Sunday, April 25, 2010

Contenders Series #26: Band of Horses - "Compliments"

I'm starting to think that the internet might be a self-defeating proposition.  It seems to mostly do two things:

(1)  Provide me with awesome new music
(2)  Tell me over and over how much that music actually sucks, to the point where I begin questioning whether or not I enjoy the things I love.

The internet is a horrible, horrible place.  This point has been made many times by people smarter than me.  I don't really have anything to add on that front.  I agree that the internet pretty much exists as a vehicle for hate crimes.  It's hard not to scroll through the results for any Twitter trending topic and not root for some kind of natural disaster.  The comments for any YouTube video are enough to settle the age-old debate about whether or not humans are, at heart, good or evil.

So I get that the masses of humanity might not have gone to finishing school.  I understand that there are a lot of stupid people out there, a lot of people who have apparently been waiting for a chance to use the n-word anonymously, and now, thanks to the internet, they have a nearly unlimited audience, and their words are collected for posterity.  Fine.  Whatever.  I don't go on ChatRoulette.  I can avoid most of this.

What I don't understand, however, is why so many educated, well-read people still feel the need to hate.  What I don't understand is why people who are ostensibly fans of indie music, who seek out music blogs for the express purpose of listening to new music ... why these people still hate everything.

After Pitchfork, I would argue that Stereogum shapes blog-rock culture as much as any other site.  While Pitchfork mostly reviews albums (and therefore gets the who-made-you-god-of-taste backlash), Stereogum mostly sticks to news, and so therefore can contend that they simply provide an objective picture of the scene at any time.

And, unlike Pitchfork ... Stereogum has comments.  I spend a lot of time on Stereogum.  They get new tunes faster than anyone, both through leaks and legitimate exclusives provided by record labels.  I have never ... NEVER ... seen positive comments.  EVER.  Everything sucks.  Everything is a disappointment, and a sellout, and a rip-off of someone else.  So ... who are these people who comment?  If you don't like indie rock ... why do you read this site?  If you do like indie rock, just not the band being discussed at the moment ... why the negative comments?  Why not go leave a positive comment about a band you DO like?*  I just don't get it.

*And they probably need it, if they're being discussed on Stereogum.

I've learned to avoid reading comments on ... well, anything, really.  I think most people ignore them.  It makes me wonder if this great, internet-created democracy of opinion is really a good thing.  I mean, it probably is.  Grudgingly, I will admit this.  Between Rotten Tomatoes, Yelp, and other aggregators, I'm sure people have gotten plenty of good information.  Fine.  The downside, though, as I see it, is two-fold.

(1)  The availability of one negative opinion ruins me.  Do you ever do this?  Do you ever go on Yelp, skim through 20 positive reviews of a bar or restaurant, then stop at the first one-star review you see and read the whole thing?  And then that one bad review sticks with you, coloring your whole experience, even if that experience is positive?  I do this all the time.

And it's worse with music, where one negative comment could lead to me not downloading a song, and then never hearing a band I might otherwise have liked.  We thought we were inviting a shining new meritocracy, but now for some reason a couple of snarky idiots can ruin everything for me.  The bigger problem, psychologically, though, is the second.

(2)  Now that we can quantify opinion, to some degree, I think we've internalized the idea that opinions can be right and wrong, like there's some kind of consensus of the cloud out there, and that you can now be mistaken about the way you feel about something.  In the past, it was easy to ignore or disagree with people who didn't share your tastes.  To quote The Dude, it was never a problem to say, "Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."  And your opinion was just as good as some other idiot's, because ... well, because it was an opinion.  Now, though, you can go to Rotten Tomatoes, or Metacritic, or whatever, and actually SETTLE an argument about whether a given piece of culture is good or not.

Stereogum has started giving in to this philosophy, and it's really undercutting what they do as a website.  Two of my favorite bands, the Hold Steady and Band of Horses, are releasing albums in the next couple months.  I've heard both, and both are excellent.  Both bands have released several songs online before the albums' releases, and most blogs that I read have responded positively.  So I listened to the songs, and I liked them, and I never had a reason to second-guess my own taste.  Then Stereogum started chipping away at my own belief that I like the things I like.

Upon posting a video of the live version of new Hold Steady song "Barely Breathing," Stereogum said "seems like even Hold Steady diehards are less than enthused about the forthcoming Heaven is Whenever."

But ... wait ... I'M a Hold Steady diehard.  And I AM enthused about the new album.  REALLY enthused.  Did I miss something?  Was there a diehards meeting where we agreed to not be enthused?!?  See, Stereogum is not saying, "We don't like the new album."  The individual writer is not saying, "I don't like the new album."  They are insinuating that the internet has reached a consensus, and they've given the thumbs down.  You cite your own opinion, and it has no weight.  You cite the opinion of an army of faceless strangers, though, and it reads like a verdict handed down from above.

And they've given Band of Horses the same treatment.  When discussing second single "Laredo," Stereogum said, "The first track, "Compliments," didn't win too many compliments, so maybe you'll like "Laredo" better."

Listen, Stereogum:  It didn't win too many compliments from your bitter, cynical commenters.  That's what you mean.  Out there in the blogosphere, people like this song, and this band.  And the blogosphere is pretty cynical in its own right.  Out there in the real, actual world, people are excited about a new Band of Horses record.  You are stuck in your own horrible, self-perpetuating echo chamber of snark.

It's hard.  It really is.  I have to go to your website, because you cover the bands I love, and you get the songs that I want to hear.  But apparently I can't read a word of anything written anywhere on your site, by anyone, or it will start eating away at me, subconsciously, that I am making a mistake by not hating everything.*  Why even have a website?

*Everything except Animal Collective.  They can still do no wrong.

Download:  Band of Horses - Compliments

You heard the Web Sheriff.  No MP3s of this one.  Sorry.

Official Site
Hype Machine
Pre-Order Infinite Arms


  1. Band of Horses is better than this. I Unlike you for liking this. (Nice dog though.)

  2. Our friendship sure has been a roller coaster since I started this blog.

    Who You Gonna Call
    Tel 44-(0)208-323 8013
    Fax 44-(0)208 323 8080

    Hi Aaron,

    On behalf of Columbia Records and Band of Horses, we would kindly ask you not to post copies of "Infinite Arms" on your site (or any non-preview tracks from the forthcoming Band of Horses album - street date 17th May UK & Europe / 18th May US & Canada).

    We do appreciate that you are fans of / are promoting Band of Horses, but the label and artist would greatly appreciate your co-operation in removing your links to the pirate files in question.

    Thank you for respecting the artist’s and label’s wishes and, if you / your readers want good quality, non-pirated, preview tracks, then a full length version of "Factory" is available for fans and bloggers to link to / post / host etc on the band’s site at ... .. for further details of the new album, pre-orders, on-line promotions, videos and 2010 shows, check-out the official site, as well as the band’s MySpace at ... .. and keep an eye on these official sources for details of further news, preview material and on-line promotions.

    Also and as a goodwill gesture to fans and bloggers, an exclusive widget for the video of “Compliments”, as well as a preview stream of “Laredo” are currently available via the band’s official website ... .. these are for embedding and hyper-linking ONLY / for streaming by fans directly off the band’s site, so please reciprocate this goodwill gesture by NOT ripping and re-posting the audio files.

    As you will appreciate, this post is written on a without prejudice basis and, as such, all of our clients' accumulated, worldwide rights and remedies remain strictly reserved : please excuse this required formality.

    With Thanks & Regards,


  4. That's the coolest "Take shit down" message I've ever seen.