Music Dump - Taylor Swift's EDM Facebook Replacement Jens Lekman

A recurring weekly feature where we look at some of the most interesting music articles from across the web.

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Spotify And Its Discontents by Mike Spies (The New Yorker): Spies here tells us about how he finds an old CD at a market where a guy is selling second-hand CDs, and tries to buy it for a discount, but the seller is insistent on the price. "Oh well," thinks Spies, "I'll just go listen on the album on Spotify then". But listening to it on Spotify isn't quite the same, is it? 

We now live in the world of Spotify, where pretty much 90% of pop music that has ever been released is available (minus holdouts like the Beatles and AC/DC). Obviously the world of Spotify isn't incredibly different to the world of Napster, but the official backing Spotify has from the record companies makes things different. It has interesting consequences for how we hear music. I mean, I've been listening to the new Neil Young & Crazy Horse album on Spotify recently, and it's quite weird to be listening to 'Driftin' Back' in particular, because over the course of its 27 minutes, Young at one point sings "Don't want my mp3 /  don't want my mp3 / when you hear my song now / you only get 5% / you used to hear it all'. It's weird to listen to those lyrics while I'm listening to the song on Spotify. Neil still probably prefers the world of vinyl (or his own digital servicing system, Pono - Ed.), and fair enough (ironically, 'Driftin' Back' is too long to fit on a single vinyl side, apparently). There's no real incentive for me to listen to an album twice on Spotify if I didn't like it the first time. Whereas, if I bought the thing with my own money, I might give it that second chance, on the off-chance that I didn't waste my money. 

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If You Listen Closely, Taylor Swift Is Kind Of Like Leonard Cohen by Brad Nelson (The Atlantic): You might think Taylor Swift is just some young girl writing songs about boys breaking up with her, but Nelson sees something more subtle; Swift, he argues, is on her way to being a master wordsmith, the kind who carefully mixes the concrete and the abstract to paint vivid pictures, the way that a Bruce Springsteen or a Leonard Cohen would. 

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A Small Pop by Carrie Battan (Pitchfork): In 2009, Sky Ferreira was a Katy Perry wannabe, all shiny surfaces. But this, she says, was because that's what the record company was pushing her to be; in reality, she was a fan of things like Blondie, Nico. In a post-Lana Del Rey world, it's suddenly viable for pop people who are a bit weird; there is a crack in between the alternative and the mainstream, and the music that's coming out of this crack, argues Battan, is pretty interesting (Ferreira's single 'Everything is Embarrassing' sounds like a slightly more laidback Catcall to me, and was written by Dev Hynes (Lightspeed Champion), who also wrote Solange's 'Losing You').

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How The Replacements Helped Me Break Up With A Junkie by Amy Rose Spiegel (BuzzFeed): BuzzFeed's series of articles by various writers about how they've connected with music has been fantastic, because that's what music, at heart, is very often about - it becomes a commentary on your life, a second opinion, or a new way to interpret things. Here Spiegel discusses her junkie boyfriend and how the Replacements was the soundtrack to her relationship with him, but also how the striving for a better life in Westerberg's songs, inspired her to try to do more with her life rather than be a junkie's girlfriend.

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Is There Life Left In The Music Memoir? by Jason Heller (The AV Club): Well, whether there's life left in the music memoir or not, there's a glut of them coming out at the moment, written by big names. After Keith Richards' Life we have Neil Young, Rod Stewart, Pete Townshend etc. Do they matter? Sometimes they can be insightful, but being able to write songs well doesn't mean you're able to write books well. What Heller argues, though, is that the power of the rock star often means that they can wave away editors; Heller is firmly of the belief that Neil Young's book has fascinating bits, but could have used a good edit, and that Tony Iommi's book would be improved if Tony Iommi had, shall we say, a more accurate view of his strengths and weaknesses.

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Dance Music Looks Beyond EDM And Hopes The Crowd Will Follow by Sami Yenigun (NPR's The Record): EDM has become the shorthand for poppy, commercial dance music, no matter what kind of underground-y scene it's come from. And what the old hands of dance music have to figure out is, how do we capitalise on the success of the Skrillexes of the world while staying true to ourselves? And how do they appeal to EDM fans, especially as EDM itself gets more mainstream and pop-oriented?

This is, of course, a dilemma that happens whenever any genre gets big. The same dilemma happened in the 1990s, when Nirvana got big, and the not-really-alternative likes of Better Than Ezra and Collective Soul filled the demand of the public. But then some of the old hands of alternative got big in the washup of it all - Bob Mould sold more records with 1990s' Sugar than with the 1980s' Husker Du. And then you had Pavement dissing the Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots on record to prove, in a way, that they were going to be an alternative to the now-mainstreamed alternative. And so it goes.

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The World Moves On: An Interview With Jens Lekman by Jose Solis (PopMatters): Jens Lekman's music is an odd blend. On his new album, there are almost worrying levels of kitsch, with 'Silly Love Song' style flutes and bad sax solos; but at the same time, his lyrics are witty and emotionally revealing in the best tradition of indie pop, The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian style. So interviews with him are fascinating, in terms of how he navigates his contrary tendencies. Apparently, according to Solis's interview, he's never written a song about sex, because he thinks it would be too hard. Oh, except for that one on his first record about auto-erotic asphyxiation. 

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I'm Calling It - Facebook Is Pretty Much Useless For Musicians At This Point by Gordon Withers (gordonwithers.com): Did you 'like' that band on Facebook because you wanted to know about when they were next playing live, or had an album coming out, say? Unfortunately for you, and the band, it looks like Facebook is only showing about 5% of a band's fans any given post. Unless they pay to promote it. This means that only 5% of a band's fans are going to see that they're playing live, and ultimately this is untenable for the music community. Back to Myspace it is...

Tim Byron

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