profile of TimByron

Music Reader: Harlem Shake, the 90s, Linkin Park, Nick Cave, Taylor Swift

NOTE: This column will now steadfastly appear every Wednesday morning. Lock it in, hump day.

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

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'Harlem Shake': The Making And Marketing Of Baauer's Viral Hit by Andrew Hampp (Billboard): I suspect you'll hear more from me on the Harlem Shake soon enough (it's this year's 'Gangnam Style') but Billboard know their stuff on the business side of the music business. Baauer doesn't even have a twitter account, and many more people have watched the tribute videos than have actually heard the whole song. But in the modern world of monetized YouTube content, Baauer's probably going to make millions.

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Let's Talk...About My Anxiety Issues by Patrick Pentland (The Loop): Can you imagine what it's like to get up on stage and play music? Everybody's looking at you, and every note you play - and you play hundreds - could be a wrong one. For many musicians, it's not a big deal beyond a few butterflies, but others have odd OCD-ish rituals to try and calm themselves down, and some find it terrifying enough that they run backstage and vomit given the chance. Patrick Pentland is one of the multi-instrumentalists in 1990s Canadian guitar heroes Sloan, who are basically the Canadian equivalent of You Am I (as in, they were huge in their homeland but at best a cult success anywhere else, despite playing eminently catchy well-crafted classic rock). And for years, he was fine with playing onstage. But suddenly, a couple of years ago, something snapped, and he became one of those people with the odd rituals; Sloan now have a chair onstage in case he needs to sit down, but it's really a safety blanket. Even if you don't care about Sloan, this is a fascinating look into what it's sometimes like to be a musician.

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The Winners History Of Rock And Roll, Part 6: Linkin Park by Steven Hyden (Grantland): The top selling rock album of the 2000s was Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory. And so perhaps it's no surprise that New York City no longer has a contemporary rock station as of late last year. Is it Linkin Park's fault? And why did people care about their "warmed-over edible-enough sludge"? Part of the reason, argues Hyden, is that under their nu-metal exterior, Linkin Park are fairly wholesome young chaps who are really making pop music; Hyden finds a quote from a Rolling Stone interview where one of the Linkin Park dudes talks about writing forty different choruses for one of their hit singles, because they wanted the chorus to be that good. But ultimately, Hyden argues, US rock radio following Linkin Park down the rabbit hole of angry young dudes alienated everyone else.

UPDATE: Hyden's posted his final part in the series today. It focuses on the Black Keys, who Hyden uses as the hook to hang the delicate "rock" vs "indie" hat on. "The problem right now is that we have a surplus of rock records like [Grizzly Bear's] Shields and a deficit of records like [The Black Keys'] El Camino. And I mean that in an ecological sense — even if you hate El Camino or mainstream rock in general, the dearth of this sort of music has made the entire system worse for all involved."

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Taylor Swift - Fifteen by Isabel Cole (very filled with dreams): Being a teenager sucks for plenty of teenagers, and Cole found it hard, and so did a couple of her friends (WARNING: there's a suicidal ideation trigger warning at the top of the post). And when your problems are the kind that make you relate to Fiona Apple rather than Taylor Swift, it's tempting to say that Taylor Swift isn't relateable, to dismiss the problems she discusses. But then, that's not really fair; plenty of other people do relate to Taylor Swift, and we have a tendency to put our own frustrations into other people's mouths rather than listen to what they hear in the music.

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Why We Can't Leave The 90s by Maura Johnston (Seattle Weekly): The 1970s were everywhere in the 1990s; baby boomers just couldn't resist seeing Fleetwood Mac play at Bill Clinton's inaugural ball, and every week seemed to have a new trashy cover of some 1970s disco tune (that means you, N-Trance). Now we're in the 2010s, the 1990s are starting to be everywhere, as people in their 30s start to fondly look back at the era that defined them. I mean, even One Direction are covering Natalie Imbruglia's 'Torn'. (Which was in turn, a cover of early '90s LA band Ednaswap.)

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Icons: Beasts Of Bourbon Parts 1 And 2 by Patrick Emery (Mess+Noise): These days they're the kind of legendary/notorious Aussie rock and roll band with the critical cachet to be featured at the recent ATP festival in Altona. But back in the day, they were a band started as a bit of a laugh, to fill in some gigs that Tex Perkins' other band could no longer play. And Emery's oral history of the band is fascinating, from Salmon's obvious not-taking-the-band-seriously in Part 1, to the point where they become the kind of serious rock band that rehearses and goes on tours to make money, etc.

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Bruce Springsteen's 'Born In The USA' by Lindsay Zoladz (Unbest): Zoladz comes from New Jersey, the US state that Bruce Springsteen (and, well, Jersey Shore) come from. And so she's probably inevitably going to like The Boss, right? Well, actually, no. That was her parents' music, eww. And in 2012 she missed Independence Day because she was in a plane at the time. But when she landed at the Roskilde Festival, and saw Bruce, it clicked. Because in Europe (like Australia, really), nobody knows what a New Jersey is.

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Nick Cave: 'The Greatest Feat Of Artistic Honesty Would Be To Retire' by Alex Petridis (The Guardian): In his mid-50s now, Nick Cave somehow emerged out of his dissolute past as a polymath Renaissance man. And in a lot of ways the fascinating thing about this interview is the way this (now) dignified old gentleman still has to deal with that stereotypical portrait of himself as a young man, the way that he copes with the young-man's-game of rock and roll.


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Tim Byron

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