10 Things I Hate About (Reev)You

Discuss our reviews or just talk about any old album.

10 Things I Hate About (Reev)You

Postby elocomotive » Tue Mar 02, 2004 11:55 am

Okay, I don't actually have 10 things, but it probably snagged your attention. This thread is a little hodge podge of a couple threads I've seen and some other ideas I've been thinking about.

I agree with John Billich's thread supporting Dave Trendler's review of the Amazing Blue CD. Though I'm biased because I'm a long-time friend of Dave's, I can objectively say that he approaches his writing and reviews in a very professional manner, and as a reader, I get a lot out of them. He focuses on the important thing - the music. Kudos.

But below, I've strung together a number of things the subsequent threads mentioned. Their collective commonality is that they detract from the focus on the music. Some of them have been mentioned in threads recently, some are from old threads, and some are new ideas as well.

So I wondered, what do people think? Are these things generally bothersome to read in a review? Are there additions? Deletions? I've enjoyed the related topics and am curious as to a wider discussion on the issue...

THINGS I TIRE OF SEEING IN REVIEWS

(OLD) Liner notes/artwork: When are these ever mentioned in a real music review? If they totally misrepresent the music inside, I can see it, but I've read so many dumb things about proper crediting and the like. It wastes my time and its not important.

(OLD) "I don't like this type of music": Jurors often excuse themselves if they are forced to judge something they are biased against. I understand saying, "group X tries to stretch themselves into barbershop on a few tracks, and it doesn't work for them..." But stating upfront that you dislike a certain genre/type of music makes it silly for you to review it in the first place.

(*NEW*) How/where the album was recorded and made: I understand commenting on the production of the album as a component. Probably no individual element makes or breaks an album as much as production (barring a complete derth of talent/skill). But what got me on this idea in the first place was a comment in Benjamin Steven's review of the AVP album. It notes that "...the group RECORDED ITSELF. And ENGINEERED ITSELF... Although mixed with help from the ubiquitous Bill Hare, the disc is a real testament to the vitality of which collegiate a cappella is capable on its own." It then notes "competitions and thus groups' sounds essentially determined by a small number of coaches." First off, wouldn't Bill Hare count as one of those small number of coaches (he puts out excellent work and has a bevy of awards to his credit)? Second, why make a big deal of it anyway? I'd like to know how the reviewer feels the production fits the music, improves/detracts from the vocal performances, was so subtle on one track and yet impressive on another, etc. etc. If I get the album, I can read the credits on my own. [Aside: Sorry Ben, normally I think your reviews are pretty groovy, but it was a good example here. Even A-Rod goes 0 for 4 once in awhile.]

(*NEW*) Track selection: I think Josh Diamant's comment on this in the thread next door is right on. The tracks as a whole having some cohesion, flow, and dynamic swing is important (and happens whether its an "album" or not, thats just semantics), but sometimes reviewers just say things like "i dislike this song." That doesn't help Joe Q. Consumer who may or may not like the song. Similar to the genre one above, I think its innapropriate. I want to know if they have done anything new with it, or if its performed tightly, or that they totally revamped the bridge for it, or if its done straight up, etc.

Anyway, just some thoughts. I feel like all these things detract from a review being more informative and flat out better. Feel free to comment/add to/affirm/destroy them. Hee hee.
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Re: 10 Things I Hate About (Reev)You

Postby singyourheart » Tue Mar 02, 2004 12:35 pm

good post, e

Elocomotive wrote:l(OLD) Liner notes/artwork: When are these ever mentioned in a real music review? If they totally misrepresent the music inside, I can see it, but I've read so many dumb things about proper crediting and the like. It wastes my time and its not important.


on the fence about this. part of me agrees - Eric's recent review which consisted mainly of credits was a bit much. ok more than a bit. but I respect him looking out for the musicians - the groups sure don't, much of the time - often they steal the song from Kazaa to learn it, steal Finale or Sibellius from same to arrange it, then try to not pay licensing fees if they can when recording it. these people show no respect to the music or the musicians and others who work in the industry.

so on this one, i'm on the fence,

Elocomotive wrote:(OLD) "I don't like this type of music": Jurors often excuse themselves if they are forced to judge something they are biased against. I understand saying, "group X tries to stretch themselves into barbershop on a few tracks, and it doesn't work for them..." But stating upfront that you dislike a certain genre/type of music makes it silly for you to review it in the first place.


agreed. basically a CYA affair for themselves.


Elocomotive wrote:(*NEW*) How/where the album was recorded and made....what got me on this idea in the first place was a comment in Benjamin Steven's review of the AVP album. It notes that "...the group RECORDED ITSELF. And ENGINEERED ITSELF...


agreed, mostly. while i think the CD is great (and was slighted for a CARA nod), what it comes down to is does it sound good.

however, mentioning who did the CD is useful when you know that person's work, don't you think?

Elocomotive wrote:(*NEW*) Track selection...sometimes reviewers just say things like "i dislike this song." That doesn't help Joe Q. Consumer who may or may not like the song. Similar to the genre one above, I think its innapropriate. I want to know if they have done anything new with it, or if its performed tightly, or that they totally revamped the bridge for it, or if its done straight up, etc.


agreed.

however...

one thing to keep in mind is that everyone - and ESPECIALLY reviewers of any form of art - loves a soapbox. loves it. unless the editors disallow it, reviewers will always try to put their own stamps and beliefs on/in their reviews at every opportunity. sometimes this in enjoyable; often it's what sells the magazine, etc.

but since rarb is free, perhaps we could do with less of it.
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Postby ericskalinder » Tue Mar 02, 2004 1:54 pm

Nice thread, Mr. Eric. I dig it. Good stuff going on in here lately.

Mr. Eric wrote:(OLD) Liner notes/artwork: When are these ever mentioned in a real music review? If they totally misrepresent the music inside, I can see it, but I've read so many dumb things about proper crediting and the like. It wastes my time and its not important.


These aren't mentioned in real (aka professional) music reviews because it's a non-issue. Professional recordings are put together in a professional manner. It simply isn't necessary. If U2 came out with a cover album that had crappy, amateurish artwork with grainy, ragged edges, I believe you'd hear about it. If that album cited zero credits for songwriters and copyright holders, you'd hear about it. If U2 declined to pay royalties on the cover songs, you'd hear about it. I don't believe it's a waste of time at all. These issues are important to me and, I believe, to the a cappella community, which is why I mention them.

What was the last RARB review of a recording by a *professional* group to mention any or all of these issues?
(I don't know the answer. I rarely read other reviews.)

Submit albums that are professional and these issues will disappear.

Mr./Ms. Jimi wrote:Eric's recent review which consisted mainly of credits was a bit much. ok more than a bit.

I'm relieved you found it to be more than a bit much - it was intentionally over the top. I'm not sure it did anything more than aggravate people, though. Oh well.

Mr. Eric wrote:(OLD) "I don't like this type of music": Jurors often excuse themselves if they are forced to judge something they are biased against. I understand saying, "group X tries to stretch themselves into barbershop on a few tracks, and it doesn't work for them..." But stating upfront that you dislike a certain genre/type of music makes it silly for you to review it in the first place.


In general, I probably agree. When likes and dislikes interfere with appreciation, it can be problematic. On the other hand, I'm reading a review to know what the author thinks of the recording. Personal preferences are obviously a part of that process. The more I know the better I can place commentary in its proper context. I think likes and dislikes can be a legit part of that equation.

For instance, I don't especially care for cheezy, shallow, pop music. However, when someone does it really well I can sure appreciate it. And if they do it well enough, they might even change my mind about pop music for the 40 minutes their CD is playing. The fact that they changed my mind is a powerful testament to the quality and character of a recording.
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Postby elocomotive » Tue Mar 02, 2004 3:14 pm

ericskalinder wrote: For instance, I don't especially care for cheezy, shallow, pop music. However, when someone does it really well I can sure appreciate it. And if they do it well enough, they might even change my mind about pop music for the 40 minutes their CD is playing. The fact that they changed my mind is a powerful testament to the quality and character of a recording.


Hmm, good thoughts Eric. I guess related to the last mention on not caring for pop music, I can completely understand. But it seems the elements that really turn you off are when the music is cheezy or shallow. So, can't a review note these qualities (or lack thereof) in describing the music, rather than not liking pop or what have you. After all, cheezy and shallow are not the domain of just pop music, and plenty of pop music is authentic and sincere (Sting, Coldplay). I just think thats more helpful to the reader, whether its positive or negative.

A reviewer has to be true to his own preferences and subjectivity, I agree. But also has to have an eye towards what other listeners might think, and what might engage them. A judge and a filter. In either case, describing the music with words like you used helps both happen, (e.g. - "I'm not one for trite lyrics, but the melodies are engaging.") rather than "genre-hatin'." Haha.

Thanks for the perspective on the "liner notes" issue. Good stuff.
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Postby bstevens » Tue Mar 02, 2004 5:13 pm

This thread is just the sort of thing I always hope to see more of in the Forum. Thanks for getting the ball rolling, E.!

(I especially enjoyed your MLB analogy. I tend to think of groups, including RARB's reviewers, in terms of superhero teams [as if I needed something to make me even nerdier ... ], so it's nice to hear from a different perspective.)

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APE SUIT

Postby davetrendler » Tue Mar 02, 2004 7:30 pm

"I agree with John Billich's thread supporting Dave Trendler's review of the Amazing Blue CD. Though I'm biased because I'm a long-time friend of Dave's, I can objectively say that he approaches his writing and reviews in a very professional manner, and as a reader, I get a lot out of them. He focuses on the important thing - the music. Kudos."

Thanks, dude. I owe you a beer! haha. And quit tryin' to butter me up - I'm not giving you your ape suit back. I won that bet fair and square.

Liner notes/track listings - Incorrect liner notes are directly correlated with poor music quality, in my experience. Though crappy liner notes obviously don't cause the musical problems, they can indicate the level of professionalism on an album. Are they worth mentioning? Maybe only to make a broader point about an album's lack of attention to detail.

Musical preference - When reviewers first are admitted to RARB, they are asked to provide a list of musical styles or group formats for which they don't feel qualified or comfortable writing reviews. So theoretically, Ben will never send me a barbershop or gospel album because I have asked him not to. Likewise, Ben knows from my readily available RARB bio that I enjoy and feel very comfortable spouting my thoughts on vocal bands, college groups, and choral albums, which make up the majority of my singing experience and my entire body of reviewing work with RARB. My point: RARB has some internal structures to avoid mismatching reviewers' interests with their assigned albums. Maybe they don't always work? Next point: it's possible to dislike something and still give a valid judgment of it. Pretty much all a cappella music is judgeable within criteria of pitch, blend, energy, creativity, etc. (see RARB's criteria). Just because I don't like barbershop doesn't mean that I can't dispassionately evaluate it within RARB's criteria or that I haven't heard enough of it to know what it's supposed to sound like (trust me, I've been to four Harmony Sweeps).

Self-tracking/mixing/production - This isn't a response to Eric, so much as my own commentary. It's my opinion that albums occasionally have been over-rated within RARB and the general a cappella community just because listeners have been overly impressed with how much a group was involved in the recording process. Understandable; it's really damn cool when groups have the courage and initiative to do it all themselves.

Relatedly, there have been several posts recently about how some reviewers don't appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that go into self-recording an album. Having self-tracked/mixed/produced parts of The Humbuckers album with the aforementioned Eric "Ape Suit" Olsen (and other guys, too), I disagree. I think many reviewers have recorded (poll, anyone?) and know intimately what it takes. Isn't album reviewing sort of the ultimate appreciation of a recorded work? To say that reviewers don't appreciate the recording process seems a little ludicrous to me.

Finally, I find "you don't appreciate all our hard work!" posts to be very naive. RARB exists to evaluate the ENDS not the MEANS. Admittedly, there are respectful and disrespectful ways to evaluate an end result, but HOW an album is recorded is just one component contributing to the complete album. Hard work does not necessarily result in a job well done, and RARB's mission does not involve sugar-coating.

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Re: APE SUIT

Postby singyourheart » Wed Mar 03, 2004 5:55 am

dtrendler wrote:Finally, I find "you don't appreciate all our hard work!" posts to be very naive. RARB exists to evaluate the ENDS not the MEANS.


excellent point.
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Re: APE SUIT

Postby elocomotive » Wed Mar 03, 2004 7:26 am

dtrendler wrote: My point: RARB has some internal structures to avoid mismatching reviewers' interests with their assigned albums. Maybe they don't always work? Next point: it's possible to dislike something and still give a valid judgment of it. Pretty much all a cappella music is judgeable within criteria of pitch, blend, energy, creativity, etc. (see RARB's criteria). Just because I don't like barbershop doesn't mean that I can't dispassionately evaluate it within RARB's criteria or that I haven't heard enough of it to know what it's supposed to sound like (trust me, I've been to four Harmony Sweeps).


Yeah, above is the principle and ideal, and thanks for the details on how RARB avoids some of these problems, thats pretty smart. I think the trouble is that some of the RARB reviewers aren't able to separate themselves enough for this to happen.

dtrendler wrote: Finally, I find "you don't appreciate all our hard work!" posts to be very naive. RARB exists to evaluate the ENDS not the MEANS. Admittedly, there are respectful and disrespectful ways to evaluate an end result, but HOW an album is recorded is just one component contributing to the complete album. Hard work does not necessarily result in a job well done, and RARB's mission does not involve sugar-coating.


Well said.
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