ny writer for Stylus will tell you, I’m not a man of many words. I rarely get emotional, I rarely say too much. Let’s not start now.
I’ve been editing Stylus pretty much on my own for the past five years. Along the way, however, I’ve had help from a variety of amazing contributors. Todd Hutlock, Derek Miller, Dom Passantino, Mike Powell, Alfred Soto, and Nick Southall have all helped shape the site enormously. Michael F. Gill and William B. Swygart have both taken their respective specialties and run with them, making Stylus synonymous with dance and pop music in the process. Jay Millikan, Josh Timmermann, and Learned Foote all deserve my undying thanks for taking the reins of a grossly underappreciated side of the site and making it into something great. Steve Copley, as well, is in my debt forever for taking over advertising for Stylus. I couldn’t have done it without you. Special thanks, as well, to Matthew Weiner. You know why.
And then there is everybody else. The writers. The people who actually made the site what it is. From the conscientious weekly review writers to the Stypod contributors to Roxanne Blanford to the guys who posted on the Turntable for a couple of weeks when we thought we were going to become a blogging force. Some of you are listed below. Many of you aren’t. You’re all dear to me. You made Stylus what it is. I just uploaded your hard work into a stupid database every night. Thanks.
The final week for Stylus will feature two days of reviews and one day of final year-end thoughts from much of our editorial staff. We will be presenting one last Dead Letter Office from Todd Hutlock, a collection of short “Final Seconds” from our staff, and then launching straight into our usual year-end features (the Haiku Marathon, as well as the year’s best reissues, songs, and albums). On the movie side of things, we’ll be counting down the best zombie films of all time on Monday, while on Tuesday and Wednesday we’ll take stock and present the best films of the year (so far) and the best films of the decade (so far). We already published a list at the beginning of 2006 of our favorite movies of the decade, but I imagine this one’ll be different. At least that’s what Learned, our tireless movie editor, tells me.
And without further ado...
We must begin with Imperfect Sound Forever. Not only is it the only article to sneak into Da Capo’s Best Music Writing series of books, but it also acutely influenced a band in how they make music. There’s little more you can ask for as a music critic.
Before all that, Stylus began in 2002 with a bang, enlisting Simon Reynolds to talk about dance music videos, Matthew Weiner to (not so politely) talk about Jim O’Rourke’s penchant for eclecticism, and Rich Juzwiak to discuss electroclash (remember that?). Near the end of the year, Scott Plagenhoef bemoaned the current state of rock ‘n’ roll. Apparently we were a bit angry back then. Some might say we never got over it.
2003 was a year all about redemption: Matthew Weiner told the story of the Temptations in the Psychedelic Soul era, Rich Juzwiak praised Mariah Carey’s return to formlessness, and most of the staff weighed on the greatest albums never made. Michael Patrick Brady, however, wrote (transcribed?) my personal favorite article of that year when he went into his college radio’s studios and unearthed years of correspondence between DJs written directly onto the records that they played.
We sold out in 2004. Blurbs, lists, guides. Who did we think we were? Blender? Andrew Unterberger’s sure hand guided the site’s tour of the ‘90s, William B. Swygart shepherded the internet pop writing community through its first Eurovision article, and then we even gave in and did a list of our favorite 101-200 records of all time.
The year 2005 brought more guided tours: Todd Hutlock brought us The Sound of Young Scotland and the Creation Records’ first 50 singles, while Chris Ott outlined the perfect digital sound set-up. My favorite piece, though, was perhaps my most favorite Stylus piece ever. Brad Shoup took readers on a tour of what it was like to grow up as a music lover and a Christian. It’s a great one: print it out, and take some time with it.
2006 was a dark one for the site. Both metal and goth finally got their due thanks to the hard work of Stewart Voegtlin, Todd DePalma, Cosmo Lee, Mallory O’Donnell, and Peter Parrish. Stylus also welcomed Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and the Boredoms into our Hall of Fame. Credit Thomas Inskeep and Mike Powell, respectively, for making those inductions go so well.
Finally, 2007 saw a focus on the journalistic. Eric Harvey looked at the changing landscape of the music PR business in a digital world, Cosmo Lee interviewed a number of metal’s greatest (cover art) artists, and Ryan Foley uncovered the history of the flexi-disc.
ON SECOND THOUGHT
One of the quirkiest sections of the site, On Second Thought gave each of our writers a unique chance to talk about a record that they felt deserved a critical re-evaluation. Good or bad, it was almost always interesting.
Steely Dan - Gaucho (Mike Powell)
“You can’t have a comfortable relationship with someone who has a knife at your tit and you can’t have a comfortable relationship with Gaucho.”
Billy Joel – The Stranger (Mallory O’Donnell)
“As much as it hurts to admit, Billy Joel may just be the consummate American pop star”
Thomas Brinkmann - Studio 1 – Variationen / Concept 1:96:VR (Todd Hutlock)
“Brinkmann once said, ‘I don't believe in creativity, but in sensibility. We have to invent the things to make them visible or audible, even though they had been there before, only invisible and inaudible.’”
Mariah Carey – Merry Christmas (Barry Schwartz)
“So let’s put this out there: Hanukkah isn’t much fun.”
John Hartford - Aereo-Plain (Andrew Gaerig)
“It would be easy to call Aereo-Plain an “Old Weird America” classic, but Hartford’s loves were never so static, and he seemed in on the joke besides.”
David Bowie - Low (Ian Mathers)
“The status quo of fame, of running in front of the train, is untenable for more than extremely short periods of time. You get run over.”
Pere Ubu – The Modern Dance (Chris Smith)
“By the time this record was released – on Chrysalis, no less! The very fact that it and Dub Housing ended up (like the first Suicide album, absolutely unplayed) in my college radio station’s library is something I’ll always attribute to overzealous if-you-like-Blondie-then-you’ll-love... marketing...”
Elton John – Victim of Love (Dave Queen)
“Elton does Eurodisco; one would expect the record to have been packaged Merzbow style, embedded in a giant coke-frosted wedding cake with transvestites leaping out of it. Of all the times to lowball the profile!”
Another type of On Second Thought, The Diamond tackled only albums that had sold more than 10 million copies in the United States.
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – Born in the USA (Barry Schwartz)
“I’d say on any given day since 1975 my father has listened to “Thunder Road” at least once. It’s his theme song. There are always 5 CDs in his truck. Three are Bruce Springsteen.”
Michael Jackson - Thriller (Tal Rosenberg)
“Michael Jackson’s Thriller is the weirdest album to ever go Diamond.”
Stylus' Seconds column examined those magic moments that arose when listening to a piece of music that strikes that special chord inside.
Public Image Ltd. – Memories (Matthew Weiner)
“What would seem to be the record's first time that Lydon obliquely references his old band is, in fact, the very moment he sheds the Pistols' legacy and announces the path of pop reconstruction Public Image Limited would blaze...”
Norman Greenbaum – Spirit in the Sky (Gabe Gloden)
“I was having dinner with my parents at a local Korean restaurant a few weeks ago, and as I was perusing the Karaoke selections, I came across ‘Spirit In The Sky.’ Guess who was listed as the artist? ‘Unknown.’”
White Town – Your Woman (Nick Southall)
“The audacity, not to mention ludicrous improbability, of “Your Woman” is astounding in retrospect.”
Sixpence None the Richer – Kiss Me (Dom Passantino)
“Before Stacie Orrico, Evanescence and ‘The way Kathy needed Regis that’s the way I need Jesus,’ those of us who’ve harboured a 2,000 year long hatred of the Jews for the manner in which they brutally murdered our Lord had Sixpence None The Richer.”
Sophie B. Hawkins – Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover (Dom Passantino)
“As we sailed into the Ellis Island of contemporary sexuality, she was our Statue of Liberty.”
Phantom/Ghost – Perfect Lovers (Michael F. Gill)
“We are perfect lovers / Besides the fact we’re not there.”
Van Halen – Spanish Fly (Stewart Voegtlin)
“Inhale… […] Exhale…”
In which Stylus writers rearranged albums to help artists make the perfect albums that we know that they had in them.
Radiohead - Amnesiac (Josh Love)
The Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs (Nate De Young)
Whatever: The 90s Pop Culture Box (Andrew Unterberger)
Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life (Zeth Lundy)
TOP TEN TOP 10’s
Readers love lists.
Top Ten Texas Recordings (Brad Shoup)
Top Ten Crushing Disappointments (Jayson Greene)
Top Ten Underground Pop Culture Cameos (Deen Freelon)
Top Ten Musical Turn-Offs (Lisa Oliver)
Top Ten Sexiest Songs Not About Sex (Clem Bastow)
Top Ten Mixtape Killers (Rachel Khong)
Top Ten Cover Versions That Alter the Meaning of the Song (Bjorn Randolph)
Top Ten Dylan Harmonica Solos (Andrew Iliff)
Top Ten Momentum Killing Follow-Up Singles to Breakthrough Post-Grunge Albums (Ian Cohen)
Top Ten Dnb Basslines (Cosmo Lee)
Arguments & Ideas & Comments Boxes That Never Ended
Sometimes Stylus published things that our readers didn’t like very much. Or that they couldn’t stop talking about. Or that they misread altogether.
Keane – Under the Iron Sea (Nick Southall)
“My theory about Keane is that they have been mercilessly shaped and targeted by their record label, primped and preened and pruned and pushed down corridors in directions they did not want to go in, all in the promise of success.”
Eminem - Encore (Josh Love)
“Eminem’s dying. I can’t think of any other possible explanation.”
Kelly Osbourne – Sleeping in the Nothing (Josh Love)
“Somewhere out there, a celebrity is crying. ”
Muse – Absolution (Dave Queen)
“Hint to unsuccessful artists—stop telling yourselves that you’re not famous because ‘people either love or hate your stuff.’ Anyone who says they ‘hate’ or ‘love’ your stuff is just trying to make you stop talking about your stuff.”
The Kooks – Inside In Inside Out (Paul Scott)
“This series of e-mails was leaked to Stylus this weekend. The names of the individuals and organizations concerned have been hidden to respect privacy. Spelling and grammar errors have been left in, however.”
It’s Enough: Sleater-Kinney (Alfred Soto)
“I was relieved a few seconds after learning that Sleater-Kinney had broken up.”
Everything’s Great and We Like Everything (Nick Sylvester)
“Now I know I’ve been out of the club game for some time, but wait just a second: Who on high demanded that all these tracks, and I mean pretty much almost all these tracks, had to be played all at once, remixed, and backed by Baltimore breakbeats?”
On First Listen: The Smiths (Mallory O’Donnell)
“For one reason or another, it just never happened between me and the Smiths.”
Well, it pains me to admit it, but we’ve had plenty of favorite commenters on the site. Zarklephaser, Grand Banks, Florenz6, meatbreak, raskolnikov, et al.: we salute you! Absolute top honors, though, goes to Galkin, a reader who only seemed to comment on articles about DFA Records. We love you, man.
LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem
“My goal was to call him an asshole. I am quite proud of the job I have done. I am not whining. I am actually just having a bit of fun at the expense of a mediocre writer with no point to make whatsoever.”
Delia and Gavin – The Days of Mars
“Incredible review. This definitely helped us to reevaluate the duo and I assure you, they have been dropped now from DFA Records. Luckily we have an "On Second Thought" clause in our contracts and believe me, we pulled that trigger quicker than you can say Rebecca DeMornay!”
Various Artists - The DFA Remixes: Chapter Two
“This review gets a BOO minus.”
THE IVAN CAMPO MEMORIAL DOM PASSANTINO SECTION
Dom was a funny one.
The View – Hats Off to the Buskers
J’Accuse: Jarvis Cocker
Tori Amos – The Beekeeper
Survey of the New Millenium’s UK #1 Singles
Top Ten Worst Ambassadors of Italian Culture Via Song (Dom Passantino)
Scorched Earth Podcast #001 (With Fergal O’Reilly)
TOO MUCH INFORMATION
One thing that Stylus has always been known for? The personal tone of its writing. Some of our most indulgent moments:
The Long-Weekend I Went Without Music (Derek Miller)
“In the bluest cold of February, Minneapolis’ nastiest month despite its reach toward spring, my divorce was finalized.”
For The Benefit of Mr. Kerry (Dom Passantino)
“Like that other guy, forget his name (you know the one I mean: long face, hung out with Springsteen all the time, think he was in the army or navy or something), I lost an election in 2004.”
All That You Can’t Leave Behind (Josh Timmermann)
“You’ve also, by now, probably surmised that this is going to be one of those long, indulgent pieces about how some obscure (in this case, moi) writer grew up all wrong. My hope is that you’re only partly correct.”
Great Moments in the History of Soul Music (Mike Powell)
“There’s no point in beating around the bush when I can just go ahead and wet my dick—I had a silly year.”
The Cover (Todd Hutlock)
“Clearly, there was something more to this woman than I thought, and trust me, I already thought pretty highly of her.”
No One Goes To the Shows (Nick Southall)
“I don’t like live music. I don’t like going to gigs. They’re too noisy, too hot, too busy.”
From the Cradle to the Rave (Justin Cober-Lake)
“At some point I discovered that I was a music critic, and (this is the important part) I also discovered that I really liked it.”
Zen and the Art of Record Licking (Mallory O’Donnell)
“Most of my records are stored vertically in bookshelves, organized by ad hoc genres and the unwavering codex of the alphabet.”
Standing on the Verge of Getting Old (Derek Miller)
“I’m sitting at home tonight all moon-eyed that Grey’s Anatomy is in re-runs. I turn thirty on Saturday. I can’t say for certain, but I’m increasingly inclined to think this is no coincidence.”
The Death of a Record Collection (Nick Southall)
“Last week I flew to Guernsey, in the Channel Islands, to witness the death of a record collection.”
One of Stylus’s best secret weapons has been its movie writing. Jay Millikan, Josh Timmermann, and Learned Foote all deserve heaps of credit for their time as the editor of the section—we couldn’t have done it without their guiding hand.
Paranoid Time: A Guide to ‘70s Conspiracy Thrillers (Jay Millikan)
Top Ten Directors of Photography (Josh Timmermann)
A Hindered But Magnificent Love (Learned Foote)
Storytelling in the New Post-War Western (Nancy Keefe Rhodes)
Let’s Not Turn Into Monsters, Okay?: The Films of Hong Sang-Soo (Sky Hirschkron)
A Bluffer’s Guide to the Archers (Patrick McKay)
Adding the Flavor: Legendary Set Designer Ken Adam (Frank Rinaldi)
Stop Making Sense vs. The Last Waltz (David Holmes)
A Second Take: Blue Velvet (Teresa Nieman and Josh Timmermann)
Top Ten Chase Scenes (Dave Micevic)
Vanishing Point: ‘70s Directors Today (Paolo Cabrelli)
Triumph of the Fanboy (Jay Millikan and Todd Hutlock)
Top Ten Movie Comedy Duos (Bill Weber)
A KISS AFTER SUPPER
Music writers got into the act every once in a while too. A Kiss After Supper was Derek Miller’s idea, “a tracing the expert use of pop music through some of the more music-friendly films of the past thirty years.”
The Royal Tenenbaums (Derek Miller)
American Beauty (Drew Miller)
Xanadu (Nate De Young)
THE SINGLES JUKEBOX
Many people will tell you that Stylus wrote much better about pop music than indie. That has a lot to do with William B. Swygart and his merry band of singles jukeboxers. The column went to a blog format early this year and, as such, it’s hard to isolate much of the good stuff. But before The Singles Jukebox had its own domain, William covered the Top 40 chart show by his lonesome. Here are a few choice editions:
1-0 1-0 Ha Ha Ha (Southampton Love)
INDIEGEDDON! (Snow Patrol Rant)
The Way We Were (The End of Swygart Solo)
And just a bit more.
William B. Swygart’s Top Singles of 2003
Top Ten Things About Rapustin by Boney M
Mr. Swygart’s Favorite Things of 2006
Items that I just couldn’t find a convenient box to put in.
Hi: Marnie Stern (Mike Powell)
Get Miles: DJ Night in Kathmandu (Colin Cooper)
On First Listen: Scott Walker (Tal Rosenberg)
Label Profile: Universal Music Group (Clay Jarvis)
J-Pop Will Eat Itself: Ayumi Hamasaki (Francis Henville)
J-Pop Will Eat Itself: J-Pop Before J-Pop (Teresa Nieman)
A Bluffer’s Guide to Perez Prado (Mallory O’Donnell)
A Bluffer’s Guide to Hiplife (Brian Shimkovitz)
A Bluffer’s Guide to The Berlin School (Mike Orme)
Vs.: Depeche Mode vs. The Cure (Andrew Unterberger)
Vs.: Back to the Future vs. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Jeff Weiss)
YouTube: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (Mike Orme)
There’s plenty more than what is linked below. Believe me.
Top Ten Editorial Gems
Our very own Jayson Blair
Hip-Hop Fashion: Poppin' Tags (Gavin Mueller)
“Black fashion—from the zoot suit to the afro to cross-colors—is by its very nature subversive.”
Auditory Tourism: Pop in Nam (Andrew Iliff)
“We’re in a café in downtown Saigon, where the lights are dim and recessed and the artwork is all cubist replicas and the piped-in music maintains a strict orthodoxy of lugubrious candy-pop.”
Sugar Shock #013: Bunnies, Traps, and Slip ‘n’ Slides: An Interview with Brie Larson (David Moore)
“Wow, I've never been referred to as "cold steel" and I certainly don't hate it.”
Disconnecting the Dots: Getting Critical with Music Critics (And their Readers) (Stewart Voegtlin)
“Heard of hermeneutics?”
Band Logos (Matthew Ingram)
“The history of logos hasn't always been one dominated by legendary designers like Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Lester Beall and Milton Glaser.”
Best of All Possible Worlds: Kristofferson’s Wine, Women & Song (Derek Miller and Stewart Voegtlin)
“Kristofferson tended bar, he fought forest fires, he buzzed and fizzled with the other songwriting “bugs” in Nashville’s soup of discontent. Mostly he lived.”
Haiku Marathon 2005 (Stylus Staff)
Just one step away
From being Enya, you daft
Secret hippy scum!
Many more that I’ve forgotten. Apparently we even reviewed a few albums. Derek’ll be mad that I didn’t include more of his work. Derek’s always mad at me for something. Here’s his staff page, just so you don’t miss out on anything.
Beatz by the Pound
Dave Micevic, Erick Bieritz