My name is Jonah Bromwich and I live in New York City and write about music, books, movies, random pop culture, and sometimes, the world. I started this blog about a week before I graduated college in 2011. As of now it's for any thoughts that I feel are worthy of blogdom. I will try not to write about things I know nothing about.

 

Haruki Murakami

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This is, ostensibly, a drawing of Haruki Murakami. It was done by Jaime Hernandez.

I’ve got to say, I really love Haruki Murakami. He’s so unpretentious and so matter of fact, and so are his characters. I’m reading his essay about starting to run and in it, just like in his fictional work, he has a gift of writing about his routines that makes the ritual of repetition seem lovely. The things in the world that are the most dull—going to work everyday, running, sitting in a hole in the ground—are imbued with nobility, with a romantic weight that makes them worthwhile.

Murakami manages this feat partly by way of his short blocky sentences, which are curt and difficult to misunderstand, and partly in his ability to communicate sensory details without overwriting. (The latter skill is also what makes him one of the best erotic writers in literary fiction; he never seems awkward or labored.) I’ve compared him to Paul Auster in the past, for his naturalistic style, which incorporates fantasy without seeming to blink. But Auster, for all his strengths, still has the pretension of an American novelist, and it shows. Murakami does not come across as “writerly” or as a “writerer,” to use Tom Scocca’s term.  His fiction is enormously accessible, so much so that it can be easy to forget how strange it is. 

Anyway, here’s the essay that sparked this short reflection.

When there’s a startup that sells, for example, or there’s a startup that’s super successful and is growing, people’s view of who drove the success is very highly correlated to who they know at the company. Chris Dixon will say, “Oh, HuffPost is really a tech company and Jonah was a big important part of it.” Because he knows me. But then someone who’s friends with Arianna will say, “Arianna’s a force of nature. She is constantly on TV. She was the name and the voice of the site. Her blog posts were constantly in the news cycle. That’s where the site mattered.” If you talk to someone who knows Kenny, they’re like, “Oh, Kenny was behind the scenes, building this whole thing and planning this out. He’s done it before, he’ll do it again.”

That’s true, not just for HuffPost. It’s true with most companies. The thing you’re closest to, you think has the biggest impact. That, I think, is the cognitive bias that makes it hard for me to answer the question. The system as a whole matters so much. Any one of us who thinks that they’re solely responsible for the success of the company is, by definition, wrong, and the relationship between all the different pieces of the company has to be strong.

In some cases, there’s things that aren’t even measurable. Like maybe just having tech, edit, and business teams communicating effectively, is more important. The lines might be more important than the dots.

Jonah Peretti, in his must-read interview with Felix Salmon at Medium.

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale recently, and I’ve really been enjoying the record’s closing number, “The Swimming Song.” The track, released in 1973 by Loudon Wainwright III, seems like a novelty song, but it also manages to transcend its comically one-note subject matter and beckon towards broader themes.

Wainwright had entered the American consciousness as a kind of wise-guy songwriter the year before the track was released. In 1972, he became known as the guy behind “Dead Skunk,” which made it to #16 on the U.S. pop charts. Though speculation abounded that “Dead Skunk” was some sort of political allegory or metaphysical commentary, according to Songfacts.com, Wainwright maintained that the song was strictly literal; about a skunk he had seen, lying in the road, dead.

It would be easy for him to echo the claim to literalism with “The Swimming Song,” which, on the surface, is a cute, folksy little ballad about a summer full of swimming. It’s got some nice wordplay, exemplified in its fourth stanza, the punchline of which only becomes apparent in its final line:

This summer I swam in a public place 
And a reservoir, to boot, 
At the latter I was informal, 
At the former I wore my suit, I wore my swimming suit. 

But there are two small touches that elevate the song. The first is the more obvious, and it ends the second stanza, as Wainwright lambasts himself in a way that suggests that there’s more going on here than just a lot of swimming: “Salt my wounds/chlorine my eyes/I’m a self-destructive fool.”  But the choice that I think grants the song its weight is the simplicity of the second line in the first and last stanza:

This summer I went swimming, 
This summer I might have drowned 
But I held my breath and I kicked my feet 
And I moved my arms around, I moved my arms around. 

This is storytelling at its most basic—and it transforms the song into a symbol for any kind of struggle. By emphasizing that he might have drowned, and also, that he didn’t, Wainwright reminds us of the risk that goes into any choice, in his characteristically understated way. Songs like these can seem so simple, but these small decisions imbue “The Swimming Song” with surprising gravity, and allow it a durability that gives the lie to the idea of it as a novelty song.

You can only ask people to listen to your music. You can’t ask them to like it. I mean that very genuinely. If people will listen, the fact that so many people listened to Darkside, that’s all you can ask. What people think of it is up to them.

When Will Sky Ferreira Fall Off the Tightrope?

Thus far, Sky Ferreira has cannily used her image and story to amplify the force of her music. Can she keep it up?

Ratking Redefine NYC Hip-Hop on New Album So It Goes | Village Voice

Had a great time writing this piece about NYC’s Ratking. Gracious guys, good music.

I’m still obsessed by images. Not intellectually. Practically. How they sing, how they sync. And I wonder what cinema could have been had it not gone down the word road. But we always want to know what’s going on. We hate to not know.

Guardian interview with Jonathan Glazer, Director of Under the Skin

Black Moth Super Rainbow meets Prince on the new Tobacco single “Eruption.” This is pop music like nothing you’ve ever heard, an MJ-style gilded bubble gum jam poured through the wrong end of a kaleidoscope.

Tobacco is Tom Fec, the frontman of BMSR. Fec has been missing from the scene for almost year four years, ever since 2010’s LP+EP combo, Maniac Meat/LA UTI, turned the thumbscrews on what previously been a friendly, if subtly sinister sound. The two records combined the best of underground hip-hop’s ugly noise fetish with the producer’s inborn fetish for melodies so sweet they seem to curdle upon exposure to the air.

"Eruption" is a turn back to the kind of comfort-zone represented by the older Black Moth Super Rainbow records. It’s weird, but catchy enough not to scare off the rest of your study group. Fec should be added to the list auteurs proving that autotune is anything but dead—it’s not the one trick of a one-trick pony but rather a platform to explore an entirely different genre of vocal music