We here at Red Bull Music Academy are music nerds, but we’re also music journalism nerds, too. (We think our online magazine and The Daily Note, our daily newspaper published during the Academy in New York last year should be ample proof of that.) For the past number of years, Perfect Sound Forever editor and fellow music journo enthusiast Jason Gross has been putting together lists of his favorite music pieces. This year, we asked him to do it for us.
Gathering up a list of my favorite music of the year and realizing how much satisfying stuff is out there is a cheery little exercise to remind myself that the collective, massive music scene out there might not be in such trouble after all. In the same way, gathering up this list of my favorite music articles of last year is also a nice way to try to chase away the blues about journalism, another industry in desperate, confusing times.
I was able to find good quality pieces on blogs, Linkedin and Twitter and rest assured, this will happen more and more.
But as much as I’ve enjoyed doing it before, it was draining to compile each list of best music journalism year after year. It wasn’t just the massive amount of time I’d spend reading, choosing material and writing up everything, but it was also a strain to try to come up with pep talks for a business where a lot of friends and writers I admired were struggling, finding less and less work for less and less money and getting less and less gratification as a result. There were, and are, always bright spots and hopeful signs – and there was the much-appreciated encouragement of writers who influenced me, like Greil Marcus. But the amount of bad news in the scribe world keeps avalanching the small bits of hope that struggle to spring up.
And this year past year was no different in the bad news department for music scribes. In a head spinner turn of events, BuzzMedia transformed into SpinMedia (which includes Spin magazine among its ranks), bought up Vibe, laid off 20% of its staff last February and then went through another round of layoffs this past October. “Dean of music critics” Robert Christgau had his “Expert Witness” blog killed off by MSN in September. Da Capo said that it was doing away with its “Best of Music Writing” books in tandem with a Vice story about the mysterious non-appearance of the series’ last volume.
The Boston Phoenix, a legendary publication, closed shop and the Village Voice kept slashing its staff so much that a bunch of honchos there quit rather than fire staff, signalling an overall malaise in the once-mighty alt-weekly realm. Onstage at a Brooklyn concert, Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan (a former scribe himself) wondered aloud why the Voice had enough money to sponsor the show but not enough money keep its best writers, and was met with cheers from the crowd. 2013 also saw us lose two great, pioneering music scribes: Paul Williams and Chet Flippo.
Not that the music tech biz fare much better in 2013: AOL Music and Winamp both closed; Beatport slashed staff; Twitter Music flopped after folding in and then closing up the We Are Hunted app/charts service; Pandora has been doing well but it faces stiff competition and long-term concerns and battles with labels and publishers over royalties.
A number of artists are proving adept at having rich conversations with other performers.
And the bright spots? As Paid Content notes, in the midst of all this misery and desperation, a lot of innovations and experiments are happening in the publishing world, some of which may pan out and not just become sui generis ventures (i.e. Salon, Slate). Also, the era of media moguls who aren’t named Murdoch may be upon us: Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post and Pierre Omidyar is starting up First Look Media with Glenn Greenwald. And, after begging for years for someone else to compile their own list of favorite music writing, Keith Gordon has come forward to do the job with an upcoming book, though it’s too bad that he limits it to rock scribing. (Full disclosure: one of my articles was selected for this.) A group of other writers have been compiling Christgau’s “Witness” work in book form (contact his website for details) and a book of his memoirs is just about to be completed.
And there’s one other bright spot for music scribes everywhere – all of the nutty, unrealistic, brave writers cited below. Think of it: They’re at the intersection of two of the most besieged businesses around today and not only do they refuse to give in, but they also manage to thrive and turn out excellent content, with many of them keep doing high quality work.
As for the make-up of the selections, social media destinations are turning into sources of quality info. I was able to find good quality pieces on blogs, Linkedin and Twitter and rest assured, this will happen more and more. Related to that, there are lots of tech pieces, which is appropriate since the net/social media is where all of us and our music is being sucked into. (Since this is such a young and still somewhat confusing area, it’s no coincidence that a number of pieces deal with legal issues surrounding this.) Also, a number of artists are proving adept at having rich conversations with other performers (Pharrell, Prince Paul) and telling part of their own stories (Laurie Anderson, Kelly Clarkson), which jibes well with the number of high caliber autobiographies from this past year via Questlove, Morrissey, Ray Davies, Al Jourgensen and Richard Hell (tomes from Neil Young and Pete Townshend were both kind of disappointing).
Hopefully all of these articles should give any music scribe out there some hope, no matter how dire things look now. In return, whenever you can, you should thank all of these hopelessly over-worked writers for their fine work whenever you can – they deserve it and they don’t hear kind words about their work often enough.
Laurie Anderson “
For Lou Reed” (East Hampton Star, Oct 31st)
While she wrote more detailed tributes elsewhere, there’s something sweet and touching about this brief reverie that could only come from a life partner.
Eli Rosenberg “Capital STEEZ: King Capital” (Fader, December 2013)
The heart-breaking story of a visionary 19-year-old rapper who helped to boost the recent Brooklyn scene and collapsed under the weight of obscurity and esoterica, leading to conspiracy theories and puzzlement over what could have been. “Truthfully in my mind, I’m living in 2047,” he once said and he may have been right.
The Archivist ““Motown were a Mafioso in Detroit” – The story of Strata Records with Amir Abdullah” (Vinyl Factory, June 5th) and ““We are obscure and bizarre people” – A rare interview with Eric Isaacson of Mississippi Records” (Vinyl Factory, August 13th)
Courtesy of this London gallery/label/record store/magazine comes the story of two labels, which need to be told – Strata, a tiny ’70s Detroit jazz/soul/funk hub and Mississippi Records, an amazing roots music reissue label.
Carrie Battan “FanBased: Inside Lil B's Ecstatic Cult” (Pitchfork, April 16th)
Uncover the scattered social media network of this Berkeley rapper who might just provide a model for other musicians to connect with fans. Also see Battan's incisive review of Rilo Kiley’s rkives album (Pitchfork, April 4th).
David Browne “The Section: Knights of Soft Rock” (Rolling Stone, April 11th)
Even if you’re not a yacht rock fan, this is a fascinating look at the behind-the-scenes people who made it happen.
Stephanie Busari “The Glamorous Heiress Who Devoted Her Life To Jazz” (CNN, April 11th)
Baroness Pannonica of the ritzy Rothschild dynasty ditched her family (including hubby and kids) to run off with beboppers, becoming patron and inspiration to many musicians and defacto “widow” to Monk, all chronicled in a book by her grand-niece.
David Cantwell “Can Brandy Clark Save Country Music?” (Slate, October 31st)
As Tom Petty’s called the recent music from the genre second rate rock and other Music City fans wonder if that’s just what it’s become, battle lines are drawn. But some of the neo-trad newbies like Clark aren’t exactly retro, which means that it’s going to be an interesting battle indeed.
Lizzy Goodman “Kim Gordon Sounds Off” (Elle, April 22nd)
Though many noted it for the sad, sordid details of her break-up with Thurston, it’s also a fascinating look at her post-Youth life and her extraordinary history. Also see Alex Halberstadt’s “Next Stage” (New Yorker, June 3rd) for another engaging Gordon profile.
Josh “Finding Jai Paul” (Crack In the Road, April 14th)
The story of the leaked album from the mysterious producer, including some impressive gum-shoe work, hopping around sites and social media for clues.
Mike Powell “The Band Leader” (Grantland, December 12th)
The odd, compelling story of one of the most versatile yet unheralded producers (Vampire Weekend, HAIM, Snoop Dogg) and his odd, meticulous methods.
Jody Rosen “Platinum Underdog: Why Taylor Swift Is the Biggest Pop Star in the World” (New York, November 25)
The story of a weird anomaly who becomes a queen, a songwriter at heart (who makes hay of her tabloid romances), a canny entrepreneur and a pop-sellout who’s still beloved in Nashville and who’s not above blowing her nose in front of thousands of fans, which they find endearing.
Jordan Rothlein “Industry standards: Technics SL-1200” (Resident Advisor, August 21st)
Part of an excellent series on the most influential gear in the DJ world, here's a turntable that made music history. Though the 'tables are far from the best on the market, they didn't need to be – they were built to manipulated by skillful hands, which they were, worldwide.
Mike Rubin “An Elusive Mystery Man of Music” (New York Times, November 15th)
William Onyeabor, a mysterious, God-fearing, gun-toting Nigerian funkster/entrepreneur who lived in obscurity for decades, gets a second life thanks to a reissue which made him the favorite of techno mavens and alt-rockers.
Joseph Stannard “Amplify The Mystery” (The Wire, December)
A journey into Poland, following Demdike Stare, a pair of cinematic, minimalist Manchester producers, to unlock the mystery of their multi-genre, multi-media work, which they say has nothing to do with “culture.”
Various “Record Store Week” (XLR8R, April)
A big shout out not only to the writers, but also to the photographers who took drool-worthy photos and to the editor for dreaming up this wonderful tribute to places like the mysterious Spacehall and the awe-inspiring Bleep service.
Gregg Wager “Sweetness and Might” (Sacramento News, January 10th)
A former thrash metal band member who lost a leg in an accident and has a hubby who’s a former minor-league baseball player isn’t your typical classical violinist, but Rachel Pine shrugs off her mind-boggling background and insists that she’s all about Sibelius.
Jeff Weiss “Atlanta to Atlantis: An Outkast Retrospective” (Pitchfork, November 5th)
Such a bizarre, complex group like Outkast deserves an extended unraveling like this, especially since they’ve still managed to become multi-platinum, making the multi-writer album-by-album survey at the end here not redundant but a necessary appendix. And how about the timing of the piece, coming out only two months ago, sounding fatal about their future?
Jon Caramanica “
Behind Kanye’s Mask” (New York Times, June 11th)
Ye’s ego is a thing of legend by now, but this particular interview was the one being shared most often in ’13 and for good reason. Even us fans cringe at West’s desperate self-love at times... even when he turns it into great art.
Dave Grohl “I Am Dave Grohl AMA” (Reddit, February 8th)
Pretty much acknowledged as the gold standard for Reddit virtual interviews (DG is hilarious and forthwith), it should be required reading for any celeb who enters the fray there and much more livelier than just about any print/virtual interview you’d see with him otherwise. This is the future of interviews: Get used to it.
Prince Paul “George Clinton interview with Prince Paul” (Scion AV, November 22nd)
Q: What is funk? A: Funk is the excuse you need to save your life when you think of jumping out the window. Q: Can you be born funky? A: Yes, James Brown was and Uncle George thinks he was (he was born in an outhouse, he reminds us). In George’s humble opinion, Stevie Wonder was born funky and become more funky, Sly Stone was educated funky.
Adriana Widdoes “Crank Up the Volume: Carola Dibbell Discusses Two of Our Favorite Things” (Black Clock, January 14th)
That would be fiction and music, courtesy of a very underrated, long-time writer who has lots of interesting things to say about both, including how the two worlds intersect.
Pharrell Williams “Henry Rollins Sits Down With Pharrell Williams” (Reserve Channel, April 2nd)
Enticing as it sounds even before you view the video, it’s as good as a meeting of the minds as you’d hope. PW calls HR “the coolest of the cool, my new teacher” as they chat on punk as jazz, the fear of failure, and anger as inspiration (Rollins “I hope it (anger) never leaves me”).
David Barkus “How the Right Amount of Ambient Noise Increases Creativity” (99u, June 17th)
From Eno to “rain” apps, how we can lead happier lives with background sounds below the level of chatter. As someone who found a white noise machine is the secret to a sound sleep, I can attest to this.
Rick Broida “Does It Still Make Sense To Buy Music” (CNET, April 11th)
A worthwhile question and one that scares the hell out of most of the music industry, Broida speculates that while there’s plenty of upsides to streaming, we lose sound quality and permanent ownership, not that may matter to the post-millennial generations...
David Cohen “How Musicians Are Using Video On Instragram” (AllFacebook, July 1st)
A fine, instructive piece with some good examples of how Madonna, Questlove, Phoenix and other others are wisely exploiting this social media service, sharing private shows, behind the scene glimpses and such.
Cory Doctorow “US entertainment industry to Congress: make it legal for us to deploy rootkits, spyware, ransomware and trojans to attack pirates!” (Boing Boing, May 26th)
The title pretty much gives away the story, but it’s definitely one worth reporting and yet another sign of how desperate the music biz is getting.
Brandon Griggs and Todd Leopold “How iTunes changed Music and the World” (CNN, April 26th)
Let’s see: It made fans focus on songs over albums, brushed off issues of sound quality, killed off mixtapes and album covers... And yet there are even more reasons that people hate Steve Jobs’ historic aural storefront...
Steve Guttenberg “Poll: If digital audio is so great, why didn't it kill the LP?” (CNET, July 24th)
Guttenberg calls himself “the Audiophile” and with good reason. You learn a lot from his columns about all manner of aural gear, not to mention much-needed take downs of “advanced” technology that’s actually ass-backwards. Also see “Why Did SACD, DVD and Blu Ray Fail As Music Surround Formats” (CNET, June 25th) and “An inconvenient truth: Why music sounds bad” (CNET, October 2nd).
Martha Harbison “Why Your Music Files Sound Like Crap” (Popular Science, February 28th)
Just in case you needed more proof about how streaming or downloaded music is almost always inferior, this science publication helpfully provides you with some nice graphs and charts to show you all the music that you’re not hearing.
Taylor Hatmaker “Get Ready For The Streaming-Music Die-Off“ (Read Write, December 6th)
Though streaming music services are seen as a savior of the music biz, Hatmaker says that their survival is in doubt thanks to the burdensome royalties they have to pay out. Which means that they'll be replaced by...?
Peter Kafka “Google Doubles Down On Music Subscriptions Which Means Google Isn’t Serious About Music Subscriptions” (All Things D, May 14th)
Other than the brilliant Matthew Ingram, there’s no tech writer out there who effortless turns out so many memorable, insightful pieces on a regular basis. Even with a click-bait title here, he makes it worth your time to piece through his thinking. Also see “Why Google Thinks Two Music Subscription Services Are Better Than None” (All Things D, March 5th).
Todd Leopold “Death of the Stereo System” (CNN, September 30th)
This is a fine dissection of the fall-out of digital audio, and why the trusted old home stereo system is in danger of becoming a relic. Also see this piece on commercial radio’s fight to survive.
Candida McCollam “Music Industry Dances to A New Tune” (Social Media Today, April 22nd)
How Psy, a supposed one-hit wonder with “Gangnam Style,” became a two hit wonder through the power of social media and viral videos.
Michael Moritz “The Miami Startup Striking the Right Note” (LinkedIn, May 1st)
Good story about how composer/entrepreneur Michael Tilson Thomas is using technology that isn’t related to the Internet or social media to draw interest into his classical venture.
Musicians Guide “The Science Behind Why People Share Music” (Music Clout, February)
Forget about “going viral.” That’s empty tech speak like “synergy.” Take a few minutes here to learn about “compound sharing” instead and see how music gets traction. Also, find out why indie music is better than mainstream music! Well, sometimes at least.
Rebecca Onion “Listening to Records That No Longer Exist” (Slate, April 4th)
A brief but noteworthy story about how researchers are reconstructing music from photos of really, really old records that we wouldn’t be able to hear otherwise. It’s all well and good, but can we dance to it? Also see Dave Smith’s “‘Hear My Voice, Alexander Graham Bell,’: Smithsonian Releases 128 year old Recording of Telephone Inventor“ (International Business Times, April 25th) about similar technology and another piece of history.
Jeff John Roberts “Vine, Hip Hop and the Future of Video Sharing” (Gigaom, May 25th)
Roberts is a stalwart tech writer who turns out good stories again and again, here drawing a link between a Vine lawsuit from Prince to hip hop sample lawsuits and what the future might hold for music/video/tech. Also see his other studious columns like “Who’s To Blame For Starving Musicians, Pandora or the Middlemen” (Gigaom, July 24th), “Can Conservatives Break the Copyright Stalemate” (Gigaom, February 10th).
Chris Robley “Social Media For Musicians” (Indie Music, March 1st)
For hardcore techies, this is the equivalent of a spelling book, but for most of the bands out there who keep proving that they don’t know better, this is manna. “Respond to every comment, make sure your web site is social, reward frequent interaction, post consistently...”
Audra Schroeder “How Spotify Helped Reinvent Mixtape Culture” (Daily Dot, Nov 11th)
Lou Reed and Napster co-founder Sean Parker embraced the service, but UK label Ministry of Sound filed suit against it, prompting a playlist aggregator to note that “the whole idea of MoS suing Spotify because its users are going to the effort of curating playlists based on their albums reminds of the days when the record labels would try to sue people who illegally downloaded music mp3s for ridiculous amounts of money.” Point well taken, but does that make it right?
Jim DeRogatis “
We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Critics or Do We?” (WBEZ, April 22nd)
In an age where everyone’s a virtual critic, why we still need “real” critics. They’re good not only for “expertise” but also for fun and entertainment, sometimes at least. (Full disclosure: I’m included in this piece.)
Mary Beth Garber “Radio Isn’t Going Away” (All Things D, Oct 31st)
Despite the writer having some stake in the game (doing reports for Katz Radio Group), this article provides some noteworthy data to back up her claims that terrestrial (or other kinds of) radio ain’t dead yet.
Ariel Hyatt “51 Female Music Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Advice” (Cyber PR, June 20th)
If anyone’s going to hunt down moguls, insiders, CEOs and presidents of music companies, it's going to be a PR firm, here putting their know-how to good use and providing some fine inspiration. Fave bon-mot, from Catherine Carter of Funky Dumpling PR: “Don’t take anything personal, keep hustling, get the job done, a sense of humor is a must.”
Jessica Gresco “Love Potion No. 9 Singer Sues Over Clovers Name” (AP, August 3rd)
Harold Winley fights the ongoing battle of the band names when one group tried to claim the mantle of his old group, doowop legends the Clovers.
Felix Salmon “GoldieBlox, fair use, and the cult of disruption” (Reuters, November 26th)
After a shameless publicity stunt to paint themselves as victims and preemptively sue the Beastie Boys (who wisely turned the tables later), it was up to writers like Salmon to lay out the realities of the case and show who was really the villain here, which would be GoldieBlox itself (who did such a good con job, that even I foolishly wondered at first if they weren’t totally bad guys). Also see Jeff John Roberts’s Gigaom article on the GB/BB story.
Brett Stevens “Heavy metal shows piracy is not killing music, offers new business model” (Death Metal Underground, Nov 30th)
Can it be that an almost 40-year-old Brit metal band is a new biz template? Despite – or because of – massive free file/music sharing by their fans, Iron Maiden is so successful now that they’re noted as a model for UK companies.
Laurie Tuffrey “Whose Vault Is It? Amoeba Music & The Ethics Of Reissuing Records” (The Quietus, February 27th)
When the giant indie store digitized long-lost/unclaimed music and sold it online, they might not have done all the foot work that they should have to track down the owners as this report finds out. Also worth reading is the lively comment section, where the ethics, and lack thereof, are hashed out in detail, with one reader calling Amoeba’s practice “robbery disguised as social work.”
Paul J. Heald “How Copyright Makes Books and Music Disappear (and How Secondary Liability Rules Help Resurrect Old Songs)” (Social Science Research Network, July 5th)
Using 2,000 books and 2,000 songs as fodder, this academic paper is a cruel reminder of how the arcane copyright laws are, succeeding in not only letting big companies hold on to rights and profits for decade but also effectively stomp out many means of creativity.
Craig Jenkins “
A Word on Chief Keef, Race & Hip-Hop Journalism” (Broken Language, January)
What’s been most interesting about Keef’s latest album hasn’t been the music itself but the larger debate over it. As Jenkins brilliantly frames it (citing numerous stories) “positive reviews... are seen as affronts to hip-hop culture... because they promote music that reinforces injurious images of black culture...” He ends with several heartfelt, thoughtful pleas, including “How long will it take us to understand that hip-hop is larger than any of our individual conceptions of it, that this music plays to more than just the inner city, that the best picture of modern hip-hop is derived from the unity of our varying voices?” Best single-author piece from last year.
Dave Lee “Should music fans stop filming gigs on their smartphones?” (BBC, April 11th)
Most of us have to own up to doing this at some point, but Lee makes a good case of why it’s ruining the shows we love.
Alex Ross “Women, Gays and Classical Music” (New Yorker, October 3rd)
Riffing off of Russia’s recent sickening anti-gay laws, Ross finds other odious, closed-minded sentiments about women throughout the classical domain. “The problem isn’t that misogyny runs rampant in the music world; it’s that the classical business is temperamentally resistant to novelty.” Note that he says ‘music world’ in the broad sense. But then more bluntly, he later insists that “the bias against female musicians is hardly confined to Russia.”
Philip Sherburne “Daft Punk Saved Pop Music and Doomed Us All” (Spin, May 28th)
Rightly correcting the over-reaction to DP’s “technophobia,” Sherburne finds that the real story is their ambition and the wave of laptop kids that’s out there already, rehashing presets and gearing up for car commercials.
Jan Swafford “The Most Beautiful Melody In the World” (Slate, July 30th)
It gets kind of academic on this unanswerable, book-length question but then catches itself quickly “First, naturally, we have to define what a melody is. It’s … oh jeez. All right, let’s turn to...” And the candidates? Flatt & Scruggs’ “Wildwood Flower,” “Greensleeves,” Monteverdi’s “Pur ti miro,” Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze,” Brahm’s “Lullaby,” Gershwin’s “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” and the Fabs’ “Yesterday.” Sad to say, both The Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes For You” and My Bloody Valentine’s “Soon” are both denied.
Carl Wilson “Why I Hate the National” (Slate, May 28th)
Not just hating on the Brooklyn boys, but also reconciling why it ain’t a bad thing to not like certain bands, courtesy of the guy who brought us a book exploring similar territory on Celine Dion.
Mike Wolf “Challenge to Music Editors” (Twitter, January 2nd)
“Challenge to music editors in 2013: Edit. Don’t just assign. Help your writers grow and they’ll help grow your page stats.” Amen, and not just for 2013.
Various “The Best Hoaxes In Music History” (Consequence of Sound, May 3rd)
Some “listicles” are tough to pass up and between Daft Punk’s secret member, fake MF Doom’s, fake Fleetwood Mac’s, fake NiN albums, fake Kanye tracks, fake Beatle deaths, fake Nirvana demos, fake Radiohead B-sides, fake supergroups and fake Pink Floyd prizes, this is one of them.
Nicole Emmenegger “An Introduction To the Women’s Liberation Archive” (No More Pot Lucks, January/February)
A satisfying tale of a UK feminist archive that pre-dates and post-dates punk and even includes it too, and now evolving into an exhibition and even a tour. You can even see the source material online here and also see a nice clip of a related festival/documentary here.
Various “How ‘Dubstep’, ‘Juke’, ‘Cloud Rap’ and Many More Got Their Names” (FACT, July 10th)
As a proud etymologist, this musical education lesson is a revelation. Kudos to you if you already know about the origins of seapunk and skweee. Also liked the mag’s investigative “Boards of Canada Release Mystery 12” For Record Store Day” (April 22nd), even if I hated the record enough to share my disgust.
Jessica Fee “Music Monday: Inauguration Artists Over the Years” (Mashable, January 21st)
An interesting and historical look at what played for the supposed most powerful men in the world on the verge of starting their jobs. Along with a playlist, we learn that FDR had Mickey Rooney, Reagan had Ethel Merman (first time) and Jessye Norman (2nd time), Bush Sr. had Streisand (?!), Clinton had Dylan (first time) and Jesse Norman (2nd time), Obama had Aretha and her hat (1st time) and Kelly Clarkson and Beyoncé (2nd time).
David Fricke “20 Essential Grateful Dead Shows” (Rolling Stone, April 8th)
A great list from someone who was often there. It was engaging and enticing enough to get me to scramble around to find the shows online, which I mostly did here.
Jack Hamilton “The Songs Otis Redding Could Have Sung” (Atlantic, July 22nd)
In the wake of a strange/disturbing graphic series showing how dead rockers would look today, this much more welcome speculative piece about one of the all-time great soul men who burned brightly, left too early but still managed to leave a lot behind.
Randy Harward “What Ever Happened to... Alison?” (Blurt, November 21st)
That would be the real life subject of the Elvis Costello song. It’s such a touching story but then... Trying to avoid a spoiler alert here, one of the tags that the editor put on the story was “humor/comedy,” though that didn’t help many readers to get the hint.
Jessica Hopper “How Selling Out Saved Indie Rock” (Buzzfeed, November 10th)
The worst part of reading Hopper’s work is trying to pick out the best pieces since there’s so many of them. It’s not just that she has an extraordinary instinct for a good story but she can put together such compelling narratives. This Buzzfeed article is a great contradiction that rings true, but then there’s her harrowing but must-see “Read the “Stomach-Churning” Sexual Assault Accusations Against R. Kelly in Full” (Village Voice, December 16th) and the necessary and very instructive “The Hazards of Being A Musician Without Health Insurance” (Village Voice, March 19th).
Damien Love “The Heartbreakers - L.A.M.F: Definitive Edition” (Uncut, January)
Untangling one of those albums that may never be definitive and is definitely worth scavenging, plus a first account report from the band’s sole survivor from that time.
Dan Phillips “Irma & Swamp Dogg: The Canyon Sessions” (Home of the Groove, May 4th)
Inspired by a reissue and a Spin feature (see Marchese in Honorable Mentions), a radio hosts constructs an exhaustive account of the meeting of two soul legends, more than enough to want you to hear the end result.
Various Writers “Fifty Years of Tape” (Staalzine, November 2013)
An insane, obsessive labor of love where dozens of music-nuts/artists/producers gush about their favorite cassettes, including photos and histories and all kinds of weird obscurities you’ve never heard of, making a better case for the format than the endless articles heralding the return of the plastic-cased format. My favorite article of 2013.
Raymond Cummings “
I Just Got Back From North Korea” (Splice Today, April 11th)
A mashup of my ‘97 interview with Lydia Lunch and a CNN interview with Jimmy Carter. Clunky at times, but a great idea. There needs to be more of this.
Jimmy Kimmel “Lie Witness News - Coachella 2013” (ABC, April 23rd)
A much needed and hilarious gotcha by this late night scion where his minions throws out fake band names to the attendees who then claim that they love these imaginary bands in their excited, knee-jerk reactions.
Winston Rowntree “Every Rock Band Ever: 10 Possible Lifecycles” (Cracked, May 11th)
Courtesy of a publication long seen as a Mad Magazine wannabe, over the last few years, they’ve become pretty adept at so-funny-they’re-true lists like this one. There’s the “half-as-successful follow-up (album)” model, the “key band member leaves” model, the “tiresome overexposure” model and other great ones to chose from once your group gets signed.
Unknown Writer “J.K. Rowling Recorded Two Dubstep Albums As Burial” (The Daily Mash, July 18th)
Right after she was outed as the author of a book using a nom de plume comes this “revelation.” “I already had to wade through The Casual Vacancy, now I’ve got to stay up all night at raves, taking drugs and ruining my hearing.”
Kelly Clarkson “Clive Davis” (Who Say, February 19th)
In a kiss-off to one of the ultimate music insiders, Clarkson bites back as few have dared to with this mogul. “Growing up is awesome because you learn you don’t have to cower to anyone – even Clive Davis....”
Dale W. Eisinger “The Definitive Article” (Maura, March 14th)
The article (not magazine article, mind you) is the tiny figure of speech “the” and why it’s such a big deal with band names. Remember “The Name of the Band is Talking Heads”? Well worth the pittance it costs to download and view the article.
Peter Himmelman “The Most Fucked Up Thing I’ve Even Seen” (Blurt, August 1st)
As you’d guess from the title, it’s a twisted little tale from this singer-songwriter, reading like something you’d expect in a Southern Gothic collection, and somehow involving Billy Joel and missing body parts.
Ann Hoevel “It’s Not Cool To Like Rush. That’s OK” (CNN, April 18th)
On the eve of their RnR Hall of Fame induction, a fine toast to their proud, uncool fandom, not to the mention the band itself.
Neha Prakash “‘Beyoncé Think Pieces’ Hashtag Mocks Media’s Reaction to Album” (Mashable, Dec 18th)
After all of the slobbering over Be’s surprise record, it was inevitable that there would be some backlash but this works even better because it’s directed at the right place – the over-the-top praise for the album.
Greg Tate “Kanye West Yeezus” (Spin, June 18th)
Leave it to the great bandleader/author to distill the essence of Ye’s baffling record better than anyone else could, maybe even including West himself.
Danny Alexander “
Vulnerable Boy” (Living In Stereo, October 29th)
Nate Chinen “Smooth Sailing in a Sea of Evolution” (New York Times, July 5th)
Bess Corry “Interview- Author Helen Reddington Talks About the Lost Women of The Punk Era” (Boxx, January 16th)
David Marchese “The Real Mother****ing Dogg Father” (Spin, March 5th)
Nancy Kalish “Hearing Loss Is Reaching Epidemic Proportions -- How You Can Protect Your Ears” (Huffington Post, February 7th)
David Roberts “Twitter Vine For Musicians” (Music Think Tank, January 30th)
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd “Pop For Art’s Sake Goes Varoom!” (Spin, November 11th)
Sree Sreenivasan “Social Lessons From the Grammys” (CNET, February 10th)
Charles Ubaghs “Wreath Lectures 2013: Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty for Using Spotify” (Quietus, December 30th)
Bryan Wawzenek “Top 10 Martin Scorsese Rock Music Scenes” (Ultimate Classic Rock, April)
Naomi Zeichner “Fader Explains: Harlem Shake” (Fader, February 15th)
Lindsay Zoladz “Gratuitous Pictures of Your Grief” (Pitchfork, February 11th)
Jason Gross is the perpetrator and main editor of Perfect Sound Forever online music magazine and a freelance writer/editor and social media maven in New York City.