It's no secret that the New York Times loves pretty much everything concerning the city of Portland—foofy whiskeybar with a ladder? NYTOnIt!—but it's still interesting to see just how much the paper of record loves the headliners of Portland's largest music festival, MusicfestNW.
This Sunday's edition of the New York Times Magazine contains a 3,000-word profile of Sunday headliner Spoon, headlined "the Molecular Gastronomists of Rock."
Saturday headliner Girl Talk got the same treatment back in 2011's "The 373-Hit Wonder."
Who does the NYT love more, Girl Talk or Spoon?
Let's look at the tape, awarding points for who got the gushier gush from the paper of record.
Extended metaphor describing the music:
Imagine old, bald Pete Townshend shuffling gingerly onstage as a synth burbles up behind him — “Let My Love Open the Door.” Now imagine the rapper Pimp C already on that stage, in a white fur suit and hat, holding up four fingers to show off his bling. A kick line of girls in black minishorts walks it out for DJ Unk, who’s rapping about a kick line of girls, then Levon Helm appears on a drum riser to chirp out “The Weight.”
Spoon seems to look at rock songs analytically and figure out ways to deconstruct them, as a molecular gastronomist might do with a traditional recipe. Riffs and instruments stand out in Spoon’s songs, individual sounds in empty space. The result is that their songs deliver a pure rush of musical elation, the distillation of rock music, in the way that sea-urchin foam on an avant-garde restaurant’s plate provides a diner with the essential flavor of ocean. Spoon delivers the power of familiar songs without actually sounding that much like other rock music at all.
Daniel suggested a game. Each member had to choose a song he loved, listen to it privately and then figure out how to describe it to the rest of the band in such a way that they could try to replicate its feeling together.
These are not just a collection of other people’s hooks; Girl Talk has created a new kind of hook that encompasses 50 years of the revolving trends of pop music. Sometimes cynicism is a hook, sometimes the hook is humor, angst, irony, aggression, sex or sincerity. Girl Talk’s music asserts all these things at once.One point awarded to Spoon for gamesmanship.
[Britt Daniel is] tall and pale, with a thatch of reddish-blond hair; the serious set of his mouth countermands the jug ears of a Texas farmhand in a Dust Bowl photograph.
"[Gregg] Gillis is small and genial, his eyes alive with humor."One point awarded to Gregg Gillis for not resembling a jug, even in the ears.
As with their previous albums, [Spoon] recorded They Want My Soul with their own money, licensing it only once it was complete. If people give you money before a record is finished, [drummer Jim] Eno told me, “then they have their hooks in you. They have their say.” For the first time, though, they licensed the record to Loma Vista, then a boutique imprint at a division of Universal, a major label.
To secure permission to use the 373 samples on “All Day” would cost, Gillis estimates, millions of dollars. Some labels would refuse, others would draw him into endless negotiation. But he has never been sued. No one has ever asked him to stop doing what he’s doing. One of the acts he samples on “All Day,” the Toadies, proudly put a link to Girl Talk on their home page.
The Buzzfeed music writer Matthew Perpetua tweeted that the song ["Rent I Pay"] “slays” and added, “I’ve been trying to figure out what classic-rock song it reminds me of but can’t quite place it.”
Pitchfork, the influential indie-rock Web site, gave “Night Ripper,” Girl Talk’s third release, an out-of-the-blue rave review.One point awarded to Girl Talk. Because Buzzfeed.
Daniel opened up the music-editing software Pro Tools (“Britt has a long-term love-hate relationship with Pro Tools,” Eno said) and played the file, which clomped along at a steady 4/4 beat, acoustic guitar prettily supporting a winsome Daniel vocal. In the third verse, a chiming celeste and an electric organ filtered in here and there. For a brief break, the guitar disappeared, leaving only the chugging beat.
Before each show, Gillis swaddles his laptop in Glad plastic wrap and Scotch tape to protect it from the beer and sweat of the fans onstage with him.One point awarded to Spoon, for sustainability.
“When the Jordan brand is sending you free shoes," [Gillis says], "it’s pretty much the peak of success in my mind."
“I remember when you walked out of Garden State," Daniel sings in the song "Outlier," ‘cause you had taste, you had taste”No points awarded in the case of a tie.