Number Ones: 5 Seconds of Summer's 'She Looks So Perfect'

The new #1 single in Australia, finally toppling ‘Happy’ after 11 weeks of enforced smiles.

Music Reader: Tori Amos, Paul Simon, The Smith Street Band, more

And back to our regular programming - today’s Music Reader for the Vine!

Music Readers, etc.

Hello world,

Since I last posted on Tumblr, I’ve moved interstate (to Marrickville in Sydney, NSW), and I’ve been without the internet, properly, for over a month. This has made writing a weekly column about music writing unsurprisingly difficult (I wrote a couple of them using library internet). But I wrote them anyway.

Anyway, here are some old music reader columns for you:

12 February: Music Reader - Metronomy, The Smiths, Berghain, Pussy Riot, more

19 February: Music Reader - Beck, Rebecca Black, INXS, Killah P, more

05 March: Music Reader - Dolewave, Neneh Cherry, Pharrell, more

13 March: Music Reader - T-Pain, David Byrne, Hanson, Beach Boys, more

There’s not been a new #1 since A Great Big World; that was #1 for a week, and then the reign of Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ continued to this day. But  Tom Hawking kindly mentioned me in his piece on Ted Gioia’s attack on pop criticism: “I’ve expressed my suspicion of poptimism here before, but there’s no denying that a lot of today’s best music writers subscribe to its doctrine, and there’s plenty of serious analysis of the pop charts, both from a broad cultural viewpoint and from a seriously eggheaded one (for the latter, look no further than Tim Byron’s “Number Ones” column on Australian website TheVine, which is an endearingly earnest musicological examination of chart-toppers past and present).

(Inevitably I want to argue that I’m more popstoic than poptimist - modern chart pop usually isn’t my choice of listening, but I recognise that skill and taste usually goes into its making - and I only sometimes get musicological, but thanks Tom!)

Number Ones: A Great Big World 'Say Something'

I ended up being a bit late to the party writing about this one (which also features Xtina), and after a week at #1, this was replaced by a 6th week of ‘Happy’. And it’s funny in a way that a week of sadness infiltrated the ‘Happy’ bubble; ‘Say Something’ is a pretty sad song, with the hook “I’m giving up on you”. So this one is mostly about why people listen to sad music.

Music Reader: Arcade Fire, INXS, The Eagles, Dick Diver, more

This week’s links to awesome music writing.

Music Reader: Kanye, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore, Bob Dylan, more

Linking to what seemed to me to be interesting and thoughtful music writing.

I’ve finally finished reading Bob Stanley’s excellent Yeah Yeah Yeah, in which he covers pop history in the age of the physical single (from the early-to-mid 1950s to about the end of the century, when Napster, iTunes, Spotify etc changed things). It’s an education, reading the book - there’s lots of very interesting stuff he discusses that I’d never heard, and I thought I had a pretty well-rounded knowledge of things (and the Britishness of his perspective puts a different spin on things too). Anyway, it’s a book that definitely benefits from having Spotify playlists to go to when you want to hear what things sound like; Stanley references an encyclopaedia’s worth of fascinating pop music. The book is divided into five parts, and I’ve made a playlist for each of the five parts. I’ve tried to make sure I’ve got original recordings, but they’re not always available and I might have gotten things wrong. To my surprise, these playlists I made for my own amusement have been popular on Spotify because other people have clearly had the same impulse and searched for such things - the Part One playlist has Spotify 43 followers, for example. 

Part Five, above, has the early years of techno (Derrick May, Frankie Knuckles), baggy/Madchester (Happy Mondays, Stone Roses), the development of house (Black Box, Haddaway), the development of rap (LL Cool J, Wu-Tang Clan), triphop and shoegaze (Massive Attack, My Bloody Valentine), alternative rock (The Replacements, Nirvana), Britpop (Blur, Oasis), and R&B (Whitney Houston, Missy Elliott).

(Source: Spotify)

I’ve finally finished reading Bob Stanley’s excellent Yeah Yeah Yeah, in which he covers pop history in the age of the physical single (from the early-to-mid 1950s to about the end of the century, when Napster, iTunes, Spotify etc changed things). It’s an education, reading the book - there’s lots of very interesting stuff he discusses that I’d never heard, and I thought I had a pretty well-rounded knowledge of things (and the Britishness of his perspective puts a different spin on things too). Anyway, it’s a book that definitely benefits from having Spotify playlists to go to when you want to hear what things sound like; Stanley references an encyclopaedia’s worth of fascinating pop music. The book is divided into five parts, and I’ve made a playlist for each of the five parts. I’ve tried to make sure I’ve got original recordings, but they’re not always available and I might have gotten things wrong. To my surprise, these playlists I made for my own amusement have been popular on Spotify because other people have clearly had the same impulse and searched for such things - the Part One playlist has Spotify 43 followers, for example. 

Anyway, above is Part Four: it starts with punk (The Sex Pistols, The Clash, etc) and disco (Donna Summer, The Bee Gees), before getting into the various things that came after (The Specials, Joy Division), the electronic revolution (Kraftwerk, Gary Numan), the new Romantics (ABC, OMD), heartland American rock (Springsteen, REO Speedwagon), MTV pop (Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson), metal (from Sabbath to Bon Jovi), 1980s indie (The Smiths, REM), and the stuff that seemed to sum it all up (New Order, Pet Shop Boys).

(Source: Spotify)

I’ve finally finished reading Bob Stanley’s excellent Yeah Yeah Yeah, in which he covers pop history in the age of the physical single (from the early-to-mid 1950s to about the end of the century, when Napster, iTunes, Spotify etc changed things). It’s an education, reading the book - there’s lots of very interesting stuff he discusses that I’d never heard, and I thought I had a pretty well-rounded knowledge of things (and the Britishness of his perspective puts a different spin on things too). Anyway, it’s a book that definitely benefits from having Spotify playlists to go to when you want to hear what things sound like; the book is divided into five parts, and I’ve made a playlist for each of the five parts. I’ve tried to make sure I’ve got original recordings, but they’re not always available and I might have gotten things wrong. To my surprise, these playlists I made for my own amusement have been super popular on Spotify because other people have clearly had the same impulse - the first one has 43 followers.

Anyway, above is Part Three: which covers the 1970s: it goes from the British bubblegum of Edison Lighthouse to the singer-songwriter era (Carole King, Linda Perhacs) to the world of 1970s funk (Stevie Wonder, Isley Brothers), reggae (from Millie to Marley), the stuff that turned into disco (from The Delfonics to the Jackson 5), prog (Genesis, etc), country pop (Glen Campbell, The Eagles), and finally the stuff that turned into punk (The Stooges, Bebop Deluxe).

(Source: Spotify)

I’ve finally finished reading Bob Stanley’s excellent Yeah Yeah Yeah, in which he covers pop history in the age of the physical single (from the early-to-mid 1950s to about the end of the century, when Napster, iTunes, Spotify etc changed things). It’s an education, reading the book - there’s lots of very interesting stuff he discusses that I’d never heard, and I thought I had a pretty well-rounded knowledge of things (and the Britishness of his perspective puts a different spin on things too). Anyway, it’s a book that definitely benefits from having Spotify playlists to go to when you want to hear what things sound like; the book is divided into five parts, and I’ve made a playlist for each of the five parts. I’ve tried to make sure I’ve got original recordings, but they’re not always available and I might have gotten things wrong. To my surprise, these playlists I made for my own amusement have been super popular on Spotify because other people have clearly had the same impulse - the first one has 43 followers.

Anyway, above is Part Two: the Beatles, of course, aren’t on Spotify, but it inevitably starts with them (and Merseybeat in general), before getting into the world of 1960s soul (the Impressions, Aretha), psychedelia (Love, Pink Floyd), and bubblegum (The Monkees, Ohio Express).

(Source: Spotify)