15 September 2010

Why my favourite song ever is my favourite song ever

I think a couple years ago just after Neon Bible came out I made a list and named "No Cars Go" my favourite song of all time (I was 16 when I wrote this rubbish - and it's still one of the most goosebumpy songs ever; when I saw Terry Gilliam's webcast of their NYC set that was the song that moved me to tears), but it's sort of lost some of its power and is perhaps too straightforward to be a "favourite song ever", or maybe I only form "favourite songs" for a short period of time. Anyway this one has been my very favourite for a long while now and while I'm sure I'll have overplayed it soon I realised the other day that I can write enough about this song to convince anyone (including myself) that I find it the most enduringly brilliant song I've ever heard, so I'm going to explore it a bit and hopefully it will explain a lot about me right now & why this song resonates so particularly at this time in my life (& of course is going to continue doing so for ever now). Don't worry, "Get Me Away From Here I'm Dying" by Belle & Sebastian and "Gold Soundz" by Pavement (you were the best song of the 90s, I was totally stoked when you got the Pitchfork approval because this is a song that you can easily love personally - B.O.B. was a good democratic choice for the 00s but it's hard to really LOVE that song whereas Gold Soundz sounds more like the "favourite" song of a generation of indie kids), y'all still mean a lot to me & always will but I've come to the conclusion that "Now You Are Pregnant" by The Wave Pictures is my favourite song ever.

And I suppose that's helped by the circumstances in which I heard that song; the first time it really struck me was the first time I saw the Wave Pictures live, in Nottingham about a year ago. I realised I'd heard it before on Spotify just because of the line about Johnny Cash and the punchline really made me smile because I hadn't even paid attention to the song the first time I heard it. (Songs that sound awesome the first time I hear them never hold up & become my favourite ever or anything). When they do it live, Jonny "Huddersfield" Helm, the drummer, takes lead vocals and Franic Rozycki (bass) and David Tattersall (guitar and the guy who wrote this song and sings on the record) back him up with some gentle fingerpicking. It's almost an ambient effect and really makes you pay attention to the lyrics but it loses some of the catharsis of the chorus. And this was the first Wave Pictures song I listened to when I got home after their brilliant performance - they're the most charming band I've ever seen; David's stage banter is hilarious and you can really tell he loves his job. It just sort of left a warm glow within me & back then I felt like I should have known all the lyrics like a lot of the people there seemed to. At one point Franic was trying to find a bottle opener so I held out my keyring and David's dad shouted to him that I was offering one but then he'd managed to open it on the edge of a guitar tuner. Me and Alex left slightly disappointed that they hadn't played "Strange Fruit For David" (which is their most instantly lovable song but after having listened to all their songs dozens of times it's just a sort of mid-level brilliant Wave Pictures song) but we both got really into the band afterwards.

Anyway I listened to Now You Are Pregnant a lot, on repeat, for the next couple of months, after having perhaps avoided it before because of that daft fucking title. When I was on Alex's radio show Christmas Special the tunes I picked out were "Which Song" by Max Tundra, "Gyroscope" by The Dismemberment Plan, and of course "Now You Are Pregnant". That was when I realised I actually knew all the words (and Alex knew most of them) and we sang pretty much the whole thing along with it, mics were off but we subjected a few of our bemused friends to my not-always-hitting-the-high-notes tenor (this song could've done with being a semitone or two deeper). Beautiful moment. There's something we both really dug about the most obviously appealing aspects of the song, like the punchline and the whole 'or I could rush into the shop and tell you that I adore you' turning point but there's a whole lot about it I suppose I haven't really asked Alex about even though we spent a bunch of hour-long car journeys to band practice just singing along to Wave Pictures songs on the stereo and saying how much we loved the lyrics - I think once I was like '...who's your favourite Wave Picture??'; our fanboyism is a bit ridiculous really. And I'm pretty sure "Now You Are Pregnant" is also his favourite song ever and we have now sung it all the way through in public many times, both drunk and sober, mostly the former, but I've never really gone into WHY it's my favourite song ever and I expect if I did that we'd have pretty different but equally valid reasons.

The song had its only real proper release as the B-side to "We Dress Up Like Snowmen". This is why people haven't heard of it. And well, The Wave Pictures are really low-key, so whereas Moshi Moshi alumini like Bloc Party and Florence & The Machine are massive now, The Wave Pictures have stayed harcore lo-fi and write songs that it takes ages to get into. They're sort of a cult band; I mean I know a lot of people who love them to bits just because I'm in that sort of social sphere. I've even sort of bonded with people because of mutual Wave Pics love.

So the song itself.

I can play it fairly easily on guitar (although barre chords hurt my left hand lots by the end); It's mostly A Bm C#m Bm D D C#m Bm repeat, all in the same barre shape starting on 5th fret. Then E (barred on 7th fret), A5 (which I think is just played open if you have a capo on 5), D (barred on 5 and with a little of the sus2) for the other bits. Which is really not a brilliant chord progression and if I showed it to my pedantic music A-level friends they'd scoff at such an unsavoury structure (I ii iii ii IV iii ii), none of it should work, but that just makes the V I IV bit sound better, cause it's always been building up to the dominant but never makes it until that moment, and I suppose the simplicity it sort of puts the focus on the lyrics. The melody is endlessly intriguing because it is unrepetetive but at the same time flows perfectly and has got stuck in my head a lot of times. But trying to find patterns in the structures proved very difficult - it is as if David improvised melodies over the top of it & shuffled them to best fit the words, so it forms peaks & you get repeated sections in it when you get repetitions in the lyrics; so whereas the melody at first seems improvised which fits the stream-of-consciousness style, the more you listen to it the more structured & methodical you realise it is.

And it's very important to me that it's stream-of-consciousness; it's one of the best examples of literature that mirrors the patterns of consciousness. It's a device familiar to devotees of Modernist poetry & prose, a famous example being Molly Bloom's soliloquy in Ulysses - there's actually quite a lot of literature that is misattributed as stream-of-consciousness, for instance my favourite novel, Mrs Dalloway, is frequently described as such, and I'm actually all right with that because it shares so many features with the style and the point is that Woolf is focusing on consciousness. If I were to mull over the pronouns & tenses David uses in "Now You Are Pregnant" I'd conclude that it isn't really stream-of-consciousness (David eschews the technique to produce the wonderful couplet 'But I don't need therapy because I have cigarettes / And I don't have any bad memories only bitter regrets', two of the most immediately accessible and standout lines), and perhaps I'm only inclined to refer to it as such because it's in 1st-person, however the devices of repetition and non-sequitirs and exaggeration make this sound more like an interior monologue than a poem, but of course it rhymes, because it's a song, and it works even better as a song because there's no need to quibble over punctuation, it's more direct vocally and mirrors actual thought processes better than it does on the page. The fact that David doesn't pin it down to any specific style & breaks lots of rules only makes it more endearing & unique.

When you were satisfying your thirst for success
And you looked older than I did,
I didn't think that that was you at your best.
We were only lonely little kids
Amidst stacks and stacks of slacks and black platform shoes,
We were little kids.
And you could say sorry ten billion times,
But sorry didn't do what you did.
I threw myself at you and I threw myself away
Amidst stacks and stacks of slacks and black platform shoes.
Johnny Cash died today, and you say, you say things,
Lovely things, to lovely other people,
And I'm not invited.

But I love the back garden at my parents' place,
And I love the view out of my Glasgow window,
And I love waking up on the floor of a flat in New York,
And you don't know any of these things.

And I've seen you selling shoes but you've never heard me sing,
And I used to hate your boyfriend and the things you did.
Somehow I found out and I was disappointed,
But I don't need therapy because I have cigarettes,
And I don't have any bad memories only bitter regrets.
Johnny Cash died today, and I could take a train
And take an hour to think on the way of what I would say when I saw you.
And I could walk into the shop and buy myself some black platform shoes,
Talk to the other girls, and just ignore you.
Or I could rush into the shop and tell you that I adore you,
Because I adore you.

Johnny Cash died today and you'd say, you'd say
"It's not like Elvis though is it?"
And you would be right.

So we get the line which is repeated purely for the sound of the words, and I dunno if many people actually do this in their heads but I can totally imagine David Tattersall's internal monologue being really musical (when I met David, he spoke in a vulnerable tenor that made him sound as if he were singing every word he said. I found it quite fascinating, I could listen to him talk all day), so it's quite believable that he could be thinking the phrase 'stacks and stacks of slacks and black platform shoes' just because it sounds so good, rhymed trochees lapsing into the spondaic catharsis of the phrase 'black platform shoes', a phrase which really doesn't mean anything in the context of the song but is repeated three times and certainly makes the text more authentic as something that could be an interior monologue. It's like a memory of something and it's never quite clear where from, because it reappears when they were 'only lonely little kids' (incidentally I somehow doubt they ever met as kids but I think this just adds to the sense of David's childlike attraction to this woman and her immaturity), I believe it's just resonances of the memory of him seeing her at the shoe shop that recur throughout the song, seeing as that's where he appears to be headed during the song.

I should zoom out a bit. I've decided that the song is a snapshot of David's thought process while he is already on the train, even though he's saying he 'could take a train'. Because within this thought process he is thinking about thinking: 'and take an hour to think on the way of what I would say when I saw you', I find this so funny because he's thinking over and over about this woman and then kidding himself that he'll take a train on a whim and only while he's on his way will he start thinking about what will happen when he gets there. He's planning to have a structured think while thinking about things with a boundless creativity and, if we are to suspend disbelief, no apparent structure. But from this structurelessness we reach an answer by the end (not that I can picture the song's protagonist marching into the shop with such conviction), which kind of makes me think that this is as focused as an internal monologue can get (I know for sure when I tell myself I'll plan something like this I always mentally lose track while I'm thinking about it), so he may as well be already on the train. But of course he might not have even had the nerve to buy a train ticket; the main reason I picture this song on a train is because this is the exact setting where these thought processes work so beautifully. The gentle 3/4 rhythm propels along like the train in the background and the thoughts just fall into place around it. I think like this best when I'm on a train, it's where my brain feels most creative for some reason. If I ever write a book of poetry I'll include instructions to read the poems on a train or a bus.

The only guiding aspect that the narrator has over his thought process is his desire to prove to himself that he is not in love with this girl. This is ultimately a song about pretending to yourself that you are not in love with someone and I think that this is something that nearly everyone MUST have experienced and I think most people are probably continually experiencing most of the time no matter how much we try and deny it. And he sort of does a good job because I have no idea what he sees in this girl. She looks old yet is still childish, she is selfish, she hangs out with the wrong crowd and has some idiot boyfriend with whom she's done something unspecified and horrible, and she doesn't even appreciate Johnny motherfucking Cash.

And it's amazing because he keeps DISTRACTING himself from her whenever he thinks something nice about her; there's no concrete nice thing she's done but the odd unjustified positive adjective about her - 'and you say things, lovely things to lovely, other people and I'm not invited' is actually a quite absurd assumption for the narrator to make since he wasn't there but this is exactly the sort of thing I assume about people, all of the time. All this before he spends 3 lines, just as the violin comes in, detailing complete non-sequitirs just to take his mind off the pain of not being invited to whatever it is she gets up to. Or maybe the train just passed by something that reminds him of 'the back garden at [his] parents' place'. For a while my favourite line in the song was the one that follows the 3 non-sequitirs: 'And you don't know any of these things'. He cares much more for her, and knows more about her than she knows about him, and it's unclear whether he's treasuring all these aspects that have nothing to do with her & finding beauty & happiness elsewhere, or, and I really like this, if he thinks that all these experiences, if she knew of them, would make her attracted to him & she doesn't realise what she's missing. All of this of course is irrelevant because Johnny motherfucking Cash died today, who are we to sit around thinking about some stupid girl when one of the biggest musical legends in the entire world died today?

You're supposed to laugh when David sings 'And you'd say, you'd say "It's not like Elvis!"'. It's a brilliant punchline and a surprising way to end such a wistful song, because of course it is funny the first few times but if you look deeper there's something disarming about how this is actually speculative. It's not something that happened but something he can totally see her saying if he were to seek consolation about Johnny Cash's death. Which just makes it more tragic; he adores her in spite of how embarrassing her mannerisms are, how ignorant she is of what is important to him. And by the 4th repetition of the punchline David has come to agree with her; not even her but this imaginary, exaggerated version of her: 'And you would be right'. And I suppose it's not really like Elvis but that's not the point any more, it's about the feeling of forgiving someone's flaws for a reason it's impossible to articulate.

And I shouldn't need to tell you how much I love the violin coda, or what it should make you feel because augh it's beautiful. And when it doubles up it creates possibly the densest musical texture the Wave Pictures have committed to tape! Which isn't very many layers of instrumentation but I mean there are more layers to this song than any other I can think of.

Here is a video of the Wave Pictures singing my favourite song ever a capella; Jonny forgets the words halfway through and David's harmonies are a bit shaky but still brilliant, then Jonny and David sing the alternate ending version which isn't as good because it loses the strength of the rhyme 'ignore you/adore you' but for some reason they tend to favour this version live now, and Franic just looks at them and I'm wondering if this is because he's listened to the superior studio version (I say studio but the Wave Pictures just record things live to 4-track then overdub a bit afterwards) as many times as I have, not because he feels he needs to know it inside out for the band but because it's so goddamn amazing.

I think David has written a lot of songs that are similar in structure to this, but they're largely hidden away and never really recorded (a few have been played live and on numerous Blogoteque-esque web-shows, and actually when I saw them live the first time, about half of their set was new, unreleased songs), and I really just want them to make music upon music upon music but Moshi Moshi, a label for whom I otherwise have a lot of respect, seem to be stifling their output (which probably would be multiple albums per year if they were given the opportunity to produce that many). It's baffling that their most recent album, Susan Rode The Cyclone, was only released in Europe and limited to the Sweetheart EP in the UK - which is a real shame because this is just 6 songs off the album, leaving off 4 great tracks, apparently because it was easier for the label to promote this? It's a really good record but I feel that it doesn't go into any of the meandering songwriting that "Now You Are Pregnant" does so well; nonetheless a lot of the lyrics are about overthinking things and god I can't think of anything better to write songs about. It's also their most cohesive album, and I feel like I'm still exploring it because it took a long time for me to "get" any of the songs apart from classic-Wave-Pics-style "I Just Want to Be Your Friend", sadly omitted from the Sweetheart EP. So when so much of their material is tucked away it frustrates me that their best song is so concealed and indeed that David has written songs even more obscure than this that are probably still absolutely brilliant.

After I decided that "Now You Are Pregnant" was my favourite song, I played it to a few people and they seemed a bit bemused by my choice especially given my experimental tendencies, but I guess I'd have been bemused by it had it been presented to me in that context; it took a heck of a long time to truly appreciate. I finally met the Wave Pictures in June. My band supported them for the first gig of their tour of Britain this June, in Nottingham. As I'm sure you've gathered I have this reverential appreciation of the band and when I met them I didn't really speak to them enough to have a proper conversation. I asked Jonny about the rider and some of my friends kind of put me off while I was talking to David about the setup so he probably thought I was dead weird and I don't think I even said much to Franic. Which is disappointing but typical of me, honestly; I still don't know what I would have said really. I think I'd clued them in that I was a fan seeing as I was wearing a Hefner t-shirt and they've collaborated with Hefner's Darren Hayman a bit, and I was pretty eager to meet them, but I imagine they were still surprised to see me at the front singing every word. They did play "Now You Are Pregnant", upon Alex' request, and there was a row of us (including members of the lovely Of Mice And Mental Arithmetic) with arms around each other's shoulders, gently swaying. There were more people singing along, during the whole set, than I've ever seen at a gig. Later I'd planned to have a chat with them if I saw them after their Summer Sundae set but in the end they cancelled on the day, due to illness, which is perhaps the most a day has been ruined for me.

I dunno if I'm trying to persuade YOU that this is the best song ever but I hope that you can attach yourself to a piece of art like this. I find the song's effects on me like a beautiful memory but because it's somebody else's (and I have no idea whether or not it is fictitious) it comes free of the baggage that such a memory would entail and I can wallow in every detail and it really does make me feel better, and whereas I think music should be about escapism (which is why I love "No Cars Go" so much: it's a song ABOUT escapism), this is escapism that never lets me forget myself as well and I don't really know why but I was in tears while I was trying to type this bit.

09 August 2010

Sexism in Music Journalism

I've been meaning to rant about this for ages, and now we're halfway through summer I feel like I should get something posted up here. (And I can only apologise for the clusterfuck of brackets and italics). Way back in January I was really pissed off when I read Pitchfork's review of Laura Veirs' July Flame, which lead to me becoming very wary of the way gender is addressed in music criticism.

In fact, my attention was drawn to the issue when M.I.A. (Maya Arulpragasam) criticised Pitchfork (and other journalists) for assuming that Diplo was the brains behind her music. Diplo was cited by multiple media outlets as the producer of Arulpragasm's album Arular, despite the fact that she met Diplo after completing the record. The incident arose when Arulpragasam surprised her interviewer with the accusation, steering the interview to make her statement rather than answer their questions, catching Pitchfork off-guard. Of course, Pitchfork bury her argument beneath a misleading headline, and then the bemused interviewer completely misses the point, saying 'at the end of the day, no matter who produced the tracks, it still says M.I.A. on the spine of the record packaging'. But the mis-crediting wasn't just pissing off Arulpragasam on a personal level. As she invokes the broader issue of sexist attitudes in the music industry, the interviewer attempts to dissociate Pitchfork from these allegations: '[I]t seems strange that people would portray you as being a puppet. Still, I've definitely read things about you that suggest a lot of the work was done by someone else.' I kind of wish Arulpragasam had been a bit more subtle for once - she was never portrayed as having zero creative input into this, and the interviewer makes her argument seem overblown. It's exaggerated, sure, but there is certainly truth in her complaint that journalists emphasise masculine intervention in any woman's recording process. As this Idolator article points out, had M.I.A. collaborated with a female producer, there would not have been as much of a debate over production credit.

The same thing happened to Björk, who posted a statement on her website highlighting the common error of journalists crediting the arrangements of her album Vespertine to Valgeir Sigurðsson. (Björk wrote and produced the majority of the album, collaborating with a multitude of other musicians on different tracks - but infrequently with Sigurðsson). Björk suggests that the problem is exclusive to electronic music and technological processes, but I would argue that there is evidence that these sexist attitudes are more widespread. Björk points out that Pitchfork 'credited nico muhly for the choir arrangement of “hidden place” from vespertine . also that he has done string arrangements for me . this is not true .' Pitchfork appear to have deleted their response (the news feed is periodically cleaned up); try as I might to find a cached version I've had no luck. I remember them dismissing the argument and attempting to make Björk seem hasty and misinformed, while agreeing that the issue at hand was problematic. Although they said they had already reprimanded those responsible for the mis-crediting, again, Pitchfork attempted to distance themselves from the blame even though the error had been made because of the reasons Björk describes, and even though the problem manifests itself in different ways.

But why does this happen? Recently Stereogum posted a piece on Cocorosie in which Antony Hegarty suggests that the lukewarm critical response to Cocorosie's music is rooted in their physical unconventionality: '[A]s women Cocorosie are dismissed because their visual presentation frustrates many male writers’ abilities to sexualize them'. There is an unspoken prerequisite in criticism of female artists to assess them physically and judge their creativity separately, which simply does not exist in criticism of male artists. Journalists seem to believe that by highlighting a man's presence on a record, their praise and criticisms have more credibility. Cocorosie's moustaches are ironic in the suggestion that they should be judged on masculine terms, which leads to a confusion on the part of those who will inevitably judge their femininity before their creativity. The version of The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn I downloaded lists 'Devendra Bamhart [sic]' as "composer" in its ID3 tags. Cocorosie covered one unreleased Banhart song, "Houses", on the album. Go figure.

By attributing production and implying the attribution of creative input to Arulpragasam's peers, reviewers are freer to judge M.I.A.'s music on its own merits, and indeed this facilitated the universal acclaim that her first two albums received. In some reviews it is as if the referencing of masculine input validates the strength of an album. And I'm really not striving to find examples to make my point here. After I made this conclusion, my search for evidence quickly confirmed my hypothesis. I wish I had time to find data on this - but search for reviews of your favourite solo artists, count how many references to contributors there are. I've found that it's so much more common in reviews of female artists. Reviewers of Laura Veirs' work ensure that her boyfriend and producer, Tucker Martine's presence on her records is felt. Reviewers appear much more likely to mention the influence of the producer (who is, let's face it, usually male) if the artist is female, and while I feel that Martine's influence is a very compelling aspect of Veirs' recorded music, the Pitchfork review which elevates Martine's importance as tantamount to Veirs', ridiculous. The portrayal of the female as the 'angel-sweet' voice with the producer doing all of the work is not uncommon. And if I were Laura Veirs, I'd take the reviewer's assertion that '[Martine's] bare and simplistic arrangements still bear enough edge and interest so as not to dull the listener into passivity' as a personal insult. Not only is Martine not credited as arranger, (in the liner notes it is stated that he '[r]ecorded and mixed' the album, also performing 'drums, percussion, treatments'), but I mean the songs are really great! Martine isn't performing the difficult task of making Veirs' lacklustre frameworks vaguely listenable - he's complementing her gorgeous arrangements with a subtly introspective production style. Yet it is only when such mis-credits fall upon the likes of audacious performers like Björk and M.I.A. that we hear about such injustices.

The Pitchfork review of Veirs' most recent album, July Flame, is what really set me off on this. It made me so angry to read the phrase: 'The summer feel is probably not accidental'. Probably not accidental?? Is Veirs as a songwriter so inoffensive that this reviewer (Joe Tangari, senior contributing writer at Pitchfork) feels the need to remind the reader that her songwriting talents are potentially only achieved by accident? And it's not just a small aspect of her songwriting. The title gives you a bit of a clue as to what her stimulus is; the album completes a tetralogy of albums exploring the elements, ending on fire. Tangari says that he thinks Veirs' ability to give music a summery feel is a conscious decision, but what's wrong with just saying that Veirs' music impressively evokes a summery mood, in contrast to the perfectly wintry Carbon Glacier? Veirs has surely proved her worth as a master of focused, evocative songwriting, and instead of applauding this, Tangari just seems surprised that Veirs stands on her own two feet. I just cannot imagine an article stating that it is 'probably not accidental' that, say, Sufjan Stevens' "Casimir Pulaski Day" is a bit of a tear-jerker. Male musicians are not subject to this scepticism.

Tangari closes his positive review by namechecking every man who appears on the album (see the album's credits), already having emphasised Stephen Barber's string arrangements (which only appear on two tracks), Tucker Martine's production, and Eyvind Kang's viola-playing; while I can't deny that he's right in saying that Veirs is modest, again the review is attributing the album's excellence to the contributors, when Veirs arranged the whole thing except for Barber's string parts. Similarly, the BBC review of the album namechecks Martine, Barber, and Jim James (erroneously stating that he duets with Veirs on "Make Something Good"; in fact James is not present on this song, and I rather think it elevates Karl Blau's role on backing vocals to imply that the song is a duet). The review (by David Sheppard) also offends by describing Veirs as 'chanteuse' - 'Noun: A female singer of popular songs, esp. in a nightclub', according to dictionary.com. Even if I find the phrase "singer-songwriter" really annoying, I'd rather Sheppard had used this phrase which at least acknowledges that Veirs controls the songwriting process, rather than making her seem like she's just singing. As such, when he mentions Martine and Barber, it gives the impression that they're more in control of what the record sounds like.

Then I found Dan Weiss' laughable review of July Flame's title track, and really I just want to pick this apart to prove how bad music journalism can be. Weiss begins by suggesting that Veirs adopt a stage name in order to stand out a bit, lazily dismissing her work as part of an 'unchallenging medium', confusingly equating her lack of an intriguing stage name with lack of intrigue. 'All she can continue to do is write better and better songs and hope for the best.' Exactly what is Weiss reviewing here? Once he's accepted that the songwriter is writing songs which are good, he gets down to what's going on in the song, summarising his fairly indifferent attitude as he describes Veirs' voice as a 'vaguely sexy purr'. Weiss is not reviewing Veirs' song so much as her voice and persona, and here it's like Weiss' interest in the song is only held by this 'vague' sexiness, the only element he can detect in Veirs' voice. Weiss adds, 'the violin-and-choir-assisted coda won't be for everyone I know', just to remind you that enjoyment of music is in fact subjective. Weiss' amateurishness is that he fails to pin down what is good or bad about it - he aims to make it sound indistinct, but achieves this by lack of effort rather than by reasoning. (But let me take a moment to point out how difficult music journalism is. Merely pointing out these sorts of flaws doesn't mean I can write fluently about music, but if writing like this can be published in arguably the most influential music journalism source of the century, I might have a decent chance of making it.)

Other reviewing traits include only comparing an artist to another artist of the same gender, and comparing a male artist to a female is a rare thing indeed. So upon Googling male "indie-folk" protégés such as Johnny Flynn, Damien Rice, Fionn Regan, et al, it's nearly impossible to avoid the names Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Nick Drake (which are repeated to the point of interchangeability, for Christ's sake) - but I'm harder pressed to find these names in a Laura Marling review (Joni Mitchell crops up a lot instead). This not only lends weight to my argument that music journalism is inherently sexist, but shows up the ineptitude of the reviewers, who base their token comparisons upon gender rather than songwriting. The NME managed to print the paragraph 'Regina Spektor, though, has been an unacknowledged big sis influence on the sound of many young female artists. You can hear her early work in Florence’s jazzy bellow, in Peggy Sue’s raw-hearted confessions and in Kate Nash’s vocal quirks and proud femininity.' It's as if they deny Spektor's ability to influence male artists, and pigeonhole her music into some sort of gender-defined rut, conveying whatever it is in Kate Nash's music that constitutes 'proud femininity' only to confirm the restrictive gender binary.

In conclusion, while M.I.A. and Björk's responses to the sexism they faced are an important step forward to exposing the problem, I believe that there are injustices manifested in the rhetoric of music journalism which causes female artists to be judged on different terms to males.

22 January 2010

Top 25 albums of 2009

See last.fm. I've done fairly extensive (too long) reviews of my top 25(!!!!) and still didn't feel satisfied that I'd been representational enough...

PS I have a Twitter now because apparently I don't have the patience to write more than 140 characters about anything apart from music. Voilá!