23 April 2006


I'll begin with some context.

I first started writing about music in high school, as a journalist for the just-begun school paper, the "SOTAcrat and Chronicle." (The cringable and seemingly inexplicable name being a takeoff on the main local daily "Democrat and Chronicle" - SOTA was the name of my school.) This was mostly reviews. For at least a while I was doing two per (monthly) issue: one of a recent release and one of a "classic" (Paul Simon, Joe Jackson's Body and Soul, and Stop Making Sense are the ones I remember.) I remember a classmate telling me her dad had purchased the Fountains of Wayne's Utopia Parkway on the strength of my review. I also remember doing a feature at the turn of the millenium on my favorite album of the nineties, mostly memorable for a photo of me with my head surrounded by carefully arranged CDs.

The paper has virtually no web presence, then or now (if it even still exists), and if I still have copies of any of that writing - which I would have done on my dad's computer and, I guess, e-mailed to myself at school (?), they're buried on some hard-drive data back-up CD somewhere among my more disorganized belongings. However, I seem to have posted several of the reviews at amazon.com, where I am reviewer #13893 (a ranking I somehow share with a lot of other people.) They are still available there (the ones I wrote in high school comprise page 3 and most of page 2 - the more recent ones date to my second year of college.) Rereading these now, I sort of feel that my reviewing style hasn't really changed all that much since. But it's a little hard for me to tell - and maybe that's a discussion for another day.

I continued in a similar role in college, although not until my sophomore fall, when I figured out that writing reviews for the Swarthmore Phoenix was a good way to request and receive copies of many many free CDs. These reviews are all presumably available online, somewhere in the Phoenix archives - in fact, I believe for a while the editors had arranged for longer versions of my reviews to run in the online edition (as opposed to the - of course - mercilessly hacked versions that appeared in the print edition.) However, the Phoenix website has never been at all well maintained, and there remains no convenient way to access my reviews there. (The best way is probably to go through archives of each individual issue from fall 2001-spring 2004. Not that I expect anybody would want to - but that isn't the point.)

My third (and final, to date) stint of rockcrit lasted from the fall after my graduation until early the following summer (a little less than a year ago) - and is somewhat better documented, as well as much smaller in output and probably better edited. I was writing simultaneously for the very fine web publications stylus magazine and dusted magazine. Before too long, through a combination of spreading myself too thin between the two sites but mostly just generally losing energy and interest, my contributions to both started to taper off - and shortly after I was somewhat surprisingly and unceremoniously "let go" by the extremely genial editors at stylus, I just sort of let myself drop off the dusted map too.

My work, such as it was, is still there, of course. I wrote just few enough reviews for stylus (six - pitiful, really) that you can link to any of them from the bottom of any of the others (this for instance), although not to this feature, which was probably the best thing I did for the site. My nine reviews for dusted, meanwhile, are all handily available on this one page, quite nicely formatted I might add.

So there you have it, my complete history as a music writer. As a formal music writer, perhaps I should qualify, because it doesn't include various mixtape liner notes, (very) occasional message-board posts, a number of academic papers (about Shostakovich, George Crumb, and CD jewel cases, among other things.) And then, naturally, there's my long-running blog, reminced, on which I write about music all the time, starting from the tiny review of Spoon's Girls Can Tell that was one of my very first posts. (Many of my reviews for the Phoenix are also somewhere in my blog archives - which, for their own part, aren't very well maintained these days either.)

Which brings me to the question of what's going on here, and how and whether it will be any different from other music writing I have done before. The easy answer is I don't really know. I'm creating this as a dedicated forum for myself to write about music with more focus than I have usually allowed myself on my blog (which I still see primarily as a personal journal intended to document my life and thoughts, although its character has changed radically since its inception), but without the formal and stylistic restrictions of music journalism (which is to say I don't particularly intend to write reviews here, at least not primarily, and hopefully I won't beat myself up about not writing super-regularly.)

I don't have very well-formed ideas about audience (intended or actual), because I'm more interested in just exploring for myself how I feel about music writing at this point in my life than in trying to write something that might be of interest to others. But this is not worth writing about right now either.

Enough for this post. I would like to innaugurate this project, properly now, by doing something I feel pretty confident about: writing in depth about music that I know and love. Specifically, I want to follow up what I feel to be the best piece of writing I've done about music in a long time - the "close readings" of ten of my favorite songs that I wrote last winter. this thing. I made a mix-cd recently, "plays favorites," which includes these ten songs and ten more of my abfaves. And so, next time out, I will try to write about those next ten. Sounds okay? See you soon.

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