Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Breaking News from BriTunes

My mom once remarked that my favorite music geek bears a slight resemblance to Brian Williams, news anchor extraordinaire over at NBC. Hmmm, now that I think about it, my friend likes Great Lake Swimmers ... Brian Williams likes Great Lake Swimmers. My friend likes Camera Obscura ... Brian Williams likes Camera Obscura. My friend likes Jason Isbell ... Brian Williams ALSO likes Jason Isbell. The similarities, it seems, do not end with the cut of the jaw.

And how do I know all this? Brian Williams likes to rock out more than he lets on, judging by the fact that he recently launched his own music blog, titled, unfortunately enough, "BriTunes." (Apparently, Williams did not choose the name and is quite nonplussed about it. Then again, some of us choose random names for our music blogs based on dumb jokes and later live to question them, so maybe he should be glad he can blame someone else for his blog's title.)

Williams interviews up-and-coming musicians for the site and posts his own playlists, a.ka., "What Brian Williams Loosens His Tie to When He Gets Off Work." I have no problem with a somewhat stuffy news anchor listening to the same music I do. However, some small-minded critics view him as an interloper and question his ability to connect with the twentysomething anti-establishment, citing his parental interview style, a.k.a., "I Actually Don't Know How to Loosen My Tie, So This Is Me Being as Hip as I Can Be with Your Bearded Indie Ass." One blog I read said that in Williams' Deer Tick interview, he comes across like an oblivious parent trying to connect with his son's stoned friends (think lots of mumbling and smirking from Deer Tick).

You can watch for yourself...

Laugh all you want, but Mr. Williams has surprisingly good taste, and it all begs the question: Why should a music fan have to look a certain part to enjoy the same music as someone sporting skinny jeans and mutton chops? If you love music, who cares where you get it and who else listens to it? Age, income, and personality should have nothing to do with enjoyment of music. When my friend and I went to see Grizzly Bear at The Blue Note in October, we were easily some of the oldest people there, but we enjoyed every minute of the show, seemingly more than the drunk sorority girls around us who texted and talked the entire time about how bored they were. Sure, Williams has a signature interviewing style, which may seem parental or awkward in a hipster context, but we still learn about Deer Tick from his interview. So why shouldn't Brian Williams be allowed to "interlope" with rock musicians?

Will music snobs check out BriTunes? Probably, but they might be too ashamed to tell their friends. My favorite music geek was actually the one to point out BriTunes to me this past weekend. We giggled a little, but then we started discussing The Seeds and Antony and the Johnsons and Fanfarlo and The Crystal Method and Florence and the Machine, all of which are posted on BriTunes, and then it didn't really matter that Williams might not look the part of an indie music fan. For that matter, I don't look the part of an indie music fan, and maybe that's why this whole music snobbery thing rankles so much. I don't necessarily look hip, but I love music made by people who do.

Music snobbery is a savage beast. I've been guilty of it my entire life, and it is not an admirable or, really, an enjoyable thing, especially now that I'm getting older and losing whatever shred of coolness I may once have achieved. When it all comes down to it, just listening to music without having to project a certain image or worrying what other people think should be the most important thing.

Let's hope harsh comments from readers don't stop Williams from posting about The Dead Weather on his music blog or cranking the album when he's pouring himself a Scotch after work in his mini-mansion out east. Really, it's none of our damn business if he throws on a flannel and pops a Miller Lite instead. I think it's great he has a forum to share his love of music, and I wish him luck.


  1. Brian Williams is one of the few people I can watch on the news (the other being Tom Brokaw). I've always thought highly of his manner. Also, on the NBC nightly news, sometimes they do this thing after a commercial break (I don't know if this is accidental or what) but there will be an entirely black screen for a fraction of a second and you can hear Brian Williams take a breath in that black space before the video returns and BW launches into the news. If you notice it, it's kind of incredible.

    Also, if you've ever seen Brian Williams on a late night talk show he really loosens up and can be quite the ham. I wouldn't mind following his music blog. I'd love to sit down and shoot the shit with him, especially if we can talk about Camera Obscura

    On music and fashion: I've never quite gotten that one.

    On musical snobbery: I think part of what breeds musical snobbery though (as seen in above venn diagram) is that by the time the "music I once liked" becomes the "music you like" the musicians have changed style enough to become "more accessible" or you've simply grown out of it. For me, at least, I don't think it really has much to do with the fact that other people like it. Everyone loves radiohead, and so do I, and I'm totally unbothered by that because they still make music that I enjoy. But if you touch on something like Of Montreal, I love their stuff up to "Hissing Fauna"but I can't get into anything they've done since. It doesn't really have anything to do with their growing popularity, their music has changed so drastically from what I once enjoyed that I can't quite get into it.

  2. Wow - your best post to date.

    I must admit that I think I'm a horribly wicked musical snob.....but have been out-snobbed on many occasions by those snobbier and more musically intelligent than myself - and when those occasions arise - I am forced to look into the mirror, and it stings. And not necessarily because I recognized some undesirable part of myself - but rather because I had been schooled about some band I never even heard of.

    I think Carrie brings up an excellent point that bands do change and evolve. And let's face it - many times at the behest of the label wanting big sales...thus follows the accessibility. But there is nothing new under the sun - as didn't even Mozart feel pressure from the Emperor's Court Composer to make his music more 'accessible'?

    I applaud Williams for following something he's clearly passionate about. I wish I had bigger balls to do the same. And at least he actually removed the tie for the Deer Tick interview and downgraded to a sweater vest. I watched Williams interview Tony Dekker of GLS recently - and what strikes me about that interview and the Deer Tick interview is how uncomfortable thse guys are to actually BE interviewed. They can rock out on stage with all the confidence in the world - but sitting one-on-one with a news anchor appears to terrify them.

  3. Radiohead is a perfect example of a band that's gained massive popularity and still doesn't suck. Agreed.

    I also agree that the coin should be flipped here and Deer Tick should be the ones feeling embarrassed.