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 Style.com, SPIN, Pitchfork, Billboard Biz, and Maura.
“True Grimes: The stranger-than-fiction story of the girl rewriting the sound of pop music from a laptop somewhere in Western Canada” by Jonathan Durbin for Style.com
As Grimes has become more of an inspiration and general favorite within the fashion world, Style.com sent one of their reporters to her home in Canada to write this long-form profile, one of the best pieces on Grimes to date. Jonathan Durbin talks to Claire Boucher about her beginnings in the world of experimental pop, how her music has become intersected with the worlds of fashion and branding, and more. He also spoke with Donatella Versace, one of her fashion-world fans: “Grimes isn’t interested in being a product. She is sincere, loyal, and authentic,” says Versace. “I know that I’m hearing something new and sensational when listening to [her]. I haven’t felt this way about a musician for a long time.”
“Tyler, The Creator, ‘Wolf’” reviewed by Jessica Hopper for SPIN
This week for SPIN, Jessica Hopper reviews Tyler the Creator’s new record, writing that “his whole origin story was how this skate-rat outsider cracked the Billboard Top 10 and scored an MTV Video Music Award with a record that he’d made in a garage with his friends; but now he’s ceded all that to become an incorrigible insider, making studio albums with marquee names (Pharrell, a wasted Erykah Badu, his Grammy-nommed cohort Ocean), boasting of his money and copious tour strange, whinging about the burdens of fame.” Hopper points out the record’s “most grievous misstep” — Tyler’s “defiant use of the word ‘faggot.'” Tyler has tried to defend his use of the term (“I wasn’t using ‘fag’ to refer to gay people,” he recently told LA Weekly) but Hopper calls him out for it: “Tyler wants to have it both ways: going for low blows and playing ignorant, as if a young straight man can recontextualize a slur that has been used to humiliate and dehumanize gay people for decades, despite using that word just like the people who mean it do.” She also makes a point about its place in a greater context of the queering of hip-hop: “In an age when the queering of hip-hop is one of the genre’s biggest stories (ironically, one that Odd Future’s out members, Syd the Kid and Frank Ocean, have helped push forward), Tyler’s insistence on using ‘fag’ just to show how transgressive he is leaves him in the dust, as the real punks (Le1f, Angel Haze, Mykki Blanco, Frank, et al.) truly advance the game.”
“Rilo Kiley: rkives” by Carrie Battan for Pitchfork
Carrie Battan reviews rkives, a recently released collection of unreleased Rilo Kiley rarities recorded before the band broke up in 2007. Battan contextualizes the re-issues album by reflecting on the early aughts cultural ephemera of Livejournal. She also spends some time considering the ways Jenny Lewis has inspired contemporary songwriters like Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee. “The archive, which is out on bassist Pierre de Reeder’s tiny label, tells a story of the group before Lewis got an expensive haircut,” writes Battan. “Before their music played in scenes of ‘Gossip Girl’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, before they signed to Warner Bros., before Ben Gibbard and Zooey Deschanel broke up (or even met). Before we collectively shuttered our Livejournals.”
“The State Of Music Writing, Musicians Writing” by Michael Azerrad for Billboard Biz
Michael Azerrad talks about his new website, The Talkhouse, in the context of the state of music writing in general. He compares the state of music writing in recent years to what happened to music in the ’80s: “now, for many years, there have been more independent releases than major label releases. There’s been a glut of music, and the proportion of good stuff to, well, let’s just call it “the other stuff” is basically the same. So there’s vastly more music to wade through. And now the same is true of music criticism: now that anybody can do it, everybody is doing it. That’s proven to be a double-edged sword.”
“Like You” by Maura Johnston for Maura Magazine
A few weeks ago, we told you about the new music/arts journalism project of former Village Voice Music Editor Maura Johnston. The mag is available only via iPhone and iPad app, with weekly issues of long-form writing on music and culture. In this week’s issue, Maura Johnston reflects on “Spectacle,” the Museum of the Moving Image’s recent exhibition on the music video. “I cried four times while walking around ‘Spectacle’,” starts Johnston. “Maybe five. The first time was definitely in the strangest place: The exhibit has one room that’s set up to mimic a peep show, with holes in the walls allowing glimpses at those videos that, over the years, have stoked controversy for whatever reason.” Read more here and get the app here.