One of the things that has defined pop culture and especially music in the 21st Century is the atomization of the music industry. Aside from the major labels and their vanity plate sublabels, the music industry is dominated by perhaps millions of independent artists online and tens of thousands of micro labels based online or in local scenes. The ability to make music and record music and release music is largely open to anybody who has a computer or tablet and an internet connection. This combined with the declining importance of radio means that major labels can really only guarantee wide physical release as promotion and other forms of influence just aren’t the guarantors of success they way they used to be. The trade-off of sacrificing some artistic liberty for a huge pile of cash and a road paved to eventual stardom isn’t as lucrative as it once was, as labels become increasingly unable to secure sure-fire success for their artists. Commercially or critically. The end result is that pretty much anybody can make music and pretty much anybody can release music. There’s just tons of music out there! There’s too much music out there! Nobody will ever hear all of it, and most will hear lots that they don’t ever remember.
Where this really starts to matter is when you factor in the fact that the vast majority of people don’t even buy music anymore. Most music heard today is streamed or downloaded from blogs, file hosts, torrents, peer-to-peer, you name it. The ability of a band to make money off of record sales isn’t as important as it once was, bands make money off of merchandise and live shows. This is important to remember moving on. Bands and music are part of an ongoing trend after the age of information towards an age of curating. With all the worlds music at your fingertips whenever you want it, what becomes important is showing others your ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. What becomes important is showing others what you’re into, because what you have access to is practically limitless and no longer limited to what you find in HMV or what you hear on the radio. Chris Ott covers this to an extent in Shallow Rewards #17: The Hiding when he discusses how teenagers in particular “stake a lot of their identity in the things that they enjoy.” He also covers the nature of limited editions and obscurity in an internet connected world.
In an age when people aren’t performing a transaction for the things they consume and they can freely consume almost anything they want of a certain thing, in this case music, personal taste becomes the religion. Individualist as it may be, the idea of you defining yourself through likes and dislikes of movies, music, games, books, cultural capital in general, takes on an important role in forming communities. With all of this it becomes pressing to ask: “So what of the critics? And what of critcism?” Why bother discussing something as “good” or “bad” when i’m not paying any money for it and at the end of the day the only thing that really matters is whether I enjoy my experience with it? As a critic and as critics we need to have an answer for this question: Why?
In the film 24 Hour Party People, Steve Coogan, as Manchester music deity Tony Wilson, remarks that with the advent of rave and house music people were applauding DJs. He comments on the fact that with this new dance music, people were cheering for the medium the music was being played on. People were cheering and enjoying the record player and mixer playing music that had already been recorded and mixed elsewhere. The act of playing music had become entertainment. Criticism these days is largely the same, a reflection on the original entertainment and creation that becomes entertainment in itself. Still; Why? 
As I mentioned before with curating and personal taste becoming increasingly important, sorting through the impossibly large amount of information and material available to you whenever you should want it is part of the act of creating a taste and finding things you enjoy. Finding things you enjoy is the ultimate goal. Finding things you can be passionate about is the ultimate goal. If you’re a critic or you talk or write about music you should talk about things that make you want to write about them. This is the why: to show something that has compelled you in some way to feel about it. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s something to take time out of your day and at least experience. The important thing as someone who talks about music in any way becomes to let people know about things you’ve found that maybe they’d like to find. It’s to expose stuff that people may have overlooked, like post-punk from Russia or shoegaze from Pakistan. To critics and journalists, exposing acts that are overlooked by people and giving them an audience that they’ve been trying to reach is really what, ideally, happens. 
Criticism and the idea of “good” and “bad” music is less important than it used to be and that’s not a bad thing. People having the ability and means to find things they like regardless of what the media-sanctioned “big thing” is is, in my opinion, a positive thing. Someone liking it and ordering a physical copy from the band or going out to a store and picking up the album if it’s in stock is better, and maybe they’ll buy a shirt too. If bands can get the exposure they want and get some money circulated back their way and play to bigger crowds because someone somewhere wrote about them and got people to give their music a chance, that’s a good thing. If people can get connected to things that they enjoy, that’s what we’re here for. If people can find something they don’t like that at least presents interesting ideas or concepts or themes, that’s another plus. You don’t hit them all out of the park. I got that new Watter album after hearing that it was a Slint/Rachel’s/King Crimson/The For Carnation collaboration. I ended up not enjoying it, but at least I’m aware it exists and I gave it a try. Who knows how many others did the same.
Take the word of journalists and critics and writers with a grain of salt. The important thing is that you discover new stuff and support artists you like so they can survive and make more good stuff. Some write because they love music. Some write to pay the rent. A bunch of shameless plagiarizers with a scattershot discography correctly pointed out that it’s “only rock and roll, but I like it.” There isn’t much else to take away.

One of the things that has defined pop culture and especially music in the 21st Century is the atomization of the music industry. Aside from the major labels and their vanity plate sublabels, the music industry is dominated by perhaps millions of independent artists online and tens of thousands of micro labels based online or in local scenes. The ability to make music and record music and release music is largely open to anybody who has a computer or tablet and an internet connection. This combined with the declining importance of radio means that major labels can really only guarantee wide physical release as promotion and other forms of influence just aren’t the guarantors of success they way they used to be. The trade-off of sacrificing some artistic liberty for a huge pile of cash and a road paved to eventual stardom isn’t as lucrative as it once was, as labels become increasingly unable to secure sure-fire success for their artists. Commercially or critically. The end result is that pretty much anybody can make music and pretty much anybody can release music. There’s just tons of music out there! There’s too much music out there! Nobody will ever hear all of it, and most will hear lots that they don’t ever remember.

Where this really starts to matter is when you factor in the fact that the vast majority of people don’t even buy music anymore. Most music heard today is streamed or downloaded from blogs, file hosts, torrents, peer-to-peer, you name it. The ability of a band to make money off of record sales isn’t as important as it once was, bands make money off of merchandise and live shows. This is important to remember moving on. Bands and music are part of an ongoing trend after the age of information towards an age of curating. With all the worlds music at your fingertips whenever you want it, what becomes important is showing others your ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. What becomes important is showing others what you’re into, because what you have access to is practically limitless and no longer limited to what you find in HMV or what you hear on the radio. Chris Ott covers this to an extent in Shallow Rewards #17: The Hiding when he discusses how teenagers in particular “stake a lot of their identity in the things that they enjoy.” He also covers the nature of limited editions and obscurity in an internet connected world.

In an age when people aren’t performing a transaction for the things they consume and they can freely consume almost anything they want of a certain thing, in this case music, personal taste becomes the religion. Individualist as it may be, the idea of you defining yourself through likes and dislikes of movies, music, games, books, cultural capital in general, takes on an important role in forming communities. With all of this it becomes pressing to ask: “So what of the critics? And what of critcism?” Why bother discussing something as “good” or “bad” when i’m not paying any money for it and at the end of the day the only thing that really matters is whether I enjoy my experience with it? As a critic and as critics we need to have an answer for this question: Why?

In the film 24 Hour Party People, Steve Coogan, as Manchester music deity Tony Wilson, remarks that with the advent of rave and house music people were applauding DJs. He comments on the fact that with this new dance music, people were cheering for the medium the music was being played on. People were cheering and enjoying the record player and mixer playing music that had already been recorded and mixed elsewhere. The act of playing music had become entertainment. Criticism these days is largely the same, a reflection on the original entertainment and creation that becomes entertainment in itself. Still; Why? 

As I mentioned before with curating and personal taste becoming increasingly important, sorting through the impossibly large amount of information and material available to you whenever you should want it is part of the act of creating a taste and finding things you enjoy. Finding things you enjoy is the ultimate goal. Finding things you can be passionate about is the ultimate goal. If you’re a critic or you talk or write about music you should talk about things that make you want to write about them. This is the why: to show something that has compelled you in some way to feel about it. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s something to take time out of your day and at least experience. The important thing as someone who talks about music in any way becomes to let people know about things you’ve found that maybe they’d like to find. It’s to expose stuff that people may have overlooked, like post-punk from Russia or shoegaze from Pakistan. To critics and journalists, exposing acts that are overlooked by people and giving them an audience that they’ve been trying to reach is really what, ideally, happens. 

Criticism and the idea of “good” and “bad” music is less important than it used to be and that’s not a bad thing. People having the ability and means to find things they like regardless of what the media-sanctioned “big thing” is is, in my opinion, a positive thing. Someone liking it and ordering a physical copy from the band or going out to a store and picking up the album if it’s in stock is better, and maybe they’ll buy a shirt too. If bands can get the exposure they want and get some money circulated back their way and play to bigger crowds because someone somewhere wrote about them and got people to give their music a chance, that’s a good thing. If people can get connected to things that they enjoy, that’s what we’re here for. If people can find something they don’t like that at least presents interesting ideas or concepts or themes, that’s another plus. You don’t hit them all out of the park. I got that new Watter album after hearing that it was a Slint/Rachel’s/King Crimson/The For Carnation collaboration. I ended up not enjoying it, but at least I’m aware it exists and I gave it a try. Who knows how many others did the same.

Take the word of journalists and critics and writers with a grain of salt. The important thing is that you discover new stuff and support artists you like so they can survive and make more good stuff. Some write because they love music. Some write to pay the rent. A bunch of shameless plagiarizers with a scattershot discography correctly pointed out that it’s “only rock and roll, but I like it.” There isn’t much else to take away.

entertainmentweekly:

This Week’s Cover: Our 2014 ‪#‎SDCC‬ preview gives you an exclusive first look at the big, bad robot causing all the grief in Avengers: Age of Ultron—Marvel’s biggest movie ever. 
Photo Credit: ©Marvel 2014

Interview: Jack Garratt: Our very own Braden Fletcher sat down with singer-songwriter Jack Garratt after his set at this year’s LeeFest. One of the brightest young talents coming out of London at the minute, Garratt is set for a busy summer, with his new EP Remnants, a string of festival dates and support slots, and a headline show at London’s Basement on September 30th.

Listen: Jack Garratt - Worry: If the YouTube gods are feeling kind today, we’ll have our very first video interview up later on today. The subject of that interview is Jack Garratt, one of the best and most interesting young singer-songwriters on the scene right now; as a primer, here’s his superb track from earlier this year, “Worry”.

Song Of The Day
"Not Mine To Love" has been floating around for almost two years now but it finally gets a record to live on in Slow Club’s newest album, Complete Surrender. Enjoy.

Video: Jamie T - Don’t You Find: HE’S BACK!

With a guitar line to rival Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”, La Roux’s longtime coming second album Trouble In Paradise kicks into high gear. Anthemic and groovy, the opening track “Uptight Downtown” is symptomatic of the entirety of Elly Jackson’s newest record. Since the 2009 self-titled debut, Jackson has parted ways with the second half of La Roux, producer Ben Langmaid, though five of the nine songs on “Trouble In Paradise” were co-written by Langmaid. 

The result is a tropical, surfy and synthy pop album with near enough nine pop classics. Lyrically, the songs deal with failed and painful relationships: “Cruel Sexuality” touches, obviously, on the topic of sexuality, and comes to a massive synthpop conclusion as Jackson sings “oh, you keep me happy in my everyday life/why must you keep me in your prison at night?” and the first track from the album we heard, “Let Me Down Gently” is about letting go being the best thing to do. 

Sometimes the songs feel as though they’re missing a layer, there’s often a sparse feeling too the production and it’s not clear if it’s intentional until “Paradise Is You”, a wonderfully airy song with just percussion, piano and synth pads until it breaks through the other side with a bright but shrill pad that channels’ various 80s indie bands as Jackson’s vocals layer over themselves over and over. Though it is executed perfectly in this case, sometimes “Kiss And Not Tell”feels a little uninviting and as though it’s not quite ready to be a pop song. It’s splendidly retro, roland synths bouncing through guitar bits and xylophones on "Tropical Chancer". Jackson’s voice too, feels upgraded particularly on this track and certainly departs from the self-titled album’s more high end vocals.

In truth, it’s disappointing that Trouble In Paradise is so short - at just nine tracks long it feels like Jackson had ideas upon ideas for this record and it’s a shame that this isn’t a double album, so greedy am I for more of the same. The instantly catchy “Silent Partner”feels lifted straight out of the ’80s with its chorus and harmonised vocals. Of course, lead single “Let Me Down Gently” almost deserves a review of its own - a brilliant synth pop classic from start to finish, stripped down to synths and vocals and growing until there’s a saxophone solo - the true hallmark of a pop classic. While Elly Jackson’s influences seem to stretch across the entire discography of the 80s, the album is most certainly modern in execution of ideas and it’s good that there are some months left of the summer to soak this album up. 

The Manic Street Preachers are as reliable as they are unreliable. Now on their twelfth album, the Welsh stalwarts have lived a career defined by context and rallying against the odds, never ones to truly settle down. Futurology comes just one year after Rewind The Film, an album that saw the band gazing inwardly at themselves, contemplating their middle-ages and where they are now. It was a record drenched in melancholia and pastoral atmospheres, their most resigned yet. In typical fashion, Futurology might be their most bombastic and extroverted, a love letter to European highways and Simple Minds. The only problem with the Manics ethos is that misfires can and do happen.

Futurology’s musical aesthetic involves shimmering guitars, krautrock-influenced bass and light drums, riffs being drenched in effect pedals until they don’t sound like guitars anymore. The Manics have long freed themselves from constraints and expectations, and it certainly feels good to know they’re revelling in their creative freedom. Songs like “Europa Geht Durch Mich” and “Dreaming A City (Hughesovka)” are some of their weirdest yet, the former being some kind of siren-blaring industrial grind with sloganeering and declarative German vocals from Nina Hoss, the latter being a spaghetti western-influenced instrumental that doesn’t so as much gallop but rather soars off into space. Lyrically, Nicky Wire spends Futurology reminding listeners of where the band came from politically, a typically hypocritical stance when you consider the weariness of Rewind The Film. Compare “Let’s go to war to feel some pureness and pain” to “I can’t fight this war anymore, time to surrender, time to move on” from last year’s "This Sullen Welsh Heart".

However, despite the good intentions, oftentimes Futurology just doesn’t work. This is no strange concept to the Manics (witness the flat and dull atmospherics of 2004’s forgotten Lifebloood), and in Futurology, the biggest victim here is ultimately just poor songwriting choices. The opening title-track is always threatening to blow up, but instead stays uncomfortably in the middle-ground with over-produced drums and middling lyrics. “Let’s Go To War” has a snake-like guitar riff straight out of PiL’s Metal Box, but the chorus never lives up to the rest of the song’s otherwise confrontational aesthetics. Numerous other songs follow this same pattern, of never really lifting off the ground, most of them drowning in over-production and unpleasant guitar effects. It can be somewhat frustrating to listen to, as though you’re listening to a different song as to what you were promised.

Although, as with every disappointing Manics album, there are still gems to uncover. "Walk Me To The Bridge" creeps up on you with its fantastic and explosive refrain, “Sex, Power, Love And Money” is a self-conscious parody of their glam-punk days and it utterly works in how ridiculous it is. The ending of the Green Gartside-featuring “Between The Clock And The Bed” is genuinely beautiful. The two instrumentals “Dreaming A City (Hugheskova)” and the closing “Mayakovsky” are genuinely massive, hinting at the sky-high ambitions the band have always been proud to declare, whilst "Europa Geht Durch Mich" is Futurology living up to its aggressive, confrontational promise, like Kraftwerk’s Autobahn beating Nine Inch Nails into the ground, if it grew up listening to Generation Terrorists.

The thing with the Manics is, they’ve never been shy to their own failings. Some ideas work, some don’t, it just happens. It’s what makes them always so fascinating to follow. The band have never been one to give in, always one to proudly scream their influences from the goddamn mountains. Manic Street Preachers are one of the most ambitious bands to walk the earth, and it’s what makes even their duds still absolutely essential.

Check out the new Big Hero 6 official trailer!

I’ve always thought the Ramones were better than The Beatles. I know that they aren’t really even that comparable, aside from the fact that the Ramones got their name from Paul McCartney’s hotel check-in alias, but I just feel like it’s just a really big, important statement that reverberates from the depths of my soul and needs to be said out loud whenever the opportunity arises. I also know that that’s a really dramatic sentiment for a band that writes lyrics like “Buh-buh-ba-da-da/This ain’t Havana/Do you like bananas?/Buh-buh-bananas”, but I don’t care because Tommy Ramone just died so please get off my back. 

The Ramones are generally acknowledged as the forefathers of punk, and, while that may be true on a grand scale, they were basically Bowery punk through the filter of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. But that’s their charm! Sure, maybe the Sex Pistols are more authentic because they never would have starred in their own movie, let alone one as campy as Rock ‘n Roll High School, but that’s because they were boring and took themselves way too seriously for a group of guys who probably spent at least 45 minutes spiking their hair every day. “Johnny Rotten” already sounds like the name of a Scooby Doo villain, so he might as well have slapped on a leather jacket and pretended to be addicted to pizza. 

Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s seminal oral history of punk, Please Kill Me, might as well have been titled Everybody Is A Trashbag Except For The Ramones. While Iggy Pop and Johnny Thunders were busy dating teenagers, the Ramones were just a bunch of corny goons from Queens trying to pose as “brudders”. Not to say that they were entirely innocent—one of their most memorable songs “53rd & 3rd” couldn’t have existed without Dee Dee’s experiences as a prostitute and mounds upon mounds of heroin. But somehow, through all of the insanity of the Max’s Kansas City and CBGB scenes, the Ramones still managed to maintain a menschy reputation over the span of their career.

This is probably due mostly to the presence of drummer/producer/manager Tommy Ramone. While the rest of the band was off running wild through the streets of New York City, Tommy hung back to take care of business. He co-produced their first three albums and wrote their first press release, in which he stated “The Ramones all originate from Forest Hills and kids who grew up there either became musicians, degenerates or dentists. The Ramones are a little of each. Their sound is not unlike a fast drill on a rear molar.” No matter how hard people have tried to replicate their simplistic force, no one has or will ever fill the hole that the Ramones have left. At least we still have Marky.