How a nobody from nowhere began writing about somebodies from somewhere (relatively) Pt. 1

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I first started musing with the idea of becoming a writer after my podunk colleges’ newspaper let me write a couple album reviews and news items for them. My confidence was growing as well as my addiction to music journalism, but what set my mind on music journalism as a career came when the paper’s advisor approached me about setting up an interview with a band of my choice.

Of course, my naive self could only think to say “I can do that?” in response.

Now I understand the possibilities college press opens up for you and manipulative nature of newspapers recruiting strategies. It’s all part of a ruse to reel in young and usually sucky writers such as myself into doing more for the paper to keep it afloat until real talent shows up. But it was also more than that.

It was a call to try something new. It was a chance to get out of my comfort zone and experiment; and what better time to do that than freshman year of college?

I remember going back to my dorm that night and searching for hours on Spotify for a band with fewer than 10,000 monthly listeners. I was looking for a band I knew would likely say “yes” to any and all publicity they could get and also a band I could pretend to enjoy enough to actually get through the assignment.

Finding that level of obscurity and talent in a band was a struggle (who would’ve guessed, right?). I eventually checked out the discovery playlist Spotify curates for subscribers and landed on this little gem here.

This four-person, avant-garde troupe based out of Portland fit the target listening count I was looking for at the time and I guessed they were a laid-back group from their star wars t-shirts and unassuming looks (sorry guys if y’all read this. You looked cool to me!). I wasn’t expecting to check every box I set so confidently but I knew I had the band.

Cliff-hanger time: I know most people won’t read on to the second part of this (it’s a silly expectation to have that people would want to read this anyway) but I’d rather split this into two shorter pieces I can give more attention two than one long piece with a rushed conclusion.

Also, I’d like to post more consistently and this seems like a better way to work it. Anyway, to my couple of regular readers and other readers who I also appreciate greatly, thank you for the time and be on the look-out for the part 2 where I get into the interview as well as the final result.

Feature photo courtesy of Shelby Evans: Check her work out here



Dwight Yoakam to perform in Tifton, Nov. 2

Grammy-winning and multi-platinum country music artist Dwight Yoakam will be performing live on Thursday, Nov. 2 at the UGA Campus Conference Center in Tifton. The show is being produced by the same companies (Six String Southern Productions and Mcalpin Entertainment) responsible for bringing in talents like Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, and Travis Tritt.

Credited as a genre-bending country artist, Dwight Yoakam drew in music fans of all different tastes with his blend of honky-tonk and bluegrass sound. He has 12 gold albums and 9 platinum or multiplatinum albums with five of those albums topping the Billboard Country Albums chart with 14 songs peaking in the Top 10.

Yoakam has also been featured in many publications like the Rolling Stone, where he made their Top 100 Country Songs of All Time list.  In addition to his prestigious music career, Yoakam built a successful career as a film and television actor rubbing elbows with thespians like Jodie Foster, Tommy Lee Jones, Jared Leto, and Matthew McConaughey.

Doors open at 6 p.m. with performances starting at 7:30 p.m. opening with the Craig Brown Band of the Detroit, described as the city’s most beloved bartender, cook, and ping-pong champion. Tickets are still available for purchase at or by phone at 877-725-8849.

Tickets are still available here:


Suggestion Sunday: ‘Hiding’ — Modern Baseball

Modern Baseball’s legacy as dynamic modern emo

Nothing leaves a more sour taste in a music snob’s mouth than the mentioning of pop-punk and emo. I’ve found myself holding my tongue more than once around other concert-goers in fear that such blasphemy would turn them off from great bands like Jeff Rosenstock and Joyce Manor who deserve their attention. Modern Baseball is one of the few groups I’m comfortable as announcing as emo right from the beginning because of tracks like “Hiding.”


What “Hiding” does to make it so unashamedly emo is by enveloping the listener in its vivid poetry and ironically confessional lyrics given the title. Guitarist, Jake Ewald, says he wrote this song as a “life update from where ‘Coals’ ( a track off the band’s first record) left off.” On “Coals,” Ewald was just entering college feeling excited but unwittingly foolish. In contrast, “Hiding” delves into the disillusion his old-self had from the surreal perspective of post-graduation.

“Made mistakes
The plants died young, like all good things
But I wish my small self-had known
How much water to use”

I love this line because it’s a beautiful analogy to relationships and how over-eagerness can run people off. The imagery feels childish and innocent, drawing out the differences between his current-self and his old-self in a clever way.


The track follows a simple chord progression with every critical incision made into Ewald’s psyche within the lyrics reflecting an amplification of sound. This is done through seemingly random guitar plucks and explosive but quickly subdued drumlines accumulating into a release of all the subdued energy climatically.

It’s in the layering of all the different strings, percussion, and synths that makes Modern Baseball so much more dynamic and multidimensional. Although this is a commonly used song-structure for many bands, the layering really is what nails it making it such an intimate track while also being a pit-starter at shows. We all hope the band returns from its hiatus to continue innovating the modern emo sound.

Don’t botch music fest coverage, use these 3 tips by Emily Bloch

EmilyI’m here in Dallas, Texas for the National College Media Association Convention running around the conference center learning tips and tricks from working professionals in journalism. As cliche as it might sound, my favorite seminar I attended today was Emily Bloch’s “How To Cover A Music Festival Before You’re Old Enough To Drink At One” where she talked about things like creating a narrative from bowties and Fruity Pebbles to organizing a festival plan that optimizes the work-to-bathroom-break ratio.

Here are three tips she shared which really stood out.

  1. “You can interview musicians and not get lame answers” — Look for different ways to engage musicians. If one of them is wearing a Smiths shirt or has a Talking Heads tattoo, ask about it. You may only get 10 minutes with artists before their “handler” takes them away so be sure to have a list of questions in priority from most important to least. Be sure to get creative too. One of the interviews she has done was over Cuban coladas because the band she talked to commonly used coffee in their lyrics.

  2. “You still have to breathe” — This quote is as real as it gets when it comes to the sheer intensity of covering a music festival. Bloch takes it to another level when comes to her work ethic. She’s covered 13 bands in eight hours before so she knows the kind of efficiency it takes to cover a fest. It all comes down to logistics and preparation; make a schedule, do the research, bring the essentials but don’t forget to set aside time to sit down, eat a sandwich and take in the environment.

  3. Don’t write cold” — No this doesn’t mean bundling up in your favorite blanket and heating up some hot chocolate so you can write better. She means the day’s not over until you’ve written that last set review, artist interview, or final preview. You’ll have a better story and remember more if you write the day-of while your brain is still hot and processing all the stuff you saw today. You can “trim the fat” the next day and correct any mistakes you likely made writing that late.

For more sweet tips and tricks, check out her website at and follow her on twitter at @emdrums

Also, check out this kick-ass clip of her’s.

Emily Clips

Wolf Alice — “Visions of A Life”

London alt-rock band, Wolf Alice, arm themselves with punk power-chords and epic vocal arrangements continuing their streak of solid professionally recorded projects. Ever since the band’s EP “Blush,” Wolf Alice has remained a favorite within the oversaturated genre of alt-rock due to their tasteful use of folk, electronica, and grunge elements in the creation of their expansive soundscapes. “Visions of a Life” maintains this signature style by creating a complex fusion of dreamy shoegaze imbued with grunge’s off-kilter delivery creating a volatile mix; one moment cool and captivating but the next thrilling and gnarly.

 The band’s frontwoman, Ellie Rowsell is only 25-years-old but she sings about feelings most people have during their tumultuous years of high school. Rowsell is not too far removed from this age group: much of the lyrics on the record compel the listener to believe she is currently facing these struggles because of her sheer intensity. The band’s intricate layering of sounds over her grandeur vocals emulate her state of mind so vividly I forget I’m just listening to a dumb, gushy love-song, like on “Don’t Delete the Kisses.”

Rowsell simulates the moody teenager fumbling through an assortment of emotions, balancing rage and gentleness; anxiety and comfort. The best illustration of this is the album’s first two tracks. It starts with “Heavenward,” a mellow, spacey and angelic ballad celebrating friends the band has lost over the years, immortalizing them in a “small heaven,” a song to remember them with. However, Rowsell quickly turns-a-corner on the second track, “Yuk Foo,” expelling a frenzy of teenage frustrations, boldly flicking-off the world and changing the tone of the entire record unexpectedly. “Yuk Foo” is an awkward inclusion no matter how you organize the album but Rowsell seemed aware of how self-destructive the song and her attitude were on the track and just doesn’t seem to care as long as you go down with her. It has its charm but is ultimately off-putting.

The track “Sky Musings,” delves into the crippling effects of anxiety by plunging the listener into Rowsell’s mind during a freak-out on a commercial plane. By narrating the attack with hushed spoken-word and a steady, synth-beat mimicking an erratic heartbeat, Rowsell creates a simple yet tense scenario accurately capturing the psychological damage caused by over-thinking.

Followed shortly afterward is “Space & Time,” a track about the uncertainty the future holds and a desire to travel ahead in time just to know for sure it will all be okay in the end. Although Rowsell is anxious about this, she is not having a panic attack on the same level as “Sky Musings,” and in fact, finds comfort in the idea that if she were to just travel into the future she would likely see exactly what she wants.

It’s interesting to see how different her attitude and the tone of the songs are from one another. “Sky Musings” worries so much about the present and is ultimately irrational while “Space & Time” worries so little about the future presenting an upbeat and optimistic view of a very rational fear. I find comfort in this idea as well, that our minds and the way we approach things ultimately decide how we feel about something.

Although this album isn’t entirely a sophomore slump, it feels weaker overall in comparison to the band’s previous works. The chaotic mix of singles early in the record seemed forced, especially with “Yuk Foo.” The front-loaded singles stir things up some but the album ties itself together nicely as it goes on. However, I’m not sure how often I’ll be replaying this album into the future due to the nature of its cliched theme. I give Wolf Alice’s “Vision of A Life” a 6.5/10 but recommend their previous works along with some of the singles from this record.

What I’m looking for. Score (0-10) Examples of Scoring
Innovation 4 10- Creates entire genre.

8- Creates a new niche or sub-genre

6-pushes current genres limits

4- pushes their own limits

2-little change

Uniqueness (of either artist or album) 7 10-Never before seen (has influences still)

8-More than 3 unique qualities including sound, person, story, ect.

6- 2 unique qualities

4-1 unique qualities

2-Lowest possible score because everyone is unique :^)

Songwriting 7
Lyrics 8
Artist’s technical ability 9
Production 7 10- Perfect Balance

5- Over-produced more than not (or even under produced)

0- Sounds horrible

Theme 7 10-powerful theme throughout

5-theme but kinda sucks

0-no theme or organization

Length/Flow of Album 5 10-Songs reinforce each other, album isn’t hard to listen to, and the transitions are smooth/appropriate

5- 2 of those things

0-none of these things

Longevity 5 How relevant will it be in 5, 10, 25 years.
Personal Enjoyment 7 10-peak enjoyment


1-Couldn’t hate album more

65 100 max

Smarter Playlists: Curating Your Spotify

Every time a new year rolls around, I look forward to Spotify’s “Your Top Songs of Whatever Year.” I have my pet artists I can listen to everyday and having all of my favorite songs in one place is a real treat. It never made sense to me why Spotify didn’t have a simple way to track your listening like this Top Songs playlist did. They obviously keep track of these statistics around so why don’t we have access?

Well, Smarter Playlists doesn’t give you those statistics but it does give you tools to make these playlists and download them directly on your account. Just like “Boil the Frog,” this program was made by Spotify Programmer Paul Lamere and it’s a program made specifically for non-programmers. The commands are separated into different components neatly coming together into a circuit of awesomeness.

It’s all fairly simple and you can import circuits other users have created if you don’t want to make your own. As far as “Your Top Songs” go, there is a specific component for this that can be decided based off how far back you’d like to go, like best of the month, the year or all-time.COOOL STUFFOne of the circuits I threw together took my largest playlist containing pretty much everything I listen to and filtered in down by BPM and “danceability.” The skill-ceiling for this site is higher than what I can demonstrate but it’s a simple way to create and customize playlists. I suggest playing around with it some and share what you create!


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How to Write an Album Review Part. 2

This is a continuation from a tutorial last week where I wrote about the kinds of preparation that goes into writing an album review. Part two was supposed to be about my process and the some other processes I’ve observed other critics using in their review writing but I realized that explaining my writing process will be long winded enough so I decided to cut-down from there.

Prepare your review by writing an outline and a thesis.

Write a thesis statement of your opinion.

Condense your thoughts into a succinct, one-sentence thesis explaining your thoughts, the album’s strengths or weaknesses, or the context of the record. The thesis does not have to be your lead but should be apart of your introduction.

Create an outline of your review.

Strategize how the review will look through an outline. Doing this will help you jump into the writing process and keep your thoughts in order. No outline should be the same as the last. Here are three outlines I sometimes use interchangeably based on my opinion of the quality of the album:

Good album:

  1. Context.
  2. Sum up the record and it’s place within the context. Explain your reasoning and touch on the major arts of the album i.e. Tone, Theme, instrumentals, lyrics, features, song structure.
  3. Go into the tracks- standout stories/lyrics/controversy, beats/music, any criticisms. Weak tracks.
  4. Recap.

In-between album:

  1. Context.
  2. Sum up the record or your opinion with an in-depth explanation of your reasoning. Reinforce your own tastes and stress that other people’s opinions are just as valid.
  3. Tracks that illustrate your gripes with album.
  4. Tracks you may have enjoyed.
  5. Propose what could’ve been done better with your own reasoning.
  6. Recap.

Bad album:

  1. Let the reader know it sucks and why right away.
  2. Context.
  3. Find a critical voice demonstrating what good may have been in the record.
  4. Explain your views and opinions with reason.
  5. Recap.

Begin writing the review by constructing a narrative and an argument.

Introduce the artist and the context of the record by making a narrative.

Creating a narrative for an album is not easy and requires you have done your homework i.e. spending time reading up on the artist’s history, interviews and listening to their discography. Understanding the circumstances of the artist and the world around them during the creation of the album will help you develop and bolster your opinion with an informed impression of the artist’s narrative. If the reader believes you have the wrong idea about the artist than why should they continue reading? Having a legible and accurate story will help make the review be more readable while demonstrating your knowledge of the subject.  

Propose your opinion and argue by demonstration.

This should be the largest chunk of review and will require the most work. A good way to begin is by checking your notes to remember what you thought of the album initially. A recording of your gut-instinct may help you decide what direction to take with the review or understand why your opinion may have changed. For example, some albums take several listens before you really start to enjoy and understand it. Telling your reader about how long it took for the album to grow on you and why it did will make the review more personal and give the reader an understanding of what to expect from the album.  

a.) Creating the argument.

The most important part of writing a well-written argument is backing up your claims with examples. If you decide the lyrics are what makes an album powerful than quoting lyrics that moved you will help illustrate this point. Even if the lyrics are great and the reader knows that it’s great, an example should be given in order for you and the reader to understand why it’s great. Knowing why something is will give you deeper understanding of your own tastes as well as inform your reader of your personal biases or tastes.

b.) Write about the music in way that your reader can “hear” it.

Writing about music is one of the hardest skills to learn and is often the skill most neglected by music critics. As previously mentioned, examples are important to establishing a strong argument but not all examples can be done by quoting or paraphrasing. You want to review the music as well the message and lyrics (I know this may seem obvious but many “music” reviews don’t have anything about the music at all). Because most music reviews will be done via blog or print, literal examples of the music can’t be played for the reader. The goal of illustrating the music through words is to give the reader that “sound-bite” example without the sound. The reader must “hear” something through your writing in order for them to understand the argument you are proposing. This is challenging because everyone experiences music differently. Your goal as the writer should be finding the “gist” or meaning of your interpretation of the sound and not the actual sound itself. Many writers will try and be too literal, writing every detail verbatim and trying to explain every little sound. It’s too much. Nails scratching slowly across a chalkboard is a illustration that everyone will understand as a literal, horrible shrieking noise but because of the imagery it’s much more interesting and compelling than the verbatim and literal description, “horrible shrieking noise.”

Recap the album and your thoughts.

Our goal as a music critic is to act as curators to this niche of information for those without the time or means to do it themselves. Now that a critic can be anybody with a blog and a critic likely won’t have access to an album before their target audience, many people don’t need critics to tell them what is good or bad anymore before they go to the record store and buy a copy. People now can just go listen for themselves or even check social media and forums for people’s opinions the moment something is leaked or released. Editor’s will push you to write quickly and put your voice into the choir of opinions before the conversation isn’t relevant anymore. Your goal should be to add to that conversation some understanding and critical thinking. Your conclusion will help you measure yourself and whether or not you achieved that goal. Ask yourself this: Does the reader now know why you think the album is amazing or terrible? Does the reader know the context of the album and it’s creation? Does the reader know why you think something is wrong or why the beat sounds like a broken washing machine? Anyone can give their opinion but as critics we must wrap-our-heads-around that opinion.

That’s how I do it! I’m deciding on when to continue this chain or maybe start something new entirely. For now, I plan on writing about some other processes and why those don’t work for me.