This month's Blog Review is in music. Strictly speaking, it's not a blog, but a site; I'm counting it because it is frequently updated, and full of consistently interesting material. If you look waaaaay down towards the bottom of the blogroll there to the left, you'll see it -- Rateyourmusic. It's down towards the bottom because I have never managed to make the feed link work, but if it did work, it would consistently be toward the very top. This is because Rateyourmusic is one of those crowd-sourced sites with several million users all over the globe, and the reviews come in all the time. Obviously, as there's no one reviewer, the material that gets reviewed and the opinions that go into the reviews are (and it gives me great pleasure to use the word "literally" correctly) literally from all over the map. I have learned of so much music just by reading these listener reviews. As I'm writing this post, I've hit refresh a number of times. Albums reviewed in the thirty minutes I've been drinking tea and casually typing include:
•Miles Davis' Workin' with the Miles Davis Quartet (1959)These names were not all known to me, despite my poseur pose; some are merely names, and of those that aren't, many are not within spitting distance of my top-10,000 list. But that's the point: random reviews of music from every genre and everywhere in the world. Reviews range from a a single sentence ("My God, if there are ten other krautrock albums as worth listening to as this one, I want to know;" "This album gets billed as a really subversive 'easy listening' piece of work but I really don't get it") to a two or three long paragraphs; and the writing is, as you might expect from a million+ users, pretty uneven, but it isn't hard to find a reliable voice and stick with them. You can also just glance at the (utterly unscientific) ratings, from half a star to five, see what jibes with your own tastes, and go from there. And ratings come in sans review as well (and much faster); again, while I've been writing, people have listed and rated albums by Tribe Called Quest, Keith Jarrett, Butthole Surfers, the Bee Gees, Bad Religion, Sil Austin, Coil, Steely Dan, Bob Log III, Peter Gabriel, the Japanese saxophonist Kaoru Abe, and Jon Brion's soundtrack for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, among many, many others. But OK, 'nuff with the name-dropping. Point is, this is like wandering through a Borgesian labyrinth-record store. There is a downside -- one must turn elsewhere to listen to any of these recordings (say, Spotify or SlackerRadio or GrooveShark, or the old standby Youtube ... what an odd nomenclatural era we live in) -- but to read the raw or well-crafted impressions of self-selected reviewers whose only credentials are sufficient enthusiasm for spend hours detailing their strong opinions, this is the only place you need go. You can waste hours just watching the reviews roll by, or you can find one user with a library you admire and whose reviews you like, and follow your ears. Or you can join and start writing your own. (I've listed and rated 500 albums but I have yet to review any.)
•Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience (2013)
•The Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream (1993)
•Van Morrison's Astral Weeks (1968)
•Government Issue's Legless Bull E.P. (1981)
•Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures (1979)
•Throbbing Gristle's The Second Annual Report (1977)
•The Monks' Black Monk Time (1966)
•the debut eponymous album by Norwegian band Kvelertak (2010)
•Radio Onsen Eutopia, the latest (2013) release by Japanese pop-star Etsuko Yakushimaru.
I just refreshed again. Here is Glue (1968) by Peruvian psychedelic band Laghonia; Cosmogramma (2010) by American multi-genre producer Flying Lotus, a.k.a. Captain Murphy, a.k.a. Steven Ellison (also Ravi Coltrane's cousin, for what that's worth); Ekassa - Talk of the Town Vol. 2 (1973) by Nigerian guitarist Sir Victor Uwaifo; and Four Sonatas for piano and violin by Charles Ives, recorded by Valentina Lisitsa and Hilary Hahn. I rest my case.