Looking for input...

As always, feel free to discuss whatever you'd like in here.

That said, I do have a question for readers of the site. I'm interested in opinions as to what you'd like to see on this site to make it better. Constructive criticism (or just plain criticism) and any other comments are welcome. I've been doing this awhile, so don't worry about hurting my feelings.

Commenting has been closed on this article.

Jesse Hathaway
One reason I keep coming to almost cool music reviews is for the podcast reviews. They are my favorite way hear about new music, because you get to actually hear the music being discussed. I don't think I would have ever purchased Parson Sound without the podcast. Is it possible to add an RSS feed to the podcasts, so I can be alerted when a new one becomes available? thanks for the great reviews

Eric
I really like the idea of a monthly radio show. Reminds me of a weekly podcast called "75minutes" that was running through all of 2006. It was pretty simple, the host of the show would go to his office every Sunday, sit down, make himself comfortable and churn out 75 minutes of hot new music, with some comments in between the songs. It was a dang good show and too bad it ended. It would be awesome to see something like that here!

Here's the link, the podcasts are still available:
http://75minutes.com/podcast/feature/75minutes

BproElwin
Well, bubbachups, I like your comments on Aarons site and agree. But if that's your 2 cents, what does a dollar make ;)
But seriously, well put.
And Aaron keep up the good work.

almostcool
Great thoughts bubbachups. Some very thought-out information, and thanks for the nice words as well.

A forum might be kind of fun, but I'm not sure how many people would participate. For some reason, I think that if I started one, only 3 or 4 people would post at all, but maybe there would be more. I just know that most people have a lot of different sites that they read / contribute to on a regular basis, so trying to crack into that routine is pretty difficult.

As I said, I'm planning some changes for the site here in the first half of the year or so. Guess we'll see what happens.

bubbachups
As for the current discussion about possible improvements of this website, to me the plus and minus points are:

+ Consistency (Reviews and grades are always subjective but because all reviews on this website are written by one person, after a while, a reader is able to tell where his own preferences are differing and thereby is able to tell how a reviewed album relates to his own taste. This is strengthened by the fact that the quality of the reviews and the grading system seem very consistent. It's like with friends, you might not share the same musical preferences but you can value their recommendations very easily because you know where it's coming from)
+ Fairly eclectic orientation and open minded, but not too much (which means variety in scope of albums reviewed without losing depth of the most prominently featured genres)
+ Good writing (You can tell from the review what an album is like. This is most certainly not always the case with other review websites. The reviews are actually about the albums, no lengthy dwelling on artist information and such)
+ Interesting regulars (I have gotten in contact with several very nice people through this website and discovered various albums through the year-end lists of readers. I think Moka found me here before she asked me to write for her blog. Apparently something about this website attracts a certain loyal crowd which is a good sign I think)

- Only weekly content (I visit the website every Friday to read the new reviews, in between I only occasionally visit to read possible discussions. The website lacks something fundamental that would keep the regulars visiting in between the weekly updates)
- Content is limited in scope (Only reviews are provided, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does make it more one-dimensional for a visitor)


Some ideas to strengthen the plus points and improve on the minus points are:
- Additional content. A section with interviews has been mentioned. This would be nice, certainly considering the artists usually reviewed on this website. But I'm also thinking about monthly podcasts. The yearly mixes are nice and well received, so maybe a monthly podcast would be a good continuation of that feature. Personally I would appreciate such a feature very much, especially if it’s provided with your comments in between songs. It could include both recently reviewed albums and older ones or non-reviewed albums which happen to have a certain song you would like us to hear. Like a monthly radio show in the form of podcasts.
- Daily reviews instead of weekly updates. Not really sure about this one, but it does spread out the content more evenly. This one is definitely up for debate but at least it's a possibility to do something about my first minus point.
- Evolve this modest comment section into a forum. As I said, I feel that there are a lot of interesting regulars huddled around this website. It would be nice if you could unite these people so they can interact with each other. I feel that the comment section is too limited for this. People could exchange recommendations or just discuss music in general. Forums only work if you have a descent following with somewhat likeminded people who are really passionate about the website’s subject. I think this is certainly the case with Almostcool. It would keep people visiting the website in between updates and would create a very nice community.

Just my 2 cents. And to keep things in perspective, the plus points effortlessly outweigh the minus points, you’re doing an awesome job so please do keep it up!

Peter
i think you need a frontpage, possibly with the latest or most popular interviews, and maybe some pictures!

bubbachups
Thanks for selling the new Autistic Daughters to me, ordered at Kranky. I wanted to buy their previous album, Jealousy and Diamond, when it came out, but somehow never did. Sounds like this new one is even more of a must-have. Interesting also to see Chris Abrahams participating. I'm still recovering from a The Necks performance from last year.

Eric
Indeed, this year has started out good for electronica. I've been enjoying new albums from both Sascha Funke and Justus Köhncke so far.

Oh, and Aaron, if you'd ever bump into a bad week again, or there's nothing new and exciting coming up in the release calendar, do not hesitate to properly review any of the three 2007 reissues from your best of year list not yet reviewed. That would be a treat!

Justin
New Autechre is great! Looking forward to new records from Matmos and Svarte Greiner. Really liking the stuff I heard from the new Goslings record. And the Anduin ep is great. Electronic music having a good first few months.

I'd like to see this site be more interactive. But it is one of the best sites around.

Jamie
Great experimetnal/etc music review blog, one of the best on the internet for sure.

As a stand-alone review site it doesn't have enough material to keep someone such as myself satisfied but in combination with other like-minded review sites such as Dusted or Foxy Digitalis I usually have enough material to go off of.

Personally I'd like to see more reviews, even if just one or two more a week :)

And interviews.. if those are at all possible.

Chebon
Great picks so far for this year. I'm hoping things will continue to get even more magical. I've been really excited by the new murcof and Thomas Brinkman.
thanks ever so much for you're ears!

Sam
Anyone excited about the new Autechre? The tracks I've heard streamed are pretty nice...

erik
thank you so much for that hot chip review. i couldn't agree more, and it feels as if everyone else is loving it. i just don't get it.

Michael
good stuff on Balmorhea, I thought that album was near perfect. Along with Our Brother The Native, one of my favourites so far. Any plans to review OBTN?, they have come on leaps and bounds since 'Tooth and Claw'

david oliver
I noticed you havent posted a review for the latest Uusitalo .Any thoughts on that?

Jon
I agree with what Paul was saying down below: a myspace and/or link so that one can investigate further would be pretty cool. However, in saying that, everything I've gone out and bought as a result of your reviews Aaron has proven to be just about flawless. So, obviously it doesn't hurt to *not* have the links, but it would be nice to actually conveniently hear some stuff...or we could just go look for it, haha :P

Discussion sections on reviews might be pretty cool too...maybe even for past reviews? I don't know how that would work, but it would probably be a lot of text!

Also, just wanted to say: "The Sinking of the Titanic" is amazing. Seriously, I was pretty blown away by the concept initially, as this was the first time I'd heard it, or about it for that matter, but the piece is quite something indeed. It hardly even feels long at it's hour+ running length. Thanks for the heads-up!

Just got around to buying the newest SOTL too, but I've always had a hard time with them for whatever reason...

almostcool
Wow! Some spirited discussion about the ratings, that's good to see.

To be fair, I can see the point from both sides. It's clear that a good majority of the reviews on the site land between 6 and 8, but hopefully the reviews themselves and the decimal points within help distinguish them a bit more.

As with all sites, taste is subjective and I would never presume to be the supreme arbiter in terms of ratings. Some great continued thoughts, everyone. I'm going to butt out again and feel free to keep the conversation going.

Eric
Agreeing with Sam. Worst idea ever to even out or change the rating system in any way. The reviews are distributed over the 10 point spectrum in a perfectly balanced way. You may not have noticed, but the ratings have over the years added up to form an almost perfect Gaussian curve, peaking at 7.25. Now, with 2100+ reviews, getting a normal distribution from the very wide range of available rating choices in a decimal-based system really accounts for Aaron's very accurate and consequent reviewing. These ratings are the only ones I trust because I know they stand for quality control, something that other music review sites seriously lack. I mostly ignore their ratings.

A rating system without decimals is both clumsy and inaccurate. A faithful reader of this site can clearly tell the difference between an 8.25 album from an 8 album. It often comes down to the small details, expressed in the review itself. If the ratings suddenly were to start inflate and 9's or higher would be thrown out to hyped junk that only has a lifespan of a week, then goodbye to this site.

Sam
I disagree with the quibbles about the ratings. Where some sites hand out 9/10s all the time, here I know I will get a more measured response, free of hype. When a high rating does come along, I know it's going to be for something that I can't live without.

I think the 'love' comes through in the writing anyway, for just about anything rated 7 or over. It's true that for the albums rated around 7 and 8, it's difficult to know which are the ones that really need to be picked up, if you can't afford the lot.

But to change the ratings system now would, I think, create glaring inconsistencies which would wreck 10 years of accumulated reviews and you wouldn't be able to compare old reviews against the new ones.

paul
I'd like to see a myspace link for the band you're reviewing, at the end of the review (i suppose like Pitchfork do?). Just for the instances where a review interests me, and is just a click away to hear if I do like them or not. I'd investigate the bands myself that sounded very good, but some in-between bands would be ignored if I had to search myself.

& also, a comments section for each of the album reviews? Is that possible? Would be good to see alternative views or discussions about the albums.

MES
Hi. I agree with a commenter below. The ratings here seem to fall in the same range so much of the time that they become meaningless. Don't be afraid to go out on a limb and give a record 9 - or heaven forbid - a 10. My recommendation: Take out the decimals and spread out your reviews over the 10 point spectrum. It will guide your readers with more impact. Ultimately, don't be afraid to just LOVE an album. I read so many reviews that sound like 9s or 10s but still receive an 8 or 7. Does not compute. Don't listen to something JUST to find out what doesn't make it perfect. Make sure your heart stays in the equation too. I enjoy your site.

Delan
The only thing I could think of is, for those weeks where you can't find anything else you want to review, to do one of those classics. Like, when you reviewed Gorecki, I bought 'Symphony of Sorrowful Songs' based on your recommendation and loved it. Didn't you also review Can when you did a few of those?

And if you check out one more hipster-oriented indie-pop release this year, make it Los Campesinos! near the end of February, for the love of God! I found Vampire Weekend a little inconsequential anyway.

almostcool
Again, thanks to everyone for the comments so far. Some really good stuff for me to think about, and some ideas that I already had in mind. It seems like people really like the reviews of older and atypical things, along with the mixes.

I will say that I have some changes in mind that will probably take place in the next couple months. I'm not sure how drastic they will be, but the wheels are definitely in motion.

Andy
I also love the mixes, so more of those would always be a treat.

Michael
perhaps some links to mp3's???. I realise its pretty easy to find them ourselves. But I can be lazy

Sam
I'm another one who'd love to see some more reviews of older stuff - but only because I've found out about so much great stuff this way.

I think it would also be great to have occasional articles spotlighting labels that you love - perhaps with a list of your favourite records on that label. On this subject, I just stumbled across a piece you wrote for your blog last year naming your fave label of the year (Rune Grammofon), and wondered what got the award this year!

But as others have said, the site has been going from strength to strength anyway - the mixes you've done have been a treat.

David
Hi,
I've been reading your website for quite a few years, and a lot of the music you recommended was with me when I was travelling.
The one thing I'd like to see a bit more of is older classics (like Steve Reich's 18 musicians, or last week's Gavin Bryars'). While I already know quite a few of them, it's always a pleasure to discover a bit more of the past that has made it through the years :-)
I've also been wondering : while most of the record reviews you post here seem to fall more or less under the same umbrella, maybe there are other things you listen to and never talk about. If so, how about posting the odd "in a different genre" review?
Other than that, thanks a lot for your amazing website : you surely have expanded my musical horizons!

Chris
Hey Aaron. I love the site. Been a reader for years. The one criticism I have...is that all the ratings/scores seem to get lumped together. Everything is mostly between 6-8 with the occasional 5.5 or 8.5 and 9. I'd wish that the scores were a little more spread out. Because most of the stuff you review is already pretty good, or challenging and just somewhat misses the mark if it's on the lower end of the ratings (like a 5-6). I would like to see some of the things you rate a 5 or 6....drop to like 3-4 so you can get more seperation at the top for the really amazing releases.

Brett
Re: the Vampire Weekend review --- you are a music snob.

:-p But I enjoyed the vampire weekend as well... just fun.

I think the site does really well, but some things I think would be cool - a random album highlight on the homepage, or some way to tie in what almostcool is listening to now with one of your reviewed albums.

and review old albums ++ I like discovering music from the past.

Keep doin' what you're doin'!

d4rko
Creative Commons

:)

Apefar
Hi Aaron!

Seeing as I loved the year-end mixes and the five 2000-Mixes posted last summer I was wondering if you had any plans for new mixes sometime? Amazon.com doesn't always have samples of the stuff you're reviewing, so a lot of it passes by unheard for me or gets no attention at all because I obviously first focus on the better album that includes a podcast. It would be wonderful to have a mix every now and then "catching up" on the recent reviews that are just below the point of being worthy a podcast. It could perhaps serve the purpose of filtering out and bringing forward the great tracks from an inconsistent album, or why not do mixes with a certain theme?

My two cents, no complaints about the site! I think it's prospering right now and I am really enjoying it.

Michael
well thats just one example of what they do. That is a really prententious attitide to take in my opinion. They cater for many tastes after all. DiS write some wonderful stuff and I have certainly found many a great act from it.

Dave
I would have to agree that Drowned in Sound certainly is "boring and useless indie blog hype". Take one of todays news pieces for example - "Lily Allen responds to Mail on Sunday cuss". Please don't lower yourself to this!!!

Michael
Interviews don't take me anytime at all. Also, sites like Drowned in Sound are far from 'boring indie blog hype', the videos posted often offering another interatcive facet

almostcool
To be fair, I swiped that quote from Matador Records (check the fine print on their releases). I'm still trying to come up with something that original.

Jon
"All rights reserved, all wrongs reversed."

Haha, nice touch! Just noticed that...

almostcool
Thanks for the responses so far. If anyone has any other ideas, I'm certainly interested in hearing them.

I'm only asking because I have some plans up my sleeve in terms of bigger changes with the site, and I wanted to see if reader suggestions overlapped with what I perceived to be the weaknesses. It's not really an issue with time, as it's something I enjoy doing, but I want to continue to have fun writing while also offering up content that's interesting.

As for my own music, there will be something eventually. It's not something that's being actively promoted as of yet, but a website, myspace, and virb page are floating around currently (with one song and more to come). Sneaky, aren't I? :)

didier
hello,

reviews of old stuff are a good thing to go on with, i've adopted this myself and i'm fine with it so far, it gives you a more critical point of view on fresh releases and digging out old classics or missed gems just two or three years old gives sense somewhat as we just have one (too short) life.

i'm also against youtube, i like the depth you put in this website, far from the boring and useless indie blog hype.

making good interviews takes too much time i'm afraid, time better spent into friendship and social life, i came to this conclusion a few years back.

maybe developing the list area would be cool with lists exploring particulars styles or genres and put to our attention dormant reviews from the archives. but once again it takes time.

thanks for your great site.

ps : and what about your own music?

Eric
I personally think integrating YouTube into the site is a bad idea, and we would soon find reviews with dead youtube links littering around. Podcasting is the way to go and makes things look really professional here.

It's a neat thing to revisit older stuff every now and then, bringing things like Gavin Bryars and Parson Sound back into the spotlight again. I have a feeling you've only reviewed the tip of the iceberg of your cd-collection yet so keep 'em coming. Just don't let them completely overshadow the good 2008 releases too much.
Rock on!

Dustin
I agree with David. I'd love to see more reviews of older stuff.


In the reviews themselves that is.


Dates!

David
Maybe some more features as well as reviews. A special section on older releases that you love like the Parson Sound cd might also be good too and also fun to write about!
But your site is seriously awesome anyways :).

Michael
Hey Aaron have you ever thought about conducting interviews with some of the bands you review?. I think that would make a great addition to the site. A bit more work I suppose...

Also, I enjoy sites like Drowned in Sound who post youtube/dailymotion videos with their reviews sometimes. I know you've got the podcasts going, which are very exclusive to this site, but I think this would be a good idea too