By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
By Ray Cummings
By Nicholas Pell
There is something pathological, not to mention strangely ascetic (or maybe just plain lazy?), about obsessively and sullenly waiting with arms crossed and lips pursed for some mythical (hence, probably imaginary) Great Album and nothing less. That's got so little to do with how I experience music, with how most people I know experience music, it leaves me dizzy. I mean, fuck a Great AlbumI never liked them much anyway. Great Albums are work. Transcendence is stressful. Good albums are fun, and so are good songs.
Sunnyside, New York
Ten years ago, "Since U Been Gone" would've felt like a "personal cause" sort of vote if I had included it in my Top 10, but such thinking no longer applies. The whole field's so wide open noweveryone likes something of everything, basically (which isn't to say there aren't some curmudgeonly holdouts still milling about waging their wars against popmy thoughts go out to them)that it feels like a completely useless stance (the fact that it was something of stance for me at one point is something I'm not remotely proud of, not that I think I was all that insufferable about it).
Unless you're functioning on the British model of immediacy, transcendence, and evanescence, then criticism requires an element of rigor: Not just What-does-this-sound-like?, but Who-are-these-people? And blogging is usually an act of immediate consideration, founded more in sensation than sense, and more likely to assume a polar position for the sake of rhetorical commotion and page hits. Plenty of good bloggers are bad writers and worse critics.
The current vogue in review of writing around instead of about music yields few rewards. So something this year as articulately tethered to the ear's experience as David Fricke on My Morning Jacket's Z (in Rolling Stone) really stood out. Among longer pieces, there was Nathan Brackett on 50 Cent's album a review (also RS) which seemed, among other good things, the definitive delineation of that star's persona. And then there was Ben Ratliff's extraordinary Blender piece on Mars Volta. Reckoning that musical structure is older and more durable than ripped T-shirts, the piece was neither anti-punk nor especially pro-prog, just unhypnotized by agenda or sentiment or lack of pre-blog writerly ambition.
Red House, West Virginia
I recently read a review of the new My Morning Jacket album in L magazine where staff music crit Mike Conklin disses David Fricke. When you get C- grade writers throwing jabs at guys who have been on their beat since twats like Conklin were sucking on their mama's titty, it makes me wanna burn my press card and call it a day.
Westbury, New York
Words and phrases I overused in my music reviews in 2005:
3. the next reggaeton
4. [name of album] is the sound of [name of band] reinventing themselves/rediscovering themselves/falling apart in front of you
5. unlike the horribly overrated Gwen Stefani
Los Angeles, California
Considering it was my No. 1 album of 2005, I should probably say something nice about Sigur Ros' Takk.... Unfortunately, every time I try to write something, I find that it's indistinguishable from a description of a really crappy album by Mum.
Every time I try to explain to a friend why the Animal Collective CD is so wonderful, words fail me. As a critic, I love that.
Saugerties, New York
In the 20 or so years I've participated, you've never used any of my comments, so I'll make like a lot of artists we talk with and say the music speaks for itself.
Los Angeles, California
I do not write about "pop culture," I write about music. It is made with notes, not with cultural artifacts. "Pop culture," as I understand the term, sounds like televisable gossip.
Writing about music is like riding a bicycle. Except that when you think you no longer have any idea how to do it anymore it's like changing the tires, replacing the brakes, oiling the chain, and re-adjusting the handlebars on the bicycle (and then deciding in the end, ah fuck it, let's just take the car instead).
White, male, 28 y.o., straight, urbanite. Scared of most other rock critics. Very happy to have a full-time job wholly unrelated to rock criticism, and to remain on the sidelines of the "industry."
I'm the first to admit that my favorite records aren't necessarily the best. Perhaps that's why I hate voting. Then, I think, everyone will not only suspect I am an idiot and have terrible taste, they will know the truth. After all, those on my list are just what I felt like listening to more often than anything else. I don't even think they are the best things released this year. I am sure there are better, more interesting, more complete records, but I am old and increasingly lazy. I like what I like and I like to listen to it over and over and over.