I'm registering myself for protection under the Endangered Species Act. That's my response to reading this insightful article in Slate about the demise of the music critic. It seems that my days are numbered.
The Slate essay, by Joseph Weiner, expands upon a similar piece I wrote a year ago by adding greater context about the struggles of publications such as Rolling Stone, Paste, Spin, Vibe, and Blender. After reading Weiner's story, half of me wonders why I'm spending part of this week reviewing albums by Sunny Day Real Estate, Porcupine Tree, and Florence + The Machine for the next issue of FILTER magazine. (The current issue -- see left -- includes reviews of new albums by Imogen Heap and Son Volt by yours truly.)
Truth is that I review albums because I love the challenge. It's difficult. One has to describe something that is essentially ethereal -- and, if possible, doing so without using insider-y jargon (you won't hear me describing a band as "Nu-Balearic"), cliches (phrases such as "sun-dappled guitars" should be summarily banned by all music editors), and lazy comparisons ("it sounds like Radiohead meets Sigue Sigue Sputnik with Sun Ra on vocals"). So, what I love about writing reviews is the challenge of getting creative with the writing. But, of course, it takes time and effort and, most of all, a passion for music.
The best music writing makes me want to run out to a record store immediately. I highly recommend Alexis Petridis of The Guardian, who has an incredible wit and a pair of honest ears that are seemingly immune to hype or trendiness (too many reviewers, alas, don't have the courage of conviction). UNCUT and WORD magazine excel at reliable recommendations and thoughtful critiques.
Enjoy them while you still can....