On this date six years ago I began this website with a rudimentary understanding of web publishing and a fist-full of press contacts acquired through a bit of music writing and a brief if bizarre tour through Virgin/Capitol Records. I remember feeling, even then, ambivalent about how long I would write the site or if - far more likely - I would lose interest in a few months, dropping it like so many halfway affectations and hobbies of the American bourgeoisie. Six years and 1,211 posts later, here we are at the end.
Writing on this website taught me to write. I was, by no means, a "hack" when this began, and I am, by no means, an excellent writer now, but somewhere in those few thousand paragraphs I wrote here over the last six years, I figured out the beginnings of a voice, refined a few chronic errors, learned to swear less and then began swearing again. I got political exactly once, my first attempt at a longer music/culture piece. Of all the musicians I tried to break to an audience before they were popular, I am most proud to have stood against "Stop and Frisk" in 2011, long before it became the basis of an NYC Mayoral campaign. It is an undeniable tautology, but I wouldn't be here this way without having written for this website. It was never about making money, and I rejected advertising, even back in 2011 when the web-stats indicated I was relevant enough to court. A profit model could not possibly reason through a labor of unsexy love.
Writing on this website introduced me to enormously great musicians, many of whom happen to be great people. Taylor Rice of Local Natives, Jon Lawless of First Rate People, John Ross of Challenger, Blair Gimma of Blair and Future of What, Kyle Wilson of Milagres, Mikel Jollett of Airborne Toxic Event all gave their time and energy graciously to keeping up with me and allowing me into their process a bit, and I tried my best to give words to their wonderful music. There are so many others that there isn't time or space to list here.
I thank my friends for whom this website was originally intended, and I thank my readers. Not so much the 700,000 of you that ended up here one way or another, most by accident or for a few seconds from the Hype Machine, but the few hundred of you strangers who were my regular readers. I never knew the wide majority of you, and only a few of you ever wrote to me personally. Still, I wrote for you. Seeing the few hundred people who stopped by every day made me want to write, ideally to write something better than most blogs I read. I tried writing everyday and mostly failed. You stuck with me, and I appreciate it immensely, invisibly, from far away.
If you want to keep in touch with me, firstname.lastname@example.org will still work - though at some point the PR emails may necessitate a switch toward something else - and I'll still maintain @32feet as my Twitter handle, though even this will seem quaint in five years when Twitter isn't a thing anymore.
Julian Barnes has this awesome quote about death in my favorite book, A History of the World in Ten and a Half Chapters. He writes, "I dreamt that I woke up. It's the oldest dream of all, and I've just had it." Of course, you don't realize the line is about death the first time you read it - which is another one of those truisms about human experience: there's no way to consider endings from beginnings. I would like to believe I am more clear-eyed than most on this front, but there was never time or space to consider what would happen when I stopped wanting to write 32ft/second or what it would feel like to write these words saying goodbye.
It was always about gravity or some other inexorable, ineluctable force. We would return; the beginning and the end would become themselves again. As Kierkegaard noted, the problem with life is that it is lived forward and understood in reverse. We are always cast backwards toward our future. Or as Britt Daniel sang, "I'm writing to you in reverse." I felt that way too sometimes. This was a diary of my late 20s and early 30s, what I liked and when I liked it and what I sounded like then. This both is and was that. Make sure you dance and sing, no one's gonna tell and there's no film in that camera. This is the dream of waking up.
A pleasing platitude lies at the center of Y.O.U.'s debut single, "Heavy Crown". Mastermind Elliott Williams opens to a bass line and a yelping vocal loop, and his first lyric is appropriately an aphorism from the title. This type of circus pop, unwinding itself and spiraling across the dance floor of the imagination, barely holds together, threatening collapse, even as Williams coos, "Everything will be just fine." The final addition of a guitar bridge and synthetic horns in the final 30-seconds brings "Heavy Crown" to rousing, heaving finish. In the words of Williams' last lyric, "You will find everything you've been looking for."
Sivu considerably alters the conceits of his first singles on latest, "Can't Stop Now". Settling into a churning and maudlin hook, "Somewhere out there we lost ourselves," sounding an awful lot like Jens Lekman, Sivu salvages any moroseness with a stirring downbeat. It's unspecific - Where did we lose ourselves? How does one know, in any sense, if one is lost? Why is the chorus so steeped in determinism? - but brilliant pop is often generic. Sivu sings, "retracing our footsteps on the floor", maybe an epistimological approach to figure out how we got here, but it's also our code for how to dance our way into the abyss, his best and final edict.
A whirring and plaintive hook sits at the middle of Jon Lawless' most recent work as Swim Good, "Grand Beach". Featuring guest turns from S. Carey, of Bon Iver fame, and Daniela Andrade, Lawless isn't interested in heading for the dance floor, instead taking the listener to the backyard under a constellation of synths and echoing vocals. The central question, "Would you swim far if you had the right lung?", represents an oblique interrogative, something stuck between the self and the other, a Kate Chopin-level question about how far any of us is willing to go when caught in a bind.
John Ross' Challenger project has been churning out the best electro-pop in New York City for three years now, and latest single, "How Terrorism Brought Us Back Together" is no exception, save a marginal move from the synthesizer left to the "full band" middle. The first single from coming sophomore LP, Back to Bellevue, the song is rooted in a melody that unintentionally eludes to recent Foster the People non-jam "Coming of Age", but Ross instead finds something darkly provocative here. The vocal enters late, the first lyric a dangerous cocktail of colloquialism and mutuality. Ross is his confessional best manipulating a phrase like, "Let down by the low hanging fruit, ducking counts for something, I don't know about you." The electro-pop soft edges are hardened here, the most "full-band" sound from Ross to date, maybe the final step in an argument about the terror of unity.
Austere and crushing, Maybug's debut demo "Slipping Gears" slides along under the power of an electric guitar and a brittle tenor vocal. The hook, an obliterating downcast, "I'm not ashamed to say I've been slipping gears/ this past year," describes what the artist calls a time of "personal failure". Cribbing from the Jeff Buckley playbook, the arrangement unwinds expectedly, not delivering a third and final chorus because, we assume, even though we're listening, this isn't really about us.
Taking the stage north of 12:30, a time that was, "the latest show [they've] ever played" according to lead-singer and part-time conductor, Bradley Carter, Echo Park denizens NO arrived in a New York market they are still in the process of conquering. Bridging the gap between Saturday night and Sunday morning, a crowd fueled by liquid courage and plunging inhibitions sang along with the band's post-National jams (what to do in a facsimile of the fake empire?) - one of those rock concerts that makes the viewer think: "Why aren't these guys absurdly famous?" and "I know why these guys aren't absurdly famous yet." in the same moment.
Of course, none of this has anything to do with the music, one of the general absurdities of seeing bands in 2014, because the music itself represents a titanic slice of indie rock. NO is a six-piece, a gut feeling of one-too-many. The arrangements were tight and sizeable, Carter flourishing his hands - he doesn't play anything but in a different way than Matt Berninger doesn't play anything - as the band proceeded in and out of breaks. Carter alighted to the idea of being our David Blaine for the evening on songs like "Long Haul" and "Another Life": He knew how the tricks went, but it doesn't hurt to raise ones eyebrows and hands as if to say, "Not bad, right?" at the critical moment of the reveal.
Will the indie rock world have room for one more at the table, for a band that easily could be called Mistaken For Strangers and tour the country as a National cover band? It's an unfair metric for a good group of musicians sporting a strong crowd late on Saturday night. They should reasonably be playing at Webster Hall with the Augustines and Frightened Rabbits of the world; there is little difference in market or quality. The group vocals, and there were a lot of them, moved the audience and band together. Whatever the future holds, there are worse things to be than a hotly buzzed band from LA playing downtown in New York, and New York, as well as the rest of the country will be hearing and seeing a healthy measure more of them as the continue to snowball through 2014.