PDA

View Full Version : Who are the best music journalists currently/ever?



Corpsey
15-06-2016, 03:53 PM
Please name and shame, ideally with links to their work and explanations of why you like them.

CrowleyHead
15-06-2016, 08:55 PM
Do we do a schism for people who write on music, music journalists, and bloggers?

Like for example, Luka'd never claim music journalist but I'd hold his thoughts on music with some consideration [/flatter], but I also like things like... IDK, Foucault on women in Opera relating to the perception of the madwoman and what have you, that's not music journalism either...

trza
15-06-2016, 09:19 PM
toop

craner
15-06-2016, 10:09 PM
I still go for the young Paul Morley.

Then Lester Bangs at his most extreme.

Benny B
15-06-2016, 10:23 PM
Lester bangs all day. A music critic that actually admitted when he was wrong (see his amazing pieces on miles davis' on the corner and last exile).
He went to Jamaica and actually met bob Marley, lee Perry and John Martyn on the same trip.
Toured with the clash!
Called out the entire ny punk scene on their racism!
Interviewed kraftwerk!
The whole Lou reed thing!

Noone else from his era came close, forget about boring old greil Marcus. Nick kent was but a pale imitation.
Bangs all day.

droid
15-06-2016, 11:27 PM
Yeah - Bangs - though his Jamaican stuff is pretty funny. Wildly inaccurate & ignorant yet still surprisingly insightful.

Ive had his bio on the go for ages. Its crushingly dull, and quite depressing.

droid
15-06-2016, 11:28 PM
Though I think his influence has generally been negative, toxic even.

luka
15-06-2016, 11:57 PM
Toop is a good call. Early rap book followed by ocean of sound which has aged slightly but felt very important at the time

(thank you crowley. Flattered)

luka
15-06-2016, 11:58 PM
Obviously I'm a big Reynolds supporter.

Sectionfive
16-06-2016, 02:57 AM
Outside of the elaborate sprawling essays on Beyoncé's every move, the present state of music writing is pretty poor imo. Obviously this reflects the wider media situation and I wonder if a lot of stuff is getting captured and hidden away on facebook (or for better or worse we now have direct access to musicians unfiltered opinions) but the magazines only publish a dozen or so worthwhile reads a year now. Only stuff that springs to mind is Melissa Bradshaw's piece (https://mjabradshaw.com/on-the-meaning-of-plastic-people-2015/) on Plastic People, Luis-Manuel Garcia though not a journalist has done great stuff for RA; drugs policies (https://www.residentadvisor.net/features/2577) and sexuality (https://www.residentadvisor.net/features/1927). Aaron Coultate is good on Hunee (https://www.residentadvisor.net/features/2386) and Honest Jons (https://www.residentadvisor.net/features/2076). The Ransom Note (http://www.theransomnote.co.uk/) is usually alright on a similar tip to Faith, London centric House orbit. Jessica Hopper is better (https://www.amazon.com/Collection-Criticism-Living-Female-Critic/dp/0983186332) than most and Laurent Fintoni's longer form stuff is always worth reading like History of the Rewind (https://medium.com/cuepoint/wheel-it-up-history-of-the-rewind-21fdcff243d9#.wrnas14x0). Lauren Martin's dubstep oral history (http://www.vice.com/read/an-oral-history-of-dubstep-vice-lauren-martin-610) too. Actually now that I think about it, the 'history of [scene, city, club]' stuff tends to be quite good especially when it's not rehashing the same old legends. There are thousands of good articles and interviews like that around for whatever you're into but it tends to be scattered across the net with no one doing it on the regular. So history is sort of covered quite well but the current analysis feels a bit lacking, to me at least. Could you point someone towards a rundown of current trends and clubs in [genre x] now if someone asked?

Shame really when ten years ago the sleeve notes people wrote for their 94 jungle bsides played backwards mix on blogspot far exceed the fucking dross that's served up now. Even Blackdown's Burial interviews were something far removed from the 'I met Floating Points and Four tet in their golden palace stuff' that passes for a big feature article today.

luka
16-06-2016, 08:13 AM
there's been a decline in literacy and in the capacity for abstract thought. it's not just music journalism which has suffered.

Corpsey
16-06-2016, 09:23 AM
Bangs is an interesting one, cos he did almost precisely the opposite of what most music journos do now. He didn't try and be 'objective' about music, which resonates with music fans because music fans are NEVER objective about music. This is one problem I have with writing about music. I feel this crushing obligation to be FAIR to whoever I'm writing about.

The other thing about Bangs is that he obviously valued his own opinion in a way that seems impossible to imagine a contemporary music journo doing. He wasn't timid. What he was writing was IMPORTANT (to him, at the very least).

These are characteristics that make him irritating and obnoxious, but you'd rather have that than a thoroughly reasonable bore.

Where can I find early Paul Morley? And David Toop - the Wire archives?

Corpsey
16-06-2016, 09:25 AM
Could you point someone towards a rundown of current trends and clubs in [genre x] now if someone asked?


I used to enjoy Blackdown's Pitchfork column as a round-up of dubstep/grime etc.

Almost forgot to lavishly praise TIM FINNEY!

http://uk.complex.com/music/2013/12/beyonce-beyonce-review

droid
16-06-2016, 10:17 AM
Its all about curation these days. Box set writing. Not just online - the whole biography industry, people like Mark Levinson...

droid
16-06-2016, 10:19 AM
But obvious praise for Finney, Reynolds, Woebot.

rubberdingyrapids
16-06-2016, 10:46 AM
So history is sort of covered quite well but the current analysis feels a bit lacking, to me at least. Could you point someone towards a rundown of current trends and clubs in [genre x] now if someone asked?


i couldnt. not sure what the reason is though. maybe just that everyone is listening to a bit of everything. maybe there are just too many apparent trends for a few to really be singled out or identified. or maybe no one in music journalism has the time, money or inclination anymore.

sadmanbarty
16-06-2016, 11:38 AM
Appreciate the thread, I read about music a lot, but other than Reynolds and a couple of others I haven’t found particular writers that I’ll keep coming back to.

In terms of current writers Lee Arizuno is good. Here are some his dance reviews:

http://thequietus.com/articles/00424-a-guy-called-gerald

http://thequietus.com/articles/12278-rp-boo-legacy-review

http://thequietus.com/articles/07196-rustie-glass-swords-review

That RP Boo review was what initially caught my attention. All the other footwork reviews I can think of focus on the genre’s freneticism whereas Arizuno talks about footwork in terms of emptiness and “stasis”.

Corpsey
16-06-2016, 11:59 AM
Yeah, there are writers I always check out in, say, the LRB/New Yorker - John Lancaster, Clive James, James Woods, Tad Friend, David Remnick. Writers who I can read WHATEVER they write about. But I don't really know of any writers on music who are like that. Apart from Reynolds and Finney.

Oh, and the Martorialist (Marty Macready) http://uk.complex.com/music/2013/07/max-b-25-best-songs/ He writes from a very knowledgeable/geeky perspective, but is also very entertaining.

Actually I like reading Byron Crawford's stuff, as distasteful as some of it is, because he's so no nonsense and loves to take the piss/get a rise. Reading somebody who writes like that, in a completely no-bullshit way, makes me ashamed for trying to write about rap music like I'm in the New Yorker or something.

See his recent review of 'The Silent Partner' by Havoc: http://www.byroncrawford.com/2016/06/havoc-x-the-alchemist-the-silent-partner-album-review.html Which I reviewed, more ponderously, in Crack magazine recently.

One compliment I received from someone I know is that they enjoyed reading my Rick Ross review without having really heard any of his music. But I wonder if that's a good thing?

RE: Luka praise, I agree with Crowley. Another guy who dispenses with over-considerate analysis and 'fairness' and cuts straight to the point. I LOVE U LUKA

luka
16-06-2016, 12:21 PM
thanks mate!

craner
16-06-2016, 12:57 PM
Where can I find early Paul Morley?

I really love his 1986 anthology Ask. All of his other books are unspeakably bad.

Corpsey
16-06-2016, 01:03 PM
I absolutely adore the extreme polarity of that opinion. Is polarity the word? Maybe I just mean extremity.

CrowleyHead
16-06-2016, 02:02 PM
I really love his 1986 anthology Ask. All of his other books are unspeakably bad.

WOW I actually Love the goofy "Pop" book with the metaphor of driving with Kylie Minogue, just because he starts shipping Kylie with Merzbow. Its so absurd and whimsical that I can't help but feel he transcended his theories and his concepts and fully dove into just pleasing himself in a less masturbatory way.

Meanwhile on the flipside, his bauhaus article in Ask is tragic because he doesn't realize he's being had. Penman for me >>> Morley, much as I like both a ton.

I wanna co-sign droid on the negative influence of Bangs; I really do like him but like say, Bukowski or something, people become obsessed with the style and the persona rather than the content and the ideas. Like, even though I'm sure Bangs hated a lot of synthpop, I always look at synthpop the way he looked at early garage rock in "watching kids emulate their heroes ineptly, and the brilliance that emerges". Everyone else is just more or less into the parody of him in Almost Famous... Which is fine, if you need a personality to graft. And in my terribly mediocre attempts at being a music writer I find a lot of them have that struggle.

Toop is great, I know Tompkins basically got a lot of his style straight from one moment in Toop's rap writing. I love reading Kevin Martin's stuff when he was trying to write music, even though its someone playing with Kodwo and Reynolds and Toop concepts badly. So its very relate-able to know "Well if I'm as clumsy as Kevin Martin was at my age, there ya go." Morrissey is a great music writer in the fact that whenever you read his reviews or whatever from when he's a teen, and he's super dismissive, its the most vicious takedowns ever. Wish he would do more, like a monthly column somewhere for IDK, Q or Mojo or whatever magazine where he just remarks on old singles.

I've fawned about Ronin Ro's rap writing anthology "Gangsta" at least a dozen times right? So good. The article about Luke of 2 Live Crew in Japan is such a potent encapsulation of the reality of rap's marketing as a global culture in the early 90s. I'm almost scared to read his non-rap-writing, because I know it'll be shit on a certain level.

Evrett True is good; I loved his Nirvana biography as a teen and while I haven't been able to pick it up again properly its got a warm place in my heart. I also used to love Chuck Klosterman's stuff but ever since he's wanted to become a cultural theorist and blather about whichever, its been pretty downhill in bad takes.

Ian Svenonius from Nation of Ulysses/Make-Up/Weird War is another musician turned music writer and I FUCKING LOVE all of his work. "The Psychic Soviet" is honestly some of the best joke analysis of pop culture through a Marxist lens. The conspiracy that global food trends mirror 1st world Imperialism still both enraptures me and cracks me up and leaves me bemused; but seriously his analysis of early 50s rock is appealing as far as theorems, whether or not you can disprove them or whatever.

I guess Nik Cohn is good? I don't know if I can trust him though, he takes The Who seriously.

I still like Reynolds a lot. I appreciate Chris Ott as a multimedia troll. I like Kodwo as a practitioner even though reading More Brilliant Than The Sun was honestly hugely disappointing.

Oh, Kim Gordon is really good at music writing sometimes, even though she's coming from a 'visual artist' perspective and I've come to really grow sick of Literary and Artistic minds trying to approach music. For example, its telling that I could never take a school class on how to study rap as a music form (and by no means would I want a professor to tell me about why Wayne is good or whatever), but there's always going to be an English seminar about rap as 'poetry'.

I like Greg Tate fine, but following him on Facebook demystifies him and reveals him to be a cornball of the umpteenth degree, that was my fault.

Rap-wise, Noz is good. David Drake is fine. I like Martorialist a lot. I like Hancox and Blackdown's writing/blogging stuff on grime obviously. I liked Lauren Martin's Wiley piece a bunch, but I find her hit or miss. I think Fintoni is out here trying to force back things in the narrative of 'important music' that weren't actually as important as he thinks they were, but I like his writing okay. I'm biased because we're friends but I think Matt Ramirez on Pitchfork will become a good music writer if he buckles down and guns it one day.

Who wrote that long-form article about Quiet Storm for Pitchfork? That was fantastic.

I liked Woebot's stuff a lot but I've fawned on him elsewhere in the board.

I don't know, I guess that's about the best I can think of.

CrowleyHead
16-06-2016, 02:09 PM
OH, and when I read In Their Own Write, I spent fucking whole hours laughing at every absurd OTT thing Julie Burchill wrote. I don't care if I haven't read enough of her isolated writing, I was so consistently side-split.

craner
16-06-2016, 02:39 PM
The thing about Morley that people don't often mention, and is what makes Ask so good, is that he was brilliant at conducting and writing up interviews. I really enjoy his stunt-like, ultra-provocative approach to the game, which is not something Penman really did. Penman was more about words.

CrowleyHead
16-06-2016, 02:46 PM
The thing about Morley that people don't often mention, and is what makes Ask so good, is that he was brilliant at conducting and writing up interviews. I really enjoy his stunt-like, ultra-provocative approach to the game, which is not something Penman really did. Penman was more about words.

Yeah, Penman mined the material, Morley sifted. But I have to say Penman toned down his desire to springboard from material he analyzed into loftier realms of interest at a point, whereas Morley doubled his efforts. Works well for both both choice of preference.

Woebot
16-06-2016, 02:52 PM
trilogy:
simon reynolds
lester bangs
david toop

greil marcus - not so much these days
nik cohn - honorable mention
mike powell - very good taste

Corpsey
16-06-2016, 03:19 PM
Is 'Oceans of Sound' a good starting point with Toop? I'm not interested in ambient music, really, but it seems to be brought up a lot in the links I've followed.

Corpsey
16-06-2016, 03:21 PM
Wanted to mention Neil Kulkarni: http://fuckyouneilkulkarni.blogspot.co.uk/

Doesn't share many tastebuds with me but I find his writing consistently entertaining, even when (or especially when) its at its most enraging.

luka
16-06-2016, 03:25 PM
Is 'Oceans of Sound' a good starting point with Toop? I'm not interested in ambient music, really, but it seems to be brought up a lot in the links I've followed.

It's not about ambient it's about a way of listening

luka
16-06-2016, 03:26 PM
And you must read it. It's a '90s book. (lots of time spent in Japanese zen gardens, neuromancer quotes etc) but a very good one.

sadmanbarty
16-06-2016, 03:27 PM
Is 'Oceans of Sound' a good starting point with Toop? I'm not interested in ambient music, really, but it seems to be brought up a lot in the links I've followed.

Its about music being immersive/oceanic/spacial rather than being about ambient music. So it talks about dub, some dance music and other stuff.

droid
16-06-2016, 03:31 PM
Well, it is about ambient music, but its also about the ambient in different musics.

droid
16-06-2016, 03:33 PM
(necromancer quotes etc)

Yeah, I wasnt too keen on this bit.

http://img10.deviantart.net/41de/i/2012/122/a/4/foul_necromancy_by_mrzarono-d4y9yy8.jpg

luka
16-06-2016, 03:36 PM
Yeah, I wasnt too keen on this bit.

http://img10.deviantart.net/41de/i/2012/122/a/4/foul_necromancy_by_mrzarono-d4y9yy8.jpg

Lol alright smartarse autocorrect dunnit

Corpsey
16-06-2016, 03:38 PM
What did you mean to type?

luka
16-06-2016, 03:40 PM
Neuromancer

Here's the tracklist from the cd that came with the book
https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=ocean+of+sound+tracklist&oq=ocean+of+sound+tracklist&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l2.13674j0j4&client=ms-android-sonymobile&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8#mie=rl%2C%2Cocean%20of%20sound%20tracklist%2CH4s IAAAAAAAAAONgFuLSz9U3MEwrT8k2U0Jia4lmJ1vp55YWZybrJ-YkleZaFefnpRc_YgzgFnj5456wlPukNSevMTpyYVcnpMHF5ppX kllSKSTHxSeFZLAGgxQPFxKfBwDLKWuzhAAAAA

droid
16-06-2016, 03:41 PM
:D

jenks
16-06-2016, 03:52 PM
Neuromancer

Here's the tracklist from the cd that came with the book
https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=ocean+of+sound+tracklist&oq=ocean+of+sound+tracklist&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l2.13674j0j4&client=ms-android-sonymobile&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8#mie=rl%2C%2Cocean%20of%20sound%20tracklist%2CH4s IAAAAAAAAAONgFuLSz9U3MEwrT8k2U0Jia4lmJ1vp55YWZybrJ-YkleZaFefnpRc_YgzgFnj5456wlPukNSevMTpyYVcnpMHF5ppX kllSKSTHxSeFZLAGgxQPFxKfBwDLKWuzhAAAAA

He followed that cd up with a few more:
Crooning on Venus (1996)
Booming on Pluto: Electro for Droids (1997)
Guitars on Mars (1997)
which are all studded with odd connections and beautiful segues.

Corpsey
16-06-2016, 04:19 PM
I enjoyed reading Toop's resignation notice from the WIRE archives.

This rang true for me:


Being a critic is a terrific method for killing your love of art. I like to be taken by surprise, hearing music I love in an unexpected place at an unexpected time and loving it all over again (like The O'Jays last night in a pizza restaurant, or Takemitsu's score for Kurosawa's Ran that I watched on an old tape when I got home, or the Dick Dale title sequence track in Pulp Fiction, shown on TV at an absolutely crucial moment in Ran's final battle scene but demanding attention nonetheless). Most of all, I like the idea of having to say absolutely nothing afterwards. As Toru Takemitsu wrote: "There, confronting it, I resolved to face that silence as long as I can endure it."

Sectionfive
16-06-2016, 04:35 PM
Meant to mention Bill Brewster as well though he doesn't write as much now and has wound down the DJhistory website. Hancox did a great profile on Skepta last year for The Fader, I think. Definitely one of the best pieces among the current slew of grime coverage. Sherburne had a decent run of US centric stuff a while back

stephenk
16-06-2016, 04:39 PM
i always liked kodwo

PiLhead
16-06-2016, 07:52 PM
of current practitioners:

Clive Martin might be the best generator of sentences as sentences - and has an admirable commitment to going out in the field for his stories, getting in the thick of scenes

Mike Powell is elegant and does "personal" very well

conversely Anwyn Crawford does that slightly chilly impersonal authority thing very well, and is good at controlled anger

James Parker at Tiny Mix Tapes (a lot of the TMT writers do amazing things with language but don't exactly excel at communication, but i can generally understand what James is saying - which is not the same as agreeing with it)

Nick Sylvester has done some great stuff, seems to be retired now

Meaghan Garvey at Pitchfork seems very smart and perceptive

You gotta give it up for Adam Harper at least on the level of total mastery of the field he's chosen and connecting the micro-underground to other art forms. He has taken the genreological taxonomic side of post-90s electronic criticism about as far as possible or desirable. But although his 'thing' can seem a bit dry, he can also describe music in a really hallucinatory way (oddly perhaps given that he seems to have a distaste for that banging hedonistic side of club music)
http://www.electronicbeats.net/adam-harper-recommends-arcas-xen/


I do find with current music writing that a lot of it is almost too knotty with thought and also densely laden with the facty fruits of research... what's missing too often is the visceral element, the physical power of music, its ability to dominate and mess around your emotions... and also going out into the world and observing how people behave and the ways they use music

so there's too much criticism and not enough reporting

rubberdingyrapids
16-06-2016, 08:47 PM
I do find with current music writing that a lot of it is almost too knotty with thought and also densely laden with the facty fruits of research... what's missing too often is the visceral element, the physical power of music, its ability to dominate and mess around your emotions... and also going out into the world and observing how people behave and the ways they use music

i find this too.
a lot of writers seem quite fixed on sounding clever or want to sound a bit high brow. like they all secretly want to get a job at a broadsheet. the 'pop' (for lack of a better word - i dont necessarily mean smash hits) mentality has gone. which is good as before it was easy to say people werent taking music seriously. a lot of people like to say how pre-net 1990s/2000s music mags were often shit for writing, but a lot of mags were at least more 'fun' to read. or maybe its just that the immediacy of music writing has gone now that everyone can hear the music for themselves, and the net allows every album to get a 1000 word review, as opposed to something more concise, pithy, and a length more appropriate to the quality/content. everything is taken very seriously, when perhaps... it doesnt need to be.

Leo
01-07-2016, 04:31 PM
not in praise of a particular writer, but thought i'd share a great first line that appears in a singles review today on resident advisor:

"In the holiday resort that is dance music, Filter Dread is a German tourist: he got his beach towel onto a good deckchair early and he's not moving till its time to go home."

luka
01-07-2016, 04:51 PM
Clive Martin might be the best generator of sentences as sentences - and has an admirable commitment to going out in the field for his stories, getting in the thick of scenes

cant take him seriously, such a drip

CrowleyHead
01-07-2016, 05:17 PM
http://pitchfork.com/features/underscore/8822-the-quiet-storm/

THIS was what I was talking about. Stellar.

rubberdingyrapids
11-07-2016, 03:21 PM
http://laurasnapes.tumblr.com/post/119299390972/enough-or-my-experiences-with-the-middle-aged


Enough with retrospective panels about music journalism (I could stop right there) led by middle-aged white men (and again) who crusade against online music writing (in the form of a sole scape-goated young writer) despite clearly not having read any.

“Where are all the professional music journalists going to come from now?” There’s no such qualification (and never was, other than misplaced ego), to the form’s great benefit.

Enough with the falsehood that in the good ol’ days, opportunity to get read and paid and forge relationships with editors was open to all as opposed to today’s so-called unpaid, untethered digital wasteland. Literally a few dozen people had the privilege of passing through those storied music magazine newsrooms, and they were 95% the same kind of person, to the form’s great detriment.

If you still use “Buzzfeed” as a pejorative, you’re betraying both your prejudices, fear and ignorance. See also: “where are all the political bands?”

Enough with conferences that focus on music journalism’s past, and how much better it was. Enough with giving the old British rock writer hegemony the platforms to dominate these events. If the future doesn’t fit your programme – and in a way that’s not doomsdaying – scrap it.

Realise that the next wave of great music writers a) probably won’t just write about music, b) probably couldn’t care less about becoming part of the legacy you’ve appointed yourselves, because they have their own smarter, more inclusive, more astute, more representative things going on.

Enough with the idea that online music writing is confusing and lacks consensus. What is it that you’re looking for? Hand-holding? Some kind of consumer guide? Did you used to buy all the music papers? No? Exactly. Curate your own damn experience. Read challenges to your existence. Death to the idea of there being a few totemic gatekeepers dictating the dialogue.

~~~

Saying all that, tbh I’m delighted that these old men fear the internet as it more swiftly determines their impending obsolescence.

All of this underlines just how badly we need an EMP equivalent here. Who’s in?


a year old but still, lol