It starts like this. At the beginning of the month, I was working on a piece for New York about new albums from Wilco and Feist. As I was listening to and reading about them, I came across a quote from Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, in which he said he was sure plenty of people would react to his band’s album with a knee-jerk “meh.” And I thought: He’s probably right about that! Anyone who’s watched the reception of albums like these has surely noticed that the “meh” issue is a big point of contention. Lots of people have pre-existing suspicions about the music being categorically “dull.”
So I figured I’d write an essay about that phenomenon. The piece was aimed at people who aren’t music geeks. It was intended to outline some facts I imagined weren’t that controversial:
- Wilco and Feist have new albums out, and here is what they sound like.
- As it happens, there is a pretty popular pocket of indie acts making well-crafted, classicist music like this, with a wide, cross-generational appeal — almost like an adult-contemporary sort of appeal, at times.
- There are some listeners who find that sort of thing tiresome, and have basically reactionary responses to it, like suddenly craving music that’s less tasteful.
- People argue about this a lot.
I think the big mistake was not giving at least one specific example of “listeners who find that sort of thing tiresome,” and instead pushing a lot of “you mights” and “perhaps you”s, and questionable assumptions like “more people consider pop music inherently silly than enjoy it.” If you’re determined to not share your opinion (a whole other issue), you better assign the opinions you’re sharing to somebody, otherwise defensive indie AC lovers basically have no choice but to lash out at you.
It’s a rite of passage for students of pop music history: At some point, you learn that the Beach Boys weren’t just a fun 1960s surf band with a run of singles that later came to be used in commercials; at their best, they were making capital-A Art. Mark Richardson, The Smile Sessions
Welch is a more convincing Artist than even the best “Idol” has to offer… Ryan Dombal, Ceremonials