Sunday, July 8, 2018

Snail Mail | Lefsetz Letter



I ignored the hype.

But then I got hooked by the banner on Spotify.

Oh, you can turn it off. Over to the right, in grey, it says “Hide Announcements,” and then these banners will disappear, but do you want them to?

I don’t want to read another story of a musician wise beyond his or her years. Yes, there was that story in the “Times” the other month, I always glance, skim a bit, since this is my world, but I don’t go online and listen, because if I did I’d have no time left at all, and so much of what is promoted is not worth a listen, at least not in a world where the history of recorded music is at your fingertips. But a banner on Spotify? You had to convince the powers-that-be that your music has value and you’re supporting it.

And to be truthful, I don’t know how many subscribers got this Spotify banner. But I did read all about the backlash to the Drake “Scorpion” banner. And on one hand I get it, but on another I don’t. I mean how hard is it to ignore? But truthfully, it was overdone, in a race to compete with Apple Music, in order to placate Drake, in order to have a big first week number, which is no different from the old system, but promoting Snail Mail?

This is not a review in the newspaper, not a review on Pitchfork, not a street team infecting my inbox/social media. Rather, the largest music company on the planet, the one the most people listen to, is giving real estate to this unknown act, I’m gonna listen.

And I was surprised, I didn’t immediately click it off.

Now only two types of music are promoted. Well, three. Starting with the least important is the oldsters running on fumes with new music, which often goes unlistened to, no matter how good a job the PR person does. And then there’s the hip-hop, and the pop. It’s gotten to the point where if you’re not a fan of those genres, you tune out all music promotion, you’ve been burned too many times.

And then you hear something like Snail Mail.

I don’t want to know she’s from Baltimore, I don’t want to know she was a hockey fanatic, I DON’T WANT TO KNOW SHE’S NINETEEN YEARS OLD, I just want to listen to the MUSIC!

And that’s what I did when I clicked through, I scrolled through to find the most played cuts. And I started with the two in seven figures (that’s over a million for the math-challenged), first “Heat Wave,” figuring it was a good chance it was a cover.

But it’s not.

Now I know nothing about this act, I’ve done no research, I don’t plan to spend a ton of time, all I know is there’s a blond girl in the picture. But there’s a vibe that resonates, something dark, which appeals to me, especially in an era where everybody’s telling me how much better they are than I am.

And then came the guitars.

Wait a minute, is this rock? Made by a woman? Why isn’t the world all over this?

Not that this is Jade Bird. I can’t say there’s an immediate hit, something I can point you to that you’ll get immediately. But as I’m listening to “Heat Wave,” there’s a break with guitarwork and I’m thinking if this was 1977, music fans would be all over this. Because that’s the way it was, there was a scene, you were a fan and if someone got a major recording contract, you’d pay attention.

But Snail Mail’s album “Lush” is on Matador. That’s the world we live in, the majors want NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS!

To their detriment. They’re too busy chasing “hits,” and leaving the rest to indies, to acts doing it all by themselves, which is why Spotify could make headway going straight to acts, or vice versa. Meanwhile, all the hype Matador did was essentially useless. Because print and NPR don’t move the needle. BUT A BANNER ON SPOTIFY DOES!

That’s right, it’s an endcap on steroids. Because there’s only one record presented, which you can’t ignore, unless you turn announcements off, but why would you do that, you’d be living in the wilderness!

I’m feeling low
I’m not into sometimes

You don’t want to be second best, you don’t want to be a booty call, you want to be PRIMARY, but even though you say no, that does not mean you still don’t hurt, still don’t desire, still don’t fantasize.

So now I’m doing research, because I’m hooked by the MUSIC!

That’s when I realize I was exposed to the hype and ignored it.

And I pulled up the lyrics. And they weren’t revelatory, but there were some nuggets, like the lines above at the end of “Heat Wave.”

Now the lyrics are about teenage/twentysomething problems. Where is my place in the world? Do you like me for who I am? But it’s such a change from what is being forced down our throat.

I don’t know what happens, I don’t know if Snail Mail breaks through. But I’d go to see the act, essentially Lindsey Jordan, at the Troubadour, in a club without a big screen, where it was solely about the music, like it used to be.

So, just when you give up hope, you’re inspired. Hopefully this can translate to politics.

And on one hand it’s scary, Spotify has so much power. But at least it’s promoting worthy material as opposed to spewing falsehoods like those in D.C.

So, used to be if you were a music fan, you were a fan of an act, not a hit. But an act had to have something to say, had to stand for something, had to be authentic, their tunes couldn’t be written by committee, they had to be the blood-writings made after opening a vein.

There is definitely something here, it sure ain’t exactly clear.

Start with “Heat Wave.” Click to “Pristine.” Let it play through to “Speaking Terms.” This is indie rock, but well-produced and well-played enough not to be too far outside, and Lindsey Jordan has a more than serviceable voice.



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