It’s Time

Here goes:

  1. I’ll be celebrating my fortieth birthday in a few months.
  2. I always wanted to go out like Margo Channing when she turned forty in All About Eve and not like Willie Mays, who hung on well past his prime.
  3. Unlike Margo, I don’t believe that a broad is all washed up when she turns forty, but I’ve always been fond of the idea of going out on top. Kinda like Rocky Marciano. 
  4. If I were a different person, I could point to the fact that the number of visitors to this site has tripled in the past year as evidence that I’m at the top of my game. Fortunately, I’m not an idiot and I know that the reason my numbers have gone up is that the pandemic has forced people to stay at home, giving them more time to browse the Internet. I also know that while the increase in traffic sounds impressive, the traffic heading my way is only .005% of the traffic Pitchfork gets every month. I’ve never been into self-deception for the sake of mental health. 
  5. To me, going out on top isn’t about the numbers, it’s about quality. It’s the realization that you’ve done your best work and the little voice inside your head tells you, “This ain’t going to last forever, honey.” This year I wrote three reviews that I feel represent my best work—American Beauty, Clube Da Esquina and Way to Blue. Rather than risk a bad case of writer’s block, I’d like the record to show that I didn’t limp to the finish line. 
  6. Having quit this blog twice only to come back, I don’t want to say this is final, but I also don’t want to become tiresome like the Stones with their never-ending farewell tours.
  7. So, let’s just say I have no plans to write any new reviews and leave it at that.
  8. I’ll leave altrockchick.com open at least until my WordPress renewal date of February 2022. After that . . . who knows? The new-and-improved WordPress is a bug-filled pain in the ass that makes writing more of a chore than a pleasure and site management an absolute drag. It’s a bit unclear at the moment, but it looks like they might require me to update all 500 posts to fit their new format sometime next year. Fuck that.
  9. You will see some changes to the site structure and maybe a few “new reviews” that are not new but rewrites of previous reviews I’m unhappy with. Emphasis on the word “might.” I’ve already started going through every review to replace dead videos with officially licensed versions that won’t leave ugly stains in the middle of my essays. I hate leaving a mess.
  10. After I take some time off to decompress and attend to more urgent life priorities, I might start compiling my favorite reviews in e-book format. Right now I dread the editing and reformatting required to pull it off, but if someday I decide it’s worth my time and energy I will do so.
  11. “Worth my time and energy” does not mean “monetary return on investment.” The e-books (if they come to fruition) will be free downloads . . . somewhere. Writing about music has always been a labour of love for me and I’ve always considered the notion of making money through book sales, monetizing the blog with ads or going to a subscription model completely repulsive. 

The truth is that many threads, influences and events in the past year have led me to a crossroads moment in my life. My partner and have been lucky that our little consulting practice hasn’t suffered much due to the pandemic, but we’re both getting tired of it. I lost both grandmothers in the last year (not to Covid-19, but to natural causes) and those two losses led my parents to re-think retirement. They moved to Nice because it was always the plan to return to my mother’s birthplace where she still had family. Now that her mother has gone, those ties aren’t as strong, and she’s finding the experience of returning home limiting and stifling. My dad’s mother bequeathed him her house in Ireland, so they’ve discussed moving there or setting up a summer home to avoid the tourist swarms and heat of summer in the Côte d’Azur. My parents are also my best friends, so what they decide will have a pretty significant impact on the decisions I make. 

While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience of writing about music and have learned a lot in the process, the blog eats up a huge amount of my time. Depending on the complexity of the subject matter and the availability of information, a single review can take anywhere from 20-50 hours a week researching background, repeatedly listening to the music, figuring out the musical structure and methodology, interpreting the lyrics, reading artist bios, writing, re-writing, editing and posting on three sites. Right now I could really use that time to reflect on what I want to do with the rest of my life. I don’t know what that something is but I want that something to be meaningful—meaningful in the sense of bettering the lives of people who haven’t had the breaks fall their way. I have a few ideas, but I need the time and space to flesh them out—and figure out how to integrate my dream with the need to make a living. Fortunately, I’m in great health, as horny as ever and have wonderful people in my life, so I think I have a decent chance of pulling it off.

In the ten years since I started this blog, I’ve written over 500 reviews and riffs containing about three million words. That’s the equivalent of six copies of War and Peace. And unlike Count Tolstoy, I wrote all those words while holding down full-time jobs! I think that’s enough of a contribution for one lifetime, so it’s time to say “nighty-night” and move on to my next adventure.

I want to thank all of you who have visited the site and especially those of you who commented on my work and turned me on to music I might have never considered. Your support meant a lot to me and often kept me going when I wasn’t sure my work mattered all that much. 

Below is the last picture of me taken before the pandemic, in January 2020. It’s a bit out of focus because my partner can’t shoot straight to save her life. I wanted a picture that looked like I was proposing a toast to all of you and the only picture I have with a real cocktail glass containing real booze is a partial nude . . . so I’m afraid you’ll have to do with a fully-leather-clad me and a Diet Coke. 

Cheers!

Ari 1-9-20

44 responses

  1. Congratulations tinged with sadness. Happy birthday to you and all hopes for good health and happiness for you and your partner and family. You’ve been on a roll but as you say: why not go out on top? I’ve directed many friends of mine to your site and promised them that they’d find music writing that’s as fine or finer than any ever written. Hope that you do indeed collect it all in print — but not until you’ve had a well-deserved break from it all. Take care, David

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    1. Thank you so much! My parents threw me a little dinner party last night and read selected excerpts from my reviews—there was a lot of laughter, but yeah, it was tinged with sadness. Take care!

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  2. Well damn, as a new discoverer of your blog, all I can say is best of luck as you move forward and please please please do keep your archive available in some form – I haven’t read it all yet!

    For my money your insights have equalled and then exceeded some of the best writers of the 70s (thinking Charlie Murray, Nick Kent etc of the Brit hacks). I’ve always thought reviews should be completely partial because nobody can ever really be impartial about art, so bring on the opinions 😉

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    1. Thank you! I’m honored to be included in such illustrious company and I’m sure there will be plenty of time for you to explore further.

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  3. Well, I am bummed to hear that you won’t be writing reviews for awhile. I think your writing has been getting better and better, and it was really good to start with. I agree that the Nick Drake review was one of your best–maybe even THE best.

    In the Internet age, it’s hard to offer anything unique, but you have done that by writing in such detail about both music AND lyrics. I read tons of reviews about my favorite music. I will google search ARTIST X + ALBUM X + REVIEW and go three or four pages deep into whatever google turns up, and nobody, I mean nobody, has gone as in-depth as you have, yet you’ve done it in a way that does not come across as dry and technical and boring. Your passion for the music is always evident.

    It’s good to hear that you will make efforts to maintain your previous reviews. I like the fact that what is written can exist essentially forever and hopefully remain accessible for a long time. There are still some reviews on your site that I need to read and/or comment on, so you will hear from me again.

    Most of all, THANK YOU for sharing your knowledge and your appreciation of music with the rest of us. Best wishes for whatever you choose to do with all of that extra time!

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    1. Sorry for the delay in responding—my parents threw a little dinner party for me last night and read passages from various reviews. It was very touching and I wound up drinking way too much to get through it all. Thank you for your validation and all your contributions to the discussions! I’m glad I ended it with Nick Drake because I was really locked in when I wrote that review—it was definitely one of my favorite writing experiences. I know that most music consumers want short and pithy, but after trying to follow that conventional wisdom when I first started the blog I felt it was disrespectful to the artists to reduce their efforts to a few sentences (unless they got lazy and deserved it). Take care!

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  4. I wish I’d discovered your site years ago. Your writing has style and originality and your reflections and opinions are always interesting and informative. It’s quality music journalism. The ‘femme-fatale’ persona works so well too. I also hope that your archive remains so I can finish working through it. Some more photos would be nice too ! All the very best to you and hopefully you’ll keep in touch from time to time. Take care…

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    1. Thank you so much! I guess I am sort of femme-fatale! The site will remain open for the foreseeable future and the option to comment will remain in place. I’ll add a note to post different pictures as part of my website maintenance tasks, but I don’t think I’ll bring back the nudes. Cheers!

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  5. Matheus Bezerra de Lima | Reply

    Happy birthday to you and I wish all the best to your life! Do what makes it happier and more fulfilling!

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  6. All I can say is that I will miss the best album reviewer in the universe. Thank you for your broad-mindedness and catholic taste. Hopefully, you will have turned some readers onto jazz in the process. Happy Birthday and all the best for the future.

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    1. Thank you! I just checked and you’ll be delighted to learn that two of my jazz reviews (Portrait in Jazz and Sketches of Spain) are in the all-time top twenty in terms of hits, so maybe there’s hope for this world after all.

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  7. I applaud your decision to go out on top and do other things with your life. However, I do hope your work will still be around somewhere as I find it a great source for getting turned onto some music that I have missed out on over the years. I only found your work this year and you have BY FAR been the greatest and best researched reviewer out there. I always feel like I am hanging out with a good friend who knows her shit and is happy to enlighten and educate me a bit. In a world that settles for so much mediocrity you have really raised the bar with your writing. I am happy you are not ”selling out” but there are people like me who would like to support your work in one way or another if given the opportunity.
    I hope you will keep us informed on whatever you end up doing. I wish you well and say thank you so much.
    Take care, Randy

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    1. Thank you so much for the validation, especially the “hanging out with a good friend” comment! It’s nice to feel I’ve made that kind of connection through this rather impersonal medium. Once I feel more grounded regarding my future, I’ll probably go back and rewrite some of my pre-2017 reviews when I was working under the assumption that bloggers should keep it short and sweet (at least for the albums that deserve a fuller treatment). I’ll also pop in every now and then to update readers on the blog’s status and general goings-on. Take care!

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  8. Shit! and good luck, and I sort-of understand.

    Let me echo some of what’s been said above, so few critics published anywhere even attempt to do what you’ve done with songs: talk intelligently about the lyrics, the music, and their cultural contexts. That’ll be missed.

    Luckily I have more of your posts yet to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi / Bon soir
    Whatever you will do in future with your blog, it was a great pleasure for me to read your reviews. Stay save and enjoy your life. Thank you very much for all.
    Victor

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi, I just want to thank you for all the reading pleasure and wish you all the best in the future.
    Cheers!

    Leen

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It is possible (and needed) to reinvent yourself periodically, but you are who you are. In your case, thank goodness for that (I know, goodness had nothing to do with it)! I’ve always thought traveling together was the best way to get to know someone, but discussing music has its own special place. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself and the music you know. It’s been a guilty pleasure. You’ll never really stop…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wishing you all the best , whatever choose ,
    Where ever that takes you.
    We cast off into the water , the stream flows one way
    Way too much energy to turn the boat around to revisit old issues ,
    Follow the flow , down and around the bend , find out what awaits you.
    Found your blog by accident years ago, always found it refreshing and new.
    Many posts were…. to riff on the late Richard Poirier ..a theatrical presentation of self.
    Who knew about podcasting , video streaming when you began ..
    Who knows how we will communicate in the future…??
    ….that’s why we take the journey.
    As we take the journey I remember what my Meisner teacher told me
    After a frankly terrible exercise..
    .” Stats..the only thing we have to offer in the journey , is our humanity “
    Be well, stay safe .
    Stats

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    1. Wonderful to hear from you again! I think reading made a bit of a comeback during the pandemic; probably ephemeral. I tried recording a few podcasts and the consensus from my test group was I should stick with writing. I don’t know—I could never find my groove. I guess the acting class didn’t take . . . or something.

      Love the humanity quote. It’s really all we have of genuine value.

      You stay safe, too!

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  13. Brendan T Spaulding | Reply

    This was a surprise to be reading this today although considering what you said it makes sense that you’d want to take a well deserved break from this very wonderful and intelligently written review site! 300 million words is absolutely ridiculous but I’m happy you put every one of them down. You fueled my obsession with the kinks, turned me on to great music like the bonzo dog band, st. Vincent, clube da esquina, and pulp, and you’re writing has made my mornings and nights much more enjoyable. Also one big THANK YOU for keeping my want to write alive and just entertaining me in general. If you’re able to preserve your writing in some form I’ll be more than delighted because I’ll miss your posts a lot! I hope you have fun in life you deserve it!

    Seeing as I’m running out of time to share my random music opinions with you ever again here’s a list of albums that this stranger really thinks are worth the listen. Ween – the mollusk, super furry animals – radiator, Lianne la havas – lianne la havas, XTC – Black Sea, MGMT – Congratulations, crying – beyond the fleeting gales, prefab sprout – Steve McQueen.

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    1. Oh, thank you so much! The blog will be open at least for a while, so feel free to send your music opinions my way—I’m in discovery mode now, and I can enjoy music without having to think, “How am I going to write about this?” It’s kinda nice!

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  14. Well, shit. I just came across your blog LAST WEEK! I was doing some research on Annette Peacock’s album “X Dreams” for a radio show I do in Colorado where I’m thinking of featuring the album on the air. Your review came up on a Google search and I was surprised, amazed and delighted to read such an in-depth review. I’ve actually owned that album for several decades and you pointed out many aspects of it I had never picked up on.

    THEN, I saw you had reviewed the Nick Drake album. I’ve been a huge Nick Drake fan and proselytizer since 1976 and I was again delighted to see such a loving and detailed treatment of his work. Beyond those reviews, a quick glance of the other subjects of your analysis shows a great, refined, eclectic taste that I can certainly relate to as it’s been my goal since childhood to seek out as many different types of music as possible.

    One last observation. You stated in one of your replies to the comments about what sounds like a feeling of relief in being able to listen to music and simply enjoy it without worrying about how you’re going to analyze it in a review. I’ve been doing concert reviews for several years and posting them here and there and sometimes going to a concert I felt a slight twinge of “What am I going to say about this?” Well, that hasn’t been a problem for over a year now. Unfortunately. Concerts are back this summer and some reviews will no doubt be forthcoming.

    Anyway, I’ll plan to browse through more of your reviews to get insights on old favorites and dip into some things I’m not familiar with, yet. Good luck in the future and I’ll bet that you get back to some music reviews, in one form or another, at some point. It may be a few years. But it’s in your blood. Obviously.

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    1. I already love you for coming here to explore Annette Peacock and Nick Drake! Where can I read your concert reviews?

      I remember the professor of one of my English Lit classes telling us, “Writers have to write—it’s their raison d’être.” I guess I’m about to find out whether or not that’s true. Stay tuned!

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      1. Most of my reviews get posted on allaboutjazz.com. If you search my name, you should be able to find a list of them.

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  15. Ari, were you a fan of Willard’s Wormholes? For 10 years his was the greatest music blog in the local universe. But Willard, who was very gifted, never attempted analysis at the depth you have, and for that I, and clearly many others here, thank you. By mentioning your blog and Willard’s in the same paragraph, I do intend to be paying you a huge compliment.

    Also, for some reason my friends and associates never got Oasis — which always baffled me. Your thoughts on the Gallagher Boys didn’t change their minds, but they did leave me feeling less alone.

    To quote a hero of mine, Oscar Wilde, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” You were surely looking at the stars. I trust you will continue to do so.

    Best wishes, Dean

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    1. Nope, I’d never heard of it. I notice that Willard lasted ten years as well and that “he figured it was time for him to retire and do other things.” Sorry I missed it—from what I read, he was doing important work (but also running against the tide of music commoditization).

      Oasis is polarizing for all the wrong reasons. A lot of Boomers dislike them because of the comparison to their precious Beatles. Noel is very opinionated and Liam can be a complete asshole. Whenever I start to have doubts that I may be biased in their favor because they were THE band of my era, I listen to Familiar to Millions and hear tens of thousands of people singing the words to “Don’t Look Back in Anger” (with or without Noel), I think, “Fuck the nay-sayers—these guys were great.”

      Thank you so much for the compliments, your insights over the years and your respectful disagreement with some of my takes—and especially for your help in navigating Peter Green!

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      1. The whole Oasis-Beatles comparison was silly, if not downright stupid. Mostly downright stupid.

        Regarding our occasional respectful disagreements (there were some, but not so many), I hope that in your old age (!) you can go back to Love’s “Forever Changes” album and think about it again — that is, experience it again. But if you still don’t like it, that’s cool.

        Cheers. I’ll be curious to see which reviews you select for ePub.

        Like

  16. Thomas Shyman | Reply

    I only just discovered your blog, about two weeks ago, upon an internet search for Jethro Tull reviews. I already have the albums, just wanted to hear what others had to say. These, and all your posts, are great reads. By far, more in tune, and more funny, than any others. Thanks for your in depth insights.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. […] It’s Time […]

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  18. Every time I read one of your reviews I feel my knees buckle when I think of the investment of time and attention writing such quality stuff must entail. Thanks for all the vivid word-maps you’ve drawn of areas I’ve yet to explore and the layers of extra meaning you’ve brought to what I thought I already knew. Best wishes for whatever you decide to do once you’re rested and recharged!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. So sorry to see you giving up thi project. But I respect your decision and reasoning. There’s so little thoughtful music writing out there. Your reviews were always a joy to read and helped expand my appreciation of some of my favorite artists. Good luck in the future and I hope to see you in print someday.

    John Kendall

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  20. Rev. Chris Patterson | Reply

    Dear altrockchick,

    There have been so many great, heartfelt comments to you already, I really doubt I can add much. Let me just say that your reviews have always been fun and well thought through. I loved your little self-imposed set of rules (listening three times to an album, just to be fair, is one that comes to mind) and the fact that you, to paraphrase Dylan, knew your subject well before you started singing. You did your homework.

    You love(d) music and it shows/showed. I’m 51 and have been collecting records all my life. I would love to meet your dad someday and compare collections with him. Right now, I have thousands of albums and highly doubt I’ll get to review all of them before I croak, much less listen to them that many more times. (Liver cirrhosis sucks… I’m working on one more review booklet on old anthologies, just in case I kick the bucket. Please contact me if you’d like a copy.) But it was a joy to connect with someone who takes the time to listen to the music at such a level where you’re not just repeating what everybody else says. When I dissed “Volunteers” (Airplane), “JL/POB” (Lennon) and the “Woodstock” soundtrack (your funniest, best review, btw), I felt ostracized when people pissed on the notion that I actually had a different point of view.

    At the same time, I was outraged, at first, that you railed against “Abbey Road,” “Exile,” etc., until I realized, after re-reading your reviews, that re-evaluation is not necessarily a bad thing. Life is short. Let’s be more honest about real art and not go with the mainstream just because we don’t want to upset the apple cart, so to speak. I think of me as a kid spinning “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and being blown away at how fun, raucous and fresh it was. Then, after reading your reading your review, I compared that little record to “Sun King” and, thought…. “Damn! Altrockchick has a point! This song is fucking depressing in comparison!”

    You reviewed older music, 45s and music by black artists. I don’t know what the deal with is so many so-called critics these days, but old rock and roll music (the first decade, that is) is ignored as are singles, as are (with the exception of Hendrix and maybe Michael Jackson and Prince) black artists. It was refreshing to see you review many of these genres and artists that are bound to soon be forgotten. (When Robert Johnson’s box set won a Grammy in the ’90’s, I was in shock. Maybe there’s a smidgen of hope for the future after all? Nah…)

    Finally, you made me think. I had a professor who once said, “When people say that they’re thinking, what they really mean is that they’re rearranging their prejudices.” One of the things I’ve admired about your work is that you made others think and, by the same token, you took the time to listen to other people’s feedback and think things through once again. That took courage and humility.

    At any rate, you’re going to be missed. I know you’re quite far from being a “religious person” (whatever that means), but I’m praying that you’ll be back someday Thank you for all the good reads and a happy 40th birthday to you. Take care!!

    Rev. Chris Patterson

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    1. Apologies for the delay, but re-creating one’s life takes a lot of work! It’s been an enlightening and frustrating experience but I feel I’m getting closer to finding out what I want (largely by running into all kinds of things I don’t want).

      Thank you so much for the validation and the birthday wishes (five days to go). I’ll even accept the prayers (though I haven’t felt any urges to come back)! I really wish I’d used the contrast between “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Sun King” in one of my reviews—it’s perfect!

      It’s nice to hear that I made people think about their preferences and prejudices; it’s something we all struggle with as we try to control the uncontrollable thing called life.

      I’m deeply sorry to hear about your medical condition. Obviously, I can’t help you on the prayer front, but I’ll be hoping that the docs finally figure something out that gives you many more years. Please take care!

      Like

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