Do you think that Girls (esp Father, Son, Holy Ghost) turned out to be less important, less defining than a lot of people thought when they were around? Looking back at the decade so far, they don't seem to be as lasting as a lot of other music released three or for years ago has been?
Anonymous

You’re probably right about that; I still love them as much as ever, but I think Owens’ POV is ultimately odd in a very specific way, and if you don’t connect that, even the appealing musical stuff about Girls might not be enough to sustain your interest. He’s got a v. unusual way of seeing the world that I connect with.  

Posted at 5:52pm.

doomandgloomfromthetomb:

Kraftwerk: The Missing Years

The Invisible Hits keep on coming over at Pitchfork. This latest column dives deep into Kraftwerk’s work before they hit it big on the Autobahn. Some seriously great stuff to check out. 

Definitely read this!

Posted at 5:19pm and tagged with: kraftwerk,.

doomandgloomfromthetomb:

Kraftwerk: The Missing Years
The Invisible Hits keep on coming over at Pitchfork. This latest column dives deep into Kraftwerk’s work before they hit it big on the Autobahn. Some seriously great stuff to check out. 

Definitely read this!

There was an interesting article by David Carr in the NYT today about Ferguson and #Ferguson, talking about how twitter can amplify news and “turn up the heat” on people in power to spur them to action, esp. in re stories that haven’t been picked up by big media yet. And that’s definitely true, even if it probably takes a few twitter people with power (trusted people with a good number of followers) to really make that happen. It’s hard to imagine a better example in the U.S. than #Ferguson (so many parallels w/ things that have gone on in the Middle East in the past couple of years, mostly in frightening ways). But it’s also not a bad time to think about what twitter is and how it’s structured, and how that structure informs how we experience “reality” through the internet. One, #Ferguson made me more aware than I’ve ever been that I follow people that mostly think alike. The 350 people I choose to follow (and the vast majority of them are music writers, since I consider twitter to be a work tool) tend to see the big events of the world through a similar lens (progressive and liberal, to use the broadest possible terms), which also happens to be the one through which I see the world. And while I do not think there are “two sides to the story” of what is happening in Missouri (it’s a rare thing, but here it’s true), it’s hard not to reflect on the idea of me, sitting in my apartment in Brooklyn, looking at re-tweets from my few-hundred like-minded twitter followers, and think that I’m absorbing the “truth” of the situation. Here the truth seems simple, and nothing I’ve gathered leads me to believe anything different. But it still makes me uneasy to think that my hand-picked filter of 350 people that see things in very similar terms is my window to the world. Weirder than relying on NBC or CNN? Maybe not. 

This week I also came to understand more deeply that one of the unusual things about twitter is that it presents every tweet in exactly the same way, they are all 140 characters or less, displayed in a linear fashion, and no one tweet seems any more important than another in glancing at your feed (also why they have trouble with ads). Since the mechanism of twitter doesn’t make this distinction, its users count on publishers to make that distinction for them, in part by asking them to hold tweets about things unrelated to the crisis  at hand (this came to me b/c some people got upset about Pitchfork tweeting news when Ferguson was raging, which I think is a reasonable response). So twitter as a news tool is a little clumsy in that regard—there’s no 72-point type to say “Japan Surrenders, End of War!”; the tweet just comes by like any other, no more or less important than me cracking a joke about how many Neil Young albums I have. So when you’re looking at your feed and you see these trifles next to the important stuff, it’s hard not to be angry at the people posting them, even though it’s really up to twitter’s design for this project, where the container for every tweet is identical. 

Posted at 1:17am and tagged with: writing,.

Working late and listening to “The Sinking of the Titanic”

Posted at 9:11pm.

nofunphillips:

my dad died from ALS when i was 3 years old. he was 36. my mom was 33. that was 30 years ago. now i’m the same age my mom was when my dad died. and there is still no cure for ALS.

this is what happens when you have ALS: your muscles slowly stop working, one part at a time. for my dad, first he…

Some words on ALS and the ice bucket challenge from Pitchfork news editor Amy Phillips. 

Posted at 11:36pm.

are you the same mark that wrote the schlammpeitziger reviews on allmusic?
Anonymous

Yeah.

Posted at 5:34pm.

This was the film poster for the 1977 thriller Black Sunday, about a terrorist plot to detonate a bomb at the Super Bowl. I remember seeing this poster in the late ’70s, and it had a big impact on me. I found it terrifying. The idea of a massive thing blotting out the sky bringing death is a very specific nightmare I’ve had many times. At some point as a kid, probably within a year or two of the release of this movie, I saw the Goodyear blimp land at Capital City Airport in Lansing and it was both exciting and very scary. I suppose  the Hindenburg film, which has always fascinated me, triggered the same kind of feeling. And that deeply embedded sense of doom coming from the sky is part of why the last third of the Lars von Trier film Melancholia was so stirring for me—it felt like it had been adapted from my dreams. 

Posted at 3:29pm and tagged with: writing,.

This was the film poster for the 1977 thriller Black Sunday, about a terrorist plot to detonate a bomb at the Super Bowl. I remember seeing this poster in the late ’70s, and it had a big impact on me. I found it terrifying. The idea of a massive thing blotting out the sky bringing death is a very specific nightmare I’ve had many times. At some point as a kid, probably within a year or two of the release of this movie, I saw the Goodyear blimp land at Capital City Airport in Lansing and it was both exciting and very scary. I suppose  the Hindenburg film, which has always fascinated me, triggered the same kind of feeling. And that deeply embedded sense of doom coming from the sky is part of why the last third of the Lars von Trier film Melancholia was so stirring for me—it felt like it had been adapted from my dreams. 

Fwiw, I read this story at the Pitchfork Festival a few weeks back. When I wrote it I thought “I’ll probably post this on tumblr later” so here it is.

_____

In the mid-to-late1990s I lived in San Francisco and the internet was very new. It was already clear that it was going to be a big deal, but we didn’t yet understand how big a deal it would be or which direction it would go. I had a new music obsession during this time which was the Bay Area hip-hop scene, specifically the scratch DJ scene centered around a collective called The Invisibl Skratch Pikilz. Because technology was changing so rapidly, and we were all dreaming of what our lives would be like in the digital future, I became fascinated with the idea of a musical movement that involved people manipulating mechanical devices (a turntable, mixer, vinyl LPs) with the body. It felt both old and new, human and machine. 

I lived on Geary Street in San Francisco, on the edge of the Tenderloin. There was a club in my neighborhood called Deco and every Tuesday they would have an open turntable night in this tiny room in the basement that was lit by a single red bulb. Ten or 25 or 40 people would squeeze into this space and DJs including people in the Skratch Piklz would stop by and jam. 

My friend Josh and I were enamored of what was happening both in the Skratch DJ scene and in the wider world of Bay Area hip-hop, including music being made by DJ Shadow, Blackalisious, Latyryx, Kool Keith (he seemed Bay-area at the time), and the Automator, all of which overlapped with the Skratch scene. So we decided to start something like an online magazine to document it. We used this space to make something. My friend was a great designer, so the site looked beautiful, like a real thing. 

I was writing about music for the first time in my life. I wrote about shows. We did an email events lists that I pulled together with things going on in town that looked interesting. Though I had listened to music and read about it for many years, I had never known or even spoken to any music writers. I was just feeling around in the dark. 

One day out of the blue I got an email from a guy named Adam. He edited a magazine called Tokion that I knew. It was a beautiful glossy magazine about music and style and culture. They had offices in L.A. and Tokyo and every article was published in English and Japanese. And Adam contacted me because he’d come across our website—who knows how, an Excite or Alta Vista search— and wanted to know if I wanted to write a feature about the Bay Area hip-hop scene. 

This was my introduction to the power of the internet to make rank amateurs look like something approximating a professional. Though I was deeply interested in the hip-hop scene in San Francisco, it was something I had explored myself, privately, and in a small way, for something like six months. I had no deeper knowledge, had never read an article about it, had no idea where to start. I had never written a feature for a magazine. I had never interviewed anybody. I had no contacts and no idea how to record an interview. 

I emailed Adam back and said yes. 

So the first thing I needed to do in order to write the definitive article about the Bay Area hip-hop scene was to learn something about the Bay Area hip-hop scene. The next time I went to Deco, I worked up the courage to approach Shortkutt from the Invisibl Skratch Piklz and ask if I could interview him. I was terrified, certain that the fact that I was an utter fraud was obvious. He wrote his number down on a piece a paper. 

Shortly after I got an email from the editor saying that he was going to fly up from Los Angeles and a photographer would be flying in from New York. They wanted me to use my contacts to assist in setting up photo shoots, and they wanted to meet with me about the piece. 

This was bad news for me because I had nurtured this fantasy that maybe I could somehow figure this thing out in private, not have my ignorance exposed to anyone else. But of course I said “Great!” and we made plans to meet for lunch on Market Street.

At that time, I was working as a temp in a law office. So I had to sneak out that day to meet them for lunch, and the lunch ran very long, like two hours. I didn’t dare tell these guys that I was a temp, though maybe it was obvious from my khaki pants and blue button-down Oxford and penny loafers. I figured real writers didn’t have to work as temps in law offices. So as long as the lunch ran, I acted like I had plenty of time to meet with them. I was sure I’d get fired when I got back to the office, but I didn’t. 

During our meeting, the photographer told me that he the day before he had shot Air in Central Park for SPIN. Hearing that was more terror. This was obviously a super pro who would wonder how he ever got roped into an assignment with a loser like me. I’ve keep out for his name ever since and he’s a famous and respected photographer, and every time I see his name I think “That’s the guy who shot my first piece.” 

During our lunch I told them about this place Deco, said we should go and he’d shoot there. They asked me to arrange that with the club. I said you got it. I then realized that I had no idea how to do this. So I called the club the next day and talked to a manager and old them what was going on and that we wanted to shoot during this open turntable night and would that be OK? He said it was OK. 

By the time of that lunch I had interviewed Shortkutt, if you can call our awkward conversation an interview. And I had asked Shortkutt for some other people I might speak to. He gave me contact information for a guy named Dave who started a very influential Bay Area magazine called Bomb Hip-Hop. I interviewed him and he gave me the contact number for Peanut Butter Wolf, a DJ who then and now owns a label called Stones Throw. I talked to a DJ I admired very much named Quest and another one from the Piklz camp named DJ Disk. We talked and I recorded our conversations and I figured I’d listen to them and somehow write something that made sense. 

The night we went to Deco, there was a line out front, which was unusual. And while we were waiting in line the photographer had all his equipment and cameras and lenses and tripods, and we got to the door and the doorman had no idea who I was and was not at all sure about this photo business. It was the classic “Who did you talk to?” situation and no one could find anyone who approved this. But somehow after much wrangling we got in.

Down in the basement, I was amazed by the photographer’s willingness to do anything to get the shot. He didn’t care who he made mad or who he asked to move, he was utterly focused. He was setting up a tripod on a crowded club floor and anyone who didn’t like it could eat it. Meanwhile I talked to Adam about the piece. He told me that he had originally thought to approach Jeff Chang to write this piece, but he felt that Chang was a little over-exposed on this subject.

If you know anything about music writing, you know that Jeff Chang is one of the most important, perhaps THE most important, writers and critics in the history of hip-hop. This is some years before he wrote his canonical book Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, but even then he was very well known as a writer around the Bay. So when Adam the editor told me this, I thought to myself, “You really fucked this one up, dude. You should have called Chang.” Because I knew there was no way I could do anything a tenth as good as what he might do, no matter what this guy had read on our little webzine.

The photographer and the editor went home, and it was time to write the piece. I couldn’t shake my conviction that I was supremely unqualified and in way over my head. I had never worked with an editor, I didn’t know the process, and there was no community of writers online whose conversations I might listen in on. My fear, I was sure, was making me write much worse. It was like a back spasm or something. I typed up all the way to the deadline, like the minute it was due. And when I hit “send” on that email, I was sure I’d made a fool of myself. All I got from the editor was a “Thanks” and then, a couple of months later, I got my contributors copies of the issue. 

There was my story. My writing had been translated into Japanese and the photographs looked beautiful. But I was too afraid to read that piece. I put it on the shelf and never looked at it, because I didn’t want to confirm my worst suspicious about my hack-dom. 

A few years later, I was having a drink with a writer who has written a lot for Pitchfork and many other places since, and I told him an abbreviated version of this story. And he told me he read the piece in Tokion the month it came out, and he remembered thinking it was pretty good. I have chosen to take his word for it. 

Posted at 11:52pm and tagged with: writing,.

Leonard Cohen, SPIN, March 2002. (via markrichardson)

I’ve shared this quote a riddiculous number of times in a few contexts, but it continues to mean something to me so I’m sharing it again. I have not yet let the hero die.

Posted at 10:36pm and tagged with: leonard cohen,.

Roshi said something nice to me one time. He said that the older you get, the lonelier you become, and the deeper the love you need. Which means that this hero that you’re trying to maintain as the central figure in the drama of your life—this hero is not enjoying the life of a hero. You’re exerting a tremendous maintenance to keep this heroic stance available to you, and the hero is suffering defeat after defeat. And they’re not heroic defeats; they’re ignoble defeats. Finally, one day you say, ‘Let him die—I can’t invest any more in this heroic position.’ From there, you just live your life as if it’s real—as if you have to make decisions even though you have absolutely no guarantee of any of the consequences of your decisions.

Interviews: Silver Jews | Features | Pitchfork

I have been thinking about this line a lot, esp. since I saw it referenced by Dan Bejar in a Washington Post feature I liked quite a bit. Not exactly in the way he uses it here, but the idea that music is the defense and lyrics are the offense. If the defense is amazing, you’re going to stay in the game. You won’t be terrible. But it’s hard to really stand out. There’s a lot of music like this, “vibe” music that sounds nice and is enjoyable to put on but isn’t exactly rich with feeling. If you’re only lyrics, though, and the music isn’t there, you might actually come over as really terrible (in the football analogy, you get blown out like 55 to 24). But when you have both you’re a true powerhouse.

Bejar said of Berman:

On David Berman: “He’s a sports freak so he’s always using sports metaphors. He [once said in an interview], ‘Music is the defense, words are the offense.’ I found that kind of emboldening. You need the music to be good, but you need the words to be great. If the music’s not good, you’re f—ed. But if the words aren’t good, you’ll only ever just be good.”

Posted at 7:40pm and tagged with: silver jews, david berman, dan bejar,.

All musicians should write poetry or at least read it if they want to improve their game. Except for people who believe lyrics don’t matter. This is the Brian Billick theory of songwriting: Defense (the music) not offense (lyrics) wins championships (Grammys). The best teams of course have both.

Never thought of this but of course it happens: people post their own transcriptions of music to YouTube, sort of like a lyric video for sheet music. Here someone transcribed Marcus Roberts’ interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Single Petal of a Rose”. I love this piece and it’s fun to follow along as best I can. Even if you’ve never read music you can look at this and get a sense of how it works, the upper staff being the right hand and the lower being the left, each oval on the staff representing a single note.

Posted at 12:29am and tagged with: duke ellington,.

The incredibly charming John Lennon gives his impression of American football to Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football, 1974. 

Posted at 12:09am and tagged with: John Lennon,.