8 Musicians Who Double as Critics

03/23/2012 9:50 AM |


This week, the New York Times profiled Daniel Martin-McCormick’s deeply catchy dance music project Ital, following a Village Voice cover story . And while Martin-McCormick is a musician with numerous acclaimed albums to his credit, he’s also a critic, contributing regularly to the music website Dusted. (Full disclosure: I’m also a contributor there; the world of music writers is a small one, and several of the people profiled below are acquaintances or friends.) Martin-McCormick is far from the only critic to also be an active musician: As Jim DeRotagis’s biography points out, Lester Bangs recorded a proto-alt-country album with the Delinquents, called Jook Savages on the Brazos; SPIN editor Christopher Weingarten spent several years as the drummer of Parts & Labor; and Carrie Brownstein once maintained a blog about music called Monitor Mix for NPR. Between the recent attention paid to Ital and the presence in New York this weekend of the Experience Music Project’s Pop Conference (which features a number of people who straddle the critic/musician divide), it seemed appropriate to spotlight a few other critics who make music. Or, depending on how you look at it, musicians who also write criticism.

Tobi Vail
If you’re a fan of deeply vital punk rock, it’s likely that you’ve heard Tobi Vail’s drumming — either through her work with Bikini Kill, or more recently with the garage punk band The Old Haunts. Vail’s also an astute critic, essayist, and documentarian of all things DIY, and recently contributed this essay on The Who to eMusic.

Matt LeMay
Matt LeMay is a regular contributor to Pitchfork; he’s also written a book in the 33 1/3 series about Elliott Smith’s XO. He spent the better part of the last decade as the frontman of the smart pop band Get Him Eat Him, who released several albums on the fine, now-defunct Absolutely Kosher; he’s since joined the long-running indiepop band Kleenex Girl Wonder, and has begun work on a number of singles.

Franklin Bruno
Franklin Bruno, recently named the music editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books, has both series academic credentials and a fine ear as a songwriter. He’s written about music for years, and has also released a number of acclaimed albums with Nothing Painted Blue, The Human Hearts, and The Extra Lens—the latter of which is a collaboration with Mountain Goats mainstay John Darnielle.

Daniel Martin-McCormick
With Ital’s Hive Mind earning rave reviews, Martin-McCormick’s lengthy and wide-ranging discography
(he’s also a current member of the duo Mi Ami, and a former member of Black Eyes.) You might also know him from his reviews in Dusted, including looks at albums from Matthew Herbert and Walter Gibbons.