Welcome to this week’s installment of The Week In Music Writing. Every Sunday, we’re gathering an unranked list of five recommended music-related pieces from the past seven days. (Delayed this week due to SXSW chaos. Sorry!) We’re bound to miss an excellent article from time-to-time, so definitely leave links to others in the comments. Below, check out five pieces from Pitchfork, Maura Magazine, The Talkhouse, Grantland, and BuzzFeed.
1. “The Out Door: Imagined Communities” by Marc Masters and Grayson Currin for Pitchfork
This installment of Pitchfork’s recurring series on underground/experimental music starts with a discussion of Lynn Fister a/k/a Aloonaluna’s new book/double cassette released on her own small-run press/label Watery Starve Press. Her book discusses the collective consciousness she feels with other female artists: “There’s something about the female experience that feels shared, no matter how imaginary it may be.” Masters looks into classifying shared experiences as “imaginary” and how that can allow us to “discuss them without boxing people into them.” This installment of The Out Door also looks into the works of solo cellists Helen Money and Julia Kent, new Sublime Frequencies compilations of Korean 78s, and an “exploration of the divide between composition and improvisation with drone pioneer Yoshi Wada.”
2. “The Definite Article” by Dale W. Eisinger for Maura Magazine
In the most recent issue of former Village Voice editor Maura Johnston’s new app-based magazine, Dale W. Eisinger takes a hyper-specific but intriguing look into the meaning of the word “The” in band names, interviewing everyone from The So So Glos and The Hives to Tyler Schnoebelen, a Ph.D. student researching sociolinguists who has researched this topic in depth, and Jesse Shiedlower, the editor-at-large of the Oxford English Dictionary. “Leaving ‘the’ off or including it makes some kind of rhetorical point,” says Shiedlower. “The plurality is important.” Eisinger traces back the roots of “the” in band names to orchestras and big bands of the 19th and early 20th century. Boston Globe language columnist Ben Zimmer points out that “The” bands became most popular in the mid-1960s. Eisinger writes: “Notably, this is the era where bands started congealing around egos, political distinctions, or aesthetic division, rather than technical prowess – a rubric arguably set by The Beatles.”
3. “Dean Wareham > Richard Hell” on The Talkhouse, 3/16/13
Author Michael Azerrad and music writer Michael Tedder have started an inspired new website for the music world, The Talkhouse, featuring music reviews written only by musicians. “Naturally, no one knows more about music than musicians,” reads the website’s “About Us.” The site will allow comments, but only from the musician being written about, in order to “promote dialogue between musicians who may never have interacted otherwise.” The site has already published posts ranging from Jarett Dougherty of Screaming Females writing about Swearin’, to Andrew W.K. on Robert Pollard. The entire site is worth perusing, but if you’re looking for a place to start, a good launching point is this piece on Richard Hell’s memoir I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp penned by Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500, Luna, and Dean & Britta. (Wareham has also published a memoir of his own with the publisher Penguin.) “Hell covers a similar time and place as Patti Smith’s Just Kids,” writes Wareham. “But where Smith’s book is all about innocence and art and her quest for sacred poetry, Hell mixes the high and the low to enjoyable effect,” he continues, noting that “the heart of the book is Hell’s friendship with Tom Verlaine.”
4. “The Nobituary: David Bowie” by Chuck Klosterman and Alex Pappademas for Grantland
On June 27, 2012, the editors of Grantland received what they thought was a reliable tip that David Bowie was about to die. Naturally, they promptly began writing an obituary. They decided to do this in the form of a series of emails between Chuck Klosterman and Alex Pappademas. Luckily, Bowie didn’t actually pass away, but the emails about his legacy continued for seven months. Surrounding the release of his latest album, Grantland published the lengthy transcript of emails.
5. “Justin Timberlake Is A Luxury Brand” by Matthew Perpetua for BuzzFeed
Surrounding Justin Timberlake’s return to music after a six-year hiatus, Matthew Perpetua looks as his latest single “Suit & Tie” and analyzes the role of image and fashion in the way Timberlake is purposefully “positioning himself as a luxury brand,” shaping his identity to be all about “dressing up” and “being classy.” “It’s basically an issue of GQ adapted as a pop song,” writes Perpetua. It’s interesting that Perpetua also talks about the song in the context of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop”: “Whereas Timberlake is nudging the listener to aspire to his A-lister lifestyle, Macklemore is encouraging them to feel good about themselves despite their economic circumstances, and to define their style in their own idiosyncratic ways rather than to adhere to stuffy, rigid notion of style designed to keep out the riffraff. There’s always room for fantasy and aspirational values in pop … but there’s a good chance that at this moment, people relate more to a sort of swag that doesn’t require a total suspension of disbelief.”
What did we miss? Let us know in the comments.