Welcome to the fourth 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 ego trip, Pigeons & Planes, Grantland, SPIN, and the Huffington Post.
This week we ranked the 10 best Biggie songs in honor of the 16th anniversary of his passing but we, of course, were not the only ones with tribute material. Rap journalism renegades ego trip posted a grip of nostalgia pieces, as well as this interview with Ebon Heath from renowned design studio (((stereotype))). While this is not the typical flavor of music writing we feature in this column, the information on what goes into designing an album cover, especially in a time when analog was the way and images were crucial, is fascinating.
Last week, I saw Wampire, Foxygen, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra perform at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom. Foxygen, who I had already gotten strong vibes of the Velvet Underground meets Bob Dylan from, were dishing out straight punk rock belligerence that was seemingly gleaned, almost to a tee, from the on-stage banter in the X documentary The Unheard Music. Caitlin White, who wrote this essay on the mixed up state of indie rock, was my +1 — full disclosure, I am posting a link to something written by a friend — and she enjoyed their set but was frustrated by their inability to evolve the sound they are so clearly influenced by. Here, she attacks the problems with throwback tunes and what it means about creativity, creation, and the evolution of, for lack of a better term, alternative rock. Whether you agree with White or not, this is a great piece to jump-start a bigger discussion about what we’re consuming.
Alex Pappademas is a masterful critic who deftly reflects on the deeper aspects of pop music. With this piece, he tackles Beck’s legacy since his breakout hit “Loser.” From reminding us that Beck’s sheet music album was called a “Portlandia joke” by the remarkable critic Geeta Dayal to the background of the incredible feat that was recording Mutations in two weeks, there’s a lot to take in here. Pappademas warms us into remembering why we never want to look away from Beck’s career.
Indie listeners still have a big heart for R&B sounds, but this week, SPIN’s David Marchese spoke to the man who worked with so many artists whose rock albums were influenced by the genre. Swamp Dogg is responsible for a legion of records, including Kid Rock’s Devil Without A Cause. If that’s a deterrent, Marchese’s prose and the commentary on how to work with a Wurlitzer make this one of the most engaging pieces that was published this week. Lovers of the word “motherfucker” best get to reading, too.
OK, fine. This is not writing. At all. But we’re teetering on the precipice of SXSW and a lot of the work that goes into longform writing has been redirected to figuring out which showcases you’ll drink all the AquaHydrate at. This is a taste of an awesome new feature on the Huffington Post where they flip The Newlywed Game into a test for bandmates and their knowledge of each other’s pasts. Last week featured Mary Timony and this week, we got Kathleen Hanna and Kathi Wilcox currently of the Julie Ruin and classically of the riot grrl high priestesses Bikini Kill talking about their history.
Let us know in the comments which pieces we didn’t mention that you loved this week.