I posted this on my Tumblr a couple weeks ago after I saw St. Vincent and Holly Herndon perform live at Terminal 5 in NYC. I wanted to get out some thoughts I had on the show, on how rude people can be and on how people’s tolerance of “weirdness” in art is weird. My friends and fellow music dweebs gave me great feedback, and we exchanged horror stories of awful crowd experiences. I also got to write “dickhead(s)” five times.

St. Vincent is fucking weird, and we love her for it. Wednesday night at the awful Terminal 5, Annie Clark twitched, writhed, stared blankly, shuffled in sync with her guitarist and delivered BuzzFeed-like banter in a detached voice. That’s not yet taking her music into account, which, as she said on her Colbert Report appearance, aims for “the intersection between accessibility and lunatic fringe.” Her music is definitely pop, but it’s fucking weird. And she still had the whole of a sold out Terminal 5 shouting “An-nie! An-nie! An-nie!” waiting for her encore.

Some of my favorite artists all but trick people into liking strange music by pairing it with familiar pop hooks and melodies and/or danceable beats. Julia Holter, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Flying Lotus, a chunk of DFA. Holly Herndon talks about this idea in a PitchforkTV interview that I’ve already blabbed about. “I’m able to slip in some really weird vocal processes if it’s in the context of a structured pop song … if you have something that people are physically engaging with, you can really get people to open up.” I knew I had to spring for a St. Vincent ticket when Holly Herndon was set as the opener. My bf got to see Holly Herndon perform live last year, and I’ve been jealous since. Even though Terminal 5 was not the space to experience Holly Herndon’s music, Tim was 200% right in that she’s next level, unmissable and important. Worth it.

As is my usual luck, I was stood next to a group of dickheads Wednesday night. There I was, grooving and obviously enjoying Holly Herndon’s stellar set, and the people next to me proceeded to make fun of her music the entire time. At one point while Herndon was doing her choppy processed voice thing, the loudest of the dickheads said “if you gave a 5-year-old a microphone, this is what would happen,” and mimicked it, in case we didn’t understand his distaste. He obviously has no clue Herndon’s a PhD candidate for electronic music composition and her music is the result of that. Also, as Tim pointed out, that is what tedious assholes say about modern art — “lol fuck Jackson Pollock I could totally fingerpaint that and make soooo much money dude.” No, you couldn’t. After Asshole #1 made that comment, I couldn’t help but say out loud, though not directly at any one, “No, it’s not, dickhead.” He didn’t hear me, but he didn’t have to because his friend next to me did. He must’ve shared my comment with the group, and soon I was treated to half-overhearing loads of creative comparisons of Holly Herndon’s music. After a minute of this bullshit, I had to ask them to stop because what else would I expect of fully grown adults. They didn’t, of course, but I made sure to be a little less careful and polite with my dancing in the cramped space. Holly Herndon’s music is weird to the unfamiliar ear, and it’s okay if you don’t like it. (Especially considering Terminal 5 is not the right setting for it.) Just, please don’t be rude and ruin other people’s experience. Please.

This also makes me wonder if that dickhead would have make the same comments if Holly Herndon was a dude. I hope that’s not the case, but something tells me he wouldn’t have compared a male producer’s vocal processing to a 5-year-old playing with a microphone.

What really gets me about this dickhead encounter is that St. Vincent isn’t comfortable listening, either. By liking St. Vincent, you’ve proved you can be musically open-minded to an extent. (And if you forget to be, she reminds you: “I want all of your mind / Give me all of your mind.”) You can appreciate the jarring sounds and confusing performance of Annie Clark; that a catchy rhythm or contagious beat can carry the crazy of everything else. That’s Holly Herndon’s philosophy. You can dance to St. Vincent and you can dance to Holly Herndon. That’s how they want you to react, while still challenging your taste. I thought St. Vincent’s set was a hell of a lot weirder than Holly Herndon’s, which was absent of purposefully awkward choreography and banter. Weird is relative, but it is especially strange what people’s tolerance and interpretation of weirdness in art is.


I started a Tumblr blog this summer as a place to write out my thoughts when they’re too big to tweet and not-quite-formed-enough to publish somewhere else:

This is my favorite post yet, from the early hours of Aug. 13 (also, my birthday). I was inspired to write this when realized I could listen to an album I was highly anticipating more than a week before its release date. Internal conflict ensued:

This morning I woke up to learn that I could listen to Julia Holter’s new album Loud City Song right now via NPR’s First Listen. This is good news, right? I love Julia Holter and have been in a constant state of looking forward to this album since I fell in love with Ekstasis and Tragedy, so the pre-release stream should be good news … right?

Nope. There’s nothing more anticlimactic than anticipating an album’s release for a certain date, only to be surprised with a streaming version of it a week early. I’ve been looking forward to Tuesday so much that I know exactly what’s going to happen. I’ll go on a post-work walk to Other Music and pick up Loud City Song. Then, I’ll look through the artwork and liner notes while I’m on my boring LIRR commute back home. And finally, I’ll flip the vinyl onto my gets-the-job-done mini Crosley record player, place the needle gently on side A and sit on my bed opposite the player.

Why would I trade all that to pop my headphones in the audio jack and sit at my laptop, just so I could hear what I’m sure is the magnificent LCS just a week early. Fortunately I am on vacation this week and I literally have better things to do than sit on my laptop all day. If I were at work today, this might have been a very different post. I’m sure I’d still manage to enjoy the music, but there’s something to be said about the ceremony of it all. I don’t want to sit at my laptop, tempted by the distractions of my Twitter feed — I might as well just listen to it while I’m at work. By removing myself from the listening experience, I’m removing myself from the potential to be affected by the music.

Now that sounds like a good, if cheesy, ending line, but my problem with the pre-release stream is that I don’t always have a problem with it. With albums I find myself daydreaming about purchasing in a record store on the day of its release — no, please do not spring me a week early with the tempting, but ultimately disappointing option of listening sooner at my computer. But for those records by artists that I normal-like or have been meaning to check out, pre-release streams are perfect. There it is, right there in my feed: “First Listen: Ty Segall, ‘Sleeper’” Don’t mind if I do. I enjoy Ty Segall’s millions of musical endeavors and tried and failed to see him perform live (thx will call of a D.C. venue I love but often has these problems), but it’s not at that level where I am compelled to make it special. Listening to the NPR stream is so easy, which is key to the music discovery and browsing perks of the the First Listen option. I can listen to something on a whim, no money or downloading time spent — even no time spent waiting for Spotify or Rdio to load. If it were not for Pitchfork Advance’s one-click-away stream of Rhye’s Woman, I probably would not have listened to that album while I was a work and swooned hard over its sexy, laid-back disco vibes.

When Savages made their record available to stream on their website one week, maybe two weeks, early, I struggled for about two hours whether or not I should click play. Here was another album I was crazy-anticipating, after surviving on the very few things they had released for at least half a year since I learned of them post-CMJ and was sad for a week that I missed their showcase — one single and b-side, one live EP and a handful of tracks released in the lead-up to the release of Silence Yourself. I think by the time the record was streaming, I already had heard almost half the record in pieces. It was my last finals week ever and I was struggling. I planned to go to Red Onion to buy the LP on its release date, but I knew I probably wouldn’t have the time to have a proper sit-down listen. Plus, I needed something to amp me up, and I hate energy drinks. I clicked play. From the first bass riff on album-opener “Shut Up” to the clarinet outro on “Marshall Dear,” I powered through my studying and paper-writing, hitting repeat when the album ended and clicking the volume up. I got goosebumps. Despite the distractions and being latched to my laptop for work, Silence Yourself pulsed through me and gave me the energy to successfully complete my awful finals. I still had a meaningful, connected listening experience via surprise pre-release stream.

I won’t listen to Loud City Song through NPR’s First Listen, it wouldn’t feel right. But I’m glad it’s available there. Now, new listeners can fall in love with her music like I did, all because they saw a tweet in their feed, thought, “Maybe I should check this out,” and clicked a link.

The managing editor of D.C.-based culture blog Brightest Young Things, Logan Donaldson, appears to have lifted 44 blurbs credited “-Logan” from multiple publications in a summer music guide published 9 a.m. March 26.

Emily White first brought this to my attention at noon today via Gmail Gchat, pointing out the similarity of the blurb promoting Wavves’ April 13 gig at the Rock & Roll Hotel:

When I clicked the BYT link, the post read:

I then clicked White’s link to Interview Magazine‘s 2009 profile on Wavves, written by T. Cole Rachel, which reads:

From the first word to the right before Interview begins to quote Wavves’ Nathan Williams, the BYT paragraph matches exactly.

Skeptical it was a coincidence, I then searched another post in the BYT music guide credited to Donaldson. I picked the very first blurb in the guide about Depeche Mode’s upcoming album Delta Machine.

A quick search brought me to this album review by Neil McCormick for The Telegraph, from which Donaldson lifts from two paragraphs.

Outraged by the blatant plagiarism White and I began tweeting about our findings while continuing to look into the BYT post, as well as Donaldson.

The XLR8R Magazine example is particularly egregious because Donaldson took the time to edit out XLR8R’s self-mention.


XLR8R (Pay attention to the second line “the XLR8R faithful”):
(Credit to Tim Anderson for bringing this to my attention.)

Eventually Logan Donaldson replied to White and me on Twitter, however he removed the tweet soon after. Fortunately, screenshots of the tweet were taken.

Donaldson also deleted another incriminating tweet from the past 24 hours, in which he humblebragged about writing “7,000 words on music yesterday and overnight.” Unfortunately, by the time I thought to screenshot it, it had been taken down. Lesson learned.

In addition to the 44 posts that were credited to Logan Donaldson (it is not clear if Donaldson plagiarized on all 44 posts), there were many which did not have any attribution. It is entirely reasonable that they could have been written by BYT staffers, however Andrew Bailey found that some BYT blurbs matched Facebook descriptions.

Other victims of Donaldson’s copy-past rampage:The Believer Magazine, Dummy Magazine.

The Washington City Paper‘s Will Sommer has also found that Donaldson lifted from Rolling Stone and even Wikipedia. The City Paper said 18 blurbs have now been changed to source various outside publications and websites. The new attributions include:
Chicago Tribune
• Sierra Club
Resident Advisor
• Howard Theatre
Complex Magazine
• HipHopDX

By 9 p.m., other changes to BYT’s summer music guide do not include any sign of an “updated,” “correction,” “clarification,” “disclaimer” or similar tag, however the by-line now reads “curated and written by.” Logan Donaldson is still the first contributor credited.

The DCist also wrote a story on BYT’s lazy plagiarism and equally lazy coverup, with comments from BYT founder Svetlana Legetic. (Legetic also comments in the City Paper‘s story.)

As of 9:30 a.m. March 27, the BYT guide has been edited and removed the previously plagiarized paragraphs that were later amended with attribution. They have been replaced by a sentence or two and no writer is given credit.

The by-line at the top of the BYT post has been changed again to read “All original words by,” and Donaldson is now the fourth writer credited. Until the morning, Donaldson remained the first writer listed in the credit line, even after attributions on at least 18 plagiarized blurbs were edited to various publications and websites (from “-Logan”) and the by-line was changed to “curated and written by.” There is still no “correction,” “edited,” “updated,” “clarification” or any resembling tag on the BYT post.

By 1 p.m. March 27, this editor’s note was added to the top of the BYT post:

Ed Note: This post has been updated to include only original content produced by BYT writers. Thank you for reading and your patience.

An 11:04 p.m. tweet from DCist associate editor Benjamin R. Freed, who wrote the earlier story on the scandal, said Donaldson has been dismissed, and BYT is investigating the extent of his plagiarism and temporarily taking down all posts that credit Donaldson.

Read all the tweets over on Storify.