Journalist Gary Suarez started the Music Writer Exercise (better known as #MWE on Twitter) in 2015. The goal of #MWE is, for each day in February, listen to one album you’ve never heard before and write a single tweet about it. This year I participated for the first time.
I made a point to listen to a few albums that are well-known as classics, but have somehow never blessed my ears. Lou Reed’s Transformer, Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain, EPMD’s Strictly Business, to name a few. But, I also took the opportunity to seek out some oddballs, like Neil Young’s synth wave album Trans, Bad Religion’s prog-rock opus Into the Unknown, and Dee Dee Ramone’s rap album, Standing in the Spotlight. To diversify things, I included some soundtracks, like Philip Glass’ score for the first two Candyman horror films and Jonny Greenwood’s Bodysong. Mainly, I tried to not pin myself down to a single genre. I explored metalcore and punk, but also R&B and jazz. Willie Nelson, Pere Ubu, and Juana Molina were a few artists that kept each day fresh and provided personal revelations.
Over the course of the month, I sometimes felt stupid for not listening to most of these albums years ago. How can a music writer review the work of others without a baseline foundation? Can you have a real opinion about punk rock if you’ve never heard The Ruts debut album? Can you put a grade on modern hip-hop without knowledge of New Kingdom’s 1996 LP Paradise Don’t Come Cheap? Well, of course you can. There’s really only two kinds of music: imitation and revolution. Of course, 99% is imitation. But, do you know where it’s coming from? Is it inspired or just a cheap knock-off? Having a deeper knowledge better informs your current opinion.
Sure, it was a bit embarrassing to admit I had never heard Dillinger Escape Plan’s debut album or The Breeders 90’s classic Pod. On the other hand, I found myself thankful that I had these new discoveries. It’s those moments of discovery that makes music exciting.
Below are all 29 of my tweets from #MWE in 2020.
– J. Kevin Lynch