MOR+Aging Bloggers=Grizzly Bear


UPDATE:  Due to the tremendous amount of traffic and response this post has generated, I”ve decided to add a quick introduction/interpretation.  The purpose of this entry was to complain about the lack of scope that other music sites seem to be exhibiting.  It was prompted by reading an article on Grizzly Bear’s favorite emoticons on a website that will remain nameless.  There have been a zillion great albums released this year and there are som many signed and unsigned bands out there that are compelling and who need the publicity.  My own lack of interest in the Grizzly Bear album, doesn’t indicate that it’s not without merit; it’s just not my cup of tea.  The following article was intended to “shock” people into thinking about their tendancy to blindly follow music websites who don’t make an effort to cover new and exciting music.  And with that…

I want to like the new Grizzly Bear.  It’s certainly part of the “if you’re a blogger, you must like this album” newsletter.  TDOA has developed quite a following and I’m thrilled with our daily traffic, the musicians that follow us and the ease with which we’re able to get interviews.  Is it commercial suicide to hate on the album that most people will put in their top 10?  Or is it worse to pretend to like an album that you hate?

Definition of MOR via Wikipedia: “MOR (Middle of the Road) music is a commercial radio format.  Conceived as a format that would include music of almost universal appeal due to its… gently inoffensive sentimentality, it is often the format of choice for doctors’ offices, waiting rooms, department stores, and other public and semi-public places of business. The combination of the music’s largely unchallenging, decorous quality and its association with being piped in to places one is compelled to remain has drawn the format its detractors.  The term “middle of the road” is used pejoratively by genre-specific music aficionados to describe musicians who avoid “edgy” (innovative) material, and who calibrate their musical appeal to blandness.  These are people who probably also like… singers who avoid the sexual tug of the blues, and the glorious noises of rock and hip-hop in favor of tremulous expressions of chaste emotion”.

Since our inception, we’ve questioned why people become make less adventurous musical choices as they get older.  The consensus from musicians and writers we’ve interviewed seems to be that as our lives become more complex, we prefer music that doesn’t challenge us.  It’s easier to listen to music we’re already familiar with or to ‘bland’ music devoid of strong emotion.  Our brains are taxed with the pressures of life and the last thing we want to do is listen to music that expresses anxiety or requires deep concentration or contemplation.

Music blogs have redefined the music industry and should be proud that they have provided an invaluable  resource for people who are interested in music.  But what happens when the bloggers get older and less adventurous?  Stereogum, Large Hearted Boy, Pitchfork and a few of the other “cool kid” blogs have been running for a few years now.  Think about their musical choices over the past year while you read the definition of MOR.

Stereogum’s review of the new Grizzly Bear album included this line: “At its heart, it’s an album about the space and place between loved ones, which the band alludes to quite literally: “In the end you’ll never find … Will I return to you, will you return to me” (on the opening “Southern Point”); “I told you I would stay” (“Two Weeks”); “I can’t get out of what I’m into with you” (“All We Ask”); “If it’s all or nothing, then let me go” (“Fine For Now”); “They’ll try to keep us apart” (“I Live With You”); and on.”  Lyrics like this would have been fodder for some great zingers on Pitchfork a few years ago.  Now they quietly sip a cup of tea and tell you that this is the best record of this year.  Grizzly Band are great musicians, but so was Steely Dan.  Some of the most emotional, challenging records in history have been made by bands who freely admitted to just learning to play their instruments.  We frequently talk about bands losing the trail after they become ‘fat’ from success and make boring and bland records.  Veckatimest would be perfectly happy playing in your dentist office, barely noticed.  The repetitive phrasings, the sugary ‘ooow waaah’ background vocals remind me of Tears For Fears.

Why are we prasing this band as experimental or innovative?  Well, it’s because the cool kids are getting old.  I’m sure Grizzly Bear are nice people, but personally I don’t like cold oatmeal.  Challenge me.  Make me cry.  Make me think.


~ by toddc2001 on May 29, 2009.

12 Responses to “MOR+Aging Bloggers=Grizzly Bear”

  1. you are a fucking idiot. Other than Dirty Projectors, this is one of the more interesting and challenging albums of the year. Clearly you are stupid.

    • Awesome. That didn’t take long. Keep ’em coming. …and yeah, I don’t like that Dirty Projectors album either, so you may want to come up with some more names to call me. Challenging? Really? Do you find Phil Collins back catalog challenging too, because that would put it in context for me. Simple, quiet, unobtrusive. I would accept that answer.

  2. As my first comment ever, I will say that initially I didn’t like your blog. You seemed a bit “too cool for school”(a la Pitchfork) but I think it was the interview/post with The Damned (and Wedding Present) that started to change my mind. I don’t always agree but your passion is admirable and usually refreshing. (Wow, what an ass-kisser I am today). Anyway, keep up the good work and more on-topic, I love this post. The other blogs you mentioned need their asses kicked and you make a valid point!

  3. I hardly think its fair to say Grizzly Bear has gotte nless adventurous, though. They have moved steadily from their Horn of Plenty days into new and bigger territory. Personally, I enjoy a band that tries to find a middle ground , without resorting to the shock factor to get people to listen to their music. I realize that your critique is of the blogs themselves but even Pitchfork and Stereogum favor a lot more challenging musicians. I think that people call them innovative because of the balance that they present. I have felt for a long time that the masturbatory music of Mars Volta or the inaccessibility (to some) of bands like Wavves only represented a cover of lack of talent. What I like about Grizzly Bear is that they let their talent quietly speak for itself. Albeit that talent is often vocal and emotional in a complex way (in my opinion), so in letting it speak for itself, they certainly leave themselves open to these sorts of critique’s. If getting older engenders more balanced pieces that don’t have to narcissistically scream “Look at how interesting I am,” maybe thats not a bad thing.

    That being said, I do lament the day when certain artists start to go downhill as they get older (being from Seattle, I will mention Death Cab, Modest Mouse). Some artists pull off the mellowing better than others (i.e. Radiohead), but there are a lot more that can’t pull it off a all. That is just to say, I think there is an important place for your critique. I am just not sure Grizzly Bear is the place to launch it.

    • Nicely put Brandon. You’re one of the few people that’s written me who “gets” that this was more a criticism of other blogs than of Grizzly Bear. I couldn’t agree with you more re: your comments about Mars Volta or Wavves (both favorites of the blogs in question). I do think it’s possible for bands to “shock” without having to be obnoxious. I would argue that Radiohead have actually become more complex with age and thus haven’t really mellowed.
      Obviously, many of you disagree with my boredom over Grizzly Bear. I challenge you to disagree that the amount of hype generated by blogs that should be focusing on unsigned or newer bands is disturbing at best. Bands like Gliss, Crocodiles, East Hundred and others could use a tenth of the time SG and PF have been spending on Grizzly Bear. You know your in trouble when your reading a blog listing Grizzly Bear’s favorite avatars….seriously….google it.

  4. i think that there is more than enough criticism of other blogs,
    (one needs only to look at any given stereogum page
    with twenty comments ridiculing pitchfork et al.)
    and that this commentary is superfluous and boring

    • I am thoroughly bored with this topic. The point is, blogs need to open their minds, stop the endless Grizzly Bear posts and focus on new and exciting bands like Gliss, East Hundred, Diehard and the hundreds more that appear ever month. We live in a time where there is access to so many great, yet small bands. Explore it. Enjoy it.

  5. This post begs the question– why should a piece of music strive to challenge its listeners? Also, you place more emphasis on what you call an emotional appeal than on technical ability– why– isn’t the ability to elicit specific emotions a technical achievement, and one of the highest in artistry? Assumptions line your argument here, and you make no attempt at explaining what is obviously an illogical bias.
    Irving Berlin’s song “Let’s Face The Music And Dance” is a beautiful song, which through Berlin’s technical songwriting ability evokes a haunting, widowed tunnel of two dancing lovers; a more specific emotion is drawn from the listener than an artist like The Red Krayola or The Shaggs were ever capable of.
    Generally, you should rethink your assessment that Middle-of-the-Road music is any less of an artistic achievement than whatever sort of complex, challenging music you’re clamoring for.

    • I really wanted to drop this topic, but seriously?! You question my logic using some strange, if not faulty premises. I appreciate the trouble to went to and you’re very articulate in presenting your case. However, if you’re unsure why music should challenge listeners you’re reading the wrong blog. The music I prefer can be beautiful, technically complex and challenging. I think Radiohead is the best example of this and it’s why their my favorite band.
      Is it a technical skill to be able to write emotional music? Reasonable question, but punk rock is based on emotion and yet the Sex Pistols and many other great bands openly talked about their lack of technical ability. Grizzly Bear have technical talents, but personally it doesn’t translate into emotional music. Having the ability create music that evokes emotion is a “talent”. I was speaking of the technical ability to play your instruments well, which Grizzly Bear does well. However, they don’t have the technical ability that you describe when it comes to writing music that evokes emotion in me.
      But getting back to the original point of the post and using your line of logic. Stereogum and the others have the technical ability to write great blogs. They choose to write about the same ten bands endlessly, which doesn’t evoke any emotion or interest for me. When I hear a new band or learn something about an older band that excites me. That’s why this website focuses on interviews. My error was to do one post that editorialized on the failure of blogs to csst a wider net for talent.
      Nonetheless, I genuinely appreciate the discourse this post has created. I hope all of you take the time to read through the interviews with the variety of bands and join us in the future.

  6. Skinny jeans and $100 haircuts unite! Well, when you hit 28 you’ll mellow out.

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