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. We’re bound to miss an excellent article from time-to-time, so definitely leave links to others in the comments. This week, check out five pieces from Complex, The Talkhouse, NPR, the Village Voice, and Pitchfork.
01. “Lean With It: Rap’s Deadly Dance With Syrup” by Rob Kenner, March 20 2013 for Complex Music
Surrounding Lil Wayne’s health scare and recent hospitalization, Complex looks into the cultural history surrounding prescription cough syrup use and the ways it has intersected with rap and hip-hop scenes for decades. “I stopped syrup in May 9 of 2009,” Wayne said in an interview in 2011. “But nobody knew. Because I still rapped about it. Because I respect the culture of where it came from. I still rep that shit.” Rob Kenner interviews Wayne’s friends and music industry affiliates as well as Ray Andrews, the director of Houston Crackdown, an anti-drug task force run by the Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security, who says: “When I was growing up in Houston, the whole cough syrup thing was happening back then. I don’t want to say my age but I’m talking about the early ’70s. And seemingly it’s had a resurgence of late.” Kenner traces the roots of syrup use within music circles and draws connections between the influence it has had on hip-hop aesthetics: “Around the same time this new and improved form of cough syrup was hitting the street, an innovative new style of music was on the rise in Houston,” writes Kenner. “Robert Davis, aka DJ Screw, came up with a woozy slowed-down sound that seemed tailor-made to match the cough-syrup buzz.”
02. “Mish Way > Waxahatchee” for The Talkhouse, March 19, 2013
In last week’s installment of “The Week In Music Writing” we introduced you to a website recently started by Michael Azerrad and Michael Tedder, The Talkhouse, a new platform for artists to write about other artists. This week, Mish Way of White Lung reviews the excellent new Waxahatchee album: “Crutchfield is a fan of Chan Marshall and it shows,” writes Way. “Cerulean Salt feels very What Would the Community Think in structure, but Crutchfield doesn’t share the same current timbre as her hero — she projects as often as she hushes. I imagine that Crutchfield has punched a few girls in the face (which makes me like her even more).” Way eloquently looks into the intricacies of Cerulean Salt, and why its songs are resonating so hard with a current generation of pop fans. For good measure, Way quotes Merchandise singer Carson Cox and pop songwriter Louise Burns, too. Earlier this week Azerrad tweeted this: “White Lung singer Mish Way’s piece about the new Waxahatchee album shows that this Talkhouse site can really work.” He’s right.
03. “The Hazards of Being a Musician Without Health Insurance” by Jessica Hopper, March 19, 2013 for the Village Voice Sound of the City blog
“Ask Fan Landers” is music critic Jessica Hopper’s perpetually spot-on advice column for musicians. This week a musician named Todd writes in and asks, ” What do the more responsible touring musicians use for medical care?” Hopper offers some advice based on first-person experiences and also reaches out to Alex Maiolo, who is a musician and a health insurance consultant for the Future of Music Coalition, for input: “Insure for the worst case scenario. It’s going to be easier for musicians to come up with the $5,000 deductible payment via benefit concerts, rather than half a million dollars for uninsured treatment after the fact.” The column also links off to some helpful websites and resources for artists.
04. “Stevie Nicks: ‘When We Walk Into The Room, We Have To Float In Like Goddesses'” by Ann Powers for NPR Music, March 17, 2013
In advance of Fleetwood Mac’s world tour this year, Stevie Nicks was at SXSW this year to both perform on stage with Dave Grohl as part of his Sound City players, and for an appearance at the Austin Convention Center, where Nicks sat down for an interview with NPR’s Ann Powers. Nicks “changed the game not only for women, but for what you could do in rock as a songwriter and a singer,” writes Powers. “While living in the male-dominated world of the very peak of the music industry in the 1970s, she wrote indelible songs that tell real, true stories, often about the bond between women, and about the life of an adventurer.” The conversation lasted for nearly an hour, and covered “what it takes to sing harmonies, a recent movie that sparked both memories of her own complicated romantic history as well as creative inspiration, the three musicians who provided templates for her style on stage, which Fleetwood Mac rarity the band will perform on its upcoming tour and why, when she and Lindsey Buckingham were being courted by Fleetwood Mac, the band placed the ultimate decision in the hands of Christine McVie.”
05. “Afterword: Jason Molina” by Stephen M. Deusner for Pitchfork, March 19 2013
Following the death of Jason Molina last week, Pitchfork’s Stephen M. Deusner reflects on the singer/songwriter’s life and art. “When I played some of his older material over the last few days, it sounded newly complicated, almost as though he was warning us of something,” writes Deusner. “Sung in a broken croak of a voice, his songs were reports from a lonesome valley. He had scouted ahead and was haunted by what he saw.” He later concludes: “It’s always tempting to re-read a musician’s work in wake of his death, Molina’s life was inevitably bound up in his art. That’s what gave his songs their troubling power. That’s what made us come along for the long drive.” The memorial is followed by a look at 10 of Molina’s greatest albums from his career.