There is as much good music writing now as there has ever been. There are gross inequalities in the system still, in who gets heard and who is silent. But more than ever, people are able to let their experiences and expressions be heard.
Thinkpieces, essays, reviews and features: the internet has overwhelmed us with writing. There's so much of it out there, and it's all so easy to lose perspective. The more our Facebook feeds tell us what's worth reading, the less likely we are to stumble across something outside of our worldview.
In an attempt to get a handle on all of the music writing out there, we've decided to put everyone up on the music writing we've enjoyed reading during the course of the week. If you've read something that we've missed, feel free to put it in the comments.
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I really, really, really hate St. Patrick's Day. Marchese's ode to Thin Lizzy eased a little bit of the pain of having to witness a bunch of drunk idiots exploiting one of the worst stereotypes about Irish people in the still-cold New York streets. —Claire Lobenfeld
Music Criticism Is Not "Lifestyle Reporting": A Response by Mike Powell (@sternlunch) in Pitchfork
Not really the "best" music writing this week, but definitely one of the most-discussed was Ted Gioia's piece for The Daily Beast about how music criticism has, supposedly, degenerated into lifestyle reporting. It was a piece more interested in asserting its author's sophistication (and knowledge of music theory) than it was penetrating insight. Some might argue: critics sure hate it when the tables are turned and they're the ones being criticized. But game also recognizes game, and Gioia has none: few insights about the current state of music criticism, and a woefully confused idea of what is wrong.
Sure, it's bad whenever a writer is misusing terminology, when music critics don't know the difference between timbre and texture. But for the most part, greater knowledge of theory isn't going to explain anything other than the micro. And it's also a quixotic quest: popular music is a popular art form, meaning everyone has access; it doesn't require years of study to see it in insightful ways. Music criticism's biggest problem right now is the same thing that has destroyed the culture industry across the board: your product, says silicon valley, is essentially value-less. "Information is supposed to be free." What suffers most of all in that environment is information that costs money: it's made reporting expensive.
But don't take my word for it: Mike Powell addresses the issue in a smart piece that is less concerned with taking down Ted Gioia than in exploring a specific, and important, question that faces anyone writing about music: "What role, if any, does knowing the language of music play into writing about it?" —David Drake
Zachary Lipez 311 by Zachary Lipez (@ZacharyLipez) for The Talkhouse
One time, Pitchfork posted a video of a monkey pissing into its own mouth to "review" a new Jet album. In theory, it's funny. In practice, it wasn't actually that funny. It was actually kinda unfunny and cruel and dismissive of the music some people made and the people who like in a way even the most crass and commercial of acts (like Jet) don't necessarily merit, and it's not going to convince anyone why Jet makes awful, crass music so much as convince people that Pitchfork (at that particular time) occasionally went about the business of reviewing music in awful, crass ways.
That said, Zachary Lipez wrote a review for The Talkhouse on the new 311 album. I don't want to spoil any of it, but I will say it's my favorite music review I've read in 2014, and also, is one of the funniest music reviews I'm ever going to read. And it's also a relatively fair-minded and utterly sincere analog to a video of a monkey pissing in its mouth. So it's got that going for it. —Foster Kamer
Wu Tang, Anatomically by Amos Barshad (@amosbarshad) in Grantland
It's been 20 years since Wu Tang's meteoric impact with the hip-hop world. Even as they try to come together, they have shifted further apart. Amos Barshad's incredibly in-depth piece of reporting chases down each member of the group over the course of several months to see how they've grown apart in the intervening years—and what the odds are that they could ever come together again. —David Drake
Tithes A Make Her Dance: The 7 Most Absurd Gospel Remixes To Popular Songs in The Smoking Section
Self-explanatory. —David Drake