Ari Lipsitz, @arisayswhat, Editor-in-Chief for NYU Local
email my name at gmail
Mostly just gchats people at work. Music writing was here but now it's here. I write about love and sexy magic ::ahhhhh::
Pretty bad at Tumblr. Expect an essay or two.
idkman what if i just leave the internet
In Actual Defense of Foxygen (7 Reasons)
A few days ago, the L Magazine published an article defending Foxygen from the surges of internet hatred. And to be fair, people really hate Foxygen, and they’re clearly a young band that doesn’t need the stress of that.
But because I love Foxygen a lot, the article disappointed me with its equivocation. It wasn’t defending Foxygen, just shielding a band the author loved from alternate opinions about it. Calling out the Internet’s bad habits feels like a justification for why It’s Wrong To Hate on My Band. Meanwhile, it took the opposition’s argument and turned it into pity—they are just a weak band being exploited. It wasn’t In Defense of Foxygen. It was In Defensiveness of Foxygen.
I’ve been thinking about Foxygen a lot lately. They’ve been in the news for their miscellaneous misadventures—which include trouble between the lead songwriters, a band romance, girlfriend fight, homelessness, a mutiny, an injury—a result of their supposed immaturity. I like their albums, but that’s not the point here. They deserve an actual defense—not the neutered pitying thing they got.
Here are reasons why Foxygen is actually great. They present no argument about the music, as taste is subjective and evidence quickly turns into justification. Here are tangible reasons—both rational and emotional, but never subjective. Emotions seem subjective, but as empathetic humans we are able to connect with another emotional experience. Therefore both chains are valid. Here are 7 reasons why you should root for them.
- They are an example of the PR/label/review machine’s efficiency. The trajectory was perfectly orchestrated last year—EP, Jagjaguwar, CMJ, boom, boom, boom. And while not arguing for musical quality, I will say that if the apparatus’ job is to discover interesting music, and interesting is necessarily what departs from the norm, then the objective sonic qualities of Foxygen enable them to be musically interesting. And if indeed they are interesting, the PR machine has done its job effectively which is a good thing for the hungry listener.
- They are having a rough go of it. On the flip side of the quick rise is the hard way to the top of rock and roll. With no insulation, it hits them like a hammer. Shows are ill-rehearsed, chaotic, and often failures. And yet their very unprofessionalism, necessarily combined with my perception that they make good music, endears them. It is proof that however well-oiled and successful the machine is, music will always be run by kids. There’s no substitute for the spontaneous panic that comes with new bands. I find that trait human. At the risk of value judgement, I find it good as well. My assumption is that you are in agreement.
- Indie rock is usually less interesting. Four white dudes and a girl playing guitar music aren’t the most vital of occurrences now. To have a fascinatingly human project—no amateurish mystery, no PR sense whatsoever in interviews, emotional public letters—is a welcome antidote within the genre and the ecosystem. It is watching humans attempt. It is not the same as enjoying a trainwreck. It’s more like watching your friends fuck up—laugh a little as they fall, then cheer for them when they keep going.
- Narratives are important to me, and “I hope they make it” is a better one than “Just another victim to the system.” This most likely relates to my lingering romanticism and my distaste for victim-based pessimism. Both likely step from loneliness—love of delusion, projected fear of the loser. We carry on.
- Sam France is a very smart kid. (Jonathan Rado is charismatic but incoherent.) Though the “no music taste” rule forbids me from calling him a talented songwriter, he is nonetheless trying to steer a band consisting of bedroom recordings joining strangers together. If he succeeds, he will undoubtedly grow from it. As empathetic humans, you applaud his journey. If you are so inclined to consider him a good songwriter, you may hope good things will happen for France’s art. If you are anti-Foxygen, you may consider that a good thing as well. If you hope for Foxygen to fail, you lack a semblance of empathy and are thus prohibited from conversing with normal humans.
- The more we keep talking about Foxygen, the less we mention Robin Thicke.
- They are making me type Foxygen again.
And then, of course, there are the subjective arguments: they remind me of classic rock, they are funny in interviews, they are entertainingly bitchy, their next record could be amazing, they write strong songs that have held up for six months, and they are legitimately problem-laden people in a world of “weirdos” and hates-people-but-hypersocial.
Their keyboardist wrote a public post about how nuts they are. Sam France invited a girl he liked to be in his band. Jonathan Rado makes no sense onstage or off, and it’s either out of a deep-seated shyness or drugs, and it’s captivating either way. When they’re tight, they actually have a fairway decent rhythm section. When they are a mess, it’s a real mess, unplanned, fucked up, amateurish, and charming. Almost as charming as it’ll be when they get the act together.
Foxygen For Lyfe.
Yesterday Jamieson and I were talking about being more considerate with which opinions we usher into the world and how we usher them, so this Charlie Brooker column seems particularly fortuitous.
Frankly, publishing any kind of opinion on Tumblr or Twitter has become increasingly unpalatable. Something about either site breeds a competitiveness where merely participating constitutes entry into a public pissing contest you didn’t even know was occurring, and which by all rights shouldn’t be occurring because the subject matter is ultimately so trivial. So many people just waiting for the chance to misinterpret you, to exploit the smallest flaw to score points off you. They don’t know you but for them a 400 word throwaway post represents your entire being, can’t you understand that, you Nazi, you tyrant, you worthless piece of dog shit. How dare you like this kind of chocolate instead of that kind, and on and on and on. It’s so wearying giving these people a target for their anger at the world. Plenty of times I’ve said as much on Facebook as I have on Tumblr but it’s never produced any kind of bile. It’s incredible how much difference it makes when people are willing to enter a debate in good faith rather than indulging a crowd of expectant bullies with guesswork and indignation. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? I know some of these people now and they wake up every day expecting to fight, except they’ve confused straw-men of their own creation with an army of real enemies. It’s as exhausting and disheartening to be the basis of those straw-men as it is to fight them, so maybe I just won’t anymore. I don’t wanna be complicit in that. I’m opting out.
There isn’t really a “conversation” as long as you don’t listen to anybody. Listening is not picking over a paragraph for the errant objectionable phrase. I’m quite over talking to people who exist in bad faith. That’s not the PR-y “shush with yr negativity,” but instead, like Jake wrote eloquently, a crowd of “expectant bullies.”
That’s why I rarely filter myself. If I create a pad of gibberish, inanity and internal dialogue, it prevents interpreting Ari Online as a participant or conversant. If I’m boring and stupid nobody will care and that’s liberating.
My roommate says “imagine Twitter like a big bar.” At what point do you walk away, get another drink, and talk to girls?
More Music Writing Talk.
This is from juanalikesmusic:
Hello, I just finished reading your latest post on music reviews and I wanted to tell you that I found it very interesting. But I have a few doubts that I would like to consult with you. I’ve been lately trying to understand music as a personal experience and therefore for me music reviews should be subjective. One of the things that I thought that weren’t accurate of the article published on Tone Deaf was that the author described album reviews as tools that “help us sort the good from the bad”. Do you think that this is the aim of music critics and that therefore readers should use reviews as a reliable guide on what to listen to? You mentioned the review of “Strange Mercy” that made you interested in listening to St.Vincent and although I agree that there are some reviews that help to attract more listeners to an artist, this wouldn’t solve the question of why we are still interested in reading reviews of an album we have already listened to. Is it to confirm our opinion or maybe to start a debate (considering that we sometimes read reviews that doesn’t coincide with our opinion)? But if a review isn’t needed anymore as a guide and that if not so many people are interested in reviews as some decades ago, would you say that music journalism has narrowed its group of readers to only people who are truly interested in the deepness of music?
I suspect it has a lot to do with the abolition of the first person instilling this false stance of objectivity. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where my editors like me enough to let me insert myself in the story a bit (and retweet me when I say stupid shit like “THIS IS THE GREATEST PIECE OF MUSIC JOURNALISM IN THE WOOOOORLD” yadda yadda yadda) but when I was coming up it was hammered into me that that was the cardinal sin. I’m fortunate because I think that flexibility opens opportunities for variety which you might not see in publications with hard and fast rules about tone and style like that. Admittedly this is my personal taste, I like to get a sense of who the writer is and I know some people aren’t like that, but I’m pretty holistic about the rock crit landscape. I think there’s enough room now for all kinds of approaches, although as far as there could be One Approach then Mark Richardson strikes a good balance; analysing your personal reaction to a piece of music and then presenting it in a way which isn’t me-me-me is a good example for young writers to follow as far as writing accomplished and serviceable music criticism is concerned. Doug Wallen is another (I don’t know about his personal ideology but I read a similar thing in his reviews as I do Mark’s.) Frankly I usually enjoy reading reviews which are more stylish than Mark’s or Doug’s, but I think it’s necessary for both kinds to exist. I mean, the great thing about Collapse Board is that Everett is so open to experimentation, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran a whole week of acrostic music reviews (in fact I think it’s already been done there), but I fully appreciate why Pitchfork wouldn’t be in their position if that was their deal too.
To me, the best thing is to Be A Person. There are probably 5000 ways to accomplish this—but if you sound like a robot, I hate you and will probably try to murder you. (I’m scared of robots.)
It doesn’t matter if you’re smart, funny, insightful, annoying, empathetic, analytical, personal—you can be any of those things and none of those, as long as you sound like a human. Robots can have stories about their dogs in the beginning of music reviews. They’re still robots. Murder robots.
The writing is the thing. It’s special and scary and only valuable to humans. There is so much writing on the internet—to bring something more into that world is a combination of ignorance and narcissism. That’s okay. Just make sure the words aren’t empty and dead, like soulless red eyes blinking from the night…the trick is to turn the words into you, to be as most like the words as possible. Because robots don’t value words. Robots can’t be words. But you can be. When the revolution comes, and we scan text to ensure a human voice, you will be spared from the molten vats if you sound Like A Person.
Not into this at all. Find it highly roundabout and full of weird post-hoc justifications and scare quotes that are rhetorically weak. More importantly, though, it falls into a poky ethical hole that I needed to address.
So start with the fact that the piece is stuck in a vacuum where 2013 invented pop music. Is there anything—stylistically, aesthetically, morally—that hadn’t been already transgressed a hundred times in 1985? Tell me to my face that Miley invented white appropriation of black signifiers. Tell me to my face that Robin Thicke broke new ground in objectifying women in pop videos. I will laugh at your stupid ass.
Sidebar: And tell me to my face that the “Blurred Lines” video was influenced by Spring Breakers—a film that dropped five days earlier. (pesky thing for cultural arguments, chronology.)
That alone wouldn’t excuse sexism or racism, of course—if anything, it may even make it worse (“I learned it from watching you!”). And all this is compounded by the beginning of the Wikipedia entry, where Robin Thicke idiotically states he made a song to be as sexist as possible. The self-awareness of the song makes it more frustrating—sometimes it feels like a bro ending a rant with “yo, I’m not sexist tho. I love woman, ya feel?”
But there are degrees of malice and stupidity, and “Blurred Lines” suffers from a lot of the latter and not much of the first bit. In other words, it’s a pop song—albeit the best one of the year. I take issue with Power’s guilt-by-association argument, because although chauvinism and rape are correlated, they are no means the same thing. If “flirtation might become harassment,” Powers is implying the video equates the two. Powers argues the “blurred lines” in the song push the boundaries into the unacceptable no-means-kinda? And yep, that’s some chauvinist bullshit. But it’s not the same thing as condoning rape.
This is by no means an excuse for chauvinism—goddammit, stop making me backtrack and explain myself for defending a thing I like! This post is two steps forward and one step back and I’m getting annoyed and it’s your fault for assuming bad faith.
See, that’s the issue. If sexism is called, then it becomes a race to pick apart every image for hints of malice. I won’t talk about a “PC army sharpening pitchforks,” because it’s a rhetorically shaky image and criticism is a pretty necessary part of discourse. But the bad faith is annoying to me. The reductio ad rape is annoying to me. I would be reluctant to characterize the complex dynamics between men and women in such stark terms as that. I am equally reluctant to paint the intricate discourse in our culture as “good people vs evil misogynists,” because I’m not smart enough to know the true nature of anyone in that group, and wouldn’t it suck if I accidentally stuck someone in the Bad People Club that didn’t belong there?
It makes sense—nobody wants to be the one that says “Hi, I hate sexism, and I am defending the thing that you think is sexist, because I don’t think it’s sexist, even though people I hate for being sexist say the same thing and now I’m on their side.” And it’s more fun to be like J’ACCUSE than to defend a thing everybody likes. There’s some moral high ground at play. But it just feels like a playground version of an argument. A little nuance is never a bad thing, especially when we’re pasting cultural arguments onto images with ambiguous, actively-provocative semiotics. Maybe we need some (DON’T SAY IT) blurred lines.
And maybe the song isn’t all bad. At the end of the day, my mom loves “Blurred Lines” because it is a kickass song. I argue the catchiness of the song doesn’t hide the menace, but rather negates it—because if my mom can be involved in the song, she can own it, and Robin Thicke can kiss her ass. (ewwwww.) "I know you want it" at least addresses the woman—at least treats her as a participant, not a passive observer of the horrific things that could be done to her in the name of ego.
ALSO: Baking Is Really Fun, And I Make A Great Chocolate Cake
One of my special abilities. Can only be unlocked with a bundt pan.