of time, and so like Leonard in Memento, we kill it, compulsively and indiscriminately.

Film

What Lurks Beneath: 'Jaws' and Political Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

Boris Johnson admires the Mayor in Spielberg's Jaws. Remember him? He was the guy who wouldn't close the beaches -- and sacrifice that revenue source -- during a public crisis.

Film

'The Serpent's Egg' Marks One of Ingmar Bergman's Strangest Efforts

The Serpent's Egg bares many of the Bergman's trademark features – the suffocating auras of despair and an underdog's sense of triumph over tragedy – but falls short of a more intelligent rendering of human drama.

Recent
Music

The Killers - "Caution" (Singles Going Steady)

The Killers go for the big hooks and singable anthems on "Caution", but opinion is sharply divided about the song's merits amongst our Singles Going Steady panel.

Music

Lilly Hiatt - "Some Kind of Drug" (Singles Going Steady)

Lilly Hiatt sings about a different kind of love on "Some Kind of Drug". Hers is for a city and the impact gentrification has had its soul.

Music

There's Never Enough Time for Folk Music's James Elkington

The sometimes Wilco and Richard Thompson sideman, in-demand producer, and songwriter, James Elkington, muses on why it's taking longer than he expects to achieve more in a week than most of us get done in a lifetime.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Music

Weeks Island's 'Droste' Is a New High Water Mark in Ambient Steel (EP stream) (premiere)

Lost Bayou Ramblers' Jonny Campos turns up as Weeks Island with Brian Eno/Cluster-inspired music straight from the bayou. Hear Droste in full ahead of its release on Friday.

Music

Ireland's Junk Drawer Share New Krautrock Meets Post-Punk Song, "Temporary Day" (premiere)

Junk Drawer's "Temporary Day" is a simple yet compelling video for a gripping song that shows why the band have earned such acclaim in their native Ireland.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Music

Miranda Lambert - "Bluebird" (Singles Going Steady)

Miranda Lambert sings her blues the way an artist paints with them on her latest single, "Bluebird".

Music

'Stone Crush' Proves (Again) That Memphis Is Ground Zero for Soul and R&B

Stone Crush shines a light on the forgotten -- or never known -- artists that passed through the doors of Memphis' most storied studios in an attempt at just one fleeting moment of fame.

Music

Circles Around the Sun Shoot for the Stars on New Album

Jamrockers Circles Around the Sun's self-titled third album finds the band transcending darkness after losing their founder in 2019 to chart a groovy new course.

Music

Jazz's Kandace Springs Pays Tribute to 'The Women Who Raised Me'

Singer and pianist Kandace Springs tackles a dozen songs associated with her jazz vocal heroes, and the combination of simplicity and sincerity is winning.

Music

Coronavirus Tunes: A Brief Playlist for Our Times of Self-Isolation

As coronavirus spreads throughout the world and many of us hunker down with online media, we offer eight songs that share our feeling of seclusion.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.