Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hello World

This is a brave time to get into reviewing music, I know. A few years ago, I had the sense that there was major movement happening among people who loved music. That is, people who placed its artistic value above its entertainment value, who took interest in a more diverse musical landscape than the major labels had to offer. While the majors collapsed under their own weight, all the while kicking and screaming and pointing their fingers at Napster, I began to take notice just how much interesting stuff there was out there. I've long suspected that major labels' war on piracy had little to do with revenue lost on CD sales (not that it didn't matter) and much to do with the fact that people were suddenly exposed to a far greater diversity of music driven by word of mouth, making the music industry's traditional marketing channels obsolete.

What I do know is that I wasn't the only one reveling in this discovery. There was a period when my brother, a friend of ours and myself were traveling once, twice a week, ignoring our need for sleep, to Portland to join packed venues for the likes of Spoon, The New Pornographers, Built to Spill, Sleater-Kinney, Broken Social Scene, Wolf Parade (the list goes on, of course). We reluctantly accepted the "Indie Rock" label, not because it was descriptive of the music itself, but because it was the easiest way to give a name to this something that was happening. That something was fresh, authentic, decidedly un-commercial and fearlessly optimistic. For young, creative people disgusted by a commercial culture that seemed bent on lowering our expectations, it was amazing to see so many like-minded people in one place.

There's another side to that coin. Any time a subculture starts to seem cool, corporate America takes notice and people start to latch on for coolness alone. I secretly enjoy hearing songs I like in iPod commercials, but it does worry me that this might erode the music's message. While it's encouraging to see more people embracing more sophisticated tastes in music, it's easier to listen to music than it is to pick up the mantle of its cultural ethos. And inevitably, the big backlash ensues, alienating those of us who genuinely take bone-quivering pleasure in music most people think is weird. Throw in a nasty recession, and voila, the wind vanishes from our sails.

Well, not entirely. I think that's the beautiful thing about it. People keep expressing their talents, and new ideas keep emerging. It just gets a little harder to cut through the crap and find the stuff that's really meaningful. I take the perspective that art never exists in a vacuum - it's inexorably tied to culture, culture, culture. What warrants any value judgment is how authentically it expresses its originating ethos, and within that framework, how worthwhile the direction its message pushes its recipients.

If I can offer one fearless insight into my blog's future, it will be this: Most of my reviews will be overwhelmingly positive. Nobody's giving me any free advance records (yet). I don't have the time nor the money to review everything I might want to or buy every new album. Within these limitations, I don't buy an album or go to a concert unless I'm pretty sure I'm going to like it.Yes, I'll let you know if I'm disappointed.

Also, my postings will probably be only occasional, but if you're a friend or family member, I'll let you know when I write something new.

Keep reading. I hope you enjoy.

P.S. If I die, or for any other reason am unable to renew my domain name, please visit my blog via (

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