Artist: Taken by Trees
Album: East of Eden
Critic: Chris Molnar
Publication: Cokemachineglow, 2010
Writing Disorders: Idea Fever, Ambiguity Sickness, Jargon Palsy
Longest Sentence: 78 words
Stuffiest Phrase: “the disparate sonics within the artist’s oeuvre”
Chris, I’ve got people complaining that I write too much about Pitchfork on a site named RipFork, so I’m going to rock the Cokemachineglow today instead. I only just recently discovered that armpit of a music site you write for, but it’s already borne plenty of rotten fruit. I want to start off with this line you wrote:
“The songs benefit hugely from being brief and low-concept”
Chris, it’s funny you should mention that because I think you’d benefit from the same things. In the course of a 550-word review, you only wrote 13 sentences. That means you clocked an AVERAGE sentence length of 43 words. Maybe I lack the gene necessary to remember the subject of a sentence when I finally hit the period 78 words later, but I don’t think I’m in the minority there. Let’s take a closer look at that particular monster:
“Somewhere likably between the full “world music” immersion of a band like A Hawk and a aw and the checking-off-signifiers-indie-pop of, say, Vampire Weekend (we snarl), Taken By Trees, Bergsman’s solo project, is able to focus on simple melodies and a comparably pristine sound quality rarely used for such tablas and South Asian guitar plucking (apart from New Age compilations), Bergsman’s appropriately breezy voice filling in cracks and making the whole come off as an incessantly relaxed affair.”
Let’s begin with the obvious. Couldn’t you have broken up that obscene block of text into two or three independent but still related islands? Would that have really killed whatever point you were trying to make? Even if it would, you could just as easily have slackened your use of ridiculous hyphenation or the useless parenthetical asides. What the hell is “checking-off-signifiers-indie-pop?” Wait — don’t even answer that. I’m too burned out from climbing your last mountain of words to endure another giant explanation.
Even as a last resort, you still might have made your review readable by limiting your tendency to over-modify. Nearly every sentence is drenched with trapdoor adverb constructions to avoid making any firm points:
“East of Eden is a short, oddly satisfying album”
“Somewhere likably between”
“a kind of precarious and symbiotic balance”
Chris, you don’t have to be ashamed to admit that an album warmed your loins. You don’t have to have to cover up every like or dislike with “kind of” or word ending in “-ly.” There are far worse things in the world than having some nincompoop get on your case for your enjoyment of an album. Hell, if you actually played music, you’d run the risk of someone rating it a C- based on how “oddly satisfying” your music was to him. Imagine that.
The body of your review was bad enough, but none of it could have prepared me for your conclusion:
“Taken By Trees is too nebulous of a project to fit into any of these categories—personality-based for sure, but of a personality that makes an ethos out of curiosity, that’s dedicated to a kind of precarious and symbiotic balance without hiding behind or trying to harness unfamiliar sounds to a singer or band’s unstoppable sense of self.”
Holy God, man, can you check the air pressure in your head before it pops? If a reader has to draw a diagram of your insights in order to get past the first dash, you’re not doing a very good job. And it’s not like your conclusion knocked over buildings with its raw power. You really just provided a 40-word explanation for the phrase “personality-based.” Wow, someone call a seismologist. I think the needle just broke.
Chris, the next time you’re having a conversation, here’s something to think about. If you don’t feel the need to bore people into the earth’s mantle with giant stanzas spoken out loud, why do you do it in writing? It might be hard to stomach at first, but awareness of your problem is the first step to any good recovery program.