A few figments for my first entry of the year. I just realized how great the word figment is, so even though it is not terribly appropriate, there it sits.
1- A song about snow. Because it snowed.
What I love about the Galaxy 500 song “Snowstorm” is how adult it tries to be. There’s this great interplay between Dean Wareham’s nunpulsed lyrics- everyone else gives a shit about the snow, to him it’s just an excuse to get out of work a few hours early- and the music of the song, specifically Wareham’s own counterpoint, that pigeon-flight guitar, and at the same time, those windy, wordless vocals, which betray the wonder Wareham can’t come out and admit straight up.
2- A song about the new year. Because it’s a new year.
I think there are probably 250 people in America who, at some point in their life, defined themselves as fans of the band Longwave. Probably, of those, there are 50 holdouts who have followed vocalist Steve Schiltz to his new(-ish) project Huricane Bells. Then there are probably several hundred thousand who discovered Hurricane Bells another way, from their inclusion on the soundtrack to the most recent Twilight movie. Whichever way, Hurricane Bells are the kind of band who might be easy to pay no heed to. And yet there is something about them, like there was about Longwave, that makes fans bend over backwards to explain why they’re worth your time. For example-
“This Year” is a break-up song without the break-up. There is a “you,” a goddamned you who appears, who incises a presence at points throughout the song. The song is trying not be about “you.” It’s trying to be about a new start. The song beging lonely. It starts off with a letter, written in india ink. But line two’s like a whole new start, Schiltz moping “I don’t know where you’re going.”
The second verse is an already-failed resolution- this ongoing image of a great escape on an hypothetical boat that you know Schiltz will never own. He’ll go to Mexico, or not- “when the currents changed/I’d get swept away…” Even the plan, this life-changing impossible, is only inches away from melancholy. Schiltz can’t even keep it up, can’t keep “you” out of the fantasy, in the whole wide ocean “you” is there, right next to you. “…on the back of your wave/smashing all to pieces/when it breaks on another day.” The image doesn’t work. “Your wave” isn’t evocative of anything, it doesn’t conjure up anything except, once again, “you.” Though that’s exactly the point. He can’t even build a dream without “you” yet. It’s why you can sense agony as the music mounts and Schiltz tries to rally.
“This year is THE year! It’s gonna be really something” Schiltz commands, but a mere two lines later he’s a drunk partygoer shouting across a room, “You can always walk away if you see me coming/I don’t think about you. I don’t think about you.” It’s the kind of grand lie that you can’t even look at or you’ll see how much it’s teetering, how close it is to collapse.
and one more.
3- Being pissed at Christopher Weingarten. (And not being pissed at Margaret Wappler.)
Oh Christopher. You went from being one of the pivotal reasons that one one of my favorite albums of the first ten years of the 2000s was as good as it was (he’s the chrome dome behind the kit) to writing some of the most prescient ‘merican music criticsm out there for the Village Voice to …declaring that Spin magazine will primarily publish new album reviews through twitter.
What’s that, you say? Old-whiny Weingarten has been tweeting music reviews for years? Look at the date that video was posted. While I agree with a lot of the points he’s making, it’s pretty clear that Weingarten was in panic mode in mid-2009. This was the time when downloading albums and leaked albums was a big deal because it was a new thing. Fast internet was affordable! Downloading albums was easy, and, more than that, novel! Twitter was new and it was a really good way to tell people what you had for lunch!
Christopher Weingarten was panicked that his job, and the publications, internet and print which published him would be gone a year later. Guess what, dude? You’re the editor of Spin now. Magnet is running a print edition again. Pitchfork still gets a shit-ton of readers. Natural selection took care of a lot of music blogs, and those that still exist, exist as passion-projects for their creators, not the soulless tastemakers you were so worried they would be forever and ever.
Since 2009, exciting things happened in the music industry. Album leaks haven’t happened as often, and when they have happened, they haven’t been that big of a deal. People started paying for music (at least, again, independent music, the unacknowledged niche which Weingarten builds his argument around and I traffic in on this blog), and even buying records again. The panicky element of speed, the feeling that you have to say something before anyone else can which Wiengarten spoke of as being a result of blogs, twitter, and album leaks, really isn’t that big of a deal any more.
So why then would Weingarten, given the reigns at Spin magazine, pursue a strategy which he initially pursued out of a very timely sense of panic? I don’t know. What worries me so much isn’t that he’s doing it, and using a fairly popular sinking ship music magazine to do it. Well, that’s part of it. The truth is, Weingarten himself is terse enough that he can pull off a twitter-review. The reviewers they’ve got tweeting right now cannot. Their reviews are snarky and formulaic, or stupidly nonsensical, or (surprise, surprise) sexist. If you have 14 words to describe an album, you’ve gotta chose them well. Why not make sure your reviewers got that before the project started?
Here’s the really sad thing about Spin’s poor decision to tweet reviews. It brings us closer to a role reversal for print music journalism and their online counterparts. Spin is retreating to the insubstantial snark of twitter, while Stereogum, a behemoth among music blogs, is bringing back longer-form articles and essays, even on albums that aren’t especially “cool.” The kind of thing that spin used to have! The kind of thing I would read voraciously sitting in between magazine racks at Tower Records.
Egg on your face, Chris. Three years ago you jokingly talked about not have a job by 2010. Crap like this will and you won’t have one by 2013.
OK- next up, mixed feelings about the newst Wild Beats and Moonface albums!
Also, hey chicago- shows!
- Tortoise at the Empty Bottle on the 24th
- Los Campesinos and Parenthetical Girls at the Metro on the 27th
- The Heartless Bastards at Lincoln Hall on Valentines Day.