I know as a fairly successful Music Editor that 99.5% of people cannot describe music in print for beans. I know that enough people to populate even this current expanded world of publicists can clearly describe the wheres and whats of a release. One big problem now is that the latter are expected to do the former — I’m supposed to tell from a description (usually quite low quality with a lotta “sounds like” comparisons which are worthless) whether I want to hear a record or not. A wild guess at best.
In the Golden Lost Era I was sent a lot of what came out with the wheres and what information, I listened to it until I made up my mind about it and maybe reviewed it, put it into the subjects for further listening pile or chucked it. If I wanted to do something with the release I would (OF COURSE) contact the publicist.
Now I get literally hundreds of emails with this racket of: “here’s this release” (we’ll leave out the noise of things I never review under any circumstances); “doya want it?”; “didja get it?”; “doya like it?”; “gonna review it?”. Sometimes capped by this sullen silence if I don’t like the music.
What in the fuck was the matter with Send It To Me/I’ll Listen To It/If I Wanna Write About It I’ll Get Back To You/Otherwise End of Story?
It was simpler, clearer and a helluva lot less distracting.
Various, Pop Royale (2011)
This is (ahem) a mixdisc assembled by me. When I was giving a guest lecture at an Arts Criticism class a couple weeks ago, I was caught more off-guard than I expected by the question “What is your taste?” And I gave a lamer-than-optimal answer. Something on the order of: I’m very eclectic (do everything but childrens’ and straight classical). Have a few styles like trad Celtic and Flamenco vocals that I cannot bear, but that’s me not a judgement on the musics. Lyrics matter to me all the time — dippy words can drag down even excellent playing — but the most outstanding international songs work even if you don’t know the language. I’m more interested in what’s emerging than mulling over or even celebrating the past.
Then, a couple days ago, I ran across this disc, which I’m going to present as a compact incarnation of my taste. With some caveats, of course. In this same year-end sequence I had discs devoted to international and hip-hop, but those are represented here and if I could do a dream radio sequence it would be like this — all the transitions work, whether standouts from fine albums, best tracks on flawed releases, or long shots that nail the bullseye. Only one complaint (“Air Is Still” recommendations get to have one flaw): the last track ends too abruptly.
The final note is that around 2010 is when I felt I was hearing close to all the releases that I needed to hear. That I could stitch together a program like this with confidence. These days, the pens have to be a lot tighter — and I know there’s more things running around outside them.
- Poly Styrene, “I Luv Ur Sneakers”
- Paul Simon, “The Afterlife”
- Bombino. “Tar Hani” (My Love)
- Shabazz Palaces, “An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum”
- Serengeti, “Long Ears”
- Kiran Ahluwalia, “Mustt Mustt”
- Steve Cropper/Buddy Miller, “The Slummer the Slum”
- Pistol Annies, “Lemon Drop”
- Vijay Iyer, “Duality”
- Banquet of the Spirits, “Briel”
- Tom Waits, “Hell Broke Luce”
- Blaqstarr, “Wonder Woman”
- Wynton Marsalis/Eric Clapton, “Ice Cream”
- The Vivs, “Are You Coming Around?”
- James Vincent McMorrow, “Sparrow & the Wolf”
- Younger Brother, “Shine”
- Battles, “Africastle”
- Oneohtrix Point Never, “Andro”
My “Fresh Air” review. Couple points: I meant to review the Trio Da Kali collaboration when it came out last fall, but life got too complicated for a while. Proved to be a good thing, though, because the Landfall pairing is excellent in a quite different way. The triumph of string groups added to diverse modern music is my theme of the year. Carl Craig’s surprise wonder was my first discovery of the series.
This message cannot be stated often or loud enough. Never have I gotten so much scattershot information (especially about music) that is irrelevant to what I do or like. Never have I felt that I’m missing out on so much of what I do like or need to know.
The Beefheart is on order and I can’t think of another player who has done so much to preserve and honor his former leader. Also just picked up the Cuneiform tribute Lucas did back in 2009 (thoughts not formed yet).
And I’m weirdly alienated from the Stones in a way I never thought would be possible. I was actually charmed by the 2016 blues album the first time through (hey, it had shape and tone and kidz had become overly resistant to the old ferts) but by the fourth listen knew it was an empty exploitation. I’m sure the grade is correct, but there’s too much out there to listen to to acquire any more Mick and Keef.
Thanks for the big, unexpected spike in looks and reads about Chris Stein’s photos and the heyday of Blondie.
Third year of decline in overall visitors and views of the Miles To Go blog (I do still regard the Donna Douglas blowup as distorting). Maybe it’s the decline of blogs as cool new things, or I’m not as fanatic about posting (2017 not as full of disasters as 2016, but this fall and winter have been hit by a couple terrible personal events — not to me), or that I never do nothin’ to make anything viral.
Whatever, I’ve become a quality over quantity poster and am pleased to note that one of the type of posts that jumped up this year is “The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool,” which are recommendations of less-well-known albums from the past that I adore.
Got one coming up tomorrow, I think.