profile of TimByron

Music Dump - Neil Young's Christina Aguilera Brains vs Bob Dylan's Hip Hop Fame

Neil Young Comes Clean by David Carr (New York Times): Neil Young's farm is his hideaway, and so it's rare that he invites a journalist there. But with a new autobiography to promote, Waging Heavy Peace, Neil invites David Carr to his place, showing him his model trains, his llamas, and his patented new super-high-quality internet audio system called Pono. So yes, Young is not quite the average rock star. Doubly so now that he's trying to figure out who he is now that he's recently sober. This piece is almost as good as the New Yorker's Bruce Springsteen profile.

--

Hip Hop And You Do Stop by Nathan Rabin (The AV Club): Starting in 2011, the AV Club hosted a year-by-year analysis of alternative music in the 90s written by Steven Hyden, called Whatever Happened To Alternative Nation?, which was by turns insightful and nostalgic. Now, they have a new year-by-year series on hip-hop, starting in 1988, chronicling Nathan Rabin's immersion into the genre. Rabin's up to 1992 already, having discussed the likes of NWA, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, MC Hammer and 2Pac, and showing the surprising similarities and differences between them.

--

Bob Dylan's Great White Wonder: The Story Of The World's First Album Leak by Eric Harvey (Pitchfork): I remember, in 1999, coming across an advance version of the Smashing Pumpkins' (somewhat mediocre) album Machina: The Machines Of God, several weeks before the album had been released. As a teenager, this blew my mind - hearing an album before it was released! Now, of course, it's a bit meh to listen to an album before it comes out. You don't feel particularly special. Everyone else is streaming it too, after all. And the record company probably leaked it. But albums leaked long before 1999. In fact, 30 years beforehand, in 1969, a Bob Dylan album mysteriously appeared, the world's first bootleg, of some recordings he'd done with the Band, of songs like 'The Mighty Quinn' and 'I Shall Be Released'. Dylan eventually released these songs in 1975 on The Basement Tapes, and so that bootleg vinyl that you could buy from alternative record stores was basically an album leak. In some ways Great White Wonder was the most influential album that Dylan released. Or that other people released. 

--

Aimee Mann: Fame Is The Worst by David Daley (Salon): Aimee Mann, who has a new album Charmer, comes across as thoughtful and articulate (and predictably self-depreciatory). The new album is a concept album revolving around people who are charming, from the narcissist and the sociopath to the loyal, and the way that charm works. And this is the rare interview that really gets under the skin of what motivates the musician, and gets Mann talking about all sorts of things related to people who have charisma and possibly sociopathy: from the record industry to the way that fame works to, yup, a slightly inflammatory argument about creeping fascism in the USA.

--

How Do Our Brains Process Music? by David Byrne (Smithsonian): David Byrne isn't content with having been a major part of Remain In LightFear Of Music, and 'Psycho Killer'. Instead, he had to go and write a very interesting-seeming book about the whys of music, informed by wide reading in psychology and neuroscience and his personal experience making music that was both incredibly catchy and really quite weird. And here he discusses the impossibility of silence and the way that music reflects the way we move. Though I should say, putting my psychology lecturer hat on (well, it's more a fluffy white beard than a hat), that the stuff David Byrne mentions about 'mirror neurons' should be taken with a grain of salt - the idea of mirror neurons is quite controversial in neuroscience, and it's not clear that the research has found what Byrne assumes they have found (see a take on mirror neurons at New Scientist or at top psychology blog Mind Hacks).

--

Can't Get You Out Of My Head by James Hughes (Slate): Back in the early days of the 20th century, advertisers were fascinatingly cautious, very unwilling to offend possible customers by, you know, impinging on their personal space. And so it took advertisers a while to develop the shamelessly catchy jingle; Hughes argues here that the first viral jingle was 1939's 'Pepsi Cola Hits The Spot'. It was such a success that it was distributed to millions of jukeboxes and at the Pepsi factory, they would play the first seven notes of the melody to ring in the next hour. 

--

How Christina Aguilera Changed Judging Of Reality TV Music by Jon Caramanica (New York Times): Back in the day, the talent quest TV show was all about the talent. Who would be the next Guy Sebastian or Kelly Clarkson? But soon, TV executives realised that people were watching the shows because they were hoping to see Simon Cowell be a jerk to somebody, and they realised that it was more important to have good judges. So you'd get former stars judging the current lot - your Paula Abduls and Randy Jacksons. Now, however, thanks to the decline of the music industry, it's not even former stars. It's current stars. Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears and the dude from Maroon 5 (etc) are much more likely to have hits than the people on the talent shows they judge. 

--

Why I Hate List Making by Rachel Maddux (BuzzFeed): It's now almost October, which means that the dreaded FESTIVAL OF THE TOP 10 LISTS OF EVERYTHING is soon to be upon us. What is the best album of the year? What will be in Pitchfork's top 50 songs? Etc. Maddux is against this kind of thing, and explains her reasons. Chief amongst them being that music taste is not objective. Just because your favourite album is not on one of these lists does not mean that you are wrong about the album being good (or that the list is rubbish - it's just someone else's taste). Just because most of the bands in Pitchfork's lists will inevitably look like a bunch of hipsters doesn't mean that those hipsters aren't making music that people find genuinely moving. Etc. 

Tim Byron

Previous article

Next article