Earlier today I was having a conversation via Twitter with Kyle Matteson (@solace) about the A.V. Club’s Best Music of the Decade list. I took issue with the fact that this is a best of the decade list by a sort of indie-pub and there were five bands on the list I’d never, ever heard of. NEVER.
While I’ll be the first to admit I am no musicgeek (no matter how much I long to be one), I am pretty savvy. I usually know what the cool jams are, even if I haven’t actually listened to those jams. I’m down with the kids and their rock and roll.
So yeah, I was calling some shenanigans on that list. If these were the best of the decade, how come this is the first time I’m reading about them?
Here’s why, so many musicbloggers appear to have no editorial eye. Often times they’re too busy touting the latest thing as the best thing ever. And when everything is the best, it’s hard to discern what’s really worthy of your time. Sometimes I swear music blogs are only written for other musicbloggers, because they aren’t for the casual music fan. We can’t keep up. Right now the music folder in Google Reader is sitting at 121 unread items. That’s just from today.
Where are the tastemakers? Because I want to subscribe to those blogs and unsubscribe from all the rest of them. I want the blogs who are consistently offering up opinions and not just reporting on the lastest YouTube video by a cute girl with a ukulele.
Is that too much to ask? Where do you learn about new music?
I still depend on friends whose music tastes I respect more than music blogs. Plus, I get sent a ton of music, and all gets at the very least a cursory listen.
Of the music blogs I do read regularly (less than 10), I discover the most new music through Fluxblog, The Catbirdseat, Chromewaves, and Said the Gramophone (disclosure: these are all old school bloggers as well as my partners in MBV Music).
To be fair, I think it’s a much more difficult task to recommend music that the masses will enjoy outside of those bands that receive major hype from quasi-indie pubs like The AV Club (which still get huge readership in comparison to most other publications). Music is inherently subjective, and is full of different genres that will naturally appeal to some people more than others. Whereas, it’s a lot easier to recommend a TV show and get the point across because there are only so many TV channels that show well-produced, thoughtful scripted programming (HBO, FX, AMC, Showtime, the major networks…what else?) It’s easy to blame music bloggers but comparing the role of a music blogger to the role of any other type of blogger who recommends stuff is apples and oranges.
Qualler, I agree that it is difficult to recommend music the masses will enjoy. However, that’s not, as I see it, the music blogger’s job. They should be displaying their unique taste in music, and cultivate an audience of like-minded music fans. But right now it seems that most music bloggers (at least the ones I follow) are too busy trying to break the next big thing and kissing the ass of people in charge of the guest list.
Comparing the role of a music blogger to say a book blogger (a lot of whom suffer from the same problems as music bloggers) is not apples to oranges. It’s the same issue, culling through the ton of crap out there and only writing about the best (or worst, as a way to warn people about the crap).
I’ve been fortunate to find the book bloggers whose taste match mine and have a keen editorial eye. I just haven’t found those music bloggers yet.
my blog at http://www.ccsbandwagon.com is very awesome. seriously. no ukeleles mentioned in four years.
Good point. I’ve trained my 17-year old son well, so now he’s turning me on to bands he thinks I would like. He just turned me on to the Brand New album, Daisy. Friends on Twitter often make good choices. What I like these days is that I can listen to several songs repeatedly on myspace before deciding if I want to purchase or download.
I trust Carrie Brownstein’s blog. Mainly because she was a great songwriter/musician from Sleater-Kinney, a band which I love. http://www.npr.org/blogs/monitormix/
Most of the ones I just flat out don’t know are from 2000-2005, which was before music blogs were big and when I was busy with the whole attending medical school thing. In those cases I appreciate it because I can go back and catch up.
The problem is that there’s just so damn much music out there, so even if you’re only listening to the legitimately great records that get released it still feels like a full time job to keep up. The biggest downside is that I can’t remember the last time I let an initially “meh” album grow on me, which is how a lot of my favorite albums worked their way into me.
Jim Breslin makes a great suggestion, Carrie Brownstein not only points out great music, but she solicits worthwhile suggestions from her readers (Monitor Mix has a lively and intelligent readership).
as to the list, college dropout was nice but waaaaaayy too much filler to be #2 for the decade.
(countless other list criticisms self-edited, in the hope of preserving my sanity)
Why get upset over some subjective “Best Of…” list? They are never definitive and ultimately mean nothing to anyone…excepting, perhaps, the person who created the list. I’m remembering a friend who, years ago, became apoplectic after a Rolling Stone Magazine list of the best guitar players ever failed to include his favorite in the top ten. I mean, he actually became red in the face! I couldn’t get through to him that the whole thing was meaningless. While such things may make for good bar or restaurant conversation, there’s no point in allowing one’s blood pressure to be affected by it. However, I do agree with you as to the “hipper than thou” attitude one encounters on many music blogs. There tends to be a lack of perspective. As you say, seemingly every new band or artist is touted as being brilliant. There’s an emphasis placed on how new or “underground” a band is rather than the quality of the music. This is fine when one is writing on, say, one’s personal blog — again, the appreciation of music is totally subjective. But there is a way to write about art and music in such a way as to avoid the subjective. Especially if one is writing for a larger entity, one should approach the subject as a journalist might. Too often there does tend to be that lack of an editorial eye, as you point out. And that, of course, points to the larger problem of the decline of the newspaper and other traditional means of news gathering . While the digital medium now allows EVERYONE the chance to publish, not everyone should be considered a journalist. This, I think, is the mistake that a lot of bloggers are making. Anyway…yeah.
Jaybone, see I disagree because I want more subjectivity on the part of music bloggers. I want them to tell me what they thing is good or bad, and not just tell me what is new.