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Sun Baron and "How to Be"; an Interview with Justin Rose

We have a lot of hard-working creators on board the Chroma train (#noflex). To be prolific in your craft is not only to do something well, but to do it repeatedly, earnestly, whether it’s effortless or exhausting. As a huge fan of Justin Rose’s band Families for around 4 years, How to Be caught me by surprise (I mean, I didn’t even know who Sun Baron was supposed to be as I saw the name crop up on the Broken Light production list.) I was surprised not only for the album being an impressive new sound for Justin, but in showing me that even after hearing dozens of songs that he had some central part in writing that I can still be enlightened and inspired by my friend. Today’s interview dives deeper into the wonderful substance of this wonderful album.

Fallon: Without the posterity of dicing up genres here, I want to say I'm really in love How to Be's melodic emo song structure being partnered with minimal folk arrangements, making nods to artists like Julien Baker or Now, Now Every Children (once the bells come in on songs like "Honest.") I'm curious to hear about your process for crafting the sound of this record: how much of a role did musical references and influences play to form this gentle-yet-emotive record?

Justin: Honestly, I didn’t have any musical references in mind when creating the album, but one of my biggest influences has always been Red House Painters. I think they are a perfect example of what I am trying to do. With this album, though, I was more interested in figuring out how my writing style would translate to a “full band” sound. The writing process was very similar to the folk songs that I write, but I just recorded them on electric [guitar] and added drums. I listen to mostly indie rock and emo, but I write folk songs. I haven’t really listened to folk in many years.

F: How to Be makes arguments for a slower, more appreciative approach to life in spite of busyness and the passing of our short lives. What moves me most is in the message's taking root in humble environmental observations alongside vulnerable and personal life stories. The delivery is confident and these devices are often intertwined. Do you feel there to be an importance in associating the narrative of your life with your environment? How deliberate was your inclusion of these inspirations?

J: The connection between nature and my personal narrative was very intentional. First off, we are all products of our environments. This is in both positive and negative ways. Acknowledging and accepting that can lead to greater understanding and personal growth. Secondly, I was thinking a lot about when Jesus told the people that birds have everything they need and yet they don’t sow or reap and that flowers do not work yet they are clothed in splendor. Nature can teach us a lot about God’s faithfulness and how he is the Sustainer. Third, I wanted to learn to be still like an oak tree, learning how to exist well where I am, sending down deep roots. 

F: Those who are familiar with Sun Baron but not with who you are (being Justin Rose) might see the tag "writes too many songs" and be slightly underwhelmed at the 7 song tracklist; those familiar with you know you have more than 3 full-length albums and 3 splits recorded with your band Families, as well as another album coming up with Junia. What motivated you to begin writing songs under the Sun Baron moniker, as opposed to with Families or Junia? How has your creative process differed when it comes to Sun Baron?

J: Families songs are more stripped down, have folky arrangements, and are usually based on Bible stories. Junia is a pop-emocore band that is vaguely political. I found myself writing some songs that did not really fit the feel or content of my other bands, and so I decided to record a “solo” album. The writing process is a little different because no one else was involved in the orchestration or lyrics or feel. The process was also very different because I started writing songs with personal stories in them. Even though I’ve been writing songs for about 18 years, this is one of the first times that I am telling autobiographical stories (or at least partially autobiographical). It’s much harder for me to write songs about my own feelings or thoughts or memories than it is to tell someone else’s story. Also, there were a lot of songs that I decided not to record and put on the album. I thought that these seven songs summed up what I was feeling and thinking at the time.

F: Now that How to Be has had over a year to ruminate as a released project (and even longer as a project in your head), have your feelings on what you've shared developed or changed through the finality of release, or perhaps through feedback from listeners?

J: Some of these songs have been around for 6 or so years. I almost view this as a compilation of songs about learning to slow down and be in the moment. I like the album a lot more now than I did when I put it out, and I think that it really captures well what I was feeling and thinking. I was really against having “A Meadow” as the opening track, but I took the advice of a friend of mine and, of course, they were right; I think that song was the right one to start the album. I have been really encouraged and blessed with all of the positive feedback. Many people have told me that they have been learning similar things and are trying to slow down in order to see the people, blessings, and world around them.

F: Though everyone reading this BETTER have listened to How to Be prior to its one year celebration, if you had to recommend one song off the album to a new listener, which song would it be and how does it represent the album as a whole?

J: I think the song that best sums up the album is “Yellow House.” It’s about this house that I used to see all the time when I lived in Detroit. The roof was almost completely gone and there was a humongous tree growing through the middle. The tree must have been at least 40 years old. This song blends my story, what I’ve been learning, and nature imagery to stress the point of learning how to just… BE.

F: And not to contradict savoring the present moment, but as our last question here: what Sun Baron goodness do we have to look forward to, as well as any other projects you want to share both within and outside of Chroma?

J: Families hopes to record a new album sometime soon. We have about 16 songs to sift through to create an album called Mother, which consists of stories from the Bible about women. Junia has an album coming out soon called Everything’s a Canyon and is about the importance of understanding each other and collaboration. As for Sun Baron, I have been writing an album called Tender Shoot which is a bunch of stories from my life that all deal with different wants to understand the metaphor of a garden. Right now there are no plans to record, but I have played a few of the songs live.

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You can listen to Sun Baron’s How to Be on Spotify and the usual streaming places. Download the album for pay-what-you-want over on Bandcamp. And if you want to catch Sun Baron live, catch upcoming dates over on Facebook.

Friends of Chroma: Chris Bernstorf and "It's All Joy"


For this special episode of Chroma and Friends I had the opportunity to do an email interview with spoken word poet and my pal, Chris Bernstorf. Chris has been touring and performing poetry since 2010; since 2015 I’ve gotten to know him through various tours and festivals and conversations that lasted until sunrise. Today, Chris gives us a detailed look at his new album It’s All Joy and reflects on his experiences as a traveling artist, an advocate for meaningful spirituality, and a plain ‘ol human. Give it a listen, then come back here and read what he has to say.

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Fallon: Before we dive into your latest release, It’s All Joy, I wanted to highlight the “prologue” of sorts to your tour that you sent to your email list, an open letter called The Gazebo Matters. It brings the sort of attention to the value of creativity we here at Chroma really resonate with. In the letter, you lay out an argument for why people, regardless of their beliefs or circumstances, have a need for creativity, the conclusion being that it is a vessel for hope. Could you give an example of how art, either in its creation or appreciation, has impacted you and/or your community in such a way that it inspired this kind of hope?

Chris: Art has given me hope in so many ways.  I think two examples that come to mind right now are from Levi the Poet and Kevin Schlereth. Levi has so many lines that stick with me and inspire me. “I’d rather have You than all of my answers,” from his album Correspondence gave words to so many different feelings and longings I had churning in my spirit, feelings I couldn’t express but I could sense burning inside. It came as a relief to me, allowing me to finally understand and handle everything I could feel inside of me and also allowing me to express those feelings to others.  I have so often felt that, no matter what pain or confusion has come my way, no matter what difficult experience, somehow God is still there and still worth the suffering, and hearing that line from Levi allowed me to put that into words in a coherent, concise, clear way. That line has blessed me so much. Other lines from Levi, like “Three-in-One be the breathe in my lungs,” have worked their way into my prayer life and become the actual words that I speak to God because they seem to best express what my heart longs for. The first time I heard “Tables” from the band Kevin Schlereth, I was sitting on the floor in my friends’ kitchen. As Kevin and Jay were singing, I was nodding along, enjoying the new song as just a new piece of art my friends had made. When the chorus hit though, a simple refrain of “Jesus, it’s hard,” I wept. I was at a point in my life of working through a deep conflict with one of my best friends, a conflict that also seemed to threaten the beginning of my relationship with my now wife, and a massive implosion within my friend group in which many of the most important people in my life were tearing each other apart over a massively difficult issue. All of this combined with the normal growth and struggles with life and faith that I, like everyone, experience and work through. It created this huge, heavy weight in my heart, and hearing “Tables” acknowledge the hardship and give me words to express it (and also words to cry out to God from it) was such a relief and a catharsis. It felt like God saw me in my pain and reached out to acknowledge me, to commiserate, to hold me in it, and to give me and remind me of His hope and promises. I was so powerfully moved, and that song has continued to mean so much to me and I think so much to all of my friends who struggled in the situations we shared and also in their own ways. To be seen in the pain, to have someone agree with you that it’s hard down here (something the Church doesn’t always do a good job of), to have someone offer you a cry for and promise of hope that is visceral and real and knows this world’s pain in a real way, to have someone do all of that in a non-bullshit way that points to God’s very words, that isn’t just making up some nice platitude, means so, so much. I am so thankful for that song (and the whole Catechism record it comes from).

F: Let's start off talking about It's All Joy with a doozy of a question, one I’ve been wrestling with since first listening to your album. The most popular generalizations that surround poets often include characterizing them as elusive, codifying their every intention, brooding in quiet rage, pining for resolution they might never attain— but take a cursory glance at the music video for “Swing” and those generalizations are quickly challenged. Deeper still, the way that you operate as an artist places you in close proximity with fellow creatives and fans; it’s hard not to get to know you a little bit if someone follows your work. With the extremely personal nature of It’s All Joy in mind, how do you approach the communication of your identity through your poetry? Are there certain characteristics or ideas you try to project over others? Do you find yourself struggling with any sort of pressures to present yourself a certain way?

C: I don’t think poetry always gives me an issue with how I present myself but rather just living as a person. I’ve struggled a ton with insecurity over the course of my life, with wanting to be accepted and found to be “good enough” in whatever relationship or circumstance I find myself. Those struggles obviously work very directly against any sort of vulnerability, and vulnerability is one of the most crucial aspects of making art and of just living the way we were created (i.e. in healthy, joyful, growing relationship with God, ourselves, and each other). Learning to be vulnerable, learning to express everything I feel in Godly, healthy ways, has been a huge struggle and growth process over the course of my life. We joke often of the death of “posi-Chris” back in 2015. In the fall of that year, I did a giant tour with my friends in Kept On Hold (and a few others who hopped on at different points). Andrew from Kept On Hold and I were together for 120 days straight. He is one of my best friends, and that experience brought us even closer. Through it, he started to really work with me on expressing my emotions. Before then, I thought that feeling angry or bothered or upset or sad or hurt were “bad” and therefore sins. Andrew helped me learned to express everything I thought, even the hard stuff, and it really changed my whole entire life. Learning to be honest with God brought me so much closer to Him, brought me so much closer to friends and family, and I think just made me all around a better person, artist, and performer. I’ve also really learned a lot from my friend Kevin Schlereth about how faith works and that we as Christians shouldn’t be trying to “sell” anything. Faith isn’t a matter of convincing someone, of proving to God that you really believe or of proving that to others. The Bible says that God’s strength is made complete in our weakness and that we should rejoice in weakness and suffering and trial. I’ve learned so much the last few years about learning to just be exactly who I am, warts and all, as the phrase goes, and letting God be Himself in that. Radical honesty has led me to radical freedom and healing and love. I heard a Matt Chandler sermon back in 2015 where he said something akin to, “Hey, if you don’t believe God is good, that’s fine, but you need to tell Him, so He can heal you.” I remember sitting on my bed at 25 years old, long into this whole sharing Jesus through art thing, and telling God that I just didn’t believe He was good or had my best interests in mind. I told Him I knew that I should, but I just didn’t. As soon as I admitted that, I felt something inside my heart break and the Spirit just rush in, and I’ve known since (albeit, with your expected moments of doubt and uncertainty) in a very real way that God is good and does have my best interest in mind. But I didn’t find any healing until I told the truth about where I was at. I keep thinking about how the crippled guy on the mat doesn’t say to Jesus “What mat? I’m not paralyzed” when Jesus says pick up your mat and walk. He knows he’s crippled, and he knows he needs healing. This has transferred over a ton into my art because I’m just trying to tell the truth as best as I can and let God have the pieces fall where they may. The band Eight Days from December described themselves as an act of vulnerability in the hopes that others could be vulnerable with them. Reading that really changed me, and I think it puts into words what I’m working for in my art—the belief that the best art comes from vulnerability and honesty and, through offering that, the immense power of art as commiseration and vision-giver with can be extended to everyone who interacts with my art.

So, yes, I guess all of that to say, it’s hard and scary, but I’m trying more and more to just be vulnerable in my art and my life and to let the pieces fall where they may. I grew up in neon-Warped Tour music culture, so I considered giving my project a name when it began. However, under the influence of stuff like The Chariot and what I was learning about punk and hardcore, I realized the best thing I could be is raw and honest. No matter what I called this all, people would know it’s just some guy up there named Chris. They could know it and see it, and I knew it and could see it (obviously), so I decided to just admit it, call it out, and be myself. Sometimes, my poems have real separations between the speaker and myself as the poet, and often I do the V-for-Vendetta bit of “artists use lies to tell the truth”—like in “Move,” my parents didn’t have a basement for me to live in, but the sentiment of that is true for where I was in my life—but, ultimately, I just want to offer where I am and what I know as best and honestly as I can. The decision to incorporate really extra specific stuff in this album (stuff like my friends’ names and things like that) came from my friend Janelle Maree. She writes these intensely, intensely personal poems and, through doing so, achieves these universal experiences and truths. It’s really beautiful and incredible to experience and really inspired me to give it a try and push in even deeper to it than usual.

F: With 4 studio albums, a collection of b-sides, and a bunch of other ventures including a short film and an anthology of your poetry, you’ve had a lot of time and projects over which to develop your writing process. On the craft side of things, how did you approach creating the poems for It’s All Joy, from conception, putting them on paper, and bringing them into spoken word?

C: It’s All Joy has been coming together for over four years.  My general writing process essentially looks like “write whenever you can and just let it build up until it seems right to put something out.” Because Yellow is its own ep, I found that a lot of people saw my discography sort of in this dichotomy of love poems and not-love poems. I saw myself doing that a lot, too—honestly, I might have been the worst culprit at times. In my mind, all of them are the same—like, all of my poems always are doing the same thing—no matter what the topic, I hope they all are illuminating the truth of the human experience and pointing to God. For Christians, too, we seem to have this tendency to see life as doing stuff for God and then, “oh, also you fall in love,” but, in reality, Song of Songs is in the Bible—it’s not the separate sex book they hand you to figure that part of life out. It’s all there. It’s all one. So, I’ve dreamt of the love poems and not love poems all being together on one album, working very visibly together towards this one goal of illuminating the character of God and human experience. As I’ve grown in relationship with my wife, from expressing feelings to dating to engagement to marriage, the Bible’s promise that marriage is a metaphor for Christ’s love for His Church has proven so true and real, so being able to delve into that and put to words so much of what I’ve been experience and discovering in our relationship meant so much and was so cool for me. The idea of oneness, of the oneness of everything, all of experience pointing us to God and everything being a metaphor for something else and always pointing us to God, has been churning and cooking around in my heart for two or three years at least. “Swing” was almost on The Sidewalk Hymns, but I didn’t know what to do with it at the time, so I had just been sitting on it. The last song from the Spider Mansion ep finally helped me figure out what to do with it—I just didn’t get the poem. It just felt like this really fast “yell piece”, but I didn’t know how to contextualize it in my mind. That last song on the Spider Mansion ep is less than two minutes long I think, and most of the meat of the song is even shorter—it’s just this badass riff and then it’s kind of over. And that made me realize you can just put out art in whatever shape it takes (I probably should’ve known that sooner, but hey). So, I started viewing “Swing” as just this really sick, badass roar of a riff, and that let me keep it as a poem. When I went to put the album together and get it going this year, about half of it was written already over the last few years (“Doing This” dates back to college for me, so it’s like 6 or 8 years old) and then I had a ton of little drafts and pieces of stuff that I’d been working on and this idea of oneness and the physical circle metaphor churning in me for a couple years. It had just been baking and baking, and I’d been thinking and thinking and praying and talking to people about it. So the other half of the album came out of a ton of freewriting and piecing through all the different drafts and pieces of stuff and ideas I had. I’ve gotten a bit more lazy with page arrangement in the writing process because I do spoken word primarily, but I try to make every poem work on the page first and then learn it as a spoken word piece and figure out how to say it. The figuring out how to say it happens in practice and then also sometimes as we are recording them (I learned how I wanted “Geography” to go kind of as I was recording it).

F: The videos for “Swing” and “Facts” both have a surrealness to them that feels connected (to me, at least) despite the contrast of how silly “Swing” is and the focused, endearing nature of “Facts.” How did you go about choosing these two poems for videos? And what drew you toward the togetherness of these two themes as they continue a sort of partnership throughout It’s All Joy?

C: That’s really cool that you felt that way about the videos—I’m not sure we made a conscious tonal connection between the two—that’s God just doing something cool. We just tried to be as true to the tones and spirits of both poems as we could. I think the surrealness that you’re identifying though is a major theme on the album though, and one that’s come to mean a lot to me in the last few years. It started with “152.42” from The Sidewalk Hymns and has carried over for me. It’s just fucking incredible that we are here at all. What does it even mean to have consciousness? We are all just a bunch of tiny dots on some plane of existence (we don’t even really know what we are on—paint goes on canvas, cars go on roads, what is our essence as people on? What are we even standing on) that have some electricity zapping around in us and then we build and create and love and experience joy and emotion. What on earth? We are living in a constant, unfathomable, weird, fantastic miracle at every moment. No matter one’s world view, we absolutely must agree that it’s really fucking weird and insane and incredible and wonderful that we are here at all—whether there was some explosion or a sentient God speaking us into existence, whatever you believe, it’s insane that we are here. The awe and marvel at that miracle have really informed so much of my art and faith and life since I realized it was a miracle in the first place. I keep repeating to people at shows and to my wife the line from “Sci-fi”: “How could a miracle touch this place in the timeline and for me and not leave?” I really just can’t even fathom it—when I look at my wife, when I look at the life I get to lead, touring and living in close community and relationship with so many incredible people, when I think about even being here at all, when I think about God, it’s all too wonderful and amazing for me and I think the acknowledgement of the surrealness of life runs through the whole album and right out through my whole life and outlook.

Oh, and we chose those two poems because we loved them, have had them done and recorded for a while, and had very specific visions for both videos of what we wanted to do with them. We had the ideas and had the poems done, so it just seemed right. We actually shot “The Facts” video last summer, so we’ve been sitting on that one for a long while.

F: Any chance we can get the lore behind the mac n’ cheese bath?

C: The year is 2017, and Amanda (not my wife then, just my friend with whom I had a mutual set of feelings), myself, and our friends Hannah (of Formerly Bodies) and Ashley (of Amessa, rip) are on a trip to the northern part of Michigan to pick flowers for my upcoming poem “Unfold” (we pressed the flowers inside lathe cuts of the poem).  “Cherry Garcia” by Dingus is playing loud in the speakers, and we are driving in joy through the sunshine and warmth. I explained the idea of the poem “Swing,” and we all start to riff on the zaniest, most ridiculous, celebrate-life, head-first-in-joy, crazy shit that we could possibly do for the video (originally, the idea was to throw a 24-hour “do crazy stuff adventure” party and try to film and edit while it was happening and have it done in 24 hours). We brainstormed a ton of stuff, and the mac-n-cheese bath and hot sauce drink just sort of materialized from that, and we kept it.


F: The range of circumstances and themes on It's All Joy is quite broad, from your relationship with your wife Amanda to your parents to the rejection of hopelessness through faith. If you had to share with someone just one track from the album that captures the core of these topical intersections, which would it be?

C: I think “One” is the track. This is the most conceptually I’ve ever worked for an album I think. Yellow was love poems. All the other releases have been gathering together what I have and feel like I should put out, and seeing how they work together and finding a title that best encapsulates them. For this album, I really wanted to try to have the poems work together, to reference each other, and to be headed towards and end goal, and I think they all sort of wrap up together and reach their pinnacle in “One.” It pulls from all the themes and works them all together into the sort of final statement/culmination of all the ideas.

F: And finally, if you have anything in the works you want to share, now’s the chance! We know you’re on tour, but what else is in store for Chris Bernstorf?

C: Um, honestly, we aren’t really sure. Amanda and I just had a brainstorm session yesterday. We have a lot of ideas of stuff we want to do, and so we are just praying about what we should do next and when. We have a lot of tour plans—this release tour runs into a few more dates that aren’t currently on the flier. We have a small break and then we head to Germany and Austria for a short run of shows. We are then hoping to tour most of/a lot of the rest of the year and are just praying about what form that should take. We really, really love It’s All Joy, so I think we really want to push it and share it as much as we can. We loved the videos we did, so I think we are hoping to do some more videos, hopefully both performance-based ones and more “art-piece” kinds of ones. We are excited to experiment and explore with those—Amanda does all of the video work and has a real natural knack for it, so we are stoked to see what else we can figure out doing. We have a couple book ideas and a few other future release thoughts and dreams. For now, it’s a lot of praying and dreaming. I’m excited to see where God takes us next. We can’t believe all we’ve already gotten to do and how beautiful it all is. We feel like we are just sort of along for the ride and watching it all, too.

It’s All Joy, as well as all of my other releases, are available for free via Bandcamp and can also be streamed everywhere music is had.  My book So Far, and the smaller 152.42 book that is included within So Far, can be downloaded for free via my website (www.chrisbernstorf.com). We don’t think art belongs to us and are really thankful we get to share what we’ve been given.


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Be sure to follow those links to get more of Chris! Also, hear Chris and a ton of other awesome artists over on the Chroma and Friends Spotify playlist.

- Fallon

Friends of Chroma: Careful Gaze's Newest, You Too Will Rest

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“This is an album about extinguishing hatred.

This is an album about eliminating bigotry and unnecessary judgments / labels.

This is an album about including and loving those different than you.”

These declarations headline the foreword for Careful Gaze’s newest full-length album You Too Will Rest, a body of work extended as an invitation toward the challenge, solidarity, and encouragement found within. You Too Will Rest is a fast-moving, highly polished record that seamlessly blends poppy-rock hooks that fully embody their highly emotional content with intense, technical post-hardcore riffs and progressions. Songs often begin with a straightforward, honest lyric or catchy melody, then continually introduce layers of musical depth; whether you’re exploring that technical breakdown or hooked on a chorus, you’re coming back to these songs.

Careful Gaze thrives on this juxtaposition of ideas, whether contrasting complexity against simplicity, combining dark lyrical themes with an energy of excitement in the music, or pushing forth ideas of life’s ambiguity through an austere boldness that is equal parts personal and authoritative. Gabe Reasoner, the lead vocalist, bassist, and synth player for the band, puts his heart on his sleeve (for real, check out the commentary on You Too Will Rest), providing a sympathetic voice to those who struggle with personal and existential rejection, both internal and external. Several members of us here at Chroma are thankful to him and the band for being so enthusiastic in sharing this sincerity through shows and deliberate conversations (I remember when it was just Gabe screaming over a keyboard as Hunter Dumped Us Here; now here we are!).

You can listen to You Too Will Rest in its entirety over at carefulgaze.com. If nothing else, give the first track “Highways, Sideways” a chance over on the Chroma and Friends Spotify Playlist. Once it’s stuck in your head (like it always is in mine), you’ll need to hear it live at one of these shows as Careful Gaze heads out their album release tour.

-Fallon

NAAL's Latest Full-Length Album "0-0-0" Out Now!

Today marks the release of 0-0-0 (or “Aughts”), David Mantel’s latest solo ambient effort. You can listen to it right now on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, and Bandcamp. You can even pick up the digital deluxe edition or a physical copy of the album over on Bandcamp or naalmusic.com.

If you haven’t already, read more about the album’s inception here on our blog!

Music Reviews and Mindfulness

Band: “We’ve finally done it… We’ve passed the test. We’ve created the perfect album!”
Band Grandma: “What’s all this racket?”
Band: “But Grandma… They gave us a 10 out of 10. You don’t like it?”

It's pretty easy to establish that the enjoyment of music is subjective. There are cultural and personal influences (there may even be others, such as instinct and genetics) that shape and define what we enjoy and seek out from music. As social creatures, with friend groups, opinion-centric public platforms, and economic agendas, we find it relevant to listen and share what music we enjoy with others. Nothing problematic so far.

Consider how we communicate personal taste. There are technical descriptions, emotive expressions, lyrical dissections, contextual observations, and so on. In any descriptive case of a subjective matter, there are points that can be described objectively (e.g. notes that were played correctly, genre identifications), but elements of personal connection (let’s call it ‘bias’) color our perspective (e.g. relating to lyrical topics, valuing an artist’s moral stance). 

A general “X out of Y” score for an album cannot stand as an accurate account of the nuances of a reviewer’s opinion. Even if a following a clearly established rubric, subjective standards can easily be factored into whether or not a game receives a “positive” or “negative” score. Then consider the reader, how they are subject to various numerical grading standards across various review outlets only to decide that nothing less than an “80%” rating deserves their time. What’s worse is how easy it is to skip the heart of a review, the body text, in favor of the quick judgment made in reading a number.

So what can we do to get the most out of music reviews? 

On the writer/publisher side of things, some outlets, such as geek culture website Kotaku, fancy a review summary technique that gives a quick rundown of likes and dislikes, as well as the reviewer’s experience with the subject being reviewed. This not only encourages the reader to refer to the body text for greater detail, but it serves as a reminder that this is a human (not a robocorp) interpreting their own limited experience into words, which are also limited. This is not the only way to form a summation (some may even argue summations hurt reviews), but it is a step closer toward more clearly communicated opinions.

Some summary formats to consider:
Album likes & dislikes.
A general recommendation: "yes"; "no"; yes (but).
“For fans of” (commonly tagged at the bottom of a review “FFO: Qajaq, B.B. King, Slayer”)
“If you like X song from the album, you’ll probably enjoy the whole thing.”
No summary; emphasize processing body text of the reviewer’s opinion.

On the reader/listener side of things, the goal is mindfulness. Be aware that the review you read, listen to, or watch comes from the opinion of someone whom you may or may not agree with. Your own listening is similarly limited and uniquely valuable, so keep the compatibility of your biases in mind. Don’t forget to respect the opinions of others as well! The comments section is, too often, a dark place...

The music world/industry can be pretty tough as is. Then throw in the hinging of attention, reputation, and revenue on an arbitrary number and matters are all the more daunting. We can create a more patient and intentional attitude toward sharing new music by thinking critically about the endless wonders of music and the human lens we view it through.