I know what you may be thinking when you see the title of this post. You may be wondering who I am to tell people how not to write. I know I’m not perfect when it comes to writing, but I like to think that I know a thing or two, particularly when it comes to writing about music. After all, I have been doing this for a good long while now.
I received an email about Lyla Foy‘s new album and it included this blurb by Stephen M. Deusner from Pitchfork.
“The result might be best described as a digital pastoral: sequences and synthesizers blending with live instruments to create the kind of introverted, outdoorsy reverie most commonly associated with acoustic folk. Foy’s songs are both lush and low-key, intimate and surprisingly intricate. She layers beats generously but carefully, alternating between buoyant (“I Only”, with its percolating intro) and bittersweet (“Only Human”, with its insistent snare tap). Except on the relatively aerodynamic “Feather Tongue”, which could easily be remixed into a throbbing dance number suitable for a meadow rave, Foy’s concern isn’t rhythm but texture and tapestry. The tempos are generally slow and rigid, which fits the general atmosphere of the record and gives you a better opportunity to admire her craft.”
Take a moment to digest that. Yes, it has a lot of flowery language, but what does it really mean? Let’s start with “digital pastoral.” Whatever preceded that phrase, I’m willing to bet he lost a lot of readers right there. After all, who has any idea what a digital pastoral is…without having to scurry to the dictionary?
If, for some reason, readers were not lost at digital pastoral, I have to think that the next tripping point came at “meadow rave.” A meadow rave? What is that exactly? Look, I have to give the writer some credit for coming up with an original metaphor, but with how many people does a meadow rave resonate?
Here’s my biggest issue with the blurb. It is creative. I will grant that. But as a music writer, your job is to explain an album in a way that your readers can understand it without having to consult a dictionary. More to the point, it’s to encourage readers to go out and explore whatever artist you’re reviewing based on other things they may like. I read this blurb and thought a couple things. First, this review does nothing to help me understand what Lyla Foy is all about. Second, the writer made the review more about his writing style than the music, and that does an injustice not only to the artist, but also to anyone who decided not to explore the artist simply because the writer was so pretentious in his review. However, I’m not just here to complain. I’m also here to offer a solution. If you want a more concise review of Lyla Foy, try this on for size: Lyla Foy’s music is what would happen if Kate Bush collaborated with Stereolab. Granted, if I were writing a full review, I would write more than that. However, I just said in one sentence – with no flowery language - what the writer couldn’t manage to say in an entire paragraph.