Top 10 Music Writers — 2012’s Compelling Cultural Critics

Top-Ten-Music-Critics Bleecker Street BeatLists have received a lot of flack this year, some of it for obvious, warranted reasons, and some of it just because people love to find particular things to hate on. Honestly, lists are one of the best ways for people to delineate their varied levels of interest in different pieces of art, and to rank art based on its masterfulness. To say the propensity toward list-making has reached an all-time, absurd high is an understatement. But, to write lists off completely doesn’t make sense, as they remain the most effective way of distilling impact, ranking influence and organizing art within the world. To that end, the majority of lists at this time of year focus on the idea of “best,” which seems silly within any form of art, particularly one as subjective as music. Yet, whether it be the aristocracy in our past or the competition instilled in us by Darwin, the idea that one thing must supersede others unabashedly perseveres.

Some of my peers postulate that the world of music criticism is existentially similar to high school — that cliques and gossip populate the hallways of thought more ably than the pursuit of art or culture. I must voice a serious disagreement to this watering down of the career that music writing aims to be. The music writer, the music critic, the rock scribe, the puzzling gazer-in on the world of musicians and music, seeks to convey to culture and to themselves, why specific works of sound and lyric carry great meaning. The highest end of a critic with a truly sharp perspective is to glean the deeper leanings of music and thrust them into the light for everyone to see, and, on the opposite end of that spectrum, to shun the half-hearted efforts of fame hoppers or untalented capitalism machines. The line is a difficult one to walk and it takes an alarming amount of insight and an incisive wit to convey the highs and lows of music in a way that is meaningful and on-point. But, I would also argue that this role, the position of the music critic, is an essential one for a culture that becomes more and more immersed in music. Below I have ranked the writers that affected me this year, whose analysis moved me, whose perspective challenged me, and whose writing just plain made my heart beat faster. Please know that I am a very subjective human just like you, and this list is not an end-all-be-all or meant to hurt or unnecessarily hype anyone. It’s just a list of people that challenge me every time I read a piece, as I too strive to become the best possible music critic I can be. Continue reading

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Purity Ring – Shrines

Purity Rings Shrines Review Bleecker Street Beat

From the center of every human female emanates a white blue energy, in waves of quiet fire it orbits her throughout her lifetime. It seeps in and out of hips and legs, it appears gossamer and fine at the fringes of smiles and frowns, and every once in an achingly long time, it shows up in music, caught like a spider in amber. Purity Ring’s debut release Shrines gives us the séance-stood-still moment of this energy, feminine energy, caught entirely on tape.

I relate to this album so deeply and on such a personal level – I relate to this record as a woman, a defining name that I cling to more closely than I do to the title of “human.” Human, what is human? There is much that is human that is not me, but woman, I know what that is and it is me. I love the messy, curvy, liquid body I possess, I love grooming it into submission. I love the spiritual witchiness innate in girls, collected in trinkets and spoken into being through token symbols from a very young age. Continue reading

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Mumford and Sons – Babel

The opinions expressed below are expressly stated to be the personal opinion of Caitlin Cristin White. In no way do I claim them to be facts. However, I think they’re pretty good.

Music Critic Game: Hubris Fail
Guess what? Music doesn’t exist on a good versus bad scale like we so desperately want it to and sometimes convince ourselves it does. It doesn’t and cannot exist amidst the world of fact and truly objective measures. Isn’t that why most of us are drawn to it anyway? Music isn’t truth nor is it lie, it’s music and that’s why we love it.  A rating system is a made up thing to make the lives of lazy writers easier, to allow for less thinking and more smugness, to allow for less showing and more telling of the writer’s own musical knowledge. Music has, and always will, exist within communities, serving different purposes and offering different touchstones. However, to say it doesn’t exist within gradients of talent, purpose and inspiration would be foolish. Continue reading

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Heart Skips A Beat – MaG’s “Freedom”

MaG (yes, that’s how prefers it be spelled) is a New York based MC out of the Bronx who describes his rap style for us on the track streaming below “Freedom” in movie metaphor: “My flow? / Ocean’s 11.” This song is off his most recent EP of the same name, and his forthcoming LP, also called Freedom is hosted by DJ Mick Boogie and sponsored by RCRDLBL.com.

I’m not sure what that sample he’s using with all the horns is but I love it. Reminds me of some of the stuff Jay-Z uses on Blueprint 3. I’ve been listening to a lot more hip-hop/rap lately, especially for work, and I like the direction this guy is going in. Another great line “We just throw it in the air / And we say screw ladders.” He also name checks Lupe and Obama in the same verse, which is pretty sweet.

Get to know MaG:  Twitter | Facebook | Bandcamp

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Heart Skips A Beat – Kissed Her Little Sister’s “I Ain’t Got A Friend”

This song. I was alerted to it by the ever wonderful Tom, editor at GoldFlakePaint, several weeks ago, but I just keep coming back to it. Los Angeles based Kissed Her Little Sister might actually be the most perfect band on earth to me, because they mixed folk with a hip-hop rhythm sensibility. But that’s not all, add a lo-fi drone, horns for days and lyrics that are actually meaningful. I’m hooked on this one.

And in the dismal days of late when I’ve felt like I haven’t had a friend, this song has been a pseudo-friend to me. Oh also they write everything in all lowercase which is my secret desire to constantly do even though I don’t do it on this blog. It has a lot to do with e.e. cummings for me. Ask me about it sometime if you’re interested. But first, go to their bandcamp page and get their whole album “Sailor” that was released just last month for free, or stream this song below. Because it is an intersection of musical sounds that will probably please your ear.

 

Get to know Kissed Her Little Sister: Facebook | | Bandcamp | Soundcloud

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Heart Skips A Beat – Abadabad’s “All The Bros Say”

Abadabad, I love you. Listen to their new track it is, as the kids say, dope. It’s the first single released from their latest EP The Wild and it’s called “All The Bros Say” which is pretty amazing just on stand alone value. Continue reading

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Heart Skips A Beat – Jonas Carping’s “Underground”

Underground EPYou know those times you feel a really intense connection to someone and it seems super meaningful, not just to you, but to them too and then suddenly inexplicably they are just gone? They don’t feel that magic you felt and apparently don’t care if they ever see you again. That happened to me last month, right around the time I first heard this track from Jonas Carping’s forthcoming record All The Time In The World. I think he beautifully captures that feeling of loneliness as something that buries you, that takes you away from the open air, leaves you underground.

Also, he does this little thing with his voice at tail of end of when he sings “underground” that nips at my heart that extra heartbreak bit. Beautifully sad. Listen if you’ve ever been senselessly brushed aside by someone you trusted with your heart. Stream the rest of his initial EP “Underground” over on his Soundcloud page.

Get to know Jonas Carping: Facebook | Twitter | Website

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