We’re not two weeks into 2012 yet but there has already been an enormous amount of sniping going on as regards Irish music. I realise Ireland couldn’t exist without a healthy dose of cynicism but it seems that we’ve reached a crescendo already.
First up, the state of music blogs in Ireland. Apparently, music bloggers aren’t doing good enough. The tired argument began here, was picked up over here and counter-acted here. Jim Carroll wrote: “When you stick up YouTube videos and Soundcloud clips – especially videos and clips which everyone else is pimping at the same time – with just a scrap of explanation or review or critical slant, please note that this is just softcore PR and nothing more. Less curation and more criticism please, especially criticism of some of the non-mainstream’s most sacred cows who’ve gone fat and lazy. We know you think it – now write it.”
OK, first of all, I was a complete novice when I started this blog two years ago. It took me about six months to wrap my head around how to blog – it takes time. Initially I thought I had to have an opinion on everything related to music. You don’t. I think it was Niall Byrne (Nialler9) who told Dancing About Architecture last year that you don’t need to write about music you don’t like. But Carroll wants us Irish music bloggers to slag anything that’s hyped. It’s too easy to rag on Lana Del Rey, so why bother doing so on my blog? That’s what Twitter is for, isn’t it? I don’t enjoy the music and I think she’s completely manufactured. But everyone already knows that, don’t they?
In the past 12 months, my blog has had more of a focus on Irish music, and I’ve enjoyed it a lot more. Carroll also takes aim at sites who simply reblog what goes up on Pitchfork. The two-year learning curve has taught me you don’t have to feature every new band that goes up on Pitchfork, even if you like them. This I agree with, though if you do really love the songs, why can’t you feature them? If even one person finds one band on your site that they missed on Pitchfork – which is entirely possible – then isn’t it worth it?
Essentially, I think music blogging is selfish – you’re doing it for you, and if someone happens to read what you have to say, then that’s a bonus. I personally love music blogs. I love reading Nialler9 and if it wasn’t for that site, I don’t think I would have started blogging. And people who write about music have a grandiose view of themselves anyway. Most people come to a music site to listen to music (which probably makes this post superfluous). In Ireland, it’s almost impossible to make money out of music writing. But I enjoy writing about music, I enjoy interviewing bands, I enjoy listening to music so why shouldn’t I keep a music blog? If you have all these grand ideas about what a music blog should be then why not do them yourself?
This week also saw the Choice Prize announced. This year, Meteor are sponsoring the Choice, which aims to celebrate the best Irish album of the last 12 months. Along with the shortlist came the bitching. Here are the nominees:
And So I Watch You From Afar – Gangs (Richter Collective)
Bell X1 – Bloodless Coup (Belly Up Records)
Cashier No 9 – To The Death Of Fun (Bella Union)
Lisa Hannigan – Passenger (Hoop Records)
The Japanese Popstars – Controlling Your Allegiance (EMI)
Jape – Ocean of Frequency (Music Is For Losers)
Patrick Kelleher & His Cold Dead Hands – Golden Syrup (Osaka Records)
Pugwash – The Olympus Sounds (EMI/1969 Records)
Tieranniesaur – Tieranniesaur (Popical Island)
We Cut Corners – Today I Realised I Could Go Home Backwards (Delphi)
I really enjoyed eight of those albums: Bell X1’s was a little too experimental in its second half, while I haven’t listened to the Japanese Popstars album. But as usual, rather than being pleased with who made the list – come on, Patrick Kelleher made it! – people prefer to bitch about who didn’t make it. The majority of the comments on On The Record are about who didn’t make it and how it’s an outrage that they didn’t. Music blogger Peter Nagle – a folk aficionado – bemoaned the lack of bands he enjoys being absent from the list here (there’s a horrible comment directed towards one of the judges there too) while Ian Maleney gave out over what he felt were the safe choices. “Albums like Cashier No.9’s end up as favourites because no one really hates them all that much. Some people even like them! Imagine that!” Yes, people, myself included, actually think that To The Death Of Fun is a great album. But because that experimental album someone made in their bedroom which no one has listened to yet – it’s so indie – isn’t on the list, the Choice isn’t reflective of the thriving music scene in Ireland. Or something ridiculous like that.
I said after the shortlist was announced that I didn’t have the belly for the fight as to who didn’t get nominated. But that’s because I was so pleased to see the likes of Jape there. He plumped €25,000 of his own money into this album. It’s been critically acclaimed, his stature has grown and his gamble has paid off. Lisa Hannigan, also up for the second time, made an album that’s full of charm, radio hits and is inward looking – how many bands do that nowadays, Irish or otherwise? Let’s praise those on the list.
Can’t we all just get along?