Welcome to Misophonia, our newest feature series curated by the artists we love and respect enough to hand over the exhaulted task of criticizing music. As shown above, the disorder known as misophonia consists of negative reactions triggered by specific sounds. For our series, we expanded the definition in order to place bothersome trends and habits in the cross-hairs. Misophonia is about ending the agitating aspects of music culture by putting them in the roasting thrown. With each edition, we’ll invite artists to isolate and terminate areas within music that make their blood boil.
Open Mike Eagle
I grew up in the grunge era.
Most of the rock videos I’d seen on MTV by that time were in the hair metal era. Men in tight leather and makeup serenading women in tight leather and makeup. It was hard to differentiate between the fans and the bands, or between the bands themselves. So the table was set for introverted and sensitive Seattle acts to steal my attention away.
While their initial appeal might have been that they looked like human beings experiencing somewhat realistic emotions, I also remember being fascinated by how differently the voices of the lead singers sounded from each other. Cobain’s distant drone, Vedder’s weird baritone, Staley and Cantrell’s two-part harmonies. Cornell’s early stuff sounding pretty metal-ish but eventually showing an incredible range.
I was maybe 13 so I didn’t have much to do other than dive into this world and I didn’t have much experience with the way in which American music had grown and changed over time. So when other bands began to make themselves sound exactly like the most popular grunge bands I was fucking shocked.
It could be that my naivety was propped up by an unnatural bounty of quality music in the mainstream of that era but to this day I can’t help but be repulsed when I hear an artist obviously attempting to sound like another singer.
To this day I’m horrified by how much Dana Dane sounds like Slick Rick. Though I respect the shit out of him as a writer.
Shyne seemed to be almost marketed as a Biggie sound-a-like and I couldnt fathom how that would be a desirable trait to anybody.
MC Paul Barman is a hero of mine. A rap writer of the very highest order, one of the things I like most about him is that he sounds like himself. Sadly some would consider that a knock against him and from my vantage point, those are people that would prefer for every rapper (regardless of heritage, upbringing, or physiology) to sound like an aggressive black man.
I don’t know why that’s not considered the sonic version of blackface. I suppose it’s because there’s not a legacy of it being used to entertain American audiences the way that blackface was. I’d argue that whatever force compels an aggressive non-black, or a non-aggressive black to adopt a vocal persona that strives to be frightening and ignorant might have its origins in the same place that blackface comes from though.
Let it be clearly said, however, that I also hate when folk singers try really hard to sound like Bob Dylan. Open your damned mouth for chrissakes.
Open Mike Eagle’s Dark Comedy is out now on Mello Music Group.
I usually try to avoid any kind of snarky writing, but I suppose this helps me further set a creative precedent for my future work. The marriage of “quality” and “Radio Rock” mixing drives me crazy. The guitars are pushed back, there’s no melodic value to the bass-just sub harmonics- and the vocals and drums sound like an Xbox video game controller. There was a time and a place for that stuff, and in my totally biased opinion, it was ten years ago. It was necessary then because of television and commercial radio. The world doesn’t have to pop in a CD and crank it up in their car anymore. That’s just the way it is. Earbuds are not inferior, they are what most people can afford, and probably the dominate medium for listening to music right now. The refusal to acknowledge that fact is what bothers me about radio rock mixing. Being able to mix music for headphones and close listening should be welcomed, not branded as “lo-fi” or low quality. Classical music isn’t. Maybe businesses associate loud, boomy mixes with commercial success because of radio in the aughts. It doesn’t have to be the only way to mix a real record. It’s okay to listen to music in headphones, or on a laptop, or on small speakers in a public place. Mixes should be allowed to reflect the desired listening medium or device, and whenever I hear a thin guitar pushed behind everything with a giant kick drum eating up all the sonic space, I just get a little grumpy, especially if it’s one of my songs.
PUJOL’s KLUDGE is out now on Saddle Creek.
Arp Cleveland of Archie Bronson Outfit
I, indeed we as a band, fucking hate that chorus-y, fake camp-fire sing-a-long bullshit that seems to have spread like wild fire. It’s a very close relation to the fake, cynical, ‘simple’ acoustic renditions of well known songs you here everywhere (mainly adverts actually). I don’t want to name names (but Mummymummyford and sons rise in popularity seemed to be near to the roots of it all or maybe it originated with that Jose Gonzales version of the Massive Attack track that kicked things off?) but its a very modern and popular idea of folk music. Its usually white folks, likely in plaid, definitely of beard, probably a bit whiffy of smalls; ukuleles are often employed in a cute/ironic/natural way. It is a total epidemic! phone advert folks are particularly keen to align themselves with this wholesome vibe. It normally involve a cover version of a big pop song, done ‘naively’.
I also fucking hate it when bands—normally ‘indie’—are photographed with a hand draped on their head. It’s meant to symbolize ‘a thinker’, I think. Its designed to simultaneously project ‘pensive’ and ‘nonchalant’. Look how often it crops up!
(If you ever hear us all singing in unison on a version of, say, “You aint nothing but a goldigga’ on a very small acoustic stringed thing and making it sound like the deepest emotional song ever, with an accompanying press shot of our hands draped on our heads, gazing slightly wide of the camera – please remember folks; we did it for the phone folks cash.)
Archie Bronson Outfit’s Wild Crush is out now.