Based on a scroll through my iTunes. My People’s List is made up largely of the 2000s list I made for Rawkblog and really struggled over, so the below records are in no order and chosen hastily. I’ve bolded my very, very favorites — if I had to pick, Winter Pageant, then the Costello/Bacharach record. Really.
Beck - Odelay
Belle & Sebastian - If You’re Feeling Sinister
Belle & Sebastian - Push Barman To Open Old Wounds (’90s EPs collection - released in ’00s)
Dave Matthews Band - Crash
Go Sailor - s/t
Guided by Voices - Under the Bushes, Under the Stars
Heatmiser - Mic CIty Sons
Lullaby for the Working Class - Blanket Warm
The Softies - s/t
The Softies - Winter Pageant
Weezer - Pinkerton
Wilco - Being There
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery OST
Ben Folds Five - Whatever & Ever Amen
Ben Folds Five - The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner
Elliott Smith - Either/Or
Radiohead - OK Computer
Sarah McLachlan - Surfacing
Third Eye Blind - Third Eye Blind
Tindersticks - Curtains
Whiskeytown - Strangers Almanac
Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One
Beck - Mutations
Cat Power - Moon PIx
Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach - Painted From Memory
Hole - Celebrity Skin
Hootie & The Blowfish - Musical Chairs
Mercury Rev - Deserter’s Songs
Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over the Sea
Pedro The Lion - It’s Hard to Find a Friend
Quasi - Featuring Birds
Silver Jews - American Water
Aimee Mann - Magnolia/Bachelor No. 2
Beth Orton - Central Reservation
Blinker the Star - August Everywhere
Bonnie Prince Billy - I See A Darkness
Counting Crows - This Desert Life
Dave Matthews Band - Live at Luther College
The Dismemberment Plan - Emergency & I
Fiona Apple - When The Pawn
The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin
For Stars - For Stars
Hefner - The Fidelity Wars
Harvey Williams - California
Luna - The Days of Our Nights
Nicolai Dunger - This Cloud Is Learning
Olivia Tremor Control - Black Foliage: Animation Music
Owsley - Owsley
Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun (I included this on my 2ks list)
Wilco - Summerteeth
(Bonus: Dave Matthews Band’s unreleased/leaked The Lillywhite Sessions, maybe that first Fastball album and one of the Barenaked Ladies records; probably Sublime’s 40oz to Freedom; definitely Moby’s Play, I loved that shit.)
My favorite list to put together and the albums I’ve probably most genuinely enjoyed this year.
Are you a band or musician? Would you like someone, anyone, to write about your music? Here is some advice.
(Note: This is for bands working D.I.Y. It is not a guide to finding a manager, a label or a publicist, though those are potentially worthwhile things and I would look for them in that order. All of this information is generally applicable regardless. Update, Jan. 2013: probably get a publicist first.)
1) Who You Should Send It To:
You should start with blogs and online publications. What kind of music do you play? Look on Hypem.com to see what blogs have posted about bands who you like or are similar to. Those sites should have email addresses on their page. Then look at those sites’ blogrolls and get the emails of their friends. This is worth investing a weekend or two on — there are thousands of blogs and surely 10 or 20 or 100 will be interested in your music. And once you have the email list, you can use it forever.
A quick guide to bigger/influential sites, if you’re totally unaware: NPR, Pitchfork, Stereogum, the Fader, Spinner, Paste. Rolling Stone, Spin, Billboard, MTV (Buzzworthy, Hive) and other print publications’ sites all do MP3 and video premieres all the time from emerging bands.
2) How You Should Send It:
Your email should have two music links: one to a place where writers/bloggers can stream the music, and one to where they can download it. You can do both through Soundcloud or Bandcamp. Soundcloud will let you set up private streams if you don’t want the world stumbling into it. You can also just upload the album to Dropbox or a service like Mediafire for downloading purposes. Don’t worry about it leaking — what’s the worst that could happen, people will listen to your music and tell their friends about it? Your MP3s should be high quality - at least 192 kbps. You want people to actually hear what your music sounds like, right? Anyone who still wants smaller files is blogging from their mom’s 2003 Dell desktop.
As Mark suggests, label your MP3s — both the ID3 data and the files themselves. An MP3 file itself should look something like [Band Name] - 01 - [Song Name]. Once you put it into iTunes, it shouldn’t look like “Unknown Artist - Rough Mix #4.”
Don’t send an attachment. Everyone hates attachments.
On your band website, you should have a press section that includes a bio, a listing of band members and what they play and hi-res photos of the band and the album cover. (As a photographer, I’d encourage you to include the photo credit and show some respect to your fellow artists. This is the No. 1 thing I have to ask bands and publicists for because it’s generally forgotten about.) Put a link to this stuff in your email, too.
Don’t have a band website? Set one up. Tumblr is the easiest place to do that. Set up pages (not blog posts) for this info so it’s easily accessible from the homepage.
3) What Your Email Should Look Like:
Make the first email and the follow-up personal. This is your career we’re talking about — you have time to spend a weekend and not send out a shitty email blast. Here’s the email we’re generally looking for:
We’re [Name], a [genre] band from [location]. Our debut album, [Name], is due [date]. We’ve been compared to [really good band] and [really good band] by [other blog], which called us [a really nice quote].
Here are links to download and stream the album and the promo MP3, which you can post on your site. You can find a bio, photos and more info on our website.
See? That’s not so bad. For future email announcements - a new video, a tour announcement - you don’t necessarily have to send the personal email and can just blast your mailing list instead, but it’s worth the initial investment. If you’re going to send a mass email, BCC the addresses or use a list manager like Mailchimp.
Wait a week to follow up on your first email. If you don’t hear back after that, it’s probably best to move on. Many writers will delete your email without reading it. Don’t take it personally.
4) Exclusives and Premieres:
Bloggers (and bigger publications) love these because it helps us get more attention (which helps you get more attention). Offer them to reward the bloggers who have been the biggest supporters of the band or as an added incentive for Stereogum or Spin to write about you. Once it gets posted, send it out to everybody else, but don’t be that jerk who makes people click over to Pitchfork to download the new MP3. We hate doing that.
Related: if a blog is supporting you, support them back! Retweet their post about you, put it on your Facebook, shoot them a nice email. We’re all in this together.
5) How To Get Into Print and Post-Blog Publications / Please Have a Release Date:
At some point, you probably want a site or magazine with more of a mainstream audience to write a serious review of your music instead of just posting your tracks on their Tumblr. Getting blog buzz first will make this easier. But the No. 1 thing that actually makes it easier: have a release date. Many bands are slipping through the cracks because they post their albums on their sites or Bandcamp and say “It’s out!” While this is great for you and your fans, it means that record will never get written up by Spin. So put it out on Bandcamp and call it a “digital” or “soft” release if you want and set an official date for a few months down the line.
Here’s why: Print (and many web!) publications still make plans months in advance. You need to get your material to writers and editors before that so they can even have you to consider when they start making plans. You don’t have to make the release date public — but you do need to tell people at Rolling Stone or even eMusic about it very early or their schedule’s going to be full. This affects how you’re considered for year-end lists (you won’t be), getting on Metacritic, all that good stuff.
6) Should I Release A Single? An EP? An Album?
You’re on your own here, but a nice cycle of single-video-single-stupid blog remix/cover song-video-EP or album release-tour-video seems to work pretty well for the average band. You want to generate as much life and attention for your product as you can — videos are a great, cheap way to do that, as is putting out another free MP3, but of course there’s no better megaphone than getting on tour. Use the Internet to figure out where you have actual fans before you load up the van.
7) Touring Advice
Get local blogs to sponsor your shows. They probably won’t want any money, just press tickets to the gig. We’re great promoters and it’s a win-win for everybody.
8) Don’t Suck
This should probably be No. 1, but make sure your music isn’t stupid amateur bullshit. How long have you been playing that eBay synthesizer? A month? Maybe wait until after sophomore year to start emailing Stereogum about your visionary bedroom recordings. Punk rock says anyone can play music: it didn’t say that everyone should try to be as bad at it as possible. Minor Threat used to rehearse like 8 hours a day. Please don’t be that band who has never played a show before, gets Internet famous and then has to learn how to perform before you embarrass yourself at SXSW and ruin your career.
9) Have A Silly Backstory, If You Can:
Don’t force the issue here, but Bon Iver is still “That guy who made a record in a cabin.” The White Stripes are still “That band who dresses in red and were married or related or something.” Writers like a hook. It makes it easier for us to tell people about your music instead of just saying, “It’s really good, check it out!” But please don’t be something you’re not (or hide behind a gimmick if your music is stupid amateur bullshit).
10) You’re on Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr, right?
It’s nice to have other people write about you but you want your fans (and your future fans) to be able to connect directly with you. This is how you can get them to give you money or give a shit that you’re playing a show next week. No need to spend hours on this stuff, just take 10 minutes a day or a half-hour a week and update your feeds. Be yourself. Have fun. Write about your cat.
11) Be Aware That This Stuff May Not Work Out
Blog buzz sometimes translates to getting signed or being able to tour or getting into a Honda commercial or an episode of Gossip Girl. But a lot of the time, it doesn’t, and it’s probably not your fault: music trends and what’s “cool” is totally arbitrary and if Krautrock’s not in this year, your Kraftwerk tribute 7” might not sell out its first pressing. On the other hand, making art you believe in is its own reward, right? Right? Probably?
A lot of people seem confused about this. Let’s set the record straight.
1) You can like whatever you like.
2) Other people can, too. Even if they like Nickelback. It’s like how the Tea Party is allowed to be in Congress.
3) There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. If you want to feel guilty about something, eat an entire pie. (Don’t feel guilty about that. You deserved it.)
4) Liking an “eclectic” mix of music does not make you a better fan than the person who only listens to one kind and vice versa. Actually, nothing you listen to makes you a better fan than anybody else. Why would you want to be? Go play beer pong or ironic kickball or something.
5) If you know somebody who likes “everything except country,” you should make them a rad playlist, but don’t be angry when they won’t come vinyl shopping with you. You did your best.
6) If you care about “authenticity” or “honesty,” you should read a history book or take a polygraph test. Musicians are performers. The word you’re looking for is “sincerity.”
7) Sincerity (or enthusiasm, or trying really hard) alone does not make great music, just like really loving basketball doesn’t mean you can start for the Lakers. But it helps.
8) Topics of discussion that do not substitute for having an actual opinion about a band’s music:
- A band’s wardrobe
- A band’s haircut
- A band’s record label
- Whether or not the band used to be in another band
- Whether or not the band sold their music to a commercial
- The band’s latest Pitchfork score
- The band’s admittedly super-awkward Pitchfork interview where they talk about their lawyers and managers
- The band’s cat’s Twitter account
- The availability of the band’s t-shirts at Hot Topic
- The band’s annoying 12-year-old fans
- The band’s annoying 12-year-old fans’ moms
9) Liking a band because it’s popular on the Internet may (emphasis on “may”) get you laid, but it won’t fill the icy void in your heart that would rather be listening to Lady Gaga.
10) Not liking a band because it’s popular in real life doesn’t make you a beautiful unique snowflake. It just means you get to hang out with the other sheep who smoke American Spirits and have unfortunate tattoos.
11) When someone says or writes, “I don’t like this band,” they’re not actually saying “I don’t like you, you idiot. How could you possibly like this band?” They just don’t like the band. You will worry about this less after eighth grade’s over.
12) That new band you like probably has some older albums that you will also really like. You should Google this before telling people your favorite National album is the first one. (Nobody’s favorite National album is the first one.)
13) Music that came out before last week can be really good! You should go back and check it out. Start with Steely Dan.
14) There’s no such thing as “Best” when it comes to music. Really! When someone says “Best,” they actually mean “Favorite.” They just want you to click through their five-page albums list, which you totally did. (If they actually meant “Best,” they’re probably wearing a t-shirt with a wolf on it right now. Take a deep breath.)
Love is Hell
Rock N Roll
Let It B-Minus*
Jacksonville City Nights
(* = Unreleased)
I listen to the first seven reasonably regularly. Ashes & Fire probably lands around Cold Roses.
I wrote this for my brother and figured I’d repost it. I’ve done a lot of research on this stuff in the past couple years, so I thought I’d pass along my findings. For under $100 an item (and generally much less), here are my favorite clothing manufacturers.
All of these recs are dependent on 1) you buying these new and not wanting to bother with thrift stores and 2) fit: these are the brands that fit me best, the most important thing to consider in buying a men’s item. Most brands now offer a slim fit (or even an extra-slim fit) — from brand to brand, this may be super tiny or still big enough for fat Americans. You’ll have to try them on. If you’re going to thrift, it’s a good way to find shirts/suiting/shoes. Buy your pants new.
T-shirts: American Apparel. They last forever, fit great and as a bonus, are made in America. Highly recommend the poly-cotton 50/50 shirt, the softest piece of clothing I own and a bargain at $20. The v-necks make great undershirts. Most indie band shirts are made on AA wholesale product. Available at AA stores and online. Alternatives: There’s really no reason not to get all your t-shirts here. I’ve heard good things about Alternative Apparel, which has a store in West L.A. somewhere (but isn’t as cheap).
Update: There’s been some mention of the $20 price. Percentage-wise, you can get a much better deal at a store like Old Navy, but in real life, it’s another $5-8 bucks — as in, one more drink at the bar — and you’ll get a shirt that could last you half a decade. Mine have. You can also get them at a discount if you buy a three-pack on the website or use a 15% off coupon.
Polos: Brooks Brothers makes the best one, period. Better fabric than the Ralph Lauren version and holds up better in the wash than Lacoste. (And cheaper!) Those are probably the best alternatives, though these are pretty sharp, too: http://www.kentwang.com/polos. BB is available at their stores and directly online. Wait for the $40/3 for $120 sale.
Button-down shirts: I wear washed shirts from J. Crew almost daily. Wait for the sale (which brings them down to $30-40 from their usual $60-70.) Easier to take care of than proper dress shirts (though they need a little ironing every so often), good construction, classic patterns and styles. Button-down shirts very drastically in fit from brand to brand and even from shirt to shirt - you absolutely have to try them on before you buy. J. Crew does offer a slim fit, though at 5’8” and not, ahem, particularly thin, the normal small size usually works for me. Alternatives: The Gap and Banana Republic have tried very hard to copy J. Crew and they just aren’t as good. H&M and Urban Outfitters are stylish, if less well-constructed, options. Shirts from Uniqlo (New York/Europe only) and Topman (same thing) are better, if you can get your hands on them. Avoid Zara, Express, etc., unless you spend a lot of time in “the club.” In the same-ish price range, there’s Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren, which offer slim-fits which don’t fit me properly, or you could step up to the $100+ items from boutique brands like Gant, Gitman Vintage and Band of Outsiders.
Chinos: Also known as “khakis.” In a remarkable turn of events, Dockers actually makes the best version under $100. (GQ.com has a nice guide to the pricier options.) My pairs are in the D1 slim fit, though you could probably go down to the skinnier line without them being actually skinny. The “Alpha” khaki, on sale now, is their latest effort; I have last season’s version of the SF Tapered, also on sale, which is a little more rugged and less soft than you expect from Dockers but really nice once you break them in. Buy direct from Dockers.com. Do not buy them at Macy’s, which doesn’t carry any of the good stuff. Alternatives: The J. Crew versions are overpriced until they goes on sale but not bad — their summer pants are as light and seasonally appropriate as advertised. The Dockers are built a little tougher. Can’t speak for the Gap version.
Jeans: No reason not to buy Levi’s, frankly. Skip Macy’s and shop the ones at Urban Outfitters in the 511, 514 and 501 styles. You can also find them at a Levi’s store or online. The 511s are not actually skinny jeans (I fit in them). You want them in a clean, dark wash with no artificial fades - if you’d like to spend a lot of money, there’s the raw version, but you can get a similar effect and pretty great quality for $50ish with this one. Wash them inside out in cold water once a month or so and never put them in the dryer ever and they come out terrific. You could buy a pair a year and never wear any other pants, if you really wanted. Buy the skinniest waist you can fit in - after a couple of days, they’ll stretch quite a bit. Alternatives: J. Crew’s aren’t bad, but not nearly as good for the price; the Gap’s are pretty awful. Very thin and cheap-feeling. If you want to spend more than $150, there are a lot of cool brands but they’re probably not going to last any longer than the Levi’s.
Corduroys: Mine are from J. Crew and the Gap. They’re good enough, not great. The Levi’s 511 version is probably worth looking into.
Shorts: Have yet to find a pair I really love. Mine are J. Crew by default - I have the 9” ones in seersucker and khaki. Buy a pair that hits at the knees and skip the cargo pockets, unless you’re a wildlife photographer.
Sweaters/cardigans: Here’s an area where fabric matters a lot, in terms of how it will hold up/wear out as well as softness. For now, I generally buy them in merino wool from the J. Crew outlet, though they will pill. (A de-pilling device can solve this problem every couple months.) I wear v-neck sweaters with collared shirts and crewnecks with crewnecks, which is to say, I don’t own a crewneck sweater. You can wear a cardigan with either collar and, as long as you don’t buy a 2006 hipster cotton one from American Apparel, look like a boss. (Always go with pure wool.) The sweaters/cardigans I bought from Uniqlo last winter are excellent, too, if you can get your hands on them.
If you’re going to buy a hoodie, you probably want it from American Apparel. Like the t-shirts, they last forever.
Outerwear: I sprung for a Baracuta G9 a year or so ago and it was worth every penny for every day use. For a warmer winter jacket, a peacoat can be had for a decent price new (mine’s from the Gap and it’s great - on sale, they dip down to $100 or so) or you can find a good Navy-issued one in any thrift store.
Shoes: For sneakers, I like Converse’s Chuck Taylors and Jack Purcells - the Purcells are a bit comfier and less ubiquitous, and the white ones are perfect for summer. Asic’s Onitsuka Tiger line, particularly the Mexico 66 (look on Zappos) are my favorites: awesome-looking, very comfy and they come in every color. Adidas’ Sambas are nice-looking, too, but I usually buy Tigers. New Balance 574 line is very sharp and you can make custom versions on the NB website for $100ish. More days than not, I wear Sperry Top Sider boat shoes, the bottom-end $80 pair. They last forever.
Boots: For bad weather, L.L. Bean’s Bean Boots are a dorky classic. Get the 6” version. I have a pair of Frye chukka boots (not cheap) I weatherproof and wear a lot in the city on rainy days, though they’re dressy and I’d never take them camping. The Clarks desert boots are very sharp, cheap and most people love them, though I’m not personally a big fan of the look.
Dress shoes: You should have a black pair that’s simple (like these) and a brown pair that’s a little more fun (like these) and probably some loafers, though I generally substitute boat shoes for them. Dress shoes, like a good suit, are worth the investment: they’ll look better and last longer than $100 versions (ahem: Rockports) and when they’re worn out, you can send them back to the factory for refurbishing or a new sole and wear them for another 10 years. I’ve been buying gently used Allen Edmonds pairs on eBay for around $50 a pop instead of the usual $300, though I’ve sold back 3-4 pairs that haven’t fit properly. The other great American brand is Alden, which is more expensive (you’ll see them at J. Crew and Brooks Brothers), with the really good/expensive stuff coming from England and Italy with brands like Church’s and Ferragamo. The key is buying a pair with a welted sole that can be removed and replaced once you wear it out - you won’t see that on glued soles from cheaper, clunkier brands.
That’s a start!
I am completely aware this criticism could be leveled directly at me but it doesn’t make it any less amusing. Taste, amirite?
adventurez replied to your post: P4k 50-21
I just did the math and there are 28 “Best New Music” albums/EPs that have not shown up thus far. That means that at least 8 of them will get left off entirely. Oh, how the internet will rage.
It’s silly to hold ‘em to it, but it does say a lot about the speed, volume and hyperbole level with which critics/bloggers are expected or choose to confront music these days.