I got my journalistic "break" in 2005, when I was invited to contribute to the Atlanta based webzine Evil Sponge. I had known the magazineís Editor, PostLibyan, via a music forum without knowing he was an Editor of anything. We had simply been discussing shoegazing. So it came as a bit of a surprise when he offered me the chance to come on board his mag. I remember feeling proud to be asked, a bit surprised and also slightly foolish. Why foolish? I felt an idiot for having never considered it before. Not once. I loved music of course. But more than that, I loved to discover new sounds. Still do. Iím addicted to that discovery. And then I have to share my finds with my friends. There are more than enough brilliant records in my collection to last a lifetime, but my search goes on. My search will always go on. Because that feeling, when you find something stunning, is like nothing else on earth. Your blood freezes in your veins, your reality shunts sideways and the world becomes a better place for roughly 45 minutes. Writing about music seemed a perfect fit for me. I just never thought of it before. So thatís how I started out.
Of course I made the same mistakes that everybody makes. Gushing, over the top early reviews. Embarrassing to think about some of them. (I recall giving The Onlys full marks for their album Limbic System. I still like that record but full marks....?) PostLibyan was very patient with me. I also remember feeling disappointed that the list of promo albums on offer to me and the rest of the team wasnít the Ďso-calledí cream of indie music at the time. Iíd imagined myself reviewing the likes of Mogwai and Interpol every week. Not so. PostLibyanís rather lengthy list of offerings comprised such diverse acts as The Dallas Orbiter and La Sociťtť Des Timides ņ La Parade Des Oiseaux (yep). I was very wrong. It took me a little while to realise it, but the unknown stuff is where all the action is. Established bands' third or fourth albums can be quite boring. Unknowns can dazzle. Itís a spectrum of course, just as the mainstream is. But I have come to realise that unknown should only imply a lack of coverage, not a lack of quality. These are good musicians too, and they take the same care over their releases as anyone else. More, arguably.
PostLibyan was very good about letting me source my own stuff. I guess I must have been difficult to manage in those days, but he never let it show. I adopted an Ďif you donít ask, you donít getí policy. Drowned In Sound take some of the blame for this. No, I didnít write for them, but they were a label too back then. And one of their new releases piqued my interest. I asked for a review copy and sure enough a disc arrived in my mailbox a couple of days later. That record was Choose A Bright Morning by Jeniferever and it blew me away. Remember this was only my second week at EvilSponge and hardly representative but I didnít know I thought....íI like this jobí. Label head Sean Adams said mine was the best review heíd read for Choose A Bright Morning. And me I couldnít believe I was getting stuff like that sent to me. Talk about confidence booster.
EvilSponge used to have mad discussions about album scoring. Out of five was too restrictive Out of ten meant you could go half way and not commit yourself one way or another. So they decided upon out of seven. There was a logic to it but it all sounded a bit Spinal Tap to me. I just went with it but I think it confused many of the artists. Iím convinced that some acts I gave five out of seven thought it was five out of five, whilst those with the full seven assumed it was out of ten. Who knows? To this day I have never cared about scoring my reviews, only the words themselves.
One of the funny things about EvilSponge was that the entire writer team liked the band Wire. It was like a magazine rule, you have to like Wire to write for EvilSponge except that it wasnít a rule at all. it was completely by accident, Indeed, continuing the joke, PostLibyan insisted that everyone have A Houseguests Wish (the album that is comprised entirely of cover versions for one Wire song only, Outdoor Miner). As rules go, I think itís a pretty good one. I mean, would you trust somebody who doesnít like Wire?
And PostLibyan opened my eyes and ears to the music of Atlanta. I had little or no links to the city of Atlanta, its music or culture, before joining EvilSponge. I thought of the place in terms of gospel and rap, not alternative or indie rock. Deerhunter are probably the towns best known alternative act. But I have PostLibyan to thank for introducing me to the music of Snowden. Jordan Jefferes brand of maudlin, atonal post-punk is infused with soul and gospel influences in much the same way as Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers, and Gutter Twins fame. I love it. And I placed Snowdenís debut album Anti Anti in my top albums of the last decade.
(Snowden have their follow-up One In Control slated for summer 2013 release.)
And then thereís Black Swan Lane, one of my favourite finds in recent years. Jack Sobel and friends had been performing as The Messengers before rebranding in 2007. They have made four wonderful albums since then, and a fifth is due later this year. Do check Ďem out.
I really owe a lot to EvilSponge. They were so supportive and generous there. Not only PostLibyan but copy editor Tracers is nothing short of heroic in my eyes. The two of them have introduced me to so much great music, not only from Georgia but from across The States. Too many to mention. In return I brought them my own crazy finds from Belgium, UK, and of course the eponymous (when it comes to me) Sweden. I once had a short-lived stint at post-rock specialists The Silent Ballet only to leave for ethical reasons. That served to reinforce how highly I regard PostLibyan and Tracers. Their manners, their respect for the bands, their dedication to others before themselves.
Thank you both. You are truly my friends for now and forever.