Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Music journalist Michael Azerrad lets the musicians do the talking on the newly launched website 'The Talkhouse'

Most websites that talk about the media are, of course, written by journalists, a bit of narcissism that I suppose can not be helped. But in the world of music – both online and print – the voices one hears most often is that of the journalist, as well, not the musician. Music journalist Michael Azerrad is changing this with his newly launched website The Talkhouse, where musicians will be reviewing and talking about the work of other musicians.

Azerrad is the author of Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 and Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana, as well as a former contributing editor for Rolling Stone.

The Talkhouse has, what it calls, soft-launched with a beta version earlier this month, with its earliest reviews dating from the last day of February.

Already the site contains reviews by such noted artists as Laurie Anderson, reviewing Animal Collective's Centipede Hz, and trumpeter Dave Douglas writing about the latest release from Wayne Shorter, Without A Net.

"Naturally, no one knows more about music than musicians," Azerrad says in the launch announcement. "They talk about their own work all the time, but they rarely get to talk about other people's music. That's what the Talkhouse is all about: smart, distinguished musicians from all genres and generations writing about the latest releases. And there's a twist: there will be comments for each piece - but only from the artist who's being written about. The idea is promote dialogue between musicians who may never have interacted otherwise, and for Talkhouse readers to have a ringside seat to this unique exchange."

The site will feature one new post written on one album each day, five days a week. According to the publisher a tablet edition and mobile app are in the works, as well.

Dave Douglas
I wondered, reading the jazz reviews (my area) on the site about the tendency of musicians to pull their punches a bit when writing about other musicians. This behavior is common to journalism sites and often prevents many journalists from commenting on industry trade sites. Might the reviews on The Talkhouse also tend to be more favorable than the musician writing the post really feel?

"We've had several pieces that are ambivalent or even negative, with more on the way," Azerrad told TNM. "But the point of the Talkhouse isn't to provide a critic's thumbs-up/thumbs-down evaluation of an album, like it's a consumer product. It's to show how a musician hears music — Talkhouse writers use their experience writing, recording and performing music to come up with insights and wisdom that no one else could offer. That's one big thing that makes us different."

The site, as mentioned above, is still somewhat in beta (though it certainly looks good now). But Ian Wheeler, who is the advertising contact, told me that there will be more features added in the near future, including artist pages and an embedded audio player – features that will be especially useful when the time comes to launch that tablet edition.