Robert Wohner

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The “What it means to be a black man in America” record needs to go away of the “Movie about the first black (insert X)”. Music needed ASAPRocky’s and Meek and hopefully Kanye’s albums. Music isn’t at its best when it’s directed for the basic Slate reader.

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July 1, 2015 on Status Ain’t Hood: Meek Mill Is Extremely Good At Rapping

Wait a minute. Three albums of the same? I have to be misreading that. Antidotes sounds like TLF which sounds like Holy Fire? Meaning you could interchange the tracks from one to another and not notice a difference? Come on. That’s obviously not right. Feel free not to like Foals but that doesn’t make sense. The four biggest Foals songs: Electric Bloom, Two Steps Twice, Spanish Sahara and My Number don’t sound anything like each other. Yeesh.

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June 16, 2015 on Foals – “What Went Down”

The only American band that can play in an arena today is Imagine Dragons. Strange comment. This track is better suited for a knife fight. It’s awesome.

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June 16, 2015 on Foals – “What Went Down”

Beau Biden’s death is ridiculously sad. No one really cares for the AG of Delaware but it was hard to hear myself. It must be cool to have a chance to respond to that death in a meaningful way. Beautiful performance. If you’re looking for a moment to do a career analysis of Chris Martin, be assured you’ll have hundreds of chances in the future. Not sure why this has to be another time. His music was written for moments like this, not a better Metacritic score and I’m sure the Bidens are grateful.

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June 7, 2015 on Watch Chris Martin Perform “Til Kingdom Come” At Beau Biden’s Funeral

It’s funny how the pro-streaming crowd says, “Music is changing.” But once something new comes along (Tidal) they crave for its failure, having embraced the new status quo (Spotify). Everything doesn’t have to be so all-in or all-out. I like Spotify. I’m comfortable with that choice. Tidal’s existence doesn’t compromise that.

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April 14, 2015 on Ben Gibbard Thinks Tidal Is Dumb, Too

Great video. Billy Corgan is the best.

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April 3, 2015 on Watch The Smashing Pumpkins Go Electric On Fallon, Acoustic On Good Morning America

You’re right, there’s a lot of places to take this record. So it’s too early to say if it’s “good” or “bad”. But my first real thought was how rap music for non-black audiences has to sound bleak. Which sucks. When artists simply can be ambassadors for their neighborhoods or cities or their own aesthetic, they get to be more technical or humorous or with more swagger. Which is great. But when artists have to represent and articulate systematic injustice through art because the critical response will be determined by the outside, it’s heavy. And I feel for him. And while he did so in a way I’m proud of and admire, it does make me sad. Because Kendrick can showcase a lot musically beyond what he did with To Pimp a Butterfly. And it’s almost not his fault why he can’t. This message is too urgent to approach in a way that doesn’t reflect that urgency. The tradeoff is sacrificing some of the ways rap music is compelling.

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March 17, 2015 on Premature Evaluation: Kendrick Lamar To Pimp A Butterfly

The Viet Cong and Compton have very little in common themselves except in this way: Tompkins Square Park and Compton are places people live. Like the Viet Cong, they’ve histories that supersede our watermark. I’m from Queens. The last time I was in TSP was to eat free Two Boots pizza and watch random free movie in the park. It’s a nice memory but my affinity for that place is a casual one. That doesn’t mean I can’t honor its history or the people for whom that place matters. Because it does to a lot of people for a lot of really beautiful and sinister reasons. It’s a part of the City I’m accountable. So for me, or a band, or any creative, to claim the history of Tompkins Square Park as some sort of musical trope for reinvention is actually offensive. Mumford and Sons disgust me.

Here’s a great article from the Village Voice exploring why it matters TSP isn’t used to sell advertising for Target or Comcast Cable, which is what Mumford and Sons will do with their music: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2014/12/a7-nyhc-tony-rettman.php

If Iggy Azalea named an album Compton, this wouldn’t be debated as “identity politics”. It’d be easy to explain why that’s really lame. You’d not be defending her. This isn’t at all different.

Stereogummers like hiphop. Others support hardcore music. That we don’t the Vietnamese is totally fine. But that doesn’t make the principle any different. Compton is real. Hardcore is real. The Vietnamese are real. We can’t pick and choose which parts get to be bastardized.

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March 4, 2015 on 01-viet-cong-portland-mississippi-studios

Cute quote. (“We should change our name to Old Man Fashioning a Kayak. No one will get offended by that!”) This obviously isn’t the audience but, I’ll say: this is DEFCON1 Whiteness. Which might be difficult to explain but I’ll try. Defending Viet Cong, the band, would mean you’d have defend Iggy Azalea naming a band “Compton”. You’d have to defend Mumford and Sons writing songs called “Tompkins Square Park.” Which, okay… none are intrinsically “offensive”. All can be defended! But the Viet Cong, Compton and Tompkins Square Park aren’t conceptual things to pleasure yourselves to from the cocoon of your own obliviousness.

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March 4, 2015 on 01-viet-cong-portland-mississippi-studios

Love Pulp. Definitely enjoyed Stereogum’s Britpop Week.

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March 3, 2015 on Viet Cong Show Cancelled Because Of Offensive Band Name

I didn’t use the word “offensive”. So we’re agreed. Even accepting your premise that “all” bands do it, let’s just say that not all artists need the extra credibility. If you’re middle class from the suburbs, yeah, maybe you do need the extra help. And call yourself Savages. Or Cults. Or Viet Cong. Those don’t offend me. Hypothetically, they don’t have to offend anyone. But when encountered with their music, I listen to Common People by Pulp and drink a rum and coca cola.

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March 3, 2015 on Viet Cong Show Cancelled Because Of Offensive Band Name

Uh, not quite. You’re right… but again, using a reference you might appreciate more: if a band called themselves the Chris Kyles, it’d be lame. Regardless of whether you view him as a hero or villian. Chris Kyle got his kills. He pulled the trigger. They just learned C, G and D chords. It’s a cheap association. It’s lame.

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March 3, 2015 on Viet Cong Show Cancelled Because Of Offensive Band Name

Ignoring the history of the Viet Cong or the right of a band to take that name, I’m so unimpressed by artists who copy/paste/hijack any (for better or worse) ;egacy from actual people or movements who actually did the dirty work for themselves . The Viet Cong weren’t “badasses” in movies, they were “badasses” in real life, with real consequences. The U.S. military earned whatever connotation you want to give them. Hamas, the Viet Cong, the Gestapo, whomever. Building their names cost them something. History and we can judge them accordingly. To appropriate that legacy for some sort of sinister credibility you did nothing to earn and you can’t even adequately articulate what credibility you thought you were stealing for some sort of artistic vision is pathetic.

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March 3, 2015 on Viet Cong Show Cancelled Because Of Offensive Band Name

Great question/comment, Stereogum, about the physical presence in Purity Ring’s lyrics. Which, not to belabor the point, is what elevates their music from the new CRJ and similar sterile music. Music elicits physical reactions. Whether gospel music makes people raise hands or the b-52s making people want to find their own Love Shack, music has to acknowledge the body’s response to it. He’s a super talented man but Sam Smith’s whole image is the abandonment of the one-night stand. Which is fine. But it’s not really necessary and avoids a tension that ought not be avoided. The mix between the physical reactions to really beautiful, almost surreal, situations is potent and an essential part of what makes Purity Ring an awesome band. Wishing them a lot of success.

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March 3, 2015 on Q&A: Purity Ring On Indie Vs. Pop, “Hey There Delilah,” And Another Eternity

I’m sure we both can name songs on the continuum of sexualized to prude, so I agree, there’s no need to go back and forth. But let’s stick with Katy Perry. Birthday wasn’t a massive song. That doesn’t define where she is now. For example: she played the biggest televised event of the year, Super Bowl half-time show. She came out with a fun house of colorful left sharks. And then come out like a nun in white. It was safe Katy Perry. Which is fine. It’s the world we live in. Naturally, she had to bring in a black performer 15 years past her time to provide any aggression, any sex appeal, anything remotely not approved for corporate consumption. That’s not unintentional. Remember, not five years ago, Madonna and MIA performed at the Super Bowl. I repeat….radical lefty M.I.A. played the Super Bowl. We’re not even CLOSE to that kind of world anymore. Now we’ve glorified youth pastors Imagine Dragons topping the Billboard 200. I refuse to get excited about this music.

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March 2, 2015 on Carly Rae Jepsen – “I Really Like You”

Mumford and Sons wrote a song called Tompkins Square Park. Please don’t make me use words to describe how that feels.

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March 2, 2015 on Mumford & Sons Announce Electric Third Album Wilder Mind

I don’t hate pop music. Carly Rae Jepsen’s first album was really enjoyable. Max Martin is a true professional. They made a professional sounded pop song that’s effective. What I really react against isn’t the genre. I react to how virginal pop music is. From Passion Pit’s 1985. Or everything by Sam Smith. Nate Ruess’s new song. CRJ is 29. Not 15. This is Radio Disney music adults are pleasuring themselves to, by what…holding hands? Updating our away messages on AIM? Let’s graduate to 3rd base, please. Fiona Apple could write a song like the First Taste, which is genuinely alluring, musically interesting, well sung, at 17…while today’s adults give us tracks like “I Really Like You” doesn’t make sense. We’re celebrating intentionally tame music. Can’t do it. Listen to Can’t Fight the Moonlight.

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March 2, 2015 on Carly Rae Jepsen – “I Really Like You”

I just don’t think there’s a reason to frame Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm as a musical failure or success generationally. Because the album makes personal moments feel meditative and massive. I’ve never considered my appreciation of that record in the context of other bands or a particular scene. This Modern Love means the world to me because it elevates my thoughts on the people and things and ways I care about them. That’s enough.

That said, SA slays. It rocks better. Does anthems better. Does UK pop better. “It’s so cold in this house…” is a call to arms few releases have summoned me with more power. I love it.

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February 13, 2015 on Silent Alarm Turns 10

Definitely don’t want to take anything away from Annie Clark. Her work and her show speak for itself. My point about Logic is moreso to say that these festival lineups feel copy-pasted to the point it’s hard to tell one from the other. Which isn’t necessary. There are plenty of artists with (relatively) solid sales to prove they’ve a right to perform. No festival would ever consider booking Wale, let alone a headlining spot? His sales are massive. Lecrae, acknowledging that he isn’t in the demo, probably has outsold all but four acts at Governor’s Ball. Tinashe had just as big of a year as Sharon Van Etten. Mayer Hawthorne gets booked for shows when KRIT is MIA. I’m not trying to emphasize black or “urban” artists but I’ll say there’re plenty of performers critics and the public agree are fine that aren’t reflected in how festivals are curated. I’m a fan of UK music like Friendly Fires, Frightened Rabbit, Bombay Bicycle Club. I’ve really no expectation to see them at a festival this summer. Don’t get it.

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January 7, 2015 on Coachella Vs. Governors Ball: The 2015 Lineup War

Random thoughts on your random thoughts:

– Drake and Kanye both have enough hits in the cultural consciousness, but seeing Kanye Post-Yeezus at Made in America made me appreciate being a fan after his divisive work. Everyone there really gets him and is ready to blow. Drake is a massive success for people who haven’t been challenged yet to consider the artist he is/can be. Which should keep the urgency low.

– Logic probably doubled St. Vincent’s album sales.

– Porter Robinson tweeted he’s bringing his live show to Coachella. That’s the best thing happening. Take my word for it.

– This is the lineup that finally folds Governor’s attempt at being New York’s festival. All Points West failed, but at least it failed after delivering massive bands. JayZ. Coldplay. Radiohead. Artic Monkeys. The National. MGMT when they were the hottest act. This looks like a CMJ lineup plus Drake. And your rap comment was right. Randall’s Island is South of the Bronx and west of Queensbridge. It’s embarrassing.

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January 7, 2015 on Coachella Vs. Governors Ball: The 2015 Lineup War