The Village Voice’s Rob Tannenbaum has chosen a music critic of the year–and it’s an anonymous Twitter account called @Discographies. @Discographies has only been active since July, and to date has only issued 157 tweets (other accounts produce as many in a few days). But the wit behind the account has taken a clever approach to music reviewing: rather than assess single albums, @Discographies sums up entire careers in 140-character bursts, with albums represented by a number (first album = 1, second = 2, and so on).
On top of that, each tweet tends to have a central conceit, adding a layer of cleverness. So The Eagles’ career is likened to the seven dwarves–“The Eagles: 1 Dopey; 2 Doc; 3 Sneezy; 4 Sneezy; 5 Sneezy; 6 Grumpy; 7 Sleepy. [“Happy” and, in particular, “Bashful”: n/a.]”–while Madonna’s career is summed up in a faux personal ad–“Madonna: 1-4 “SWF seeks audience. Turn-ons: 5 edgeplay; 6 cuddling; 7,8 fake British accents; 9 Ché Guevara t-shirts; 10 disco; 11 botox.” The account became a hit, building within months an audience of 20,000 followers–including Duran Duran.
The Voice wrangled the enigmatic figure for a lively and enlightening email Q&A, worth reading in its entirety. But here’s a greatest hits, so to speak.
@Discographies on Twitter:
Twitter may be the first mass communications system that also functions as a meritocracy: it actively promotes good ideas and good content, regardless of where they come from. Twitter is also incredibly good at bringing people together. In my non-@Discographies life on Twitter, I’ve met people that I never would have encountered any other way, who are now actual real-world friends. Skeptics might think that the brevity of 140 characters would foster a kind of surface-y and impersonal interaction, but I think it does exactly the opposite: it forces you to communicate in a way that’s more signal than noise. Those are two really powerful functions–spreading ideas and connecting people–embedded in one convenient place.
@Discographies on anonymity:
There’s something about anonymity that seems to resonate for people, and there’s also a sort of (ascribed, even if not actual) authority that comes from writing as an institution, rather than as an individual…. I could be writing @Discographies under my own name–and I probably will, one of these days–but the sense of mystery (and the illusion of omniscience) has been a big help in getting the project started. Like you, I also get asked whether I write @Discographies. My response is to say lie and say no (“…but that’s really flattering!”) and then briefly muse aloud about who it might actually be; I’m sure you’ll be delighted to learn that I’ve invoked you as a possible suspect once or twice. All of which makes me feel a) guilty and b) kind of like my life is turning into an episode of Dexter.
@Discographies on albums in the à la carte, iTunes age:
The album may not be quite as central a content delivery system as it once was, but I don’t think it’s a vestigial concern yet. It’s still quite useful as a structure that allows us to be able to receive and discuss and interpret (and maybe even, for a little while longer, sell) a specific kind of information–just like a novel or a limerick or, y’know, a tweet. Even if we reach a point where an album is an entirely virtual construct with no physical manifestation, the idea of the album will still be important, just as a way for artists to draw a line in the sand and say “Okay, this is what separates this batch of material from that batch of material.”