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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Other bloggers said it better

I was going to write about this "urbane tomboy" crap today, but the AV Club Hater pretty much sums up my exact thoughts.

I didn't know that not being a lesbian while not wearing a dress is a trend, but that's why I read: to learn. Apparently, though, sometimes these Urbane Tomboys (UTs) wear dresses. So what defines them? Um, basically everything. And at the same time nothing. This is a trend I can get behind: basic human existence.

You're an UT if you sometimes wear make-up, but also if you sometimes leave the house bare-faced; if you wear sneakers, but sometimes dress up. In short: if you're alive.

Also: Carrie Brownstein's post (on her always wonderful Monitor Mix blog for NPR) about what it means to review a record is the perfect expression of something I've been thinking about a long time. In the almost three years I've been editing the music section at DCist, I've never really enjoyed writing album reviews. For this reason. I think concert reviews are a different animal — it's a retelling of an experience that's physical, auditory, personal, social. There are a lot of things to talk about. The context of that show won't change on re-listening. I can't go to that exact same show again two years from now and compare my first experience to the second.

With an album, you're just trying to somehow articulate your relationship with this thing that someone's created. Because of the way blogs and all that work, you're writing about your first, immediate reaction. You could listen to something for an assignment, be wild about it, write a raving review, then forget that album ever existed. Or, be unimpressed, pick it up again a year later, and love the living hell out of it. Both happen. A lot. That's why I wrestle so much over naming my favorite bands and albums. They're not constant (except for you, my beloved home team of Spoon, The Walkmen, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Prince). But my god, just putting my iPod on shuffle is a dangerous act. I'm constantly encountering things I was completely, stutteringly, madly in love with just two or three years ago that I now find annoying, messy and impossible to listen to.

Writing album reviews is hard, and not always very valuable. I can tell you that the drumming's sparse, the guitar's melodic and the singer's voice is gravely, and then what? I'll probably try to draw some comparisons. Describe my emotional reactions to the album. Put it in some sort of context of current music. Frame it within the autobiographies of the people who made it, and their contemporaries. But none of that means as much as you listening to the album yourself and deciding whether or not it gets to you. Don't get me wrong — I read a lot of album reviews. And take a lot of advice from them about whether or not to give something a listen. And how else would we ever find out about new bands if it weren't for people out there liking them and spreading the gospel? I have no conclusion here. I'll continue to review albums and read reviews. I just related to that post quite a bit. I guess the lesson is: always include MP3s with album reviews?


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