The high-quality upholstery is like a knife in my back

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Last Active 01-01-70 12:00 am
Joined 01-01-70

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02.16.24 G L I T C H genre tag02.01.24 FEBRUARY of ambi2ent (REC me)
01.01.24 well_2023: "YES" albums (2/2) 12.31.23 well_2023: "NO" albums (1/2)
12.27.23 (be)rate my LP 'collection'12.03.23 2023 BNM: cringedex
12.01.23 New users :: REVIEWED 11.28.23 Your 5s choices reviewed AGAIN
11.15.23 learn from my WORST REVIEWS 11.13.23 Tory stooge music
11.10.23 Feed me 2023 things11.04.23 4000 Ratings // Top 100 albums*
11.02.23 NO AVATAR CLUB10.20.23 SPUT ROYALE: f i n a l e
10.15.23 SPUT ROYALE: FINAL10.10.23 SPUT ROYALE: Round 6 (½ final)
10.06.23 SPUT ROYALE: Round 5 (¼ final)10.03.23 OCTOBER of d o w n t e m p o // ぼreak
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learn from my WORST REVIEWS

Almost all (maybe ALL) these reviews SUCK! I have shredded them and hope you can learn the same lessons I (maybe) have from them um

DISCLAIMER: I'm not through my whole review corpus forensically - the pieces here are all ones that left a longterm bad taste for some reason or another

I'm also not going to focus much on the 50ish reviews I wrote from 2011-2016 (i.e. before I came back to the site and applied for Contrib) mainly because their flaws are self-evident and less helpful to learn from - if you think that some/any/all of these are absolute dogshit and warrant a spot here, you are almost certainly right (same goes for anything since - but let me know what comes to mind if so!)
10Amon Tobin
How Do You Live

THESIS: Amon Tobin puts together a jack-of-all-trades experience that repeats ideas and motifs from the IDM/glitch phase of his career without necessarily breaking any new ground over them.

WHAT I DISLIKE ABOUT THIS: Most of my gripes here are to do with content rather than language or style -- basically, I was excited for this record and wanted it to be excellent. The album was certainly far from bad, but I refused to level with myself with how slightly-underwhelming it was, and instead used the review to pave over my misgivings and draw dubiously meaningful series of dots through the artist's discography

THE LESSON(S) HERE: Don't be a kissarse, don't spew out bland positivity about artists you like purely because their other records are good.

Analysis should always be used to underscore a wider point you want to make: don't ever use it to compensate for a lack of conviction (this means both more words and a duller piece - an absolutely fatal combo).

If there's a small voice in your heart that says that just maybe you're holding back, never ignore it. No one wants innocuous truths in place of honest criticism.
9Kayo Dot
Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike

THESIS: Kayo Dot's new album is all manner of gothic prog death-doom funkery, in a direct throwback to their preceding band maudlin of the Well. It is good.

WHAT I DISLIKE ABOUT THIS: I remember this being an absolute chore to write, despite really liking the album. I felt an obligation to put together something Epic to support this (especially since I was lucky enough to have a promo), but I approached this by talking up the band and mapping out their lore rather than painting an individually compelling picture of the album itself. From there, it's a similar story to How Do You Live: a *lot* of analysis driven by observation rather than insight on what made the album *tick*.

THE LESSON(S) HERE: More context and more analysis are sod all use without a compelling framework or argument to tie them to.

If you're going to make a review informative, do not take it for granted that your audience cares about the band in question half as much as you do.

Do not ever write about your favourite artists for the sake of hagiography (i.e. for *their* sake) - either convey what actually makes them magical to you, or leave that baggage at the door and find an angle that will make them meaningful to your reader.

If your primary motivation for writing a review is just to make a thread with a high number at the top of the page, then do everyone (especially you!) a favour and keep it short. Liking an album does *not* correlate with having interesting things to say about it, and y'know what, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

THESIS: During Covid, Gnocchi, neekafat and I went on a spree of publishing reviews for the same album at the same time. Naturally, this included Deafheaven. This album is far from offensive, but is for the most part corny crescendocore that popularised an obnoxious and overrepresented style for an span number of years.

WHAT I DISLIKE ABOUT THIS: Given that this is literally a meme review written at very short notice, I'm not going to be as harsh as I might have -- but I am not a fan of how the earnest criticism (/vendetta) and shitpost cancel each other else across this. I've written a bunch of heavily critical reviews that shitpost to support a wider level of irreverence; this one is more of a "here's some potentially salient points // here's some dumb jokes". It is a mess. Amend it to feature only the 3rd, 5th and final paragraphs and it'd be in business. Maybe I will do just that.

THE LESSON(S) HERE: Given how few people write meme reviews to begin with, I'm not sure how helpful this example is? Healthy pisstakes are good and Sput needs more of them -- but if you're going to go so far off the deep end that your own inner monologue gets hysterical, you should always proofread soberly and unflinchingly after *at least* a several-hour break.

Don't care so much about this review, but as a result of not following that advice, I've definitely ended up cutting substantial chunks out of more meaningful reviews for some time after publishing them (Loathe comes to mind). Writing is one of the few things you can do that will occasionally make fantastic use out of a naked ego trip -- so no excuse for misfires!

SIDENOTE: If you hold the *audience* of a record in such disdain that you want to make a joke of their attention, then ignore everything above and filibuster to your heart's content. Definitely don't overuse this tactic - the majority of readers *do* deserve your best efforts! - but once in a while for a dogshit fanbase is probably acceptable (RIP Periphery V)
7For Another
The Haunting In Autumn

THESIS: Storm made an album, I wrote a review for it and scored it 4.9/5

WHAT I DISLIKE ABOUT THIS: Disregarding that this piece is patently disingenuous in a way that makes for an acceptable meme but doesn't really do anyone any favours in the long run, this review reads like a conceited in-joke where it could have been a universally approachable what-the-fuck. It has a few salvageable one-liners brutally counterbalanced by an equal(ish) number misplaced points about artists I have actual opinions on crudely smuggled in.

(I think) there are some points where it blatantly invents shit to absurd effect, and there are many, many others where it haughtily leans into the conceit that the heavily sarcastic analysis at play is meaningful because it actually corresponds to real music. The former is fun and I wish I'd done more of it; the latter just makes for a pretentious joke. The tone is very pizzamachine-ish in its haha-just-write-anything crypto-nihilist '''chill''' trip. Wasted opportunity to pretend that Storm had discovered a new microtonal spectrum and cured butt metal forever, or whatever. Cringe.

THE LESSON(S) HERE: Do not write disingenuous reviews even if you think they are funny. Especially if you think they are funny.

If you're trying to be both insincere and funny, go for unambiguous crass shit that invites anyone to laugh rather than is-this-true? gotchas (or if you do go for the latter, be less oily than this about it!)

THESIS: jfc no. 3776 made an incredibly dense, multi-layered concept record about existing *as* Mt Fuji for an entire year (to scale! every 'day' = precisely 6 seconds) and my woefully unprepared 2019 arse tried to unpack it.

WHAT I DISLIKE ABOUT THIS: Given how short I was in 2019 of the cultural and linguistic understanding of Japan[ese] to even begin to unpack this record (even the thought terrifies me now), I actually don't mind this review as a slack-jawed testimony to just-what-the-fuck-am-I-listening-to. The majority of it feels endearing and authentic in its reaction, and I wouldn't have ever considered it for this list if it weren't for one specific fucking thing that feels hugely representative of a lot of what I've come to resent about Online Music Discourse:

Towards the end of the first paragraph, and through the entirety of the second, instead of leaning into the beautiful visceral "what_the_fuck" of my intuition and reaction, I attempted to *explain* the record by imposing a framework of extremely dubious contextual relevance on it (two elements of which - glitch pop and Fishmans' Long Season - carry a frankly foul level of RYM-entryist conceit with them). Just ewww -- all of a sudden, my precious unkanjified cultural-tourist-issue ignorance flipped from a sweet precious enabler of a wonderful experience (that still slaps now!) into a toxic pretence that I knew the faintest thing what I was talking about. This is unbelievably fucking lame and always stands out to me a ton when I come across it in other reviews. Later comparisons with 100 gecs and *huge* generalisations about idol as an institution feel harmless by comparison, and I still dislike them, but kill almost all of them with fire. Be ignorant! Write about the music, not your knowledge-network insecurities!

This is my favourite review on the list by far though! I'm proud of having tackled this one, just have major reservations about this one specific aspect!

THE LESSON(S) HERE: Write what you know -- never write what you *think* you know *about* if whatever the hell the album in question has done to your headspace is provoking stronger associations than things-it-mayyyyybe-sounds-like, you know what to focus on.

Don't try to rationalise where you really don't need to.

Do not try to camouflage your own ignorance if, for all you know, it's a crucial part of what made the album in question so magical for you to begin with.

Even if you have a clear image of the hypothetical review you *wish* you could read for an album, don't automatically confuse yourself for someone who can write it.
5Soutaisei Riron
Hi-Fi Anatomia

THESIS: Japanese twee/jangle/sophisti-/indie pop band make one of the finest albums in the genre and it is perfect laconic deadpan witty perfect-guitar-y fantasticness

WHAT I *HATE* ABOUT THIS: Take everything I hated about Saijiki and amplify it by 10 for paragraphs two and three of this thing. UGH. "You think you know about music, well uh uh uh actually *I* think I know about music" discourse at maybe its worse. The namedrops here are somewhat more convincing (maybe?), and that just makes them worse. Shameless exercise in trying to insist (to myself, above all!) on my own knowledge, none of which is ultimately of significant relevance to the album in question.

Rest of the review is (probably) fine, but fuck that intro with a rusty pole. Ugh. Ashamed to have written this for something I 5'd. I remember drafting this on a plane to Sicily, but this doesn't redeem anything. Gross.

THE LESSON(S) HERE: fuck you and your namedrops

Even if you don't assume an informed reader (fair!), do not impose a rigorous cultural framework on something you are not fully convinced you understand [123]

Ultra-macro genre discourse at the top of album-specific reviews is probably unhelpful more times than it is helpful - frame that shit more imaginatively, make the *music in question* live!

Ultra-macro *intercultural distinctions* are tbqh more helpful than reiterating genre tropes, but do not attempt these unless you feel confident based (ideally) on lived experience
4Hannah Diamond

THESIS: Hannah Diamond drops the worst pop album of all time ever for, like, apparently an entire dissertation's worth of reasons

WHAT I DISLIKE ABOUT THIS: This and the next two go together as a power trio for not quite getting how ultra-negative reviews should land. This one wasn't the earliest, but it did go the most overboard and I regret it the least because I despise (almost) everything about the garbage album. I have already deleted a *lot* of shit from this one and refuse to reread it in its entirety on principle. But still...

THE LESSON(S) HERE: Negative criticism is the *best* part of criticism if it's an incisive zinger and the absolute *dullest* if it goes on forever

Do not take 1000+ words to say what you can say in 500.

Do not impose unnecessary cultural frameworks on the most banal music ever created (and as a bonus, ctrl+f "class struggle" do not subject me or anyone else to your opinions here, ever)

If you do have deeper cultural insights, fucking lead with them and do not use them to prompt a million-mile trailing conclusion at the end of an already bloated write-up (and fwiw there are a definitely a few points here that I'd revamp for a different context - actual worthwhile dissertation on cross-cultural pop and the sexualised infant-robot-voice when?)

Read your reviews to yourself aloud in a normal-human-voice, and only publish if this experience doesn't literally kill you
3Black Dresses

THESIS: Black Dresses release abrasive trash album / I trash said album with tbqh outright embarrassing contempt for its (presumed) target audience

WHAT I HATE ABOUT THIS: very little to add to the above. No regrets about negging this album to pieces, but the lengths it resorts to are just needlessly cruel and tasteless (not to mention wholly out of touch with the actual demographic for this music). I mean, "Want to embrace pop culture in a subversive way that conveys a dark psychological profile overtly? Sign up to menhera summer camp." jesus fucking christ

THE LESSON(S) HERE: Eviscerating terrible albums by caricaturing their target demographics is fun, engaging and occasionally cogent as critical device, but if you ever so much as think about doing this in a way that feels like gratuitously punching down, get the hell over yourself and consider a better use for your platform.

Also ditto everything I said for 5
2Shiina Ringo

THESIS: Shiina Ringo drops the worst album of her career, mixing piss-cheap trends with oblique tradition in a manner that sustains almost 0 good songs and comes of as uniquely out of touch. An insult to her legacy etcetc

WHAT I HATE ABOUT THIS: This might be considerably less toxic than THANK YOU, but it's somehow twice as bitter. Much like Reflections, it has also since had entire paragraphs carved out of it, and it is still a million years too long and tries a million increments too hard to land three paragraph's worth of points and career overanalysis. I still dislike this album, but the review is a blatant overreaction to a perceived misstep from an artist I obviously cared too much about at the time of writing. Ugh.

THE LESSON(S) HERE: However overt you are[n't] about it, reviews are rarely an ideal space to disown your favourite artists, particularly if you tone up the stakes so far that you might as well have been personally betrayed by them. If you're going to be critical, be incisive.
Kid A

THESIS: The year is 2012. The world is scheduled to end. A fuckheaded teenager sits down to write. There is no thesis. Only wank. So much wank.

WHAT I HATE ABOUT THIS: Being a fucking Kid A review in 2012 is reason enough that this should never have existed on principle, *but* let's go through its three godawful phases regardless:
・First there is awful fanfic (which ftr was not even written with this album in mind!). Not only is this aimless bullshit extremely blandly conceived (half-intentionally! which makes the other half more embarrassing!), it is an expanding loop, which means the reader is expected to read the core ""idea"" in its entirety four fucking times before the album even comes into the frame
・When this does eventually become a Kid A review, it takes the form of two nauseatingly pretentious paragraphs about legacy and myustiqueue, the entirety of commit the unforgivable sins of a) attempting to justify the unjustifiably bad intro despite an extremely tenuous connection to it, b) unfiltered circle jerk over the aLbUm'S hUgE iNfLueNcE, and c) sabotaging everything potentially ballsy about kicking off with such a wilfully obnoxious intro by leading with fucking "I could go on and on with this expanding cycle, but it is easier to explain it" -- absolute milkstain horseshit
・...and with all that out of the way, of course it *concludes* with a one-paragraph track-by-track devoid of the faintest lick of insight and chased with an undiluted "JUST LISTEN TO IT, MAN" quip.

I've been avoiding stuff from my early era of Sput, but jfc it is hugely important this review showcases so many different schools of useless bullshit at once and it is absolutely imperative that nothing like it is ever written again.

THE LESSON(S) HERE: Do not *ever* take an entirely-abstract or extended-metaphorical approach to writing about music unless a) there are more meaningful, intentional links with the music in question than excuses to jerk off to your paltry exercise in imagination, and b) you *really* think these deserve to be read by other humans.

Explain your metaphors as little as necessary. Good metaphors do not need explaining! If you are simultaneously going out of your way to add depth to your writing *and* patronise your audience for Maybe Not Getting it, you are a wanker!

Do not feel compelled to turn all your first-drafts or even half-drafts into texts that you publish. If you write often, you are going to write total shite from time to time! Learn how to recognise this and when to quarantine it

Do not *ever* write a track-by-track unless you have already established an engaging and relevant overarching angle on the album that each of your track-specific observations can be tied back to

More broadly, do not reference songs for the sake of completionism! Proving that you have listened to and engaged the album via a small pool of examples representative of minor points >>>> namedropping every song so that you can tick the whole thing off.
(NB there are often good reasons to reference every song, and track-by-tracks can be useful -- but you are not recreating the whole album in text, you are making a meaningful document about what it is and what it does etc.; make your choices accordingly)

If the primary reason you feel motivated to write a review is more to do with a well-documented consensus that already exists around it than anything distinctive or inspired *you* have to say about the-fucking-music (or why the consensus is misleading or unfounded in your view!), do the world a favour and please fucking don't

If you feel a need to end your review with any non-tongue-in-cheek variant of "the best way to understand X is to simply listen to the album", you are announcing that the entirety of your piece has been a failure.
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