I wrote most of a version of this post at the beginning of the month. It had an apology for being a few days late, a twenty five song playlist, and too, too much writing that said very little. Part of my vision for this series was to catalog the music I enjoyed and engaged with over the previous month, but that post ended up being a list of things I did in May. It wasn’t interesting to me, which meant it wouldn’t be interesting to you.
So I scrapped it, cut the playlist to eleven songs, and went back at it. The one thing I’ll keep from the original post is this clarifying remark about the playlists: I’m going to update the same playlist each month, so if you subscribe to it in Spotify, the playlist will update itself when I update it. If you subscribed because you liked the original playlist (or a subsequent one, I suppose), let me know and I’ll share that one with you.
1. “RE:Definition” – Black Star
I had a conversation with a colleague the other day as we walked out to the parking lot about teaching writing. She remarked that, largely for time reasons, it’s difficult to teach our students the full drafting-revising loop that good writing entails. Personally (I won’t bore you with a ton of pedagogy), I know that I put so much emphasis on the “front end” of the writing process – specifically brainstorming, organizing ideas, and writing the damn thing - that little time exists for enough of that loop. I couldn’t help but think about the posts sitting in my drafts folder (as of now, this is one of three drafts I’ve written in the past two weeks alone, and the second on this idea). As much as good writing is process and effort, it also relies on having the eye or instinct for knowing when to start over or rewrite something.
This got me thinking about revision and, eventually, redefining. I looked through the playlist I made at the beginning of June and, in the spirit of both that conversation and my own drafting loop, decided to focus on the spirit of revision and redefinition, starting with one of my favorite flips. On Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star, the “Definition” hook becomes the anchor for a slower, more anxious track (Kweli’s opening line promising to turn “your play into a tragedy” sets that tone right away), and I’ve always found it more fascinating than its bouncier predecessor.
2. “Freddie’s Dead” – Curtis Mayfield
The most noteworthy entry from the previous diary post focused on seeing D’Angelo the day after Memorial Day. Over the ninety minute set, D’Angelo and his band played old songs and new songs and sounded incredible. It took their tease of Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead” to give the performance context, though. Voodoo has grooves, but its tracks (“Chicken Grease” was cut from the original playlist) are lighter and often laid back. Live, these songs took on weight and sharper edges like in “Freddie’s Dead.” D’Angelo sounded just as good as he did a decade ago, but his performance also commanded the audience’s attention, both in his vocal prowess and his stage presence. At times, he channeled James Brown (another good touchstone for how sharp his band sounded). This new record can’t come out quick enough.
3. “Lose Yourself to Dance” – Daft Punk f/ Pharrell
4. “Take a Picture” – Carly Rae Jepsen
5. “Wildest Moments” – Jessie Ware
I liked Random Access Memories, but I’m still a little miffed at the strain in the interviews and press materials preceding the record that Daft Punk’s was bringing back “real music” because they were using more live instrumentation. I’ve successfully swallowed most of my anger for this marketing (which boiled down to resenting the idea that music needed rescuing or reviving, particularly from a group that has made its name by stripping all traces of humanity from their personas), so instead I’ll focus on an example where life springs forth from one of their songs (which many of the album’s sub-par tracks could use.) Pharrell’s lead vocals on “Lose Yourself to Dance” make the comparison to “Get Lucky” inevitable, but I find the more methodical groove almost as compelling as the lead single’s infectious guitar riff. Perhaps it comes from a decade-plus of guest spots, but I like Pharrell’s imperfect voice and don’t mind him stretching his upper register here, especially when he’s talking about the physical exertion of dancing. Compared with the magnetic poetry nonsense in most of “Get Lucky,” the focus on the physical joy of dancing is a welcome subject.
This focus on dancing is where I’m on board with Random Access Memories‘s call to “give life back to music,” in that it’s music that celebrates life. The YouTube video combining the song with footage from old episodes of Soul Train crystalized this for me (and, to a lesser degree, the person who couldn’t let a good thing be and forced the same thing with “Get Lucky” epitomizes my hype-fueled distaste). It’s a similar pleasure I find in (relatively) new singles from Carly Rae Jepsen and Jessie Ware. Both “Take a Picture” and “Wildest Moments” not only capture these human moments, but also pair the lyrics with music that evokes the same feeling. The same way I can picture letting loose to “Lose Yourself to Dance,” “Take a Picture” bubbles with joy the same way a night out with friends feels, and “Wildest Moments” tugs equally at heartbreak, yearning, and regret the same way a messy relationship’s fraying end touches different parts of our hearts.
6. “Oblivion” – Grimes
The other thing I can’t help resent about the Daft Punk hype machine is the insinuation that synthesizers can’t produce “real” music. Sure, the robots haven’t abandoned synthesized sounds altogether, but it’s hard to ignore the pronouncements of authenticity coupled with their move toward live instrumentation. This interpretation leaves out the cavalcade of studio pros brought in to play these live instruments selected the way the duo may have laboriously worked through synthesizer sounds.
Around the same time, perhaps for similar reasons, I found myself drawn in to “Oblivion” almost a year after first hearing it. She makes brutally human music with synthesizers, and on “Oblivion” the synths provide the unsettling melody for a song about fearing street violence. Even if the sounds often sound distinctly un-human, it’s a disturbingly powerful song about the darker side of human existence. It’s hard to imagine Grimes achieving such a powerful piece of art with the “traditional” instrumentation that those flying the flag of authenticity prefer.
7. “Power Lines” – Telekinesis
8. “Diane Young” – Vampire Weekend
Both “Power Lines” and “Diane Young” fit into this idea of “redefinition” by adding new wrinkles to the band’s sounds. “Power Lines” uses the quiet start / loud ending trick well, and while it lyrically and melodically would fit with the last Telekinesis record’s break-up pop, the craftsmanship is more precise and mature; I can’t imagine Michael Benjamin Learner employing that dynamics trick on the last record.
If “Power Lines” feels more precise than its predecessors, “Diane Young” caught my attention for being more adventurous than expected. Vampire Weekend have played with strange sounds before (“Giving Up the Gun” immediately comes to mind, but there are probably better examples, too), but I don’t remember the band as joyously unhinged as they sound here. I’ve only spent a little time with their new album, and every time I hear this song I know that I want to devote more time to the album as a whole.
9. “Erica’s Word” – The Loud Family
After Scott Miller’s passing a few weeks back, Ted Leo tweeted that he’d been playing Game Theory’s “Erica’s Word” at solo shows. Spotify only had this version from The Loud Family, one of Miller’s other projects, and it makes sense for Ted Leo’s repertoire (in addition to the show of respect for his death.) I hope Ted Leo comes back around the North East soon so I can hear it in person!
10. “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe (Remix)” – Kendrick Lamar f/ Jay-Z
The original post had a few songs with Kendrick Lamar guest verses and would have commented on his frequent appearances being a victory lap for his very successful 2012. Then, I realized that his two new verses on the “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” remix did precisely that by celebrating and contemplating good kid, m.A.A.d. city‘s success. I respect that rather than just get Jay-Z to drop a verse, Kendrick added two new verses himself. (Quick side note on Jay’s verse – after being unmoved by his verse on “Suit and Tie,” I was happy to hear him spit some good lines again on this track. Someone with a better knowlege of his appearances could explore the idea of Jay playing up or down to his company over the last few years.) The second verse, especially the riff on “sixteen” near the middle, feels particularly urgent in a way that many of Kendrick’s recent guest verses (I’m thinking specifically of his verse on Miguel’s “How Many Drinks” remix, which somehow feels like less than the sum of its parts) lack. It might not match up with the best moments on the album, but I respect the victory lap nonetheless.
11. “Mr. November” – The National
The National headlined the second night of the inaugural Boston Calling festival (in the spirit of this post, the second day improved greatly on the first, both in the weather being only “cold” rather than “absolutely miserable” and also in its organization, specifically with entry), and sure enough the band played “Mr. November,” the one time set-closing staple, second to last before High Violet’s “Terrible Love.” Where the band still tears through the song with the same urgency (and Matt Berninger still ends up in the audience nearly as often), the ensuing song can’t help but feel anti-climactic. Especially in the context of the new album’s very good, but stylistically similar material, “Mr. November” feels like the emotional climax appropriate for the end of the band’s set (or at least at the end of the set before the encore).
In keeping with the theme of the rest of this playlist, I’ll return “Mr. November” to its rightful place at the end of a set.
next month in a couple weeks!
1. The context of the finale, from the show’s odd final two seasons to its importance in the TV landscape, is handled better than I would do by Grantland, the New York Times, and Matt Zoller Seitz at Vulture. Those are both great reads that discuss the show’s evolution, its comedic legacy, and its role in changing the way we watch TV (maybe that’s one I’ll piggyback on later on).
2. I vividly remember the premiere of The Office. It happened right at the end of my senior year of college and right after my roommates and I binge-watched (OK, so maybe TV habits haven’t changed that much) the original U.K. version. Like the two authors above, the first few episodes didn’t work the same way, largely because Steve Carell wasn’t Ricky Gervais. Ultimately, this was best for the show’s long run.
3. Even if Michael Scott was the less abrasive David Brent, he still was incredibly frustrating. I went through periods of loving and hating the show, often at multiple points in a given season. I “quit” watching at least three different times over its run. I kept coming back because, like Michael Scott himself, the show kept finding glimpses of its brilliance. For Michael, the iconic moment in my head happens during the season that he’s deposed from his job, relegated to starting his own company in a closet-sized space, and then somehow not only won his job back but got Dunder Mifflin to buy him out. Despite all his shortcomings, Michael always found ways to redeem himself either personally or professionally. I don’t know if it’s how it actually played out, but I remember that storyline (season?) ending with Michael standing in the Dunder Mifflin office looking proud – not smug, not relieved, but proud to have his job back again.
4. If Tim was the “hero” of the U.K. version (Brent was either the antagonist, the fool, or its pathetic hero), Pam was the Americanized version’s hero (and, appropriately, Michael was both antagonist and mentor). I rooted for Jim by proxy of rooting for Pam, and in later seasons he became largely boring and childish. Looking back, it was Pam’s loyalty to Michael that made me give him second chances even when I (and I expect she) didn’t know why. It was how badly she wanted Jim to be a good husband that made me happy that he returned back to Scranton. And most of my favorite moments (Michael pulling off his microphone at the airport to hug Pam, Pam and Jim on the boat at Niagra Falls, and most recently Pam silently reading the note Jim never gave her in that first Christmas episode without letting the audience know what it said) involve her. I hope in the finale tonight, six months after the documentary airs, that she’s found happiness.
5. My favorite characters in the past few seasons have been Erin and Darrell, so I was thrilled to see Darrell get the deluxe goodbye orchestrated by Erin. (They are also the two characters I would most likely watch spin-offs based around). Dwight grew on me by the end to the point where I was very happy for him that his life came together over the final half of the season. I was also happy that Andy was first sent away on a boat for a large stretch of time and effectively sent out early. My contempt for Andy is only matched by my contempt for the mess that James Spader played on the show.
6. I originally hoped that Steve Carrel wasn’t going to come back for the finale, but I wasn’t really sure why. I’ve realized that if Michael never comes back, it leaves me safe to assume that he’s happy with Holly in Colorado and it keeps his ending (which is really the only part of the show I’d want to re-watch on Netflix) as “perfect.” I’m OK with him coming back now because I’m open to a less-than-perfect ending for him. After all, isn’t that more true to life?
7. Finally, The Office gets a blog requium and 30 Rock, my favorite show of the last decade, doesn’t only because I’m back writing now. I still miss 30 Rock every week and am in my third or fourth run through the past seasons on Netflix. I don’t really have an interest in re-watching The Office (save for random episodes on repeat, or very specific stretches around the Michael Scott Paper Company and Steve Carrel’s exit), but I’m still going to miss it. That said, it’s time for it to end.
So here we are four months into 2013 and nothing has moved in this blog since New Year’s Eve. I meant every word of wanting to write more often, but I think without some kind of deadline or schedule or other type of mechanism to make me sit down in front of the computer (at least until I get back into the habit), it’s hard to get over the excuse of being too busy to write.
To accomplish all of these goals – not just writing more often, but also collecting the things that catch my attention but don’t move me to spill a thousand words - I’m starting The Month in Music series on here. First, here’s how it works: I’m going to publish a playlist of songs on the first day of the month that reflects the past month. The songs represent anything from my favorite jams to things I enjoyed reading to loosely connected associations that let me go off on a tangent. On here, I’ll publish a link to the playlist on Spotify and share my notes (which 1) as anyone who has received a mix from me in the past can tell you, I sometimes go long and 2) gives me an excuse to write mix notes, which I haven’t done in ages).
The first one is a little different. This represents a proverbial “clearing of the desk” for the entire year so far. That’s not to say this mix or its notes represent everything about 2013′s first third, but it hits a lot of the points (that said, I can’t imagine every month’s mix being this long – after cutting six songs, this mix runs two dozen). Also, I’m tackling this month’s mix in segments just so I can get through it quicker, so if the mix doesn’t “flow” because it’s thematically organized, then go make your own damn mix and put it on your own damn blog. In fact, do that anyway.
So here’s the mix, which I’m hoping shows up with the Spotify player the WordPress FAQ promises will be there. Feel free to let me know what you think here in the comments or on Twitter (and follow the playlist or me on Spotify too I guess?). Shout out for tangential inspiration to the Music Diary Project and Scott Tennet (who is essentially doing this every day, which is heroic if you ask me) and please give me any suggestions for a better name. If nothing else, I’ll see you next month.
I. CATCHING UP ON 2012
- “I Love It” – Icona Pop f/ Charli XCX
- “Everything is Embarrassing” – SkyFerreira
- “Do You…” – Miguel
- “The Full Retard” – El-P
Right around Christmas, I joined Spotify so that I could play music on my iPad while visiting my family. I loaded up Maura Johnston’s “2012 Awesomeness” playlist and started starring songs to play later. This led to me starring some of my favorite songs from 2012 in a natural “best of the past year” fashion. When I was wandering around running my errands or otherwise didn’t want to play anything specific, I shuffled through my starred songs. These songs are some of my enduring favorite singles from last year. “I Love It” and “Everything is Embarrassing” were songs I heard earlier in the year but didn’t come around to until this past winter, while “Do You…” and “The Full Retard” (ugh to the R-word) were ones I liked earlier in the year. They might be the four most played songs of the year so far for me just because they got a running start.
II. THE TOPICAL PORTION (MISSED THE BOAT)
- ”Missed the Boat” – Modest Mouse
- “Driving Song” – Shellshag
- “Second Hand News” – Fleetwood Mac
- “Kool Thing” – Sonic Youth
- “Ecce Homo” – Titus Andronicus
(Despite the fact that I have things to say about each song, I’m sticking with tiers for this list. Individual song comments start with the bolded title).
“Missed the Boat” Despite adding Spotify last December, the service opened up to me when I finally upgraded from my antequated 200 MB / month data plan last month. Where I used to hoard my data (and even turn it off near the end of some months when I came close to that limit), I could now stream and add songs to playlists when I was away from home. I heard this while watching the NBA playoffs in the front lounge before seeing Robyn Hitchcock last week at the Paradise (he was excellent, and would have made the playlist were it not already too long) and starred it before forgetting about the song again. “Driving Song“ might best fit later in my “current favorites” bracket, but it felt right next to “Missed the Boat” if for no other reason that I’ve been hearing so many sing Shellshag’s praises and finally heard them a few weeks ago. “Driving Song” stood out to me as something that would have been on every mix tape I made in the late ’90s. “Second Hand News” gets here as well because I missed the boat on seeing Fleetwood Mac’s recent tour (sensing a theme?) but also because my phone refused to play this song until I manually resynced all of Rumors with iTunes. I still don’t know why, but I surmise it might have to do with Lindsey Buckingham’s creepily-phrased request to “let me do my stuff.” “Kool Thing” became my jam last week after reading that excellent Kim Gordon profile in Elle. As much as it made me like Thurston Moore a little less, I focused more on how it confirmed all of the things I already appreciated about Kim Gordon, particularly her artistic philosophy and resolve. “Ecce Homo“ is included because I missed out on the Titus Andronicus / So So Glos show at the Middle East the other night. It’s also on the “Manifesto Mix” for The Media, a new (web)zine rising (appropriately) from the ashes of the departed Boston Phoenix. It published its first issue today and it looks extremely promising. (Also, Patrick Stickles was part of maybe my favorite thing of the entire month)
III. CURRENT (JANUARY-APRIL) FAVORITES
- “It’s a Beautiful Day” – Michael Buble
- “You (Ha Ha Ha)” – Charli XCX
- “Dance All Night” – Free Energy
- “Closer” – Tegan and Sara
- “Year of the Glad” – Marnie Stern
- “Swan Dive” – Waxahatchee
In future months, each of these would get its own paragraph. Since this is a “catch up,” I’ll leave this as this is a short sampling of some of the songs and albums I’ve been enjoying recently. I’ll try to come back to these later on (although for the Buble song, I’ll share this relevant and 100% accurate tweet).
IV. NEPTUNE NEWS
- “Get Lucky (radio edit)” – Daft Punk f/ Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers
- “Blurred Lines” – Robin Thicke f/ T.I. and Pharrell Williams
My personal progression with the marketing for the new Daft Punk record (largely carried out during Saturday Night Live commercials) has moved from curiosity to annoyance to submission. I was curious about Daft Punk running short commercials during SNL, played this video in its entirety after waking up at 5 AM on a snow day, got annoyed at all the breathless press-release-as-news-article coverage, and then fell hard for the minute teaser (I’m still not paying $40 for the LP, but that’s for another post). I played that minute clip over and over for days to the point where the full song was a slight letdown only because I knew all the best parts so well. It’s still a pretty great song, and it helps that the spring weather in Boston has let me hear it from passing cars twice in the past few days.
Being fully aware of the circumstances for my disappointment with the full “Get Lucky” and a distaste for the women as wild animals metaphor in this song, I think that today, May 1, I prefer “Blurred Lines” to “Get Lucky” (and definitely prefer it to almost all of the new Timberlake album, save for “Pusher Love Girl,” but again, another post). I may regret this very soon.
- ”Whip Smart” – Liz Phair
- “Why Can’t I” – Liz Phair
- “Wagon Wheel” – Old Crow Medicine Show
Hearing Julie Klausner sing “Divorce Song” on a recent episode of her podcast How Was Your Week led me down a brief Liz Phair rabbit hole. I forgot how much I adored “Whip Smart” (“Supernova” always comes to mind from that album), and I hope we’ve all gotten over our pretensions and “disappointments” to recognize “Why Can’t I” as one of the past decade’s best pop songs. As for “Wagon Wheel,” discovering that Darius Rucker has a cover version charting reminded me about this song.
- “Ladies and Gentlemen… (A Cappella w/ Lead Vocal)” – Spritualized
- “Say My Name (Timbaland Remix)” – Destiny’s Child
- “Just a Friend” – Booker T. Jones f/ Biz Markie, Matt Berninger, and Sharon Jones
One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about Spotify is the random discovery of things I probably never would have come across otherwise. The vocal loop of “Ladies and Gentlemen We’re Floating in Space” with the “Can’t Help Falling in Love” round is stunning in its gorgeousness (second only to the live execution when I saw Spiritualized perform roughly a year ago). I was mesmerized by the “Say My Name” remix when I stumbled on it and I’m pretty sure I played it three times in a row. How I made it until this winter without hearing that version of “Just a Friend” with its random collection of guests seems impossible.
- ”With Arms Outstretched” – Rilo Kiley
A startling majority of mixes I made over the last decade had this song somewhere on it. I spent a solid week listening to The Execution of All Things and Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix back and forth at one point this winter. I also (pre-data upgrade) sat in a Starbucks while I synced The Execution of All Things to my phone so I could listen to it while I walked home on the first nice day of the spring. Finally, when I played it this afternoon, the lyrics still stood out, even if it means something (very?) different to me at 30 than it did at 20.
- ”Dirty Water” – The Standells
Shout out to my city, my neighbors, and my friends.
One of the pleasures I took from writing about music was the joy in discovery. It could be a tiny detail that I missed over the first hundred plays of a song, or a close reading of a song that opened new possibilities in meaning. Sometimes, it came through a half an hour with my guitar on my lap trying to figure out the transitions from one chord to the next. The moment where I figured out something new often made the struggle to put words to paper (or words to Word, to be more accurate) worthwhile. It must stimulate the same part of my brain that drove me to take apart my parents’ Windows 3.11 computer in the mid-90′s – a desire to know something inside and out. This is my preferred mode of “criticism” as well – discovery rather than destruction – but that’s for another post entirely.
This isn’t a feeling I’ve felt with My Bloody Valentine, despite the hours of time I’ve spent with Loveless. Perhaps its Kevin Sheilds’ noted perfectionism or his elaborate effect pedal setup, or maybe it’s just the album’s layers of sound, but I approach an album like Loveless with appreciation rather than a desire to crack it open and figure it out. I wouldn’t call this approach passive (though Loveless was my favorite record to put on while grading papers at one point, but that was more an issue of familiarity and not being distracted by words. The first Sigur Ros album did this for me as well, and it’s maybe the only other record I approach with similar wonder). Rather, I feel immersed in the music. Where my normal approach to “get inside” a song might be to start figure out chord progressions or lyrical shifts, I feel consumed just listening to these sounds. I’m content to let the different sounds whir past me rather than dare try to disturb them.
This is how I approached mbv, the long-awaited follow-up to Loveless. I sat at my computer with my headphones on and let the album play. Much like Loveless, I don’t have the desire to figure out how it ticks. I’m content to let it play and watch how it works. As expected, it’s immaculately produced; at different times, it’s crisp, heavy, languid, dreamy, and blunt. It dips in and out of song structures. When it starts to feel familiar, it turns toward noise and chaos in its final three tracks. People with more expertise (or dedication perhaps) will have insightful things to say about it, but for now I’m content to immerse myself in it.
When the word started spreading that the album would be out tonight (this on the heels of Shields saying it was mastered in December, then a week or so ago saying it could be out in “2 or 3 days”), I got excited. It made me think back to the “old” sensation of rushing out to get a new album the day it was released after school (or during a break at work). The fact that the MBV webpage kept timing out like the old days of the web only solidified this “retro” feeling, albeit a nostalgia for a somewhat recent past.
This morning, however, I thought about it a little more and realized its release is more in line with 2013 than 2003 (or 1993). Despite the whispers of its existence, I knew nothing about it until about 5 PM yesterday. No single, no advance reviews, no advertising campaign. Even Radiohead’s In Rainbows, the natural analogue, had a week lead time from its announcement to its release. I wasn’t breathlessly awaiting this record the way many hardcore MBV fans were (largely because I’ve been mainly obsessed with Loveless as an album rather than the band in general), so I may be a slight anomaly. Instead, in a course of six or seven hours, I learned about, acquired, and digested a record without having to alter my Saturday night plans (save for digging out my headphones after going out for dinner, and staying up a little later than I might have otherwise). Ten (or more) years ago, we’d have had to wait weeks or months for an album like this to come out. Even Radiohead in 2006 made us wait a week. Instead, I’ve already started to digest a record that, as far as I was concerned, didn’t exist at this time yesterday. It’s not necessarily a positive (as anticipation can be a good thing) or a negative, just different.
“The Ice of Boston (Live in DC 1-21-11)” – The Dismemberment Plan
On a personal level, I leave 2012 better than I started it. 2011 was a year largely in flux, and 2012 was about tying up loose ends. I’m settled in a place I enjoy living and have a job that I love doing. I feel well, got to do a lot of wonderful things this year, and have many people in my life to be thankful for both new and old. As trying as Decembers tend to be (and this year I think I realized that December always has been / probably always will be draining), I am thankful for just about everything 2012 sent my way.
One thing that slipped through the cracks in 2012 was writing. The last post on this blog came in February, and aside from a few long emails to friends, I haven’t spilled a few hundred words anywhere on the internet in a long time. In 2013, I want to get back to writing. Not necessarily on a daily basis or even on a “regular” schedule. Rather, I want to write when I’m moved to write rather than let the ideas linger until they are forgotten.
I’m not necessarily concerned with getting hits or maximizing my readership (as publishing this around 7PM on New Year’s Eve probably suggests). Instead, I want to get back to the joy of writing. As someone who teaches writing and espouses the virtues of writing often, I feel like I should practice what I preach.
I need to figure out the logistics still, but I figured I’d put it out there. Whether I write here or somewhere else, I’d like to do it more often. Not quite everyday like I did in 2009, but certainly much more than I did in 2012 (and probably 2011, though I haven’t gone back and counted). I guess that makes this a resolution; whatever gets the job done is fine by me.
So here’s to another (goddamn) new year, and I’ll be back soon.
I feel guilty that my immediate thought after seeing the news of Soul Train creator Don Cornelius’ death was for ?uestlove. I knew that Cornelius meant a lot to ?uestlove, but this post from this afternoon framed Cornelius’ death as something bigger than the passing of a television producer. Written this afternoon while still reacting to the news, ?uestlove’s piece pays tribute to Cornelius’ signature creation and the role it played in the basic musical education of one of the most gifted drummers, producers, and amateur historians in contemporary music. I expected this, but I was especially moved by the way ?uestlove spoke of how he (literally!) carries Soul Train with him everywhere he goes.
?uestlove also describes Cornelius’ impact beyond music, both in a larger cultural context and as a personal inspiration. He called him the second most “crucial non political figure to emerge from the civil rights era post ’68″ next to Motown Records’ Berry Gordy, and writes at length about the way Cornelius and Soul Train shaped his identity and philosophy to this day.
I’m restricting myself to just one quote from his post because the whole thing is worth your attention. Once you finish reading that, feel free to browse ?uestlove’s Celebrity Stories, one of the most fascinating and entertaining time sucks (and beware, you can easily lose an entire hour or more clicking through all of them) on the internet.
When I planned on writing this post earlier today (Sunday), the Kickstarted campaign was close to its $15,000 goal but not quite there with Tuesday’s deadline approaching. Late this afternoon, the project met its goal and secured funding. However, since funding is open until Tuesday morning and your dollars would still go toward a worthy cause (and secure you some cool stuff, more on that further down the page), I decided to write it anyway.
1. The Best Music Writing series is worth the funding price alone.
Published annually, the series, like some of the other Best series you may have seen if you’ve spent time browsing a chain bookstore, culls some of the best music writing from both print and the internet. I have a few past years’ editions on my bookshelf, and I’ll keep them if only because they capture a sampling of the things some of the brightest minds and sharpest pens considered in a given period of time. (This is not to mention that many of these pieces are fantastic and, even for someone like me who reads a fair amount of music writing regularly, many of the pieces are new to me when the book comes out). If nothing else, your Kickstarter money gets you a gift for the music fan and/or budding scribe in your life.
2. The Kickstarter campaign funds more than just a single book.
Sure, the 2012 edition of the series is the face of the campaign, but the money raised goes toward the creation of Feedback Press, a publishing outfit dedicated toward printing music writing. The press’ first undertaking will be the 2012 edition of the series (with the first step, a ten member editorial board, already accomplished during the funding phase), but the success of this campaign (and the Best Music Writing series going forward) means more opportunities for music writers to meet publication. This may seem like a 20th century idea, but the prospect of a dedicated press for music writing (along with things like Continuum’s 33 1/3 series, and the established outlets in print / on the ‘net) bodes well for more writing of high quality. Even if it just means another outlet for music writers to earn money for their words, it means that more writers can be paid for their hard work, and that perhaps some of the most thoughtful and productive writers may spend more time writing about music rather than splitting time between music writing and other gigs that pay the bills. In an era where it seems like music is both more plentiful and easier to access (even and especially through legal means!), I find myself relying on the writers I trust to point me toward new music and finding new ideas through these thoughtful pieces. Even though anyone with a blog and some free time can write about music, I prefer more thoughtful voices over a higher number of voices, and the establishment of Feedback Press seems like another step in the right direction.
3. This is an excellent example of a Kickstarter rewards system.
The rewards at the highest level (the ones above $30 in particular) reveal two things to me. First, there are a lot of people willing to dedicate their time, talents, and creativity to this campaign to encourage people to contribute. This sense of community makes me believe even more in the cause and its goal to bolster the amount of high quality music writing. It also makes me wish that I had more money to contribute so that I, for instance, could get a phone call telling me that I can make better use of my free time than writing about the new Hospitality and Chairlift records.
Even the expected rewards – in this case, a copy of the 2012 edition of the series – went beyond my expectations. The lower levels included an electronic copy of the text (including a copy delivered on the publication day to those who bought the print edition). While e-books aren’t exactly revelatory in 2012, I was glad to see that Feedback Press will offer titles in multiple editions.
4. They are offering a 30% discount on Ellen Willis’ Out of the Vinyl Deeps
I’ve been meaning to buy this collection of Willis’ criticism for a while now, especially after reading so many sing Willis’ praises. While it would have lingered on my Amazon wishlist until (at least) the Summer “when I’d have more time to read,” I will likely order my copy tomorrow and pick through it bit by bit when I should be doing other more pressing things.