A tough question, because I find a very different pleasure in each of these records. Listening to Random Access Memories can be like watching a charismatic, skilled professor solve a complex problem on the board, framing it well and giving appropriate context and then working through steps so that everything clicks into place; at other times, it’s like watching a reaction unfold, magic on the surface but undeniably motivated by a lot of science and earlier experimentation and work. Its best moments achieve a sort of chemical bliss.
And then there’s Modern Vampires of the City, exothermic in every word and note, generating an internal warmth like a heartfelt compliment from a good friend or a reflective moment alone in a gorgeous place. In describing this album to friends over the last few weeks I’ve used the word “spiritual” a lot, which maybe doesn’t mean a lot coming from someone whose life is mostly devoid of spirituality, but with that word I guess I’m referring to the album’s honesty and generosity, its willingness to delve wide eyed and questioning into weighty stuff and to emerge without any definitive answers. Maybe it’s this: if Random Access Memories is the professor showing you the beauty of the solution, Modern Vampires of the City is the inherent beauty of trying (and sometimes failing) to find the solution yourself.
If you forced me to pick just one, I would take Modern Vampires of the City.
I understand eschewing the formal internship route, but I think anyone interested in making a serious beer money hobby/career out of writing about music should absolutely fire up a Tumblr (there are other platforms, but this one is the best right now) to showcase themselves and host a few quality pieces/clips they want to show off when pitching. I think it’s rather difficult to send a cold email pitching something if you don’t have a) a few semi-recognizable bylines for the recipient to check out and/or b) a few posts you’re really proud of, hosted on a personal site at the very least. With that in mind, I suppose your first step towards consistently pitching should be the creation of a platform/home base that’ll give editors something to work with: a short bio, links to other platforms, some of your best work, etc.
As for the mechanics of pitching itself, I suppose “emailing and just forming connections” covers it in a very broad sense. Take a look at the staff/contact pages of the publications you respect, have a gander at their cold pitching guidelines, and proceed from there. A good first email can really grease the skids, I think, so work hard on that: get to the point, keep it relatively clean, infuse it with a bit of your personality but not to a degree that detracts from a default professionalism, etc. There are plenty of ways to do this, and I suppose everyone develops their own personal style; I certainly have. Try to minimize your sulking time if it doesn’t work out.
At this point I should issue a huge, flashing disclaimer noting that I’ve had, at the very least, an acquaintance-type relationship on Tumblr/Twitter with everyone I’ve ever emailed with a pitch, so my advice on totally cold, blind efforts might be completely useless. I suppose the best advice I can offer is to form those relationships and use them as a launching point for future endeavours.
I received a similar question a few months ago, about getting involved in the music writing community on Tumblr — there might be useful general tips in that response that apply to this question, if you’re interested. You can read that here. And of course, if this response made little to no sense and/or you have specific questions, don’t hesitate to send me an email, I’ll happily offer my limited wisdom.
Hm, this is a bit of a blind spot for me — if you were looking for Canadian senior chemistry and math contests, I could really help, but I don’t know much about the writing internship scene. I know Pitchfork, Spin, Rolling Stone, etc. all have internship programs, but the intricacies of application and location are beyond me. I guess the one piece of advice I’d give is to undertake a bit of research, which I’m sure you’ve done already: think about your favourite publications, see what they’re offering, apply liberally. Take a peek around Twitter and Tumblr for people who have experience interning and ask them for help or advice — if you’re deep enough in the game to find and ask me, you’re probably near people who have actually done this and can provide some real knowledge. And if you have any specific questions about anything else, shoot me an email and I’ll answer them to the best of my abilities.
Daft Punk, “Fragments of Time”
1. There’s only one way to experience this song at its best. You have to trust me. It’s the last day of recording in Los Angeles, and Todd Edwards has just packed up the last of his personal items and is preparing to leave the studio. Thomas and Guy-Manuel are sitting helmeted at a recording console, adjusting some levels and speaking quietly. Todd looks upon them fondly and turns for the door. The sun is just beginning to set, hanging heavy in the sky; the light is blinding. He stops, turning to look at the robots hovering over the console. He starts singing “Fragments of Time,” coming up with the lyrics on the spot, occasionally tossing in jazz hands, a single tear rolling down his cheek. Upon finishing, he takes a small bow and salutes, then steps into the glow, the door closing slowly behind him. I choose to believe that’s how this song was created.
2. I can’t say enough about the control and skill exercised by the rhythm section in this song, especially during the transition from the chorus into the solo portion. While the drums and bass are lively and active throughout the verses and chorus, spraying showy little fills everywhere they can, they really step out front and drive the pace around 2:56, even as the pedal steel and guitar maintain their place from the previous bars. When the talk-box (I think?) roars to life soon after, it’s ecstatic and surprising, but it didn’t just pop up out of nowhere — the groundwork had already been laid, rhythmically speaking, in a very neat way. I love hearing the craftsmanship and care present in that brief sequence, which could’ve been maybe 80% as good with half the effort; the polish and attention to detail was worth it.
Daft Punk, “Touch”
In the last few days and weeks of 1 B.R.A.M., I told anyone who asked that I was steeling myself for minor disappointment with the album. I knew that I had filled my internal hype reservoir to such an insane depth that it would take a flawless, life-altering record to justify my expectations. It’s been roughly two days since I heard Random Access Memories for the first time, and it’s not quite on that level, mostly because the level itself is unattainable by design. But there are moments and segments that leave me thinking that the hype might’ve been justified anyway, and a few such moments make up “Touch,” a supremely batshit, utterly brilliant odyssey bracketed by the album’s two most immediate tracks.
As “Touch” moves through its eight-plus minute runtime, it’s backlit by a palpable joy and reverence for a wider range of concepts and sounds than just “dance music”: operatic musicals, ABBA-style pop, interstellar fables, the simple, elementary click of a beautiful melody or the harmony of notes blending together. Many of the album’s best moments exist because Daft Punk had the power, vision, and money to find collaborators and performers with the skill to take that joy and reverence and translate it into song: the sheen and glow of “Lose Yourself to Dance” and “Get Lucky,” the wistfulness of “Fragments of Time,” the sheer scope of “Contact.” (It doesn’t get much bigger than having NASA give you carte blanche when you need a sample.) The idea motivating “Touch” is humanity, and our everyday struggle to maintain and find it within ourselves and the people around us. Daft Punk found Paul Williams for this, a man who has written an anthem for legendary puppets and written and performed a movie musical in the guise of a disfigured phantom; he’s excellent, ably emoting through the disco of the song’s first third and returning to close the narrative loop at its end.
I’m more interested in what comes between, as “Touch” jumps from funk to jaunty, brassy pop to sweeping, electro-cosmic vocoder-choral fantasia to a bouncing orchestral return. There’s an ambiguity to the lyric that holds these movements together as they spiral out of control and fly back into orbit that’s ineffably human: “Hold on, if love is the answer you want // Hold on, if love is the answer you’re wrong // Hold on, if love is the answer you’re home.” Being alive means that any of the three options above can be true at any given time. They aren’t mutually exclusive, either: love can at once be the answer you want and also totally the wrong answer. It’s a remarkably honest, organic statement, maybe the most touching one on an album from two robots whose best moments tap into a wholly unsynthetic, semi-unexplainable magic.
11. “The Game of Love”
10. “Giorgio by Moroder”
9. “Give Life Back to Music”
7. “Doin’ It Right”
5. “Instant Crush”
4. “Lose Yourself to Dance”
3. “Get Lucky”
2. “Fragments of Time”