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Scott Miller has released more than a dozen albums with his bands Game Theory and the Loud Family, and his music has been described as "a cross between Alex Chilton, James Joyce, and the Electric Prunes" (Stereo Review) and "smart, funny, and instantly memorable" (Rolling Stone). In this book, Miller writes about each of the past 53 years in popular music-1957-2009- via co Scott Miller has released more than a dozen albums with his bands Game Theory and the Loud Family, and his music has been described as "a cross between Alex Chilton, James Joyce, and the Electric Prunes" (Stereo Review) and "smart, funny, and instantly memorable" (Rolling Stone). In this book, Miller writes about each of the past 53 years in popular music-1957-2009- via countdown song lists, blending the perspectives of a serious musician, a thoughtful critic, and an all-devouring music fan. Miller not only tells you why he loves particular songs, but also what was going on in the musical world in which they competed to be heard.


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Scott Miller has released more than a dozen albums with his bands Game Theory and the Loud Family, and his music has been described as "a cross between Alex Chilton, James Joyce, and the Electric Prunes" (Stereo Review) and "smart, funny, and instantly memorable" (Rolling Stone). In this book, Miller writes about each of the past 53 years in popular music-1957-2009- via co Scott Miller has released more than a dozen albums with his bands Game Theory and the Loud Family, and his music has been described as "a cross between Alex Chilton, James Joyce, and the Electric Prunes" (Stereo Review) and "smart, funny, and instantly memorable" (Rolling Stone). In this book, Miller writes about each of the past 53 years in popular music-1957-2009- via countdown song lists, blending the perspectives of a serious musician, a thoughtful critic, and an all-devouring music fan. Miller not only tells you why he loves particular songs, but also what was going on in the musical world in which they competed to be heard.

30 review for Music: What Happened?

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    When I first started reading Scott Miller’s Music: What Happened?, I told myself that I didn’t have to listen to every song. In each chapter Miller — who fronted cult-pop bands Game Theory and The Loud Family — ranks his favorite tracks of the year, from 1957 to 2011. With about 20 songs on each list, that’s well over 1000 songs. Given that it took me 18 months to finish the book, you can probably guess what happened. From the start, I found Miller to be such an insightful critic and kindred spir When I first started reading Scott Miller’s Music: What Happened?, I told myself that I didn’t have to listen to every song. In each chapter Miller — who fronted cult-pop bands Game Theory and The Loud Family — ranks his favorite tracks of the year, from 1957 to 2011. With about 20 songs on each list, that’s well over 1000 songs. Given that it took me 18 months to finish the book, you can probably guess what happened. From the start, I found Miller to be such an insightful critic and kindred spirit, that I just had to hear the songs he was writing about. How can you internalize a comment like “…on this one you can really hear the volume drop to a soft plateau and lock onto a perfectly controlled vibrato…” without hearing the vibrato in question? (Frank Sinatra on 1958’s “One for My Baby, in case you’re wondering.) So I started reading a chapter at a time, then listening to each song on Spotify while consulting the book to catch some of the more specific references. This approach allowed me to absorb the big picture of each year, while picking up on a lot of subtleties of individual songs. The whole experience turned into an immersive journey through pop music, during which I gained a fresh perspective on favorite songs, rediscovered some I had forgotten, and learned a lot of new ones. I also gained a huge appreciation for Scott Miller, who knows music, but who more importantly loves music — and who is genuinely very funny. In the spirit of Miller’s approach, I written a more in-depth review in the form of a playlist. Each song helps illustrate an element of Music: What Happened?, along with the expressiveness of Miller’s writing and the impression it made on me. You can read the full review (and listen to to all the songs) on my blog, Sounds Delightful.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    I knew Scott Miller when he attended UC Davis in the mid-70's. I really liked his bands Alternate Learning and Game Theory. He used to shop at a record store I managed and we bonded over Big Star and Chris Stamey records. Basically, he reviews his favorite songs by year from 1957-2009. Almost all of the songs are on YouTube. Most of the reviews are great, but I especially like his viewpoint from 1977 forward. He relates to the newer bands as musical peers and brings a fresh perspective to what m I knew Scott Miller when he attended UC Davis in the mid-70's. I really liked his bands Alternate Learning and Game Theory. He used to shop at a record store I managed and we bonded over Big Star and Chris Stamey records. Basically, he reviews his favorite songs by year from 1957-2009. Almost all of the songs are on YouTube. Most of the reviews are great, but I especially like his viewpoint from 1977 forward. He relates to the newer bands as musical peers and brings a fresh perspective to what makes a song great. His review of Big Star's "Back Of A Car" is the longest review and he clearly connected with it musically. I know that Scott was making similar music well before he heard them. One of the great pleasures of this book is to listen to some of the more obscure songs cited here. He doesn't always pick the best known songs on the albums. He chose songs for the unique arrangements, production and more importantly, the emotional connection. I listened to a good number of the songs on YouTube and found more than a few of them to have similar composition management to his Game Theory songs. I enjoyed his dry humor too. For example, he describes Springsteen's "Candy's Room" as a "cross between The Raspberries and Rambo"…..

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I'll keep piecing my way slowly through this for years, and it's something I'll read and re-read in perpetuity. Music writers that can form their opinions concisely and precisely are always going to be textbooks to be studied for me -- I can do neither. Miller stands out from the Christgaus, the Shaar Murrays, the Ira Robbinses of the world by being able to talk not just about songcraft or emotional impact, but also the secrets of recording and production wizardry and the creation of pop classic I'll keep piecing my way slowly through this for years, and it's something I'll read and re-read in perpetuity. Music writers that can form their opinions concisely and precisely are always going to be textbooks to be studied for me -- I can do neither. Miller stands out from the Christgaus, the Shaar Murrays, the Ira Robbinses of the world by being able to talk not just about songcraft or emotional impact, but also the secrets of recording and production wizardry and the creation of pop classics. Most writers don't know anything about how a record gets made, how it's nuanced (or not) in the studio, or how that certain sound or style can affect a band, or even a musical era. Miller can lead us through "the dire years" of the late '80s, when it was all DX7 synths and line-in guitars and electronics, as well as the eras where the sound of a live band is favored, to the betterment of the recordings. Like I say, lots in here to come back to over and over.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    Credit to Kristen, who talked about this book for months and months and turned me on to it. Her review and blog post sum it up better than I will. This is a rare treat and a must-read for all music obsessives. Scott Miller compiles favorites for every year from 1957-2011 and each is worthwhile. A lot of people could compile a big favorites playlist like this, but few, if any, could manage what he pulls off in the accompanying writing. Scott comes across as hugely knowledgeable, but clever and hum Credit to Kristen, who talked about this book for months and months and turned me on to it. Her review and blog post sum it up better than I will. This is a rare treat and a must-read for all music obsessives. Scott Miller compiles favorites for every year from 1957-2011 and each is worthwhile. A lot of people could compile a big favorites playlist like this, but few, if any, could manage what he pulls off in the accompanying writing. Scott comes across as hugely knowledgeable, but clever and humble, and writes equally as a musician, a producer, and a fan. One can read it for its breadth, its depth, its deep-music-nerdiness, and its humor. Sometimes he helped me hear an old favorite in a new way, or just pointed out that one little bit of a chorus that tweaks the human psyche and compels them to hand over cash (or save it to a spotify playlist) to hear it again. Reading and listening through this is a time investment, and should be done carefully. It took me about six months and I still sorta think I went too fast and want to re-listen to most of it in sequence again. Scott occasionally gets bogged down picking his same favorite artists over and over, or as he himself got into the music industry, tended towards loyalty picks of friends and people he worked with. But the exact song picks don't matter that much as much as the overall effect of a far-ranging tour through the rock & pop music era. I learned so much and am really glad this book happened.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Duncan Vicat-Brown

    There are maybe five or six people in the entire world who'd write a book of 1000+ song reviews that I'd read, and even though this throws up some serious red flags (hating disco, a truly deranged amount of solo Beatles), Scott Miller - the late genius behind Game Theory and The Loud Family - blends context, passion, humour and musical nous more deftly than just about anyone. It also got me thinking, maybe not intentionally, about grief - God, there's some stuff I wish he was still around to hea There are maybe five or six people in the entire world who'd write a book of 1000+ song reviews that I'd read, and even though this throws up some serious red flags (hating disco, a truly deranged amount of solo Beatles), Scott Miller - the late genius behind Game Theory and The Loud Family - blends context, passion, humour and musical nous more deftly than just about anyone. It also got me thinking, maybe not intentionally, about grief - God, there's some stuff I wish he was still around to hear.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Grant

    Miller has a great ear and casts a wide net to find his favorite pop songs from every year since 1957. My tastes overlap with Millers (particularly in the 60s and 90s/00s), and where they don't, it's typically because I simply haven't heard the songs he's writing about. In that way, it's a great wishlist for me as I venture into the musical past with my album purchases. Miller has a great ear and casts a wide net to find his favorite pop songs from every year since 1957. My tastes overlap with Millers (particularly in the 60s and 90s/00s), and where they don't, it's typically because I simply haven't heard the songs he's writing about. In that way, it's a great wishlist for me as I venture into the musical past with my album purchases.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Micah Joel

    This is a must-read book for anyone who listens to music. Scott's perspective on things is just perfect, and I've discovered all kinds of great music I was only dimly aware of before. My only regret, and it's a doozy, is that I didn't read this (or even know about it) while Scott was still around. This is a must-read book for anyone who listens to music. Scott's perspective on things is just perfect, and I've discovered all kinds of great music I was only dimly aware of before. My only regret, and it's a doozy, is that I didn't read this (or even know about it) while Scott was still around.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    Smart, incisive, and often funny musical commentary, arranged year by year. Cover art is worth the price of admission.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

    If you love music criticism like I do, this book is an absolute quotable must. R.I.P. Scott Miller; I'm sorry to have made your acquaintance posthumously. If you love music criticism like I do, this book is an absolute quotable must. R.I.P. Scott Miller; I'm sorry to have made your acquaintance posthumously.

  10. 4 out of 5

    John

    Starts strong, peters out around 1980. He has a big focus on production.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    A fantastic book of lists although the songs from this century just rubbed my nose in how old and out of touch I am.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    Scott Miller was the creative force behind Game Theory, a smart, literate 1980s indie-pop band in the vein of The dB's, early R.E.M., and The Go-Betweens that was criminally undervalued, and The Loud Family, a 1990s powerpop band I'm less familiar with. He died suddenly and unexpectedly a few months ago at the age of 53, and I was surprised to learn from his obituaries that he'd written a book of music criticism. It's not your ordinary rock crit book. Miller picks a group of his favorite songs ( Scott Miller was the creative force behind Game Theory, a smart, literate 1980s indie-pop band in the vein of The dB's, early R.E.M., and The Go-Betweens that was criminally undervalued, and The Loud Family, a 1990s powerpop band I'm less familiar with. He died suddenly and unexpectedly a few months ago at the age of 53, and I was surprised to learn from his obituaries that he'd written a book of music criticism. It's not your ordinary rock crit book. Miller picks a group of his favorite songs (anywhere between 12 and 22) from 1957 to 2011 and writes a paragraph about each one. His insights about why he loves the songs he does are intelligent, unusual, articulate, enlightening, occasionally maddening, sometimes frustrating, and often funny. Really funny. He's not a perfect guide. He has major blind spots (country, hip-hop, riff-based garage rock and metal, the more abrasive, avant-garde side of postpunk) though he owns up to them and still manages to include several examples of each, he's a much bigger powerpop nut than I am, and some of his picks are baffling (Blues Traveler? Indigo Girls?). However, the majority of his choices are excellent, and the writing is always great. He approaches each song with the same enthusiasm, whether it be a major hit, an obscurity, a critics' favorite, or a cheeseball guilty pleasure. And I have to trust a guy who loves Guided By Voices almost as much as I do. As a fellow obsessive music fan, I made a playlist of these songs as I read the book, and I would have loved to sit down with him over a beer and talk about music.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Parker

    This is a charming little book of criticism that pretty much travels in the direction that you think. Miller is wry, sharp, envious and analytical in equal measure. It's refreshing to see a musician with such a wide breadth of knowledge while working on his own albums (though hip-hop/R&B could use a whole separate volume given how ignored it is here). The book works best when Miller articulates the nuts and bolts of the songs he loves. His writing on Kirsty MacColl's "Free World" and Sufjan Stev This is a charming little book of criticism that pretty much travels in the direction that you think. Miller is wry, sharp, envious and analytical in equal measure. It's refreshing to see a musician with such a wide breadth of knowledge while working on his own albums (though hip-hop/R&B could use a whole separate volume given how ignored it is here). The book works best when Miller articulates the nuts and bolts of the songs he loves. His writing on Kirsty MacColl's "Free World" and Sufjan Stevens's "Casimir Pulaski Day" sent chills down my spine and were worth the price of the book. Recommended for music obsessives, power pop fans, and anyone who can tolerate a conversation about chord progression.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    This is a beautiful book. I own three copies and my mother owns at least five copies. She had a brother that owned a copy, and our neighbor borrowed one of my copies and returned it to me only after he purchased his very own copy. So that's roughly three plus five plus one minus one plus one plus one copies of this book in our neighborhood alone, minus the one copy belonging to my mother's brother since he lives out of state. Anyway, where has Insane Clown Posse been all my life? This is a beautiful book. I own three copies and my mother owns at least five copies. She had a brother that owned a copy, and our neighbor borrowed one of my copies and returned it to me only after he purchased his very own copy. So that's roughly three plus five plus one minus one plus one plus one copies of this book in our neighborhood alone, minus the one copy belonging to my mother's brother since he lives out of state. Anyway, where has Insane Clown Posse been all my life?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dirk Heinz

    I enjoyed the picks each year and the reasons for the choices. He mentions re-edits of some of the songs that would be cool to hear. I wonder if anyone has put together youtube playlists of his picks. The picks already forced me to look up a dozen songs at least that I had never know about from artists I like.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tankboy

    Miller proves that we'll written capsule reviews are still a viable art form if you have the skills. The first couple decades especially helped reinvigorate some of my own views on music writing in extreme short form. Miller proves that we'll written capsule reviews are still a viable art form if you have the skills. The first couple decades especially helped reinvigorate some of my own views on music writing in extreme short form.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    I found myself disagreeing with, or being disappointed by, a fair amount of what Miller had to say in here -- but that's part of what a book like this is about; it's just one guy's opinion, and whether or not you share it, Miller presents his eloquently and with clear passion. I found myself disagreeing with, or being disappointed by, a fair amount of what Miller had to say in here -- but that's part of what a book like this is about; it's just one guy's opinion, and whether or not you share it, Miller presents his eloquently and with clear passion.

  18. 4 out of 5

    James

    I learned a lot, especially about alternative 1980s-2000s music. Author had very particular tastes in music - but that's OK. This is an interesting look into one (very talented) music-lover's mind. I learned a lot, especially about alternative 1980s-2000s music. Author had very particular tastes in music - but that's OK. This is an interesting look into one (very talented) music-lover's mind.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jim Nirmaier

    Good year-to-year lists and synopsis of each year's best songs from 1957 - 2009. Good year-to-year lists and synopsis of each year's best songs from 1957 - 2009.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gustavus

    Some of the best music writing I've ever read, by a gone-too-soon brilliant man. Some of the best music writing I've ever read, by a gone-too-soon brilliant man.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Larry

    Read review in recent Option, http://option-magazine.com/2011/06/23... Read review in recent Option, http://option-magazine.com/2011/06/23...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    A favorite that I find myself returning to several times a year.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Harriet M.

    Scott Miller's favorite songs through history. Fun if you're a Miller fan and share his musical taste. Scott Miller's favorite songs through history. Fun if you're a Miller fan and share his musical taste.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    Great witty & smart book of music lists by the Game Theory/Loud Family Scott Miller.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    An addictive read, and I'm definitely going to use it to make some Spotify playlists, but man, Miller had some blind spots as big as Texas. An addictive read, and I'm definitely going to use it to make some Spotify playlists, but man, Miller had some blind spots as big as Texas.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steve Gutin

    Great choices, great reviews, and Scott Miller's unique, funny, informative, fascinating writing style. RIP Scott Miller. Great choices, great reviews, and Scott Miller's unique, funny, informative, fascinating writing style. RIP Scott Miller.

  27. 4 out of 5

    James Robison

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joel Mills

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nick Kettman

  30. 4 out of 5

    Aram De GIULI G

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