The Week In Music: What To Read Now, Two Weeks In One Edition
This week, we've been watching reports from the CMJ Music Marathon spill out of clubs in New York and onto the Internet, wondering who the next big band will be, even as we kept our eye on news that Beyonce would be performing on a much bigger stage in February and mourned the death of saxophonist David S. Ware. Then there was a brand new installment of R. Kelly's Trapped In The Closet saga and the ladies-only sections at Kells' concerts to discuss. And right around the corner, we're bracing for the release of Taylor Swift's new album and the last few big releases of the year. Maybe that's how last week's roundup got away from us? So here are our six favorite stories from the last two weeks (since we feel bad about the week off, we threw in an extra pick).
Eric Lewis, the virtuosic former pianist for Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, has now rebranded himself as ELEW, a pianist whose covers of classic and modern rock draw from the jazz tradition. He calls it "rockjazz"; he stands without a piano bench, wears body armor, plays events for "the worlds of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, the Obama Campaign, Nascar and High Fashion." As you might imagine, this hasn't exactly been to the taste of many within the jazz community. So why the transformation? Prompted by fellow pianist Ethan Iverson, Lewis sets the record straight in this massive missive. --Patrick Jarenwattananon
We're told all the time that the traditional label system is done for, that sales figures and chart success are dead metrics. And yet, superstar artists with thriving major-label careers still exist — as does the industry chatter that follows a good or bad sales week. Just what those numbers mean now is a knotty question, and when you zero in on hip-hop it becomes even more opaque. Andrew Nosnitsky explains how the pillars of the new music economy — YouTube, Pandora, and in the rap world, mixtape outlets like DatPiff — have made attention the currency of the future and national breakouts by regional stars a thing increasingly of the past. --Daoud Tyler-Ameen
Is it cool to recommend a 3,300 word feature about one of the most intriguing musicians working today because the photos that accompany it are so awesome? OK, fine. Laura Snapes also skillfully stitches together the psychological and practical back story of The Haunted Man, Natasha Khan's new album as Bat For Lashes. Another completely immersive design experience from Pitchfork, which is on quite a roll. --Jacob Ganz
Kendrick Lamar, who many have come to believe can save hip-hop, doesn't drop hints of nostalgia in his lyrics, and he doesn't use his songs to glorify a lifestyle or gain credibility. says it was "a gift from God" to be able to recognize the cycle of jail and death that was surrounding him. Still it seems that some question the notion of a Compton rapper who has no gang affiliations directly. Jessica Hopper at Spin writes "It speaks to today's skeptical hip-hop fans who have grown savvy to the frequent disconnect between MCs' images and their real backstories." Despite his circumstances, Lamar has a presence that is humbling. It's possible that Lamar's talent that allows him to reach the masses is in the way "he broaches all of the street shit with an emotionalism that signals he's seen it and been deeply touched by it. ... His appeal is broad, but still lies in thoughtful detail." --Briana Younger
I wish someone had told me it was okay to like pop music at 16. Maybe if I'd known that, I wouldn't have been such a grumpy old man about noise and hardcore by college or the male version of a "super bitter alterna cat lady" as Tavi Gevinson puts it. Founded by Gevinson, Rookie Mag is a website and magazine for teenage girls made (largely) by teenage girls and, from what I can tell, has always been about being the awesomest you (and not in the greeting card store self-help book kind of way). That's why this conversation between college sophomore Dylan Rupert and the 16-year-old editor-in-chief is a reminder that silly but oh-so-serious things like pop music are weird territorial things for teenagers trying to express themselves, but that, hell, you're a teenager and you're supposed to have fun. That's not to say I can't enjoy my Throbbing Gristle hot noise jamz, just that a little Taylor Swift keeps you honest. To quote Rupert, "BEING TOO COOL FOR FUN DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE." --Lars Gotrich
Within the pop spectrum, there might seem to be many shades between the effervescent infatuation addict Carly Rae Jepsen and "Real Talk specialist" Pink, but Maura Johnston looks hard at the new albums by each of these women and finds a thread that binds the two together: the way that the flaws in relationships, rather than the glory of love, can lead to transcendent pop. Johnston makes it clear that the strengths of each of these records are very different, but she also makes them talk to each other. By the end of the piece, it's easy to imagine Pink and Jepsen sitting down to share a bottle of wine and compare battle scars. --Jacob Ganz