Computer Love

Talking to Moebius Rex's Matt Ness in the first ever "Ask a Music Blogger"

For those of you cave dwellers and Windows 95 users who haven't heard yet, music blogs are one of the best places to discover new music in this here digital age of ours. Bloggers are like music fan ninjas: They owe allegiance to no one; they sneak silently through the ether discovering the bands you'll be reading about nine months before you read about them; they have been known to assassinate emperors. So in the interest of paying respect to and getting the word out on these shadowy figures, I've put together the first installment of "Ask a Music Blogger." This week's guest blogger is a sweet dude named Matt Ness, a Bay Area resident who hosts Moebius Rex (moebius_rex.livejournal.com). Matt is tall and shy and knows a shitload about music. Here are some of the things he knows.

Garrett Kamps: We're just past the halfway point of 2005. Can you pick out a front-runner for album of the year?

Matt Ness: It's a bit hard for me to say, because I've never been the sort of music fan who compulsively makes "best of" lists. But I can tell you that the Hold Steady's Separation Sunday has been the album with the most recall in my aural Rolodex thus far. It's a perfect sonic dish of soulful, gritty blues-rawk, sharply seasoned by Craig Finn's visceral and blackly humorous portraits of small-town Midwestern life. [Oh, he's good, this Ness.]

GK: What about song of the year?

MN: I'll slide all the way pop on this one and pick the obvious Song of Summer 2005: Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl." It's really been getting a lot of play in my car -- that's where I end up doing the bulk of my music listening, actually -- partly because it's a lot of fun to blast out the windows as I navigate S.F.'s crazy traffic situations. Diplo's version of the track is especially fresh.

GK:What's been the most popular song downloaded off your blog lately?

MN: Hard Fi's "Hard to Beat" appears to be the top track of the summer, as far as my blog goes. It's an insanely catchy pop-rock song with a dance-club beat by a British band that I think could be on the verge of a major breakthrough if they keep building momentum. And -- unsurprisingly -- the DFA reconstruction of Soulwax's "NY Excuse" is in second place.

GK:Any surprises so far this year? Songs you hated that went on to become hits? Songs that bombed that you might have thought were no- brainers?

MN: I don't know about particular songs -- I don't usually track music scenes at that level of granularity -- but I will say that I'm a bit dismayed at the ongoing reluctance to give serious stateside promotion to the top players in U.K. hip hop. Folks like Wiley, Kano, Lady Sovereign, Shystie, and at the very least Roots Manuva deserve a higher profile out here. I think folks heard Dizzy Rascal -- who is actually one of the more abrasive of the U.K. "grime" bunch -- and just turned their ears off.

GK:What about on the local front? What local bands are on your radar at the moment?

MN: I'm starting to pay a lot of attention to the burgeoning Bay Area hip hop scene, which for some time now has been all about artists from Vallejo and East Oakland, like Frontline, Turf Talk, Keak da Sneak, and Ea-Ski. I'm especially interested in Balance -- he's got all the hustle and flow you might require to catch on in a big way if given half a chance. Stay tuned for his upcoming album The Day That Kali Died. It would be great to see the U.S. go "super-hyphie" with Yay Area rap in the upcoming year.

GK:Which music blogs out there are your favorites? Where do you go to find out about new music?

MN: Well, blogs like Said the Gramophone (www.saidthegramophone.com) and Fluxblog (www.fluxblog.org) inspired me to get into the MP3-plugging business, and they still deliver. The blog that I find most plug-worthy these days is Moistworks (www.moistworks.com), which recently evolved from a one-man operation into something quite transcendent: a collective of professional music journalists, posting wonderful sets of songs from their vast record collections and writing up erudite, entertaining commentary for them. Each new entry delivers a delightful and educational listening/reading experience.

GK:What's something about the music business that you'd like to see change?

MN: I think every music blogger -- or at least the music bloggers who post MP3s -- would like to see the music industry lose its overwhelming paranoia regarding MP3 file-sharing. Or at least temper it into some sort of rational perspective. We often feel like we're in a weird position -- having music sent to us for promotion by artists and labels on one hand and overshadowed by the looming specter of the RIAA on the other.

GK: What's one of the more positive things that's happening right now for bands and fans?

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