Looking for a variety of good music criticism
August 28, 2012 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Crowdsource my syllabus: I'm looking for the best relatively short music review essays, in a wide variety of writing styles and formats.

I'm building a syllabus for a writing class. For the first assignment, I would like for my students to select one of a variety of top-notch music review essays and use it as a model to write an essay on the music of their choice. I'm thinking of an Ann Powers piece from NPR, a Jane Dark essay from the Village Voice, maybe something from Pitchfork. But this isn't my area of expertise and I really don't know what's out there.

(Please let this not be categorized as chatfilter)
posted by bahngerama to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Don't forget about Lester Bangs's work!
posted by tmcw at 1:28 PM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

You should check out the recent collection of Ellen Willis's work: Out of the Vinyl Deeps. Some great stuff in there!
posted by activitystory at 1:28 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

It all starts with Lester Bangs; "Psychotics Reactions & Carburetor Dung" should be required reading for all humans everywhere. Now add some Said the Gramophone.
posted by scruss at 1:29 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

If classical flies, I like a lot of Alex Ross.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:02 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would think Allmusic - both the printed guides and the .com - would fall nicely down the well you've dug.
posted by item at 2:38 PM on August 28, 2012

I'd like to thank you for the wonderful suggestions of authors and publications and ask if you can think of particular reviews that have stuck in your mind for some reason.
posted by bahngerama at 2:43 PM on August 28, 2012

This short piece on Bowie (which appears in the Willis book) is something I think says a lot about the music industry of the early 70s... might be interesting to your students in that regard, but there are other pieces in the book that serve as better models for what you describe, I'd imagine. It's a good example of her thoughtful music writing, though.
posted by activitystory at 3:30 PM on August 28, 2012

You should check out Robert Christgau's website. He used to be the Voice's chief music critic until they unceremoniously sacked him during budget cuts. His site is full of short one paragraph reviews of albums going all the way back to the 1960's until the present. He still writes his monthly Consumer Guide. One review of his in particular I love is his writeup on Tricky's debut LP MAXINQUAYE. I may not agree with him all the time, but I love his concise erudition....
posted by theartandsound at 3:40 PM on August 28, 2012

Oh I have someone absolutely great for you: John Jeremiah Sullivan. Here he is writing about the blues (I highly recommend this essay in particular), here he is writing about Bunny Wailer (FANTASTIC), here he is writing about Big Star. His Wikipedia entry has a bunch more links to his music criticism at the bottom as well. I would seriously, seriously consider using him for your class.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 3:44 PM on August 28, 2012

I always get a little tingly when I see an Allmusic.com review is by Tom Erlewine. Here's a bunch of his reviews in blog format.
posted by carsonb at 4:41 PM on August 28, 2012

The best way to do this is actually by picking up a few of the Da Capo Best Music Writing books, which include reviews and essays, anthologized by year.

You should also ask this question over at ILXOR.com, where a lot of actual critics post regularly.

(For my money, the best critics out there are Ned Ragget and Scott Seward, who both regularly post on ILX. Christgau is there too, along with Nitsuh Abebe and a few others from all over.)
posted by klangklangston at 5:08 PM on August 28, 2012

Have you read/considered Songbook by Nick Hornby?
posted by NikitaNikita at 6:22 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

(I can't think of which specific essay in the book to recommend at the moment -- it's a fast read and really enjoyable though if you want to pick one based on if you have a gap in your syllabus you need to fill (nostalgic, comedic, sad, etc.)
posted by NikitaNikita at 6:25 PM on August 28, 2012

i have liked Chuck Klosterman's stuff.
posted by quiteliterally at 8:25 PM on August 28, 2012

My favourite piece of music criticism is Noel Murray's Popless series from the A.V. Club. I particularly the essay on race at the beginning of this entry.
posted by Chenko at 8:30 AM on August 29, 2012

I know there's a lot of Chuck Klosterman hate out there but I really loved his review of the recent Lou Reed & Metallica album.
posted by jabes at 9:22 AM on August 29, 2012

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