This year end list is always my favorite to make and is always greeted with unfollows on twitter, lost friends in real life, and "you should have" comments. While I only list ten of my favorite music bloggers and writers below, I read over two hundred music blogs and could say amazing things about all of them. This is a celebration of people and teams of writers who, through their hard work, have made MY (me) 2012 music life better. I love great music writing, and I'm always looking for new sites to check out, so please feel free to leave a comment with your favorites so I can add them to my daily reading.
STADIUMS AND SHRINES
In today's world of music blogs we suffer from a dreary sameness. When the majority of sites are scrambling for the same goals of hits and readership, it opens the door for individuals to take risks and explore the content they love in new ways. As you can see above, Stadiums and Shrines is like stepping into a different world with categories including sound, vision, thought, and dream. There's a clear emphasis on the marriage between visuals and sounds. With stunning photographs and perfectly matched music, Stadium and Shrines is the perfect example of how to follow what interests you in art while simultaneously embracing the individuality of your own aesthetic.
I can't think of a better one-two punch of smart music writers then Lee Levin and Jamie Hale. Knox Road is a no-frills music blog with a love for long form, personal writing. Hale's section "Hype Hype Hooray" is always a great, strong-voiced read filled with interesting takes on the topics of the day. Levin has always been like a brother when it comes to musical taste, and with more and more posts under their belt, Knox Road just keeps getting better every year.
Before late in 2012, I only knew Maura Johnston as the editor of the Village Voice. I never read much of her work because the few times I went over to the Village Voice I was greeted with shallow hit bait articles that didn't interest me. After Johnston split from the Village Voice, I witnessed an outcry of support for her as a writer. Paying attention, I started following her blog, "naming blogs is easy," and was blown away by her honesty, wit, and clear talent as a writer. With the restrictions of the Village Voice behind her, Johnston is on a war path to push the bullshit aside and let her strong voice take over. An "under-construction" website called Maura Magazine says it's coming in January 2013. I can't wait to see what she has in store with the new site - if it's anything like I've seen in the past few months, we're all in for a treat.
I love rants. I love passionate rants. I love passionate rants about music. Over the last year, Shallow Rewards aka Chris Ott has been publishing Vimeo videos where it's just a camera and Ott speaking right at the viewer about a slew of music related topics. Every video acts as a master class in a topic you didn't even know you wanted an education in. I was late to the Shallow Rewards video party and after watching one, two, three, four, and so on videos, I realized half the day had ticked away. It was worth the momentary hypnosis because Ott's videos are one of the best things I've experienced in 2012.
Of all the bigger music blogs that have large staffs (Consequence Of Sound, Beats Per Minute, etc), The 405 showed the most improvement from 2011 to the end of 2012. That isn't meant as a slight to those other blogs, as they are all sites that I love, but The 405 went from something I used to glance at occasionally to a daily must-read. The site is jam packed with wonderful interviews, features, and smart reviews from a great up-and-coming staff, and it allows you to get all you want from a larger music blog without ever feeling like you're being manipulated for the hit. Who knows if they will shift away from this and start rolling out anything and everything for readership, but hopefully they stick to what they did in 2012 because it was a lot of great work.
Consistently the most reliable tastemaker (yeah, I said tastemaker), ok, scratch that, consistently the most reliable curator (not any better) of sounds from across the web year in and year out. Regardless of genre, buzz, etc, if a track hits Mark's (YVYNYL) ears in the right way, it goes up on his tumblr. If I ever started a record label, my first order of business would be consulting YVYNYL for A&R advice.
2012 was one of the best years for folk music in a long time. It's only fitting then that we feature what I consider to be the best singer/songwriter/folk/bluegrass music blog out there, Slowcoustic. Minus a few names, very few contemporary folk artists are breaking out in the indie-run blog world. Even more reason we need a site like Slowcoustic that works hard to dig through e-mail submissions to highlight the best of what others tend to ignore because it doesn't increase readership. The sign of a great music blog is realizing how much you would lose if the website shut down. In the case of Slowcoustic, the gap left by their absence would be huge.
JEREMY D. LARSON
JEREMY D. LARSON
I decided to make my two favorite music writers of 2012 fight it out in a tie situation. I consider both of them friends outside the blog world, so maybe the number three spot should be disqualified altogether.
Kenny Bloggins runs The Decibel Tolls, home to the left-field of music. Anything and everything goes on TDT, and the site feels a little like the Internet is collapsing on itself with each visit. Bloggins mixes in a lot of comedy, but don't let that fool you, he is one of the smartest and strongest voices we have in online music journalism today. Be it killing the phrase "Killing It" (READ), having the best year end albums list I've read so far (READ), or having the best mission statement of any music blogger (READ)... I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that Bloggins is one of a kind, and that 1/1 is a gem.
Jeremy Larson is the complete opposite of Bloggins. He is the head editor at Consequence Of Sound and approaches his music writing like a surgeon. Larson is the best large website writer because he treats every review with respect, even the negative ones... something that seems to be disappearing in music journalism. His taste is diverse and unlike the idiot writing this right now, he is a great listener. In everything he does, he considers all angles of the musical argument, then diligently makes crisp, clear points to defend his own thoughts.
So who really gets the #3 spot? As they fight it out, read up on these two writers and let me know your vote in the comments.
This is the fourth year doing these "Best Blogs Of The Year" lists and Aquarium Drunkard has won two of those years. The other two they came in third and this year, second. It's just simply the most consistently perfect music blog year after year. As I get older and my taste changes, I can honestly say that no matter what, Aquarium Drunkard is and will continue to be a safe haven for my ears after time spent wandering around the Internet and getting hit with trend after trend. If you don't regularly read Aquarium Drunkard, start right away. It will be the best music blog related decision you ever make.
THE NEEDLE DROP
Anthony Fantano aka The Needle Drop gets a lot of love and an equal amount of hate for calling himself "The Internet's Busiest Music Nerd." I really don't care which side of the fence you fall on regarding that tag, because it's 100% true. Fantano runs a music blog and a radio show, and posts close to ten minute in-depth video reviews of current albums on a daily basis.
When I decide to take on a review, I sit for a long time and struggle to finish in a few weeks. I can't imagine pumping out the amount of high quality reviews Fantano does. Even with my slow pace, I find myself repeating words or ideas in post after post while Fantano approaches each new review with a unique perspective, somehow always finding the perfect words to convey his opinions. I'm about 50/50 when it comes to agreeing with Fantano's scores on reviews, but even when our thoughts clash, his reviews always illuminate a new idea that makes me want to go back and re-listen to an album or track.
2012 was the year that everyone bemoaned the death of music journalism. I disagree. While print is dead or dying, talents are emerging all over the Internet and finding new ways to approach music criticism. Fantano, "that Youtube guy," might be a polarizing figure, someone you either love or hate. But for me, nobody is working harder or producing better quality music criticism or situating themselves better as a tastemaker (there it is again) than Fantano is, regardless of it being printed on a piece of paper, tumbled, or coming up right after a five second advertisement.