Category Archives: Year End

2017 Vinyl Sales Hit 16-year High In UK

Spin the black circle…

By Blurt Staff

The Vinyl Factory reports that, according to the BP, 2017 saw the sale of 4.1 million vinyl albums in the UK last year, which represents in the neighborhood of 3% of total music sales (vinyl, CD, streaming, downloads).

The 2017 Top Ten, sales-wise, is below – note the number of catalog titles, however, and the Beatles, Nirvana, Bowie, and Queen also figure prominently in the overall Top 25.


  • Ed Sheeran – Divide
  • Liam Gallagher – As You Were
  • Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Mix 1 Original Soundtrack
  • Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
  • Rag’N’Bone Man – Human
  • Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
  • Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • Oasis – What’s The Story Morning Glory
  • David Bowie – Legacy


REVENGE OF THE WRITERS: Blurt’s Best and Worst of 2017

 “Music is peace, love, and faith”: What stood out in the music world for 2017? The folks who work in the trenches here are gonna tell ya. Guarantee: all dialogue reported verbatim. Pictured above: some of our favorites from the year that just ended.


It’s like déjà vu all over again once again: For our 2017 year-end wrap-up we summarily yield the podium to the staffers and contributors who detail their personal picks for the year that just ended. Considering what a ghastly experience the year was, with the #metoo movement perhaps the only good thing to come out of it, for many of us, music was our only reliable respite. With more of same highly likely for 2018, here’s hoping the musicians’ community  — clearly in a state of shock for the bulk of the past 12 months — will finally step up and make itself heard. If it happened during the Reagan era, it can certainly happen again.  Note: If you want to contact any member of our staff, their contact emails can be found at our “Contact” page, and if you wish to reach out to any of the other contributors, send us an email and we will be happy to forward it along. —Fred Mills, Blurt Editor


Also check out our 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 coverage:

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2016

Farewell: Music World Passings 2016

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2015

Farewell: Music World Passings 2015

2014 In Review: Blurt’s Top 100 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2014

Farewell: Music World Passings 2014

2013 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2013

Farewell: Music World Passings 2013

 2012 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2012

Farewell: Music World Passings of 2012


Senior Editor / World Music Ed. / Northeast Bureau

Top 10 of 2017:

1)      Michael Chapman — 50 (Paradise of Bachelors)
2)      Group Doueh & Cheveu — Dakhla Sahara Session (Born Bad)

3)      Mark Lanegan Band — Gargoyle (Heavenly)

4)      Xetas — The Tower (12XU)

5)      Jack Cooper — Sandgrown (Trouble in Mind)

6)      Sleaford Mods — English Tapas (Rough Trade)

7)      James Elkington—Wintres Woma (Paradise of Bachelors)

8)      Seamus Fogarty—The Curious Hand (Domino)

9)      Protomartyr—Relatives in Descent (Domino)

10)   Feedtime—Gas (In the Red)

Love These Too:

Julie Byrne—Not Even Happiness (BaDaBing)

Joseph Childress—Rebirths (Empty Cellar)

Heron Oblivion—The Chapel (self-release)

Tinariwen—Elwan (Anti-)

Stef Chura — Messes (Urinal Cake)

Feral Ohms—S-T (Silver Current)

Pere Ubu—20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo (Cherry Red)

Upper Wilds—Upper Wilds (Thrill Jockey)

Kelley Stoltz — Que Aura (Castle Face)

The Clientele—The Age of Miracles (Merge)

Algiers — The Underside of Power (Matador)

Avey Tare — Eucalyptus (Domino)

Golden Boys—Better than Good Times (12XU)

Gunn-Truscinski Duo—Bay Head (Three-Lobed)

Contributors—ST (Monofonus Press)

Mark Eitzel—Hey Mr. Ferryman (Merge)


The Fall—A Sides and B Sides (Cherry Red)

Jackie Shane—Any Other Way (Numero Group)

V/A—Ote Maloya (Strut)



Senior Editor / Metal/Rock ‘n’ Roll Ed. / Southwest Bureau


Top 30 of 2017

  1. Matthew Edwards & the Unfortunates – Folklore (Gare du Nord)
  1. Steven Wilson – To the Bone (Caroline)
  2. Craig Taborn – Daylight Ghosts (ECM)
  3. Sweet Pea Atkinson – Get What You Deserve (Blue Note)
  4. Tommy Howard – Storybook (Destiny)
  5. The Blue Note All-Stars – Our Point of View (Blue Note)
  6. Vijay Iyer Sextet – Far From Here (ECM)
  7. Charles Lloyd New Quartet – Passin’ Thru (Blue Note)
  8. Various Artists – Sky Music: A Tribute to Terje Rypdal (Rune Grammafon)
  9. Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life (Anti-)
  10. The Church – Man Woman Life Death Infinity (Unorthodox)
  11. Jim Jones & the Righteous Mind – Super Natural (Masonic/Hound Gawd!)
  12. Chris Potter – The Dreamer is the Dream (ECM)
  13. Ambrose Akinmusire – A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note)
  14. John Abercrombie Quartet – Up and Coming (ECM)
  15. Ralph Towner – My Foolish Heart (ECM)
  16. The Dream Syndicate – How Did I Find Myself Here? (Anti-)
  17. Ex Eye – s/t (Relapse)
  18. Lee Ranaldo – Electric Trim (Mute)
  19. Randy Reynolds – Positiveness (Rock Tumbler)
  20. Thurston Moore – Rock N Roll Consciousness (Caroline/Fiction)
  21. James McCann and the New Vindictives – Gotta Lotta Move – Boom! (Off the Hip)
  22. Raoul Björkenheim/eCsTaSy – Doors of Perception (Cuneiform)
  23. Ingebrigt Häker Flaten’s Time Machine – Hong Kong Cab (Self Sabotage)
  24. Sweet Apple – Sing the Night in Sorrow (Tee Pee)
  25. Myrkur – Mareridt (Relapse)
  26. Michael Chapman – 50 (Paradise of Bachelors)
  27. Jaco Pastorius – Truth, Liberty & Soul (Resonance)
  28. Power Trip – Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord)
  29. King Crimson – Live in Chicago (Panegyric/Inner Knot)


  1. Herbie Hancock, Austin City Limits taping, ACL Live at the Moody Theater, Austin, TX
  2. King Crimson, Bass Concert Hall, Austin, TX
  3. Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison, McCullough Theater, Austin, TX
  4. Liberty Ellman, Carousel Lounge, Austin, TX
  5. Carmelo Torres and Los Toscos, Sonic Transmissions Festival, Kick Butt Coffee, Austin, TX
  6. The Young Mothers, Hotel Vegas, Austin, TX
  7. Japandroids, Emo’s, Austin, TX
  8. Songhoy Blues, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Zilker Park, Austin, TX
  9. Pere Ubu, Austin Jukebox, Beerland, Austin, TX
  10. Shabaka Hutchings, SXSW, The Main II, Austin, TX
  11. The Church, 3Ten, Austin, TX
  12. Tom Carter, No Idea Festival, Museum of Human Achievement, Austin, TX
  13. Megafauna, Cheer Up Charlie’s, Austin, TX
  14. Henry Threadgill’s Zooid, Scottish Rite Theater, Austin, TX
  15. Lemon Twigs, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Zilker Park, Austin, TX





Senior Editor / Twang Ed. / Cruise Director

The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Aimee Mann – Mental Illness
Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
Ha Ha Tonka — Heart Shaped Mountain
Robert Plant – Carry Fire
Kasey Chambers – Dragonfly
Ronnie Faust – Last of the True
Successful Failures – Ichor of Nettle
Deep Dark Woods – Yarrow
Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer – Not Dark Yet
Chris Hillman – Bidin’ My Time
Jesse Terry – Stargazers
Rural Alberta Advantage – The Wild
Paul Kelly – Life if Fine
Parson Redheads – Blurred Harmony
Hiss Golden Messenger – Hallelujah
Josh Ritter – Gathering
Scott Miller – Ladies Auxiliary
Fallon Cush – Morning
Langhorne Slim – Long at Last
Slaid Cleaves – Ghost on the Car Radio
A.J. Croce – Just Like Medicine
Strawbs – The Ferryman’s Curse


Live Concerts:


Sam Bush

Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt

Old Crow Medicine SHow

Fairport Convention


Biggest Gripe:

The same as in years past — the continuing elimination of physical product  — and the exploitation of vinyl lovers via unreasonably high prices!





Senior Editor / Punk Ed. / Brotherly Love Bureau


Top 10 Albums


  • Cock Sparrer– Forever (Pirate Press Records)
  • Dave Hause – Bury Me in Philly (Rise Records)
  • Curse Of Lono – Severed (Submarine Cast Records)
  • The Mavericks – Brand New Day (Mono Mundo Recordings/Thirty Tigers)
  • Nikki Lane – Highway Queen (New West Records)
  • Cory Branan – Adios (Bloodshot Records)
  • Cait Brennan – Third (Omnivore Recordings)
  • The Texas Gentlemen – TX Jelly (New West Records)
  • Travis Linville -Up Ahead (CEN)
  • Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life (Anti- Records)


  • Stiff Little Fingers – No Going Back (earMusic)
  • The Replacements – For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986 (Rhino)
  • Raspberries – Pop Art Live (Omnivore Recordings)
  • The Muffs – Happy Birthday To Me (Omnivore Recordings)
  • Various Artists – Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third Live (Concord)

Music Books:

  • Lonely Boys: Tales From a Sex Pistol By Steve Jones (Da Capo Press)
  • Hellraisers: A Complete Visual History of Heavy Metal Mayhem by Axl Rosenberg and Chris Krovatin (Race Point Publishing)
  • Henry & Glenn Forever + Ever by Tom Neely & Friends (Microcosm Publishing)
  • Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years By Clinton Heylin (Lesser Gods)
  • Armadillo World Headquarters: A Memoir By Eddie Wilson (TSSI Publishing)




Senior Editor / Zines & 45s Ed. / Mile High Club

My Favorite Records of 2017:

Alvvays- Antiosocialites (Polyvinyl)

The Dream Syndicate- How Did I Find Myself Here? (Anti)

The Golden Boys- Better Than Good Times (12XU)

GospelbeacH- Another Summer of Love (Alive)

Rays- S/T (Trouble in Mind)

The Legendary House Cats- Greatest Blips Vol 1 (Used Bin Pop)

Alex Lahey- I Love You Like a Brother (Dead Oceans)

Jillette Johnson- All I Ever See in You is Me (Rounder)

Arts & Leisure- Found Objects (Mystery Lawn0

Pale Lights- The Stars Seemed Brighter (Calico Cat/Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten)

The Courtneys- II (Flying Nun)

Scupper- Some Gauls (Blue Cheese Toothpaste)

The Luxembourg Signal – Blue Field (Shelflife)

Speaking Suns- Range (Anyway)

Rat Columns- Candle Power (Upset the Rhythm)

15 More….

Antietam- Intimations of Immortality (Motorific Sounds)

Fred Thomas- Changer (Polyvinyl)

USA/Mexico- Laredo (12XU)

Last Leaves- Other Towns Than Ours (Matinee)

The Improbables- Object to be Destroyed (Hidden Volume)

Sacred Paws- Strike a Match (Rock Action)

A Certain Smile- Fits & Starts (self released)

Kosmonaut- Misfits on the Horizon (Porterfield Recording Company)

The Granite Shore- Suspended Second (Occultation)

Land of Talk- Life After Youth (Saddle Creek)

Beach Fossils- Somersault (Bayonet)

Star Tropics- Lost World (Shelflife)

Whitney Rose- Rule 62 (Six Shooter/Thirty Tigers )

Bye Bye Blackbirds—Take Out the Poison (Bye Bye Blackbirds Recordings)

The Clientele- Music for the Age of Miracles (Merge)

Wait….15 more:

Eyelids- Or (Jealous Butcher)

The Feelies- In Between (Bar None)

Slowdive- S/T (Dead Oceans)

The Side Eyes- So Sick (In the Red)

Magnetic Fields- 50 Song Memoir (Nonesuch)

Rose Elinor Dougall- Stellular (Vermillion)

The Yellow Melodies- Life (The Beautiful Music)

The Jet Age- At the End of the World (Sonic Boomerang)

Tripwire- Cold Gas Giants (self released)

The Proper Ornaments- Foxhole (Slumberland)

The Stevens- Good (Chapter Music)

David West with Teardrops- Cherry on Willow (Tough love)

Rose Elinor Dougall- Stellular (Vermillion

Girl Ray- Earl Grey (Moshi Moshi)

Metz- Strange Peace (Sub Pop)

Other very good ones….

Fake Laugh- S/T  (Headcount)

New Pornographers- Whiteout Conditions (Concord)

Mark Eitzel- Hey, Mr. Ferryman (Merge)

The Hellenes- I Love You All the Animals (Self Released)

Plax – Clean Feeling (Super Secret Records)

TSOL- The Trigger Complex (Rise Records)

Michael Head & the Red Elastic Band- Adios Senor Pussycat (Violette records)

Priests- Nothing Feels Natural  (Sister Polygon)

Rich McCulley- Out Along the Edges (self released)

Guided by Voices- How Do You Spell Heaven (GBV Inc)

These folks also released records I enjoyed in 2017 as well:  Bash & Pop, Richard X. Heyman, Ephrata, Church Girls, Flamin Groovies, Jon Langford, , Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Passengers, Quin Galavais, Lisa Said, The Telescopes, The Legends, Lost Balloons, Chastity Belt, School Damage, WV White, Fazerdaze, Fire in the Radio, The Bingers, Heather Trost, Xetas, The Rallies, Brent Cash , Lucy Dacus, etc .etc.


U- Men- S/T (Sub Pop)

The Wild Poppies- Heroine- Complete Collection 1986-1989 (Omnian Music Group)

The Creation- Action Painting (The Numero Group)

V/A- C88 (Cherry red)

Look Blue Go Purple- Bewitched (Flying Nun)

The Orchids- 30 Year Retrospective (Cherry Red)

Three Wishes- Aberdeen, The June Brides, 14 Iced bears- The Part Time Punks Sessions (Used Bin Pop)

Aberdeen- What Do I Wish for Now: Singles Collection 1994-2004 (Used Bin Pop)

Duane Eddy- Guitar Star (Real Gone Music)

V/A- The Complete Loma Singles Collection (Real Gone Music)

Cheap Trick- The Epic Archive- Vol 1 (1975-1979 (Real Gone Music)

V/A- Honeybeat: Groovy 60’s Girl Pop  (Real Gone Music)

The Sneetches- Form of Play: A Retrospective (Real Gone Music)

Aberdeen- Grey Skies Don’t Last Extras 1992-2012  (Used Bin Pop)

Armstrong- Fragments and Curiosities- the 4-track Sessions (The Beautiful Music)


M.I.A.- After the Fact (Darla)

M.I.A.- Notes From  the Underground (Darla)

The Terminals- Uncoffined (Hozac)

Buffalo Tom- Let Me Come Over (Beggars Banquet)

Helium- Ends With And (Matador)

Afghan Whigs- Congregation (Sub Pop)

Bobby Darin and Johnny Mercer- Two of a Kind (Omnivore)

Afghan Whigs- Up In It (Sub Pop)

Mortimer- One Our Way Home (Cherry Red)

Superchunk- S/T (Merge)

The Spinto Band- Nice and Nicely Done (Bar None)

Arthur Alexander- S/T (Omnivore)

Top 10 Eps:

The Paranoid Style- Underworld USA (Bar None)

Stutter Steps- Floored (Blue Arrow Records)

The Luxembourg Signal- Laura Palmer (Shelflife)

Last Leaves- The Hinterland (Matinee)

Rat Fancy- Suck a Lemon (HHBTM)

Even as We Speak- The Black Forest (Emotional Response)

The Persian Leaps- Bicycle Face (Land Ski Records)

Secret Meadow- Same Old Fear (Jigsaw)

The Fireworks-  Dream About You (Shelflife)

Whitney Rose- South Texas Suite (Six Shooter Records)


Blurt Editor / Creative Director / Vinyl Curator

Top 35 Vinyl New Releases of 2017:

Dream Syndicate – How Did I Find Myself Here (Anti-)
Antibalas – Where the Gods Are in Peace (Daptone; clear vinyl)
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound (Southeastern)
Curtis Harding – Face Your Fear (Anti-; clear vinyl)
Tamikrest – Kidal (Glitterbeat)
Goat – Fuzzed In Europe (Rocket; splatter green vinyl)
Prophets of Rage – Prophets of Rage (Fantasy; red vinyl)
Jon Langford – Four Lost Souls (Bloodshot; clear vinyl)
Coco Hames – Coco Hames (Merge; green vinyl)
The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic; colored vinyl box set limited edition)
Temperance League – Space Aquarium (Like, Wow!; purple vinyl)
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – Soul of a Woman (Daptone; red vinyl)
Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind – Super Natural (Hound Gawd!)
Jean Caffeine – Sadie Saturday Night (self-released)
Run The Jewels – 3 (Run The Jewels, Inc.)
feedtime – Gas (In The Red; splatter green vinyl)
Game Theory – Supercalifragile (KCM)
Happy Abandon – Facepaint (Schoolkids; splatter multicolor vinyl)
OBNOX –  Niggative Approach (12XU)
Akatombo – Short Fuse (Hand-Held Recordings; grey vinyl w/inserts)
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland (Crumbling Castle; clear vinyl – among many variations)
! ! ! – Shake The Shudder (Warp; clear vinyl)
Trad Gras & Stenar – Tach For Kaffet (Subliminal Sounds)
Ikebe Shakedown – The Way Home (Colemine; clear vinyl)
King Khan – King Khan’s Murder Burgers (Ernest Jenning, blood/white splatter vinyl)
Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun Box (Temporary Residence; 2LP colored vinyl + 12”)
GospelbeacH – Another Summer of Love (Alive Natural Sound; starburst vinyl + 7”)
Curse of Lono – Severed (Submarine Cat)
Pocket Fishrmen – The Greatest Story Ever Told (Saustex; red vinyl)
DJ Krush – Kiseki (Gamma Proforma)
Floating Action – Is it Exquisite? (Baby Gas Mask; random colors + 7”)
JD McPherson – Undivided Heart & Soul (New West; pink vinyl/autographed)
The Yes Masters – The Number 6 is In Red (No Threes; clear vinyl)
Tunbunny – PCP Presents Alice In Wonderland Jr. (Happy Happy Birthday To Me)
The Ape – Give In (Bang!)

Other Awesome Titles of 2017:

Wire – Silver/Lead (Pink Flag)
Travis Meadows – First Cigarette (Blaster)
Windbreakers – Terminal expanded reissue (Mark)
Flamin’ Groovies – Plastic Fantastic (Sonic Kick)
Margo Price – All American Made (Third Man)
Michael Rank – Another Love 3CD (Louds Hymn)
Paint Fumes – If It Ain’t Paint Fumes it Ain’t Worth a Huff (Get Hip)
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN (Aftermath)
The Jet Age – At the End of the World (Sonic Boomerang)
Raspberries – Pop Art Live (Omnivore)
Feelies – In Between (Bar/None)
U2 – Songs of Experience Deluxe Edition (Island)
Otis Taylor – Fantasizing About Being Black (Trance Blues Festival)
Samantha Fish – Chills & Fever (Ruf)
J Hacha De Zola – Antipatico (self-released)
Bert Wray Blues – Gut Bucket Radio (Third Lock)
Sonia Tetlow – Now (Tetlow Music)
Neil Young & Promise of the Real – The Visitor (Reprise)
Big Boi – Boomiverse (Epic)
Russ Tolman – Compass & Map (Lost)
Soul Scratch – Pushing Fire (Colemine)
Jonathan Mudd – Evidence (Major Label Interest

Essential Archival/Reissue Vinyl:

Tim Buckley – Greetings From West Hollywood 2LP (Manifesto_
Fela Kuti – Fela Box 4 Compiled by Erykah Badu 7LP (Knitting Factory)
Dead Moon – What A Way to See the Old Girl Go: Live at the X-Ray Café 1994 (Voodoo Doughnut)
Dream Syndicate – Complete Live at Raji’s 2LP (Run Out Groove; numbered/grey marbled vinyl)
Gary Wrong Group – Gary Wrong Group 2LP (12XU)
Replacements – For Sale: Live at Maxwells 1986 (Rhino)
Mike Watt – “Ring Spiel” Tour ’95 2LP (Columbia/Legacy)
John Trudell – Aka Grafitti Man (Inside)
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Lovely Creatures 3LP (Mute)
Hy Maya –The Mysticism of Sounds & Cosmic Language (Smog Veil; blue vinyl)
Husker Du – Savage Young Du 4LP Box (Numero Group + 7”)
Scientists – A Place Called Bad 4LP Box (Numero Group + 7”)
Ramones – Rocket to Russia (Sire/Rhino; 3CD + 40th anniversary LP)
Tim Buckley – Greetings From West Hollywood (Manifesto)
Angel Olsen – Phases (Jagjaguwar; green vinyl)
Echo & the Bunnymen – It’s All Live Now (Run Out Groove; colored vinyl)
Schwartz-Fox Blues Crusade – Sunday Morning Revival (Smog Veil; yellow colored vinyl)
Eric Ambel – Live @ Livestock 2016 (Roscoe Live: Vol. 1) (Lakeside Lounge)
Little Wings – Light Green Leaves (Gnome Live; numbered/green vinyl)
The Stooges – Highlights From the Fun House Sessions (Run Out Groove; colored vinyl)
Judee Sill – Heart Food (Intervention; 2LP/45rpm audiophile)
Lyman Woodard Organization – Saturday Night Special 2LP (Bbe)
The Diodes – The Diodes Box: The Diodes/Released/Action Reaction/Rarities (colored vinyl)
Various Artists –
Oister (Dwight Twilley/Phil Seymour) – 1973-1974 TEAC Tapes (HoZac Arhival)
Latyrx – The Album (Quannum Projects; colored vinyl + 7”)
Keith Secola – Circle (Don Giovanni)
U-Men – U-Men 3LP Box (Sub Pop)
The Wedding Present – George Best (Happy Happy Birthday to Me; red vinyl w/silk-screened sleeve)
Flat Duo Jets – Wild Wild Love 2LP/10” Box (Daniel 13)
Richard Hell & the Voidoids – Blank Generation 40th Anniversary Edition 2CD (Sire)


Pylon – Part Time Punks Session 12” (Chunklet; clear vinyl)
Peter Holsapple – “Don’t Mention The War” 7” (Hawthorne Curve)
Schizophonics – Ooga Booga 10” EP (Pig Baby)
Black Helicopter – Everything Is Forever 12” EP (Limited Appeal; red vinyl + wood insert)
Coathangers – Parasite 12” EP (Suicide Squeeze; marble green vinyl)
Jamie and Steve – Sub Textural CD EP (Loaded Goat)
Henry Owings – Micro-Impressions Volume One 7” (Chunklet)


Most Anticipated Album of 2018:

Calexico (January; Anti-)
(Hon. Mention: Since I did the band’s bio, I may have a conflict of interest in listing this, but fuck, it’s a killer album: 6 String Drag – Top Of the World (March;  on our sister business Schoolkids Records)

Top 10 Music Books of 2017:

1967: A Complete Rock History of the Summer of Love, by Harvey Kubernik (Sterling Publishing)
Everything is Combustible, by Richard Lloyd (Beech Hill Publishing)
Dead Boys 1977: The Lost Photographs of Dave Treat, by Dave Treat (Signature Books)
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives Volume Two: Punk Rockers, by Rev. Keith A Gordon (Excitable Press)
Spent Saints & Other Stories, by Brian Jabas Smith (The Ridgeway Press)
Visual Abuse: Jim Blanchard’s Graphic Art 1982-2002, by Jim Blanchard (Fantagraphics)
Jimi Hendrix: The Illustrated Story, by Gillian G. Gaar (Voyageur Press)
Untitled (The Freak Scene Dream Trilogy Vol. 3), by Michael Goldberg (Neumu Press)
Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol, by Steve Jones (Da Capo)
All Over the Map: True Heroes of Texas Music, by Michael Corcoran (University of North Texas Press)

 Biggest Losses:

Tom Petty, Oct. 2
Tommy Keene, Nov. 22
Holger Czukay (Can), Sept. 5
Jaki Liebezeit (Can), Jan. 22
Fred Cole (Dead Moon), Nov. 9
Col. Bruce Hampton, May 1
Jessi Zazu (Those Darlins), Sept. 12
Pat DiNizio (Smithereens), Dec. 12
Charles Bradley, Sept. 23
Grant Hart, Sept. 13
Larry Ray (Outrageous Cherry), Oct. 24
Gord Downie (Tragically Hip). Oct. 17
Glen Campbell, Aug. 8
Gregg Allman, May 27
John Abercrombie, Aug. 22
Chuck Berry, March 18

Complete This Sentence: 2017 was a ghastly year that I would just like to forget because____________________________.  Oh, be serious, there is only one answer to that. It starts with the letter “T”.

Complete This Sentence: The one saving grace of 2017 was _________________. #metoo



Contributing Editor / Big Ears Ed.

Top 10 Albums (alphabetical order):

Bedouine, (no album title), (Spacebomb)

Foxygen, Hang, (Jagjaguwar)

Diamanda Galas, All the Way, (Intravenal Sound Operations)

Curtis Harding, Face Your Fear, (Anti-)

Roscoe Mitchell, Bells for the South Side (ECM)

The National, Sleep Well Beast (4AD)

Open Mike Eagle, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, (Mello Music Group)

Peter Perrett, How the West Was Won (Domino_

Shilpa Ray, Door Girl (Northern Spy)

Leif Vollebekk, Twin Solitude, (Secret City)

Best Classical:

Gregory Spears, Fellow Travelers (Fanfare Cincinnati) note: a new opera

Five More Favorites:

Don Bryant, Don’t Give Up on Love (Fat Possum)

Dream Syndicate, How Did I Find Myself Here?, Anti-

The Feelies, In Between (Bar/None)

Little Steven, Soulfire (UMe)

Pere Ubu, 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo (Cherry Red)

Best Cover Version:

Puddles Pity Party, Nick Cave’s Ship Song

Best Live Show:

Pere Ubu/Johnny Dowd, Woodward Theater, Cincinnati, Nov. 21.



John Schacht
Contributing Editor / Prof. of Numerology

Top 15 of 2017:

  1. Do Make Say Think/Stubborn Persistent Illusions
  2. Mo Troper/Exposure & Response
  3. The War On Drugs/A Deeper Understanding
  4. Floating Action/Is it Exquisite?
  5. Marisa Anderson/Traditional and Public Domain Songs
  6. The New Year/Snow
  7. Waxahatchee/Out In the Storm
  8. Mount Kimbie/Love What Survives
  9. Moses Somney/Aromanticism
  10. Bash & Pop/Anything Could Happen
  11. Jaimie Branch/Fly Or Die
  12. The Clientele/Music for the Age of Miracles
  13. Watter/History of the Future
  14. Slowdive/Slowdive
  15. Saltland/A Common Truth

Reissues & “Other”:

  1. Acetone/1992-2001
  2. Dion/ Kickin’ Child: The Lost Album 1965
  3. The Replacements For Sale/ Live @ Maxwell’s 1986
  4. Thelonious Monk/Les Liasons Dangereuses 1960
  5. The Creation/Action Painting
  6. Various Artists/Midcentury Sounds: Deep Cuts from the Desert
  7. Jackie Shane/Any Other Way
  8. Alice Coltrane/World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
  9. Wilco/A.M.
  10. Helium/Ends With And



Contributing Editor / Culture Ed.

Top 10 of 2017:

  1. White Manna- Bleeding Eyes (Cardinal Fuzz)
  2. Alice Coltrane- World Spirituality Classics(Luaka Bop)
  3. Lingua Ignota- All Bitches Die (self released)
  4. Japandroids- Near to the Wild Heart of Life (Anti)
  5. Slowdive –Slowdive (Dead Oceans)
  6. Les Amazones d’Afrique- Republique Amazone (Real World)
  7. Rationale- Rationale (Warner)
  8. Stefan Schyga (Stefan)- End of the Drought (Innovative Strings)
  9. Number Three Combo- Resurfacing (Slowburn)
  10. Fever Ray-Plunge (Rabid Records)


Worst album of the year:
The Darkness- Pinewood Smile (Cooking Vinyl)

Villain of the year:
Donald John Trump

Worst thing about American TV:
Pharma ads

Hardest star deaths to stomach:
Tom Petty

Event or person that overstayed its welcome:
Donald John Trump

Most overrated movie of the year:
Wonder Woman




Staff Writer / Perfect Sound Engineer


Top 10 of 2017:

– Run the Jewels Run the Jewels 3

– Sleater-Kinney Live in Paris

– Miguel War & Leisure

– Migos Culture

– Cleric Resurrection

– The Courtneys II

– Timid Boy This is Hardgroove

– The Regrettes Feel Your Feelings Fool!

– Patrick Gallois Cimarosa: Overtures, Vol. 5

– Rhomb Global Patterns Part Two


Top 10 Reissues/Archival:

– Chuck Berry The Complete Chess Singles As & Bs 1955-61

– Thelonious Monk Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960

– Delaney and Bonnie Motel Shot

– Grateful Dead Cornell 5/8/77

– Camera Obscura Teenager

– Dion Kickin’ Child- The Lost Album 1965

– Various Artists The Stars of Modern- California Soul Classics

– Mississippi John Hurt Live At Oberlin College

– Can The Singles

– Young Fathers Tape One/Tape Two


Top 10 Singles/Tracks:

– Ace Tee “Bist du down?”

– Bell Biv DeVoe “Find A Way”

– Chance the Rapper “First World Problems”

– Slowdive “Star Roving”

– Denzel Curry “Knotty Head [feat. Rick Ross]”

– Nnamdi Ogbonnaya “let gO Of my egO”

– Zuzu “What You Want”

– Cende “What I Want”

– Eminem “The Storm”

– TEN FÉ “Twist Your Arm (Lindstrøm And Prins Thomas Remix)”


Top 10 Concerts:

– Cindy Wilson/Kaki King/Amy Rigby- Bell House, Brooklyn, December 2017

– Heaven 17- Highline Ballroom, NYC, September 2017

– Dave Chappelle/Chance the Rapper/Mo Amer/Hannibal Buress/Jon Stewart/John Mayer – Radio City Music Hall, NYC, August 2017

– Eric B. & Rakim- Apollo, NYC, July 2017

– DVK, Icepick- Burdock, Toronto, June 2017

– Meat Puppets, Mike Watt, Grant Hart- Brooklyn Bowl, NYC, May 2017

– Beyond the Clouds: Ambient Excursions – RBMA NYC, Bogart House, Brooklyn, April 2017

– Rumjacks- Rockwood Music Hall, NYC, April 2017

– Pussy Riot- Speakeasy, Austin, March 2017

– Globalfest- Webster Hall, NYC, January 2017



M.I.A. “P.O.W.A.”

Jauna Molina “Lentísimo halo”

Oddisee  “You Grew Up”

Wadada Leo Smith “Awakening Emmitt Till”

Kamasi Washington “Truth”


Music DVDs/Films:

Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary

Long Strange Trip (Grateful Dead)

Hired Gun: Out of the Shadows

L7: Pretend We’re Dead


Music Books:

Elaine M. Hayes Queen of Bebop: The Musical Lives of Sarah Vaughan

Jimmy McDonough Soul Survivor: A Biography of Al Green

Rob Sheffield Dreaming the Beatles

Richie Unterberger Bob Marley and the Wailers: The Ultimate Illustrated History

Loudon Wainwright III Liner Notes


Best label:



Most anticipated album of 2018:

Wei Zhongle The Operators


Notable deaths:

Chuck & Fats, American democracy




Staff Writer / Northern Mounties Bureau

Top 10 of 2017:
1. Steel Woods – Straw in the Wind (Thirty Tigers)

  1. Bill Scorzari – Through These Waves (Independent)
  2. Jesse Terry – Stargazer (Jackson Beach Records)
  3. Tucci – Olivia (Hideaway Music)
  4. Peter Parcek – Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven (Lightnin’ Records)
  5. Kat Goldman – Workingman’s Blues (Independent)
  6. Johnny Rawls – Waiting for the Train (Catfood Records)
  7. Danny Barnes – Stove Up (Wendell Records)
  8. Charlie Parr – Dog
  9. Ben Hunter/Phil Wiggins/Joe Seamons – A Black & Tan Ball (Independent)

Best Concert of 2017:
• Garland Jeffreys – Hugh’s Room Live, May 4th, 2017


Staff Writer / Office Security

Top 10 of 2017:
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound (Southeastern)

The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic)

St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION (Loma Vista)

Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights (Matador)

The National – Sleep Well Beast (4AD)

Big Thief – Capacity (Saddle Creek)

Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life (Anti-)

Sampha – Process (Young Turks)

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)

Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Honorable mention:
Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher (Marathon Artists), Girlpool – Powerplant (Anti-), SZA – CTRL (Top Dawg/RCA), Robert Plant – Carry Fire (Nonesuch), Angel Olsen – Phases (Jagjaguwar), Hurray for the Riff Raff – The Navigator (ATO), Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder (Arts & Crafts), Jay Som – Everybody Works (Polyvinyl), Chris Stapleton – From a Room Vol. 1 (Mercury), Laura Marling – Semper Femina (More Alarming)

Replacements – For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986 (Rhino)

Jackie Shane – Any Other Way (Numero Group)

Wilco – A.M./Being There Special Edition (Rhino)

John Prine – September ’78 (Oh Boy)

Grateful Dead – RFK Stadium 1989 (Rhino)

Buffalo Tom – Let Me Come Over 25th Anniversary Edition (Beggars Banquet)


Best Concerts:
Gary Clark Jr., – 3/17, Austin, TX

Spoon –  3/16, Austin, TX

Afghan Whigs – 9/15, New York, NY

St. Vincent – 12/2, Brooklyn, NY

Japandroids/Cloud Nothings – 10/26, Brooklyn, NY

Angel Olsen – 11/30, New York, NY


Staff Writer / Shutterbug Wrangler

Let’s Rock Out a List!
I’m the kind of person that likes lists; I make lists to get things accomplished. Now, with that being said, the end of year list is something I have always had a strange problem with for some reason. I don’t know why. I find them almost not needed — I know there are always quite a few, but still, what is the point? Reflection, that is the reason.

I love rock ‘n’ roll: not only as a great song, but also true of me. I like rock and metal music quite a bit. This is a list that I compiled that spans each month of the year. Every month albums are released, and there are twelve months in a year, so why not use that as a basis for a metal list.

Here it is…

  1. John5 – Season of the Witch (March)
  2. Epica- The Solace System (September)
  3. Mark Slaughter- Half Way There ; Linkin Park- One More Light (both released in May)
  4. Theory of a Deadman- Wake Up Call (October)
  5. Alice Cooper- Paranormal; Prong- Zero Days (both released in July)
  6. Lorna Shore- Fresh Coffin (February)
  7. Asking Alexandria- Asking Alexandria (December)
  8. Jack Russell’s Great White- He Saw it Coming (January)
  9. KMFDM- Hell Yeah (August)
  10. Like Moths to Flames- Dark Divine (November)
  11. He is Legend- Few (April)
  12. Wednesday 13- Condolences (June)

That is the list! There is heavy and not so heavy on the list. No matter what your tastes, these are good albums all released in 2017. A couple of months were hard for me to decide between; for example, the month of July. Alice Cooper released a fantastic album, but so did Prong, therefore both are on my list. May is always an interesting month for metal music; it is considered the loudest month in rock/metal music. The new Linkin Park was released and some people liked it while others didn’t. Personally, I very much like this album; they always come up with the most interesting music to me. Unfortunately, it will never be the same again with Chester Bennington being gone — may he rest in peace. Mark Slaughter released an album in May as well. A quite good album. It may be telling of my age for me to add him to the list, but I don’t care it is a great album.

Music is meant to be enjoyed, and it doesn’t matter the genre. Music is part of good and bad memories for people. It is the sound of happiness, it is the sound of sadness. It has helped me through heartbreak. It has helped me through the best time of my life. Music brings people together in so many ways — too many to count, really. It is that idea that sparks a revolution, it has been the sound of revolution. Music is peace, love, and faith. Music is what makes you move and groove. It is the most wonderful time of the year to celebrate, so why not do it with music?




Staff Writer / Midwest Farm Bureau

Best of 2017:

  1. Algiers – The Underside of Power (Matador)
  2. Peter Perrett – How the West Was Won (Domino)
  3. Migos – Culture (Quality Control Music/Atlantic)
  4. Dream Syndicate – How Did I Find Myself Here? (Anti)
  5. Hurray for the Riff Raff – The Navigator (ATO)
  6. Robert Finley – Goin’ Platinum (Easy Eye Sounds/Nonesuch)
  7. Guided by Voices – August by Cake (Guided by Voices)
  8. Jessica Mayfield – Sorry is Gone (ATO)
  9. Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan – Small Town (ECM/DG)
  10. Inheaven – s/t (Pias/U.K.)
  11. Alan Vega – It (Fader)

… Mine goes to eleven. Several of these are reviewed at the SPEW blog. The rest of my Top 50 for 2017 will be listed there also.



Staff Writer / Pentagon Bureau

(alphabetical by performer)
Top 10 of 2017 (alphabetical order):
Los Campesinos – Sick Scenes (Wichita)
Martin Carr – New Shapes of Life (Tapete)
Rhiannon Giddens – Freedom Highway (Nonesuch)
Girlpool – Powerplant (Anti)
New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions (Collected Works)
Peter Perrett – How the West Was Won (Domino)
Saicobab – Sab Se Purani Bab (Thrill Jockey)
Swimy – Zetsu Zetsu EP (Ariola Japan)
Tinariwen – Elwan (Epitaph)
Shugo Tokumaru – Toss (Polyvinyl)

…and 13 songs…
Amadou & Mariam – “Bofou Safou”
Chain and the Gang – “Experimental Music”
Cornelius – “Sometime/Someplace”
Feelies – “Stay the Course”
Ha Ha Tonka – “Race to the Bottom”
Juliana Hatfield – “When You’re a Star”
Japandroids – “Near to the Wild Heart of Life”
Morrissey – “Spent the Day in Bed”
Peter Bjorn & John – “Dominos”
Sneaks – “Hair Slick Back”
Songhoy Blues – “Bamako”
Spoon – “Do I Have to Talk You Into It”
Dustin Wong & Takako Minekawa – “Yaikela Ya Ma”



Staff Writer / Archive Curator

Top 10 Albums of 2017

  1. Garland Jeffreys — 14 Steps to Harlem  (Luna Park Records)

Veteran singer-songwriter… Proud New Yorker… Uncategorizable artist… Garland Jeffreys is now in Act Three (at least) of a career that has spanned nearly 50 years. And he’s still got the goods, as he proves on 14 Steps. There are a dozen songs on this disc and while they don’t cover a lot of new ground thematically, the album sounds fresh from start (the rocking “When You Call My Name”) to finish (the lovely “Luna Park Love Theme”). In between, Jeffreys waxes nostalgic on the title track and pays homage to his late friend Lou Reed on a cover of “Waiting for the Man.” If you’ve never heard his work, what are you waiting for?

  1. Mount Eerie — A Crow Looked at Me  (P.W. Elverum & Sun)

I have to thank my friend Ryan for turning me on to this album, as I’d been unfamiliar with Phil Elverum AKA Mount Eerie until now. This album was inspired by the death of Elverum’s wife Genevieve last year at the age of just 35. It’s less a song cycle than a series of thoughts, recorded not long after her passing, with minimal accompaniment. On the opening track, “Real Death,” he says, “Death is real. Someone’s there and then they’re not. And it’s not for singing about. It’s not for making into art… I don’t want to learn anything from this. I love you.” Elverum doesn’t look for meaning here as much as he pours out his sadness. If John Lennon had recorded Plastic Ono Band by himself in the Pacific Northwest, A Crow Looked at Me might have been the result.

  1. Cheap Trick — We’re All Alright!  (Big Machine)

Cheap Trick is on a roll these days, releasing three albums in two years! On We’re All Alright, the pride of Rockford, Illinois proves they’re still a force to be reckoned with after 40 years in the game. This album is one of their harder-rocking efforts, with highlights like “She’s Alright” and “Brand New Name on an Old Tattoo.” And Robin Zander reasserts his place as “the man of a thousand voices,” one of rock and roll’s best singers ever.

  1. Harry Styles —  (Sony)

I can’t really tell you anything about One Direction, but this self-titled debut from Harry Styles is a quality piece of mainstream pop. Styles strikes me as the anti-Bieber. For one thing, he can actually sing, as he proves on both rockers (“Kiwi”) and ballads (the smash “Sign of the Times”). For another, he’s not a jerk. If you can get beyond his boy-band past, you may be pleasantly surprised.

  1. The Distractions — Kindly Leave the Stage  (Occultation Recordings)

The Distractions are the stuff of post-punk legend: an obscure band from Manchester, England who made one critically acclaimed album in the early 80s and promptly vanished. The title of their third long-player says it all. Kindly Leave the Stage is their swan song from singer Mike Finney, guitarist/songwriter Steve Perrin and their mates. While the opening track, “A Few Miles More,” is catchy, it isn’t happy. And after that, the album is basically one long farewell. But few bands do sadness as well as The Distractions.

  1. Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas — The World of Captain Beefheart (Knitting Factory)

Two NYC legends — singer Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas — pay tribute to another legend, the late abstract blues-rocker Don Van Vliet (better known as Captain Beefheart). On this album of covers, they tackle a dozen Beefheart compositions, from the reflective “My Head is My Only House Unless it Rains” to the jubilant closer, “Tropical Hot Dog Night.” Side note: if there was any justice in the world, Hendryx would be on the cover of Essence and in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame…

  1. The Relationship — Clara Obscura  (Rebel Union Recordings)

The Relationship is the side project of Weezer guitarist Brian Bell. Their long-awaited sophomore set, Clara Obscura, may not reinvent the wheel but it’s a solid collection of power pop: 10 well played tunes that offer proof positive than Rivers Cuomo isn’t the only talented songwriter in Weezer.

  1. Casey James — Strip It Down  (self-released)

Not to be confused with the guy who was one half of the ’70s R&B duo Bell & James. This Casey James got his big break on American Idol, where apparently he was marketed as sort of an alt-country heartthrob. On Strip It Down, however, he turns his attention to the blues with excellent results. Highlights range from the rocking title track and “Bulletproof” (where he’s joined by Delbert McClinton) to the more downbeat but equally effective “Different Kind of Love.”

  1. Loch & Key — Slow Fade  (self-released)

Loch & Key are actually Sean Hoffman and Layla Akdogan Hoffman, a husband and wife duo based in southern California. Their sophomore album Slow Fade is a collection of ethereal, enigmatic songs highlighted by Layla’s wispy vocals.

  1. Nick Heyward — Woodland Echoes  (Gladsome Hawk)

Nick Heyward is best known as the frontman of Haircut 100, the English band who hit big in the early ’80s with the great pop song “Love Plus One.” Woodland Echoes, his first solo offering in eons, finds him in a lusher, more rustic context. But he’s still able to craft ace songs, as evidenced by “A Beautiful Morning.”


Honorable Mention

  1. The War on Drugs — A Deeper Understanding  (Atlantic)
  2. Paula Cole — Ballads (675 Records)
  3. Gregg Allman — Southern Blood (Rounder Records)
  4. Harts — Smoke Fire Hope Desire (Razor & Tie)
  5. Edward Rogers — TV Generation  (Zip Records)



  1. Gary Crowley’s Punk and New Wave   (Edsel)

A three-CD, 77-song treasure trove compiled by veteran English radio personality Crowley. If you’re enamored of the New Wave era, as I am, you’ll love revisiting some of these tracks and discovering others for the first time. You won’t find the usual first wave UK punks like The Sex Pistols and The Clash here; but you will find important secondary punks (The Vibrators, The Saints, Eater, 999); power pop (Advertising, The Donkees, Tonight); great female-led groups (Altered Images, The Modettes, The Expressos); mod revivalists (The New Hearts, The Really 3rds); and endless other delights.

  1. Artful Dodger — The Complete Columbia Recordings  (Real Gone/Columbia)

Artful Dodger was the great lost American band of the late ’70s. Based in Virginia, they recorded four albums that split the difference between classic rock and power pop. Their best known song, “Wayside,” is still only a cult classic. Dodger had the looks, the hooks and the backing of a major label but somehow failed to make it big. Listen and weep.

  1. The Stax Vinyl 7s box (Stax/Concord)

A handsomely packaged box set of rare vinyl singles that originally came out in the 1970s on the legendary soul label Stax.  Richard Searling, another English DJ, complied this set which includes informative liner notes about artists that range from somewhat well known to hopelessly obscure.

  1. Gerry  Rafferty — United Artistry: The Best of Gerry Rafferty (Varese)

If you think the late Gerry Rafferty was a one-hit wonder, check out this well chosen, one-disc collection. That one big hit, the classic “Baker Street,”is here. But you’ll also find secondary hits (“Get It Right Next Time,” “Home and Dry”), rarities (“Big Change in the Weather”) and the Stealers Wheel standard “Stuck in the Middle with You.”

  1. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band — Anthology (Capitol Nashville)

A double-disc set that pulls highlights from the Dirt Band’s 50-year career. Hits, album tracks, rarities, collaborations… They all add up to the definitive anthology from an Americana institution.


In Memoriam

Tom Petty

I wouldn’t have thought it possible but we lost even more great musicians in 2017 than we did in 2016. The one that hit me the hardest was Tom Petty. For one thing, it was unexpected. For a second, like so many Americans of a certain age, he and The Heartbreakers’ music really did comprise a big part of the soundtrack of my life. But for a third, there was something special about Petty that went beyond the music. There was a reason he was loved by both the mainstream and the hipsters, by people of all ages, ethnicities and musical stripes. Petty was sort of the conscience of the music business in my eyes: a nice guy who was loved by many but who was also very human and not afraid to call the industry on its bullshit when he had to. His loss is huge.

That said, we lost a lot of other important musicians this year. Some that come to mind are Chuck Berry, Gregg Allman, Pat DiNizio, Maggie Roche, John Wetton, Al Jarreau, Chris Cornell, Malcolm Young and Saxa of The English Beat.

Biggest Disappointment 

Bon Jovi will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame next year while The Zombies (among other more deserving acts) were passed over once again. Criminal.

Best New Artist

Celisse Henderson

Prepare to be blown away by this NYC-based artist. She can sing, write and play guitar with a vengeance!

Best Holiday Album

Loose Cattle — Seasonal Affective Disorder  (Low Heat Records)

Best EP

Mary Lambert — Bold  (self-released)

Best Concert

The Pretenders at Terminal 5 in NYC.

Worst Trend

For the second year in a row, too many musicians dying before their time.

Asshole of the Year

14-year-old rapper Bhad Bhabie (nee Danielle Bregoli), a problem child with no talent who nonetheless got signed by Atlantic Records after “Them Heaux” and some of her other “songs” became YouTube hits. Ahmet Ertegun is turning over in his grave right about now.

2017 Release I’m Most Anticipating

Mary Gauthier — Rifles and Rosary Beads

Favorite Piece I Wrote for Blurt

“Whatever Happened to the Next Big Thing?”





MUSIC JOURNALISM 2017: Every Month is a “Women In Music” Issue

It was the worst of times, it was the, uh… worst of times. But there were a few individual rays of light, much of them, appropriately enough, from a distaff perspective. Pictured above: happier times (at least for, ahem, a select, privileged few).


Looking for solace in the age of Trump, CNN’s Frida Ghitis found some upsides to having Orange Voldemort at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: We’ve seen, among other things, a revival in feminism and journalism.  This isn’t just desperate rose-colored glasses optimism or limited to politics — these are important trends that have real meaning in our musical universe and came to bear this past year there in full force.

It just wouldn’t be a journo round-up if we didn’t dispense with the misery so hold on, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.  Overall in the larger journo world, a pile of high-name editors have fled their own publications since even the big-name pubs are struggling for dough right alongside online behemoths like Buzzfeed. Having deep-pocketed sugar daddies isn’t always the best answer as Gothamist or DNAinfo  could tell you if they were still around, much less the now-decimated L.A. Weekly, leaving the whole alt-weekly environment in shambles (including The Village Voice, more of which we’ll see later).

The usual culprit to all this journalistic bloodletting is social media as mags and writers are still figuring out how to navigate this world, still after a whole decade ago when Facebook and Twitter exploded on the scene.  The strange, frustrating fact is also that the big social media platforms themselves aren’t sure how they fit into the media-scape or how to maneuver it. Big pubs latch onto social platforms as we hear that most millennials getting their news from these sources through the social giants try to reconcile their role as media arbitrators and understand that some user fatigue is setting in with users. As for giving something back to and helping the journo world, Facebook is starting its own journalism project, but some cynics are right to note that it might be too little and too late and that it’s ridiculous to think that these social platforms alone should be responsible for propping up the industry or be trusted to save it.

And sure, media companies ranging from national publications to local blogs have every right to be suspicious of the social giants. Among other issues, it’s questionable whether these social hook-ups produce healthy results for pubs (or not), which leads some publishers to become wary of social innovations that are supposed to help them, especially when some moves like advanced ad-blockers seem like they cut off the financial bread & butter of these publications.*

 That isn’t even mentioning how Facebook still struggles with filtering out ‘fake news’ which competes with real stories (music writing has its own problems with this as we’ll see later).  Media videos might hold some promise as a way to attract viewers, but pivoting there ain’t cheap, plus, the social giants aren’t willing to pay out to pubs for content anymore. And while YouTube can’t get its shit together to grab ad money, they cut a significant deal with Universal and Sony that might mean that a new rival streaming service is coming. Not to be outdone, Facebook inked a licensing deal with Universal, meaning the other majors may not be far behind but to what end…?  The social puzzle has gotten so desperate that the media giants themselves are coming together to battle and negotiate with Google and Facebook from a position of (what they think is) strength in numbers.  Maybe the most dispiriting thing when it comes to social media though is the fact that most pubs still have self-defeating social media buttons that do a lame-ass job of sharing their articles, not to mention the start-up videos and pop-up ads that still render most web pages unreadable — no links needed, just go to any major publication site and see for yourself.

When we zoom in specifically on what’s happened with music/entertainment pubs in ’17… well, it ain’t pretty. After showing initial promise with expanded music coverage in 2014, Medium has had to close its New York office and it looks like the CMJ College Radio Chart looks like a corpse.  The Jazz Journalists Association finds that only 5% of its members have full-time newspaper work as online destinations take up the slack but usually offer no pay.  The Quietus has gotten so desperate that they’ve put out a public appeal for funding after their ad dollars dried up, admitting that their “corporate advertising is down by around 90%.” ** Struggling with years of slimmed-down staffing, Spin had to take to recycling content from themselves (including this great 1997 Sleater-Kinney review from Ann Powers) and elsewhere (this fascinating take from Chuck Berry on punk rock records, which came from a blog, which itself recycled the story from elsewhere). Still, Spin were able to have some solid stories, like the reporting of another music journo bummer — MTV News‘ collapse and disgrace (more on that below).  Shakes-ups came in the form of Chris Kaskie leaving Pitchfork after 14 years as its president and Billboard shuffling chair and roles at the top.  Vlogging sensation Anthony Fantano took a big hit to his reputation after a Fader article (see in the article listing below) outed his alt-right leanings, though he still retains an impressive following.  Layoffs were a constant, long-running theme as they came to SlateVice (which had build up staff only three years ago) and the Village Voice, where all of us long-time Pazz & Jop voters wondered as December rolled to end if the poll died until we saw some hope in this tweet. Although it finally arrived shortly before Christmas, my ballot and those of several others initially weren’t able to go through their online system. Eventually the Voice fixed the glitch, however. ***

Speaking of the Voice (which has gone through years of ownership sales and music chairs at the top of the ladder), even more than the recent layoffs, the big news there was that they were ending their print edition, which unleashed a wave of historic nostalgia among its old writers and editors via NPR and Chuck Eddy’s Austin360 piece. Paste also folded up their print edition but did it with a bang, making a book edition with a music sampler put together at their own studios.

For Billboard (which has also endured staff shake-ups, ownership sales, layoffs and revenue loss in the last few years alone), though they boasted online traffic growth and managed to gobble up Spin, Vibe and Stereogum through their parent company in late ’16, they still had growing pains as they tried to wrestle with how to count up the streaming figures and add them into their music charts.  After head scratching over how many streams equals a sale at the start of ’17, they decided to change up their streaming math to include genre albums and Pandora plays and then changed their magazine and chart dates to line-up with the week they covered.  YouTube however was SOL as they were cut out of the magazine’s chart tallies.  All of this makes you wonder how accurate the tallies are and if it’s possible to draw an accurate chart listing at all in the download/digital/streaming age.

And then there’s Rolling Stone, the grey lady of music, celebrating its 50th anniversary with not a lot to celebrate and with a huge lawsuit haunting them, not to mention their own layoffs and staff shake-ups over the last few years.  After shifting around its high level teams around May, the UVA story lawsuit was revived (having gone on for two years already), leading to a settlement with the school and later with the fraternity involved.  Considering the considerable money involved in the suits, maybe it was no coincidence that a few months later, the magazine announced that it was putting itself up for sale amid talks of a ‘diminished staff,’ a double-digit drop in news stand sales, online traffic dipping by over 25% and talk of making the pub into a quarterly.  To make it an attractive buy, RS was also promising to cut back on editorial.  All this culminated with the year-end announcement that the majority stake in the company went to Penske Media (which also owns Variety) for $100 million along with plans to lean into more live events and licensing, though as ReCode notes, the deal is an investment and not a sale, which means that founder/publisher Jann Wenner and son Gus keep senior positions.  If that wasn’t enough for RS this year, Wenner Sr. faced his own accusations of sexual harassment, which he denied.

Another dispiriting trend was how “fake news” and misleading items made its way to the music journo world, though we’ve already had more than our share from our head of state. This discouraging trend has been always around but bubbling up even more in the last few years with a raft of misleading stories in ’14 — you might remember Steve Albini’s Internet speech or Pomplamoose’s whining tour diary — or last year’s BS about Mozart outselling Drake (sorry but Wolfy didn’t).  First and foremost among ’17 fakery was the Tom Petty death watch which pronounced him gone before the eventual fact.  Much more serious and tragic was the mistaken identity given to the shooter at Jason Aldean’s Las Vegas show.  MTV News‘ reputation got a mud-drag when it came out thanks to Spin and Vulture that artists were able to muscle the network to take down unflattering stories if the network wanted to book them for their TV shows. And just in case you thought you were getting the whole truth and nothing but the truth, The Outline tells us that ad agencies are paying writers for product plugging/mentions in big-name publications like Forbes and Huffington Post. Then there was the bizarre BS story about the Discogs highest sales record which was exposed by NPR (see in the article listing below). And with the gloomy landscape it was obviously time to trot out the tired old-guy argument about music writing being a corpse (complete with a Lester Bangs graphic), which was trotted out by a Hypebot writer who pointed to my SXSW panel (which he didn’t attend) and based it on a misguided review of it from elsewhere (sure I’m biased, but I know that it was actually a meaty discussion thanks to Rachel Brodsky, Chuck Eddy, Greg Kot).

In terms of tech initiatives and music publications, what was most notable was what you didn’t hear about in 2017 — there weren’t any real innovations that might hold promise (one great exception being this NY Times info dump on music maps). Compare this to 2014 when data-driven articles were springing up plus crowd-funding ideas, content platforms and apps (see the music writing round-up for that year) or last year when we had more innovative crowd funders plus Vice‘s documentary series and the Pitchfork TV venture (see the 2016 round-up for details). With apps drying up as a possible savior and no new bold tech ideas this past year, music journalism is making life even harder for itself in a world where cutting edge tech is everything now. Hint: take some tips from Sarah Toporoff of Global Editors Network about media innovation.

Maybe it’s appropriate to end the weeping and wailing here with a few sad goodbyes to some noted music scribes who will be missed: Nat Hentoff, Marc Spitz, Richie Yorke, Reggie Ossie and Marc Fisher (see Simon Reynolds’ article below).

And after all of that misery, ’17 did have a few bright spots for the music journo world.  Despite the hits to its integrity, MTV News managed to unionize. Fader got a fine editor-in-chief (Duncan Cooper). WBGO got a jazz expert in the form of Nate Chinen (formerly at NY Times). Vice snapped up $450 million in investments. Billboard added on Hannah Karp as news editor. Variety beefed up its music staff with Shirley Halperin and Jem Asward (formerly at Billboard).  In late breaking news from the end of ’16, Fader upped its social media team (wise move, especially now) and both Pitchfork and Thump/Vice did their own round-up’s of 2016 music stories.  For all the music scribe fans out there, there was also a Lester Bangs play How To Be A Rock Critic which made its way from L.A. to Chicago and is now heading to NYC in early ’18 which should seen drooling hoards of fan boys there as we speak.   And if all of that isn’t cheery enough for you, how about having LeBron James as one of our best music critics?  Sure, that pales in comparison to all the sad stuff from ’17 but you gotta grasp onto something.

And you can’t talk about 2017 without talking about #MeToo, which IS a bright spot and did affect the music biz. Though this movement became a huge story this year, don’t forget that in early ’16, a big-name music publicist was outed and forced out of work when stories of him as a sexual predator came out, though at the time, there was no floodgates opening the way they are now. After the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in early October though, there was plenty of schadenfreude about other scummy characters taken down several notches and booted off their thrones but it also hit some previously well-admired cultural figures (Charlie Rose, Louie C.K.).  Painful as it is to hear about this from people that we admire, we have to take our collective lumps and have a no-tolerance policy for this sick behavior. And of course the music biz isn’t immune to this problem either as noted with country singer Katie Armiger’s brave stance, Dorothy Cavello’s column in Variety, Baebel Blog’s “These Musicians Have Come Forward to Say ‘Me Too’” article, Andrew Wallenstein’s “Vice Media Admits ‘We Failed’ to Curb Sexual Harassment at Company” report in Variety, and Warner Music execs being accused of sexual misconduct.  Rest assured, many more #MeToo stories will come out in ’18 and beyond.  Should we be surprised about it either in an industry known for its excesses?

Maybe another piece of good news for ’17 is the almost-40 excellent articles below, coming from everywhere, ranging from big-time media sources (Vulture/NewYork, NPR, Washington Post in particular) to blogs, plus Pitchfork proving that it’s much more than just numeric rankings. Sorry, there’s no worthy social media entries this time though Erykah Badu’s (below) and Howe Gelb’s Instagram posts are wonderful photo art. There’s also plenty of healthy skepticism in these stories about Spotify (see Marc Hogan, Liz Pelly). Jim DeRogatis’ story is particularly of note ’cause it almost didn’t happen for fear of lawsuits, which many pubs don’t have the deep pockets to battle for fear that another Peter Thiel will take them down as he did with Gawker (making me wonder how many other important stories we WON’T see because of that same fear).

Maybe the most encouraging sign for music journalism is the fact that many of the stories below that deal with feminism (especially Ann Powers’ pivotal piece for NPR) actually predate the October 5th reporting of the Weinstein story, making you wonder if even before that article come out, the specter of a misogynist wave coming out of the ’16 election drove a much needed correction in the other direction, along with similar push backs about race and identity (and the irony that if the election results were different, a wave of women empowerment would have happened for other reasons).  No doubt related to that, you might also notice that many of the writers below happen to be women, following a growing, encouraging trend over the last decade.  You can chalk it up to any pointy-headed theory you like but there’s probably a much simpler explanation — women are just better music writers.  You think it’s a coincidence that Merriam-Webster’s word of the year was ‘feminism‘?



Ella Was the Only Music Social Network That Made Sense” (Noisey, December 5, 2017)

The music streaming wars already have plenty of casualties and with the profits razor-thin, there will be more to come.  Nowhere near as popular as Spotify or Pandora, still served a purpose — unlike those other services, it actually fostered a community of music fans who could communicate, learn from each other and compare notes.  Ideally, you’d hope the bigger streaming survivors would provide the same type of communities but will they bother if they don’t see any ($) value to it?


Adrienne BlackMusic Industry Advice For Women, By Women” (Pigeons and Planes, January 3, 2017)

Like most industries, the music biz is still a man’s world but to change that, we need less mansplaining and to hear more from the women there who’ve made it to share some of their advice.  Find mentors and demand respect as Black insists, but also know that you have to “work harder than the rest.”…And write good articles like this one.


Britt BrownCollateral Damage: Britt Brown on negative reviews” (The Wire, September 2017)

Years ago, when print was still somewhat alive, a reviews editor at a big publication told me ‘we don’t have room for bad reviews anymore.’ That’s understandable but Brown makes the argument of why it’s still important regardless, even if it’s tempered by fear of trolls and hemmed in by grading systems that fortify a plateau of middle-ground acceptance. “It’s often forgotten that the function of press is not to boost sales, but to document a dialogue sparked by the reception of the work.” You heard it here first, folks!


Sarah CahillWhat I Learned as a Music Critic, and Why It Still Matters” (The Log, April 4, 2017)

It’s silly to call this kind of introspection ‘navel-gazing’ — all music journalism is just that in some way, but it can also be much more than that, as we learn from Cahill. It’s not just that she has a unique perspective because she’s also a musician but she’s also found that sinking her brain into the music she covers actually gave her more of an appreciation of it.  And what more could we ask from music scribes than that? Of course, this kind of background can make you hyper-critical of other music writing too (just like here).


Adam ChandlerThe Eternal Unbearable Greatness of Billy Joel” (The Atlantic, April 21, 2017)

Even if you’re a Joel hater, you can’t help but be impressed and fascinated by his long game, especially since he still fills stadiums while he’s stopped putting out albums in the early 90’s. Hell, even the stones and Macca put out new albums once in a while (even if you don’t wanna hear ’em).  Face it — he’s a cultural institution and not just in the Tri-State area.  “Not bad for someone who spent part of the 1970s opening for Olivia Newton-John, Yes, and Captain Beefheart.”

Jim DeRogatisInside the Pied Piper of R&B’s “Cult”” (Buzzfeed, July 17, 2017)

An incredible story not just because of the accusations — that Kelly kept women as prisoners — but also the long-term efforts that it took to get the story itself out, as detailed in this Slate article and this Washington Post article about how the story almost never got published, not to mention this follow-up Buzzfeed article detailing other women speaking out about Kelly. And it’s not as if Kelly hasn’t had a long and sordid history with women.


Geoff EdgersWhile My Guitar Gently Weeps” (Washington Post, June 22, 2017)

Cringe at the title but don’t discount the message — the electric guitar is falling out of favor in the music biz and there are numbers here to prove it.  This doesn’t stop 1000’s of bands who ignore this every day but it ain’t what it used to be, right up to the 90’s when Cobain convinced young hopefuls to seek out six-strings.  Nowadays?  Apps and drum machines and sequencers rule.  And some day, they’ll fall of favor too.  Also see Edgers’ warts-and-all portrait of Billy Joe Shaver.


Andrew FlanaganThe Most Expensive Record Never Sold” (NPR, March 23, 2017)

Real news about fake news.  A guy who went blackface to pretend he was Hendrix’s son, almost got a label deal through Bruce Hornsby and later sold, and probably bought, his own album, which might not exist and set a record for a single sale at the Discogs site.  Or maybe not…  But the hoax worked ’cause you’re reading about him right now.


Abigail GardnerWhose record is it anyway? Musical ‘crate digging’ across Africa” (The Conversation, September 6, 2017)

Sure, colonialism and crate digging in search of exotica is kind of an opt-putting venture but it means that we get all kinds of rare, unknown goodies and these artists get the recognition (and maybe royalties) they have never had before.  So that’s great, right?  But why are black music archivists usually well-meaning white people? And why aren’t these albums part of a larger cultural picture that we’re missing out on?


Sasha GeffenTOKiMONSTA Lost Speaking and Musical Abilities After Brain Surgery. This Is How She Regained Them.” (Pitchfork, September 12, 2017)

Even if you think that the first half of the article which details her illness is TMI (actually, it’s pretty interesting though still heart-breaking), you’ll quickly get on her side as she tells of how her music helped her recovery and she learned the best way to get back on her feet was to not push herself but let the music comes to her as it needed to.  Also see this fascinating AP article about how scientists are still scratching their head over music therapy but still finding it helpful for patients.


Rachel Kaadzi GhansahHer Eyes Were Watching the Stars: How Missy Elliott Became An Icon” (Elle, May 15, 2017)

Missy as feminist icon and as a little-praised producer and as a private/public person who battles shyness and an abuse-ridden past.  Surely she deserves a 2nd, 3rd act after her 2015 Super Bowl cameo.


Marc HoganUncovering How Streaming Is Changing the Sound of Pop” (Pitchfork, September 25, 2017)

“Spotify tells you what your job is,” Chainsmokers singer Elizabeth Mencel explains. In the first 30 seconds, throw out a slew of hooks, get the chorus in early and you’ve got a hit. Why? You gotta get the listener to stay tuned for at least the first 30 secs of streaming to get counted the song counted as a ‘play’ (which you can earn royalties for), hence all the early ornaments in these songs.  Call it the “Spotify Sound.”  If you like, long dramatic intros, you’re outta luck. Also see Eamonn Forde “‘They could destroy the album’: how Spotify’s playlists have changed music for ever” (The Guardian, August 17, 2017) where we get a scary glimpse into a future where voice control for devices (“Hey Siri, play dubstep!”) and trigger words could affect our whole pop landscape.


Steven J. Horowitz “The Concert Ticket Industry Is Still Broken” (Vulture, May 2, 2017)

Finding that your favorite shows are sold out a millisecond after they go on sale and then you have to pay hundreds of dollars from legalized scalpers through the likes of Stubhub (via eBay) and TicketsNow (via LiveNation)?  There’s a good reason. Verified Fan programs haven’t stamped out scalpers who still find a way to game the system (thanks in part to bots) and it may also be that some of the artists themselves hold back tickets to get some sweet resell money.  Until a strong fan lobby pushes back at Congress to regulate this industry more, expect the same to keep happening.

Hua HsuAlice Coltrane’s Devotional Music” (The New Yorker, April 24, 2017)

Thankfully no longer in her husband’s shadow, she was on the same celestial plane and took her music even farther after Saint John’s death — her idea of religious music ain’t your parent’s church but was instead led by her own Hindu-inspired faith. Even if you don’t have any need for hipsters and other spiritual types, you can at least thank them for helping with her revival.


Craig JenkinsThe Sound of Modern Pop Peaked This Year — and Now It Needs to Change” (Vulture, December 11, 2017)

If you happen to love singles now (shame on you if you don’t — 2017 was a great singles year) and wonder why, there’s a cunning reason.  It might not be as obvious as with other pop trends but there’s definitely a formula out there and Jenkins nails it down — “fluttering horns, folk-pop–indebted guitar licks with fat synth lines played staccato or else broken up into choppy eighth and 16th notes, and drums that nod either to the hand claps and finger snaps.”  It transcends pop and makes its way into R&B, rap. And now that it’s named, we should move on to something new.  Also see Jenkins’ other important pieces for Vulture: “The Life and Death of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy” (June 22, 2017) and “Rap Is Less Homophobic Than Ever, But It Has a Long Way to Go” (February 13, 2017).


Steve KnopperThe Rope: The Forgotten History of Segregated Rock & Roll Concerts” (Rolling Stone, November 16, 2017)

“As the original rock & roll pioneers are fading out, it’s more important than ever to share their stories,” Knopper notes and with Chuck and Fats now gone and prayers to keep Little Richard and Jerry Lee with us as long as possible, it’s definitely an urgent project to get these stories down for the record, not just for the history books but also so we can learn and remember.  One complaint — this story is broad and vital enough to be told in the span of an entire book.

Dee LockettThe Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Still Has No Idea What to Make of Black Art” (Vulture, April 29, 2017)

For this past year’s ceremony, Lockett picks up on the stark contrast to when Tupac was supposed to be honored versus the love shown to the otherwise-white roster of inductees.  Just as at the ’95 Source Awards, when Snoop wondered if “East Coast ain’t got no love,” the audience didn’t seem interested again though Snoop took it with better grace now.  If the crowd really needed a piss break moment during the show, they would have been much better off with Journey.


Jillian MapesThe Music World’s Reaction to Sexual Assault Needs to Keep Changing” (Pitchfork, October 24, 2017)

A much-needed manifesto for the #MeToo age. “We need male musicians and men working in the music industry to examine their own behavior, and to hold other men accountable for the indiscretions they witness.”  And even more importantly: “It is lazy and shameful to only deal with this problem when women take on the burden of speaking out, and the illusion of independent music as a progressive field is dented for all to see.”


Ezra MarcusThe Needle Drop pioneered music review vlogs. His lesser-known channel pandered to the alt-right.” (The Fader, October 3, 2017)

Anthony Fantano, ground breaking online music critic, now outed as alt-right troll, leaving his fans and admirers awestruck and hurt.  Marcus said that he was piled on with hate mail thanks to this piece but thanks to him for coming forward with this, fan hood be damned. Kill your idols indeed.


Mike McCollumThe Drive By Truckers’ Southern Rock Opera and Contemporary Southern Identity” (Mike McCollum, January 11, 2017)

This exhaustive blog post as term paper not only does justice to a great album but also puts it into the context of not just music history but also a Southern culture that’s not necessarily on the skids, where William Faulkner rubs shoulders with Ronnie Van Zant.


Maeve McDermottThe 2018 Grammy nominations deservedly celebrate artists of color” (USA Today, November 28, 2017)

Compared to the lily-white Oscars, NARAS is in even more of a bind as it’s obvious that white men aren’t where the action is in terms of quality and innovation in the music world so in a way, they NEEDED to acknowledge it and finally did. Will it stop the boycotts? Maybe for now. But maybe not with Kanye, unless they give him every award.


Michelle MercerSexism From Two Leading Jazz Artists Draws Anger — And Presents An Opportunity” (NPR, March 9, 2017)

Most any forward-thinking jazz fan cheers on pianist/composer Robert Glasper and fellow keysman Ethan Iverson (Bad Plus) but what happens when the former lays out some sexist crap (women don’t like solos, you just play groove and the music is like sex to them) and the later defends this, call BS on the attacks and insists he’s a liberal and a feminist?  Don’t we all know plenty of guys who don’t dig solos and get the hots from music? Mercer isn’t buying it either but at least finds some upside in that we’re still able to connect jazz with erotica and that in these heated arguments, “we need an intelligent public discussion about gendered notions of jazz.”

Tom MoonWalter Becker Was A Master Of Musical Understatement” (NPR, September 4, 2017)

Finding the craggily essence of a private person who wrote multi-million dollar music and posed proudly as a cynic, misanthrope, jazz head and a hell of a funny guy (as Donald Fagen tells it).


Marissa R. MossWe Need To Talk About How We Write About Women Musicians” (Lockeland Springsteen, April 10, 2017)

Subtitle (which Moss hears a lot from editors): “But we write about female musicians ALL the time.” This stirring manifesto lays out its point cleanly and decisively. For the “Women In Music” special issues, she says “appreciate the gesture, but how about you just write about women on all the days.” And finally, nailing the semantics of how music scribing approaches women: “If we point out problematic language or systemic sexism, we are not always calling you sexist. This isn’t about you. For once, this is about women. So listen.” Got it?


Liz PellyThe Problem With Muzak” (The Baffler, December 4, 2017)

Following up on her excellent piece in Watt about how Spotify playlists are the new payola, Pelly tracks more insidious ways that the streaming service screws the rest of the musical food chain.  Brands using artists in their playlists without their consent? Check. Trying to do away with music labels? Check. Turning music into nothing more than background for all your daily activities? Check.  Getting publications to create playlists while their readers are sucked into a service that may render these same publications obsolete?  Check.  And you thought Google and Facebook were evil? They are, but these guys aren’t far behind now.

Robyn PennacchiaAmerica’s wholesome square dancing tradition is a tool of white supremacy” (Quartz, December 12, 2017)

What could be more innocent than square dancing (which many of us had to endure as kids)?  Sad to say, the intro of this musical ritual can be traced to industrialist and anti-Semite Henry Ford who thought that jazz was having an evil influence on American culture and needed some way to counter it.  And so, the seemingly innocuous ritual lives alongside minstrelsy and Birth of A Nation as important artistic touchstones with disturbing racial histories attached.


Ann PowersA New Canon: In Pop Music, Women Belong At The Center Of The Story” (NPR, July 24, 2017)

In and of itself, one of the most important music articles not just in ’17 but in the last few years.  Powers throws down the gauntlet on what our cherished musical canons should be like, which is much more inclusive of innovative, brilliant women.  The article is already so influential that it inspired Julianne Escobedo Shepherd’s hilarious response in Jezebel (where Sgt. Pepper’s and Kid A both get their asses kicked), this classical-themed follow-up from Anne Midgette and this expansive multi-media piece from the NY Times, which are all superior articles themselves. So, can we have more follow-ups, please…?


Anna QuitoThe classical music concert is a vital workout for our sagging, flabby attention spans” (Quartz, April 9, 2017)

For every moment in our waking life where there’s a pause or waiting, we reflexively pull out our phone and amuse ourselves (hell, I do it all the time). But what if we could unplug ourselves for just an hour or two, without any active visual stimulus other that dozens of musicians playing a stirring symphony? Quito suggests that this kind of exercise is tonic in our digital world and with a little practice (just like a gym workout), we can do it easier than we think. No scientific study here though it does touch on some of those — it’s just a moving, personalized guide about how classical music changed the writer’s way of thinking and life, and it might do the same for you.


Simon ReynoldsMark His Words” (Blissblog, February 9, 2017)

Aka Mark Fisher’s Greatest Hits. The writer/educator/theorist/philosopher, aka ‘K-Punk,’ was just as comfortable critiquing capitalism and post-modernism as he was attacking Dylan, understanding Michael Jackson’s legacy, dissecting the eloquent misery of James Blake and untangling Drake’s insatiable appetite. Reynolds once described K’s blog as superior to any Brit music publication and didn’t mind it a bit when Fisher himself tangled with him over music.  He relished it actually.  And don’t you think Fisher would have relished this very write-up — a review of an unofficial collection of his essays about music — as a great post-modern twist?


Chris RichardsHow the death of EDM brought pop music one step closer to eternal life” (Washington Post, August 3, 2017)

For ‘real’ techno fans, EDM’s passing was a blessing — no more drunk jocks partying to empty, pandering dance music, right?  Not really. EDM just got gobbled up into pop music and has lived on through it, courtesy of machine-like affectations that singers latch on to.  Of course, the lyrics distract from the partying but there’s always hip hop to draw in the frat-boy crowd, right? Also see Richards’ insightful pieces on apocalypse pop and bridging the freestyle/mumble rap gap.


Jenna RomaineIf Moby Accepted Trump Inauguration Invitation, This Would Be His Playlist” (Billboard, January 9, 2017)

When the charmless would-be autocrat looked around for musical talent for his coronation, the list of A-list performers who refused was impressive, leaving Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down and some D-listers to fill in the gaps. The techno-turned-pop whiz Moby was a refusenik himself but was coaxed to come up with his own set list to entertain the MAGA crowd, including Public Enemy, Gil Scott-Heron, Pete Seeger, Billie Holiday, Cat Stevens, John Lennon, Sex Pistols, the Clash, Killing Joke and all manner of political tunes.  It would have beat the hell out of the endless replays of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” which Trump used at most of his rallies (without the Stones’ approval).


Alex RossThe Fate of the Critic in the Clickbait Age” (New Yorker, March 13, 2017)

“Why publish articles that almost nobody wants?” wonders of our finest classical scribes, struggling to figure out where classical music fits into a post-millennial culture where arts writers are a rare, dying breed at many large-scale publications since there’s no proof that their columns get enough clicks and ad bucks.  Surely the music he loves can’t compete against Marvel flicks in the entertainment section of any publication left standing?  Still, he makes a valiant argument that we need space for ‘unpopular’ music regardless unless we want our entire culture conversation to turn into emojis. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Ruth SaxelbyWe need to talk about drugging” (The Fader, December 12, 2017)

In the wake of #MeToo, we hear some harrowing first-hand accounts of roofie-induced rapes.  Horrible to also hear that this actually ISN’T totally illegal in all states and that most cases never get reported, out of fear and shame. If that wasn’t bad enough, the research on this is lacking too.  As a music exec who was a drugging victim painfully recounts “I’ve thought about this more than I’ve ever thought about anything. I’ve searched for any other possible explanation. There is none.”  Saxelby wisely advises us that one way to counter this is to spread the word about the problem so that potential victims are on guard. Also, you can help by donating to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).


Adam ShatzThe Ethereal Genius of Craig Taborn” (New York Times, June 22, 2017)

The charming, frustrating, romantic story of an ego-less jazz pioneer who shows supreme dedication to his craft, even if it means not advancing his career, which in turn endears him to other musicians and label heads.

Art TavanaHow Guns N’ Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction” Hijacked the Music Industry” (Ultimate Classic Rock, July 19, 2017)

Even if you’re sick of GNR, Axl’s whiny ego and their played-out reunion, this article makes a good case for their place in history and how their sound, their image, their ‘tude and even their musicianship turned the music world topsy-turvy for a while.  At least until the long wait for Chinese Democracy.


Martha TesemaBlack-centric spaces like Afropunk Festival are valuable now more than ever, and here are 8 people’s reasons why” (Mashable, August 30, 2017)

Afropunk isn’t just an incredible coming together of musical styles but also a place where an African-American audience can really let their freak flag fly. Tesema nails the essence of the fest not just with the interviews where attendees celebrate the ‘black-centric space’ but also the wonderful pics she provides, making this an intriguing photo essay too.


Emily YahrNashville songwriters are like family. Here’s what happens when things get complicated.” (Washington Post, August 10, 2017)

Until A.I. renders them useless (maybe sooner than you think or hope), songwriters are still a vital part of not just pop music but also country. In Nashville, where it’s a tiny world indeed, a good song-smith can be gold if they can beat out the competition, find the right singer and not get their song put on hold indefinitely, which provides a hard-won lesson about making it in Music City: that’s why “the artists that are most successful. . . are great at responding quickly.”



* Guilty. I use ad-blockers. But in my defense, media websites relentlessly place in front of me “supported content,” floating ads, pop-ups, and outright screen-fillers that require multiple clicks on my part just to finish reading a paragraph. So my sympathy for anyone employing these strategies ies has eroded to a considerable degree. — Uncle Blurt, website administrator

** We here at BLURT donated to a number such causes, however much we could afford at the time and when it was a website that we frequent on a regular basis in dire need,, such as the Internet Archive and of course The Quietus. Maybe we should make our own pitch for support from readers. — Ed.

*** As Jason noted above, the pollsters at the Voice didn’t bother to send out ballots until a couple of days before Christmas; at least not to a number of longtime voters, including BLURT’s own editor, hardly a vote of confidence. Staff downsizing, perhaps? — Minutiae Ed.


Jason Gross, a longtime BLURT contributor, is also the publisher and editor of the most excellent web magazine Perfect Sound Forever — which, we should note, has been the consistent favorite over the years of this publication’s own editor.