Best Of 2011, Guest Editors: Tom Moon, Guest Editor Internal Memo

As 2011 comes to an end, we are taking a look back at some of our favorite posts of the year by our guest editors.

You might know award-winning critic/journalist Tom Moon from his bestselling book 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, his contributions to NPR’s All Things Considered or his freelance work in the likes of Rolling Stone, GQ, Blender, Spin and Vibe, but around the MAGNET office, when we think of Moon, we think of the nearly two decades he spent as the music critic of our hometown newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer. When you regularly read a writer’s work for that long, you feel like you really get a sense of who someone is, so we were shocked to find out that Moon is also a musician who just made an album. Into The Ojalá (Frosty Cordial) is credited to Moon Hotel Lounge Project and came out earlier this month. MHLP is an impressive, instrumental, jazz/lounge/Latin-leaning project featuring Moon and six local musicians playing nine Moon-penned tunes as well as a cover of gospel standard “Rock Of Ages.” We are excited to have Moon guest editing all week. Read our new Q&A with him.

Moon: I always loved the original Spin’s “guest editor” issues and particularly the editor’s notes where some rock star would rattle off outrageous new editorial policies. Since they’re calling this a “guest editor” stint, I can’t pass up the opportunity. Warning: I’m only semi-joking about this.

To: MAGNET Contributors and Staff
From: Moon
Subject: Re: New Policy on Reviews


These days, so much of the music we review comes to us in digital form, typically via streaming websites, but also, occasionally, as a download. As you know, this changes the encounter significantly. I would argue that it’s very difficult to appraise a record on the basis of one pass through the mp3 files while sitting in front of (or near) a computer. The audio, compromised already because of digital compression, pretty much sucks unless you have a super high-end system. Some streaming sites, like those used by Warner Bros., actually put a limit on how many times an individual can audition a record. (Five play limit on a Flaming Lips record? Really? I’m slow. I like it when a record sneaks up on me. It usually takes me at least five spins to discern what galaxy Wayne Coyne is calling from.)
You already know how horrible it is to have to arrive at a considered opinion based solely on the listening you do sitting close to the computer. Let’s be real: What might have happened if, back in the day, Sony sent around a password-protected stream for us to audition something like Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run? Sure, the hapless reviewer would be able to hear what’s there, but to really immerse in that record don’t you need to experience it in a car? Be en route to someplace, hopefully someplace better? In motion at the very least? Can you fully appreciate it while chained to the desk?

Apparently the labels, big and small alike, feel the stream is an acceptable compromise in the war to control piracy. That’s all good, in the Bob Dylan formulation of the term. But let’s face it, the advance music stream compromises key aspects of the listening experience. I believe it’s long past time to alert our readers about the conditions under which we arrived at our opinions. Beginning with the next issue, we’ll append a snazzy info-box to each review. As with all matters of editorial integrity, this new “full disclosure” feature depends on the honesty of our contributors. We trust you. But if our stream-monitoring software finds that you’ve inflated the number of plays of any given work, all appropriate action will be taken. Pay will be docked, and you’ll be forced to sit in the training room and listen to an endless loop of Seth Godin’s “Remedial Blogging Tips” podcast followed by the original soundtrack to the director’s extra-long cut of The Way We Were followed by the full audio from the Snoop Dogg custom GPS turn-by-turn instructions. You get the idea.

The New Full-Disclosure Reviewer Infographic: (Check the box that most closely applies)
• Played once. Deal with it: That’s one time more than 80 percent of reviews in the blogosphere.
• Played once while cleaning out the pencil drawer and watching a YouTube clip titled “Does This Skirt Make My Ass Look Big?”
• Played three times while texting with old friend who makes dramatic cameo appearances in many of my reviews.
• Played constantly until green liquid began oozing from the molded plastic Logitech speakers.
• Played only until 1:33 into track two, when stream was compromised and the music began to glitch out. Sent to Sony’s “Stream Repair Headquarters” and it came back a Toto record. Recalculating!