Nitsuh Abebe on Depeche Mode’s Music for the Masses (published on Pitchfork, 2006)

So good.

(via markrichardson)

I wanted to re-blog this again to point something out: if you’re starting out writing music criticism, study this. This is what you should be doing. Think about how music works, how it’s being received and what it means to people. This passage says a great deal about the music of Depeche Mode by having insight into how it functioned for their fans. It says nothing about what Martin Gore was going through when he wrote these songs; it doesn’t try to dissect the lyrics and de-code them, it doesn’t list what synths were used. It gets inside the music and figures out what it does, which is very hard but ultimately very rewarding. Because getting at that requires a great deal of empathy—you need to be able to stand in the shoes of the people who heard this music. 

(Source: juanalikesmusic)

Posted at 8:38am and tagged with: criticism,.

[…] Violator just stands as a moving, solid, record, a classic for the archives of popular music; it doesn’t so much carry a lot of the things that made Depeche Mode feel so much themselves. With 1987’s Music for the Masses, that stuff is all there— which makes the music both harder to ‘get’, from today’s perspective, and also more interesting. The Depeche Mode of this album is the one that brought together a rabid audience of trendy coastal kids and middle-American teens who got beat up over stuff like this— all of whom saw them not only as the peak of style, but as something positively revelatory, something speaking only to them (even in a crowded stadium), something alien and cool, disorientingly kinky, and entrancingly strange. For many, this was probably one of the first dance-pop acts they’d heard that didn’t seem to be entirely about being cool and having a good time; their music had been dark, clattery, and full of S&M hints and blasphemy, and on this record it reached a level of Baroque pseudo-classical grandness (see depressed-teenager shout-out ‘Little Fifteen’) that lived up to those kids’ inflated visions of the group.

Donald Barthelme: “Me and Miss Mandible”

I’ve never read this story but someone sent me this quote today and it feels true.

Posted at 11:24pm.

The distinction between children and adults, while probably useful for some purposes, is at bottom a specious one, I feel. There are only individual egos, crazy for love.

Right now this is playing in the other room. 

Because there is no love
Where there is no obstacle
And there is no love
Where there is no bramble
There is no love
On the hacked away plateau
And there is no love
In the unerring
And there is no love
On the one true path

Posted at 11:08pm and tagged with: bill callahan,.

Nitsuh Abebe on Depeche Mode’s Music for the Masses (published on Pitchfork, 2006)

So good.

Posted at 10:56pm.

[…] Violator just stands as a moving, solid, record, a classic for the archives of popular music; it doesn’t so much carry a lot of the things that made Depeche Mode feel so much themselves. With 1987’s Music for the Masses, that stuff is all there— which makes the music both harder to ‘get’, from today’s perspective, and also more interesting. The Depeche Mode of this album is the one that brought together a rabid audience of trendy coastal kids and middle-American teens who got beat up over stuff like this— all of whom saw them not only as the peak of style, but as something positively revelatory, something speaking only to them (even in a crowded stadium), something alien and cool, disorientingly kinky, and entrancingly strange. For many, this was probably one of the first dance-pop acts they’d heard that didn’t seem to be entirely about being cool and having a good time; their music had been dark, clattery, and full of S&M hints and blasphemy, and on this record it reached a level of Baroque pseudo-classical grandness (see depressed-teenager shout-out ‘Little Fifteen’) that lived up to those kids’ inflated visions of the group.

All Power to the Pack Rats, Ian Svenonius

Honestly haven’t thought too hard about this piece as an argument, whether he’s on to a truth, but it’s a very fun read nonetheless.

Posted at 6:36pm.

The Apple proposition is a 1960s futurist-zen minimalist throwback, lifted from Nordic designers like Panton and Saarinen, whose functionalism was influenced by movements like De Stijl and the Bauhaus.

While modernism proposed ways of dealing with the cataclysmic upheaval brought on by industrialism, Apple’s proposition is the Western capitalist commercial: freedom, ease, and cool control of one’s environment.

We’re encouraged to lose our possessions. Music? Store it on the iCloud. Books? Store it on the iCloud. Movies, magazines, newspapers, TV — all are safely stored in the ether and not underfoot or stuffed in a closet. It’s a modernist monastery where the religion is Apple itself.

Meanwhile, those who have hung onto possessions are castigated, jeered at, and painted as fools.

The hit A&E TV show Hoarders identifies people with things as socially malignant, grotesque, primitive, dirty, bizarre. In a word: poor. Apple has turned the world upside down in making possessions a symbol of poverty and having nothing a signifier of wealth and power.

This is the best thing I’ve read on Medium so far.

(Source: proseandpop)

Posted at 11:22am.

This was early on when Julie and I lived in Chicago. We were invited to a dinner party by someone in the dance world. She sat on the board of a number of committees determining who would get grants for performance work. She was friendly. And this particular evening she and her husband invited us to her home with two other couples for dinner. None of us had met. 

We had the address and it was in Old Town in Chicago. We drove around a bit before we figured out where it was. It was difficult to see the addresses. If you’ve never been to Chicago, Old Town is a residential neighborhood right next to downtown. Very much “city living,” the closest residential area to the primary business district. When we finally found this place, it was up some steps from the city sidewalk into a building concealed from the street and covered in greenery. This is a little hard to describe, but from the outside, it looked like some random apartment building. Just a one-story thing on a city street. But once you were inside, this place was palatial. One of the largest and most impressive homes I’ve ever been in. Soaring vault ceilings. Beautiful fixtures. A huge space, like the size of a small mansion but it was concealed on this non-descript city block so you would never know it. There was no indication from the street that a rich couple was living in a city mansion in this space.

We said hello, and we stood around having some drinks for a few minutes. The woman’s husband was a man named Bob. She was in her late 40s and he was in his 70s, I believe. He was retired. I made a point to chat him up when were standing around. He was a very interesting guy. He seemed warm and curious and very smart. I told him I was an editor for a music magazine. He told me that his daughter used to be the lead singer in a band called Veruca Salt. i told him I had heard of them. They were not reunited at this time, it was a few years ago. He also told me that he used to be CEO of the company that invented Nutra-Sweet. So I knew he’d made a few bucks. 

We sat down, and we had dinner. The dinner was quite good. After we’d finished, Bob asked for everyone’s attention because he had something to say. He told us that one of our guests had brought a bottle of some nice port wine, so perhaps all of us would like to retire to the area of the living room by the fireplace to try it? That sounded very good to me. So we did that. 

I don’t know why, but for some reason I admired Bob for directing his guests to his fireplace to drink port wine. Maybe part of me admired his wealth, that he had a fireplace at all. But I also admired the way that he directed the flow of the evening, asking these people he didn’t really know to join him in a glass of port.

We walked over to the fireplace and the wine was opened and Bob’s wife said it would be nice to hear some music. Since I worked at a music magazine, it made sense that I would choose it. So I walked over to the closet where they kept their stereo and I started flipping through the iPod they had hooked up to it. I saw Feist’s The Reminder and I knew immediately that was it. I walked back to the living room and everyone seemed to love it. 

This was the early days of the iPhone. I still had a flip phone. But Bob, even though he was well into his 70s, had an iPhone. And he sat near us by the fireplace but he was mostly looking at his phone. Sometimes the conversation would move in a direction where there was a stray fact unknown and he would look it up without prompting. He loved this iPhone. And I loved that this older man loved this iPhone. To me it represented curiosity. He was fascinated by what new technology could do.

We started talking about movies. Bob asked that we all go around and state our favorite movie. When it came back to Bob, he said his favorite was the Paul T. Anderson film Magnolia. This was very strange and interesting to me, that a man about 75 who had seen films going back to the 1940 chose as his favorite film of all time Magnolia. It made me realize that we all grow old in different ways.

Posted at 2:35am and tagged with: writing,.

This scene from The Man With Two Brains made my life better.

Posted at 12:42am and tagged with: steve martin,.

Favorite Smiths song and why?
Anonymous

"There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" by a big margin.

I wrote something once and then I mentioned it on Tumblr so I will quote it here:

Probably clear to anyone who knows me that one of my favorite songs of all time is the Smiths’ “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”. I have this idea that everyone who loves this song thinks of the person in their life who might have been riding in the other seat when the song played out in real life. In the Smiths song, the narrator wants to confess his love to the person in the other seat, and I understand how central that idea is to the song. But to me the most important part of it is the friendship: One friend leaning on the other to lift him or her our of this miserable situation. 

Many years ago when I was a kid I had someone like this in my life, the person in the other seat, and his name was David Alizo. He’s also the person who made me appreciate the Smiths. We went to high school together. He was a huge influence on my life, one of a small handful of people who really changed who I am as a person. In 2006, I wrote this column, which is sort of rambling without really getting to the point, about my friendship with David and what it was like to hang out with someone who introduced me to a new world. He did that. I see now that in many ways this column was a direct predecessor to one I wrote this year called You Masculine You, which was about Grimes and Bill Callahan and identifying with music in different ways based on traditional ideas of masculine and feminine.

I’m not sure if this old column is any good, but it’s live on the internet and there for you to read if you want to. I’m linking it because last night I found out that the friend I wrote it about, the person I imagined when I thought of the Smiths’ line “driving in your car,” died two days ago, suddenly. I’d only seen him twice in the last 20 years, so it’s been a long time since we were close. But I have thought of him often. And six years ago I wrote this clumsy piece trying to figure out what his friendship meant to me during a formative time, when music played such an important part in my life and I was learning so much every day. 

Posted at 11:32pm and tagged with: the smiths, David Alizo,.

gxhxoxsxtxfxm:

For the sake of tonight, shall we take an urgent break from our stonerwave, seapunk, post-glitch and humming-fridge crash course perhaps? Here is how it goes.

A few days ago I dropped an “ask” in Pitchfork’s editor-in-chief Mr. Mark Richardson's Tumblr wondering if the man who taught many of us…

What a gift this is. In response to an “Ask” on tumblr about Iranian music, about which I know next to nothing, here is a thoughtful post with some music to check out. I am re-blogging this here so you can check it out too, and then I’ll listen and later if I think I have anything to say I’ll post some thoughts here.

Posted at 11:42pm.

Have you ever come across any sort of music that comes from Iran? If so, what were your first impressions?

Not to speak of, some comps here and there but nothing that stayed with me. Can you suggest some?

Posted at 12:31am.

Richard James as Caustic Window, 1992. Gorgeous music.

Posted at 9:25pm and tagged with: caustic window, richard james, Aphex Twin,.