I am actually against this, at least in terms of music/film/television consumption: people should either be the content consumers they purport to be in their carefully maintained Facebook likes and Pinterest boards or they should take the opportunity to be brave and reject the damaging, cultural capital-driven conceptual frameworks of high/lowbrow and guilty pleasures.
I feel bad for anyone who unwittingly signed up for the Washington Post social reader, though.
The consensus seems to be that either it’s not as good as the debut, that the debut was never good in the first place (which I agree with) and that other bands are doing this sort of thing better. I’ve seen She & Him mentioned twice. But She & Him are doing a totally different thing, a pure homage to the ’50s with more of a rustic, Nashville quality, while Tennis’ new album is an update — it’s the ’50s through the edgier lens of the rock era, the Zombies and the Who. This all sort of has the air of avoiding a person at a party you had a crush on, but then things got weird and you’re trying to hook up with the host, anyway, which is how a lot of “criticism” feels these days.
It’s a very charming record, with much sharper songwriting than the debut. They sound like a band with something to say now, or at least the skill set to eloquently say a thing that still bears repeating. Give it a try.
As expounded upon in my post on Dr. Dog’s new album from earlier today, I think Dr. Dog are a great, underrated band that not enough people have given a fair shake. So with that in mind, I’ve made this Spotify mix as an introduction to the band.
(Alternatively, you could just start by listening to Fate in its entirety. It’s still the best entry point for the band.)
Thank you for this.
Re: Pitchfork, for whatever reason, the site has always seemed to have trouble with sensitive, Beatles-influenced indie-pop that doesn’t attempt to be “progressive” or carry some veneer/gimmick of otherness or, on the other end, Americana authenticity like Fleet Foxes. See their middling reviews of Sondre Lerche, Elliott Smith, Miles Kurosky, Ben Folds Five, anyone who’s ever worked with Jon Brion.
Two songs into Fate and I’m itching to switch to Beulah or Wilco, though, so there’s also that.
“It’s not that Chris Brown is categorically unforgivable. It’s more that he’s no longer an acceptable vehicle for corporations to use to sell products to young adults. On a human level, I’m more than willing to eventually forgive Chris Brown, once he seems genuinely remorseful and changed (which, at this point, he definitely does not). But there’s no obligation to continue supporting him as a pop star. Chris Brown would not exist without millions of dollars of production and marketing and styling and whatever else. He’s not some troubled genius that exists on his own, creating pop music in a corner. He’s just a handsome and fit guy who can dance and sing pretty well. There are plenty of other people who are more than capable of filling that role and who haven’t beat a woman into a state of unconsciousness. Why not give one of them a chance to be rich and famous instead?”
Related: why didn’t Usher premiere his spectacular new jam at the Grammys during the silly tribute to electronic music? (Because it already has 300,000+ plays and he didn’t need to because he knew it was that good?)
“Think of your typical folky, indie, female singer/songwriter. It probably sounds something like a mix of Sharon Van Etten, Regina Spektor, Feist, or something more extreme, like Joanna Newsom. Now, take away the raspiness, the bird-like voice, those little yelps and other vocal oddities, the quiet crooning, the rock edge. All that you’re left with is a raw, unadulterated, clear, powerful, and honest voice. In other words, you’re left with Laura Veirs.”
I wasn’t going to say anything on this subject on a technicality that it doesn’t concern me, but on second thought I believe it does. I’m female and I’m a songwriter. Writing like this strips away all the individuality of these women, but it does so under the guise of a supposed compliment. The artists above have singular gifts, talents, and ambitions—and to toss them together like winking Bettys and Veronicas is a disserve to them all. What is a typical female singer/songwriter anyway? What is a typical woman?
I would love to see more writing where these musical “oddities” were not implied to be “female” qualities. Off the top of my head right now I can list as many men with a unique, singular quality in their voice and somehow at no point did this writer think to include them in the laundry list: (Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Michael Jackson, Thom Yorke, Dave Longstreth, Neil Young, That Guy From Youth Lagoon etc.)
What’s sad is that this creates a Versus category, as though these women are somehow in competition with one another. Let’s take the few sporting women in the room, point out their flaws, and pit them against one another ‘til the best survives! The entire first half of this paragraph could have been cut to reveal that Laura Veirs has “a raw, unadulterated, clear, powerful and honest voice.” Now, that would have been a real compliment.
Before it even names names, “your typical folky, indie, female singer-songwriter” is about as condescending a sentence as you could write in what appears to be a positive couple of paragraphs. Each of these performers is anything but typical: they set the template for the imitators.
Ava Luna have a superficial resemblance to Dirty Projectors - female backing singers, lots of suspended “ooooooh!” harmonies, soulful frontdude, squiggly percussion - but once the initial appearance wears off, they mostly sound like ’60s soul, Sly in particular, interpreted through a modern lens. The parts where the band forgot to play “indie rock signifiers” and just grooved were the best. If their singer looked more like James Blake (whose vocal equal, he very nearly is) and less like Nick Kroll, they’d be on the cover of Fader already.
There were squadrons of horrible TALKING PEOPLE positioned on both sides of the Echo and — at nearly 1 a.m., as Twin Sister tore through this just unbelievably perfect krautrock build-up — I had to stop myself from yelling at them to just go outside. [via the Cults.] Why would you pay money to come to a show for a really good band, stay till the end, and start babbling about your day? Have you never heard of bars? Do you hate coffee? Sigh.
I saw Charlyne Yi at the Brite Spot after the show and wanted to tell her that we’re Facebook friends (which we are) but it was 2 in the morning so I went home instead.
I sent a different version of this email to a reader I’ve been having a debate with and thought it was worth re-posting.
First off, I missed the “Where is the money going” section in the F.A.Q. That’s my mistake. I can’t say I find a lot of those bullet-points valid either (let somebody else pay for your SXSW party so the bands don’t have to play for free, which they will, while you blow 5 grand on a venue and booze*) but I’ll leave that for another time.
Let me try to make this clear. My intent is not to be snobby about this: quite the opposite. What aggravates me is the idea that they’re “doing it differently,” which — to me personally, as someone who’s had a “100% independent” blog for seven years — is insulting to the dozens (hundreds, perhaps) of blogs that have been contributing to online music culture for almost a decade without numerical scores, SEO news posts or corporate agendas. I’m sure their intent as a collective is not to belittle Fluxblog or Said the Gramophone or whoever, but it feels presumptuous to me at best. Most of their list is in fact a critique of Pitchfork, their former benefactor, which strikes me as suspect — and as I’ve noted above, leaves out the rest of the “community,” which goes well beyond 10 or so well-meaning bloggers with a shared love of cassettes and synthesizers.
I’m interested in this enough to keep discussing it as long as people keep bringing it up. It pertains to me as a writer and a fan of indie culture in changing times. I think I’ve been reasonably polite about it. I haven’t made any judgements about the quality of the writing or the value of their work, which I will continue to go ahead and not make.
The beauty of blogs in the early days was that they were not financial enterprises but passion projects, for which no one expected to be compensated for their time. (The change in priority on that is representative of both a generation gap and the commercialization of indie rock.) That meant complete freedom. It’s the way I’ve always tried to run Rawkblog, which has and will never recoup the time investment. I wouldn’t want it to. If they want to earn a living on it, Ad Hoc will either have to bring in advertisers, start a subscription service or keep asking for yearly handouts. All reasonable options! But it’s hardly a D.I.Y. movement if you have to wait to cash a check before you can start.
*Full disclosure: last year, of our seven bands, we were able to pay a headliner. This year, that money will probably go toward a video crew. I am helping throw an SXSW party for the totally selfish reason that it will be the best possible way to get my favorite bands in a room for an afternoon. It’s certainly not for Rawkblog marketing.
As a Disney movie — which it decidedly is — The Help is a well-done story, emotional and cutting when it needs to be but largely a triumph of good feeling and shared, righteous achievement. In that regard, it’s as satisfying as a slice of chocolate pie and equally sweet. As a historical portrait, the stakes aren’t high enough: a racism-inspired killing happens off-screen, as does most of one character’s single beating at the hands of an allegedly chronically abusive partner. The protagonist’s mother, dying of cancer in the pre-chemo ’60s, survives the film. Most of the film’s white society racism winds up personified by a single character (Bryce Dallas Howard, who, between this and 50/50, is too good at playing bullying, beautiful women for comfort), while others are revealed as welcoming, open-minded individuals happy to have the maids in the family despite Mississippi’s otherwise apparently deep-seated hatred for the color of their skin.
Crucially, Howard’s Hilly is hateful, period: her poor treatment of the film’s titular characters is no worse than her attitude toward anyone who dares to get in her way. She is, in other words, racist because she’s mean, not because of social norms. It makes for an easy villain but cheapens the very issues and cultural state the film attempts to present and fight against.
To be fair, the film chooses subtler, emotionally heavy moments to make its points: a thoughtless firing after decades of service; a planted ring and a tragic arrest; the awful indignity of being unable to use the same bathroom. Yet things could be worse. (Let me put it this way: if I want to feel shitty about race dynamics in America, I’ll put on The Wire. One might argue The Help is less about dredging up a harrowing, possibly guilt-fetishizing past than it is evoking the power of community—it’s a fair point.)
Still, on its own terms, the narrative is compelling enough and the largely female cast offers a full ensemble of expertly measured performances. That’s another consideration: reaching box office and critical success with the aforementioned cast is a victory against Hollywood’s own misogynistic status quo, especially without the brand cache of a Sex and the City or even Bridesmaids’ Apatow banner. But it does give the film’s failure to offer more of the story’s painful elements a sense of irony.
On that note: perhaps the film’s cruelest contrast comes in the physical differences between the effortlessly trim, bored society women who do nothing but sit and eat and drink, and the overweight black maids who bustle about cooking their food, playing with the children and walking themselves home. In The Help, white privilege extends at least to the metabolism.