A Love Letter to… Blog House
The best thing about Blog House? Everything but blog house.
There’s a few misconceptions about what we might loosely call the blog era. Blog House has become a catch-all umbrella term for a nebulous internet period circa 2006-8, as well as a genre… sort of. Lower-case blog house isn’t even really very house-y. It’s a digitised cloud of proto-EDM adrenaline rush. The sound of bands selling their guitars and buying turntables (but still staying bands). The undigested lunch of a generation conditioned to treat music like finger food.
Second is the timeline. Some of the most memorable bombs of the late decade – the maximalist edits of MGMT and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, for example – came a little after its moment in the sun. By mid ’08, a Day N Nite remix package featuring Crookers had sold a million copies in the UK alone, and Justice had a feature film out. Everything from there was a debris slide.
The other is that it was predominantly French. The Ed Banger-Kitsuné duopoly was colossally influential, setting in motion a million imitators, setting off a million tinnitus sufferers, and setting back bitrate quality a million years. Yet it feels oddly un-bloggy to me. While that side of the scene is undeniably emblematic of a time when sweat and sleaze dripped down the back wall of dance music, the leather and posturing are a carry-over from the indie explosion of the previous five years. Typecasting the blog era as solely about grinding electro-rock does it a disservice.
What feels most worth excavating and cherishing from the period was an intoxicating atmosphere of discovery and cross-pollination. Specialist music forums had been around since the 1990s, though by comparison they were in beta mode. Surging bandwidth in the mid-2000s truly opened the floodgates. Sites like Hype Machine, and the carousel of access it prised open, were a revelation. Skirting around the era’s must-read blogs, You Can Call Me Pelski, Curb Crawlers, Mudd Up!, Gorilla Vs Bear, Palms Out Sound et al, was not just informative but enjoyable to boot.
“The best DJs and bedroom bootleggers of the era were two parts fearless and one part idiot savant”
If you focus on the overarching spirit rather than any specific sound, a different picture emerges of an enviably carefree few years. The mood was warm, goofy and open; amateurism was absolutely acceptable. A thousand and one genres came and went, and the market for remixes was on steroids. The best DJs and bedroom bootleggers of the era were two parts fearless and one part idiot savant, instigating a dialogue at 128kbps and watching sparks fly. Glitchy re-rubs of Cut Copy? Sure. Jit edits of Olivia Newton John? Why not.
All this chalk ‘n’ cheese commingling led to a glut of delightful crossover moments. Previously niche regional sub-genres of rap and club music – Bmore, hyphy, snap – suddenly started Trojan Horsing international airwaves (Laffy Taffy, This is Why I’m Hot, Crank Dat). Kanye, incensed by a not-yet-anthemic We Are Your Friends beating out Touch the Sky to an MTV Video award in 2006, inadvertently stumbled into a day-glo world of So-Me animation and Daft Punk hooks which would form the backbone of his 2007-dominating Graduation.
More so than Justice’s crunching Cross or M.I.A.’s worldly Kala, Vampire Weekend’s debut is perhaps the most impactful of all albums boosted by blog infrastructure. The internet-natives’ magpie approach to pop culture kick-started a sweeping change for the monochrome indie rock scene. It wasn’t the only effect they had, either: keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij held down an internship at the Oxford Dictionary during the group’s early days, where he successfully pitched the addition of “crunk” and “mash-up” to the annual updates. What could be more 2007 than that?
The sheen of nostalgia admittedly can’t mask a lot of the awful fashion and awful music that came out then. The world moved on and took with it purple hoodies, Diplo’s credibility, and all those sawtooth re-versions of Klaxons’ Gravity’s Rainbow. Yet lately there’s been small steps toward a positive reevaluation – and I’m here for it. It’s no coincidence there’s a ripple of activity every time contemporary DJ cognoscenti get deep in Twitter threads over old Switch bangers. It’s not necessarily because all those old tunes sound good. It’s because they sound fun.
The tunes don’t have to be scrappy, or jab a finger in the ear of the listener just for the sake of it. But every so often the industry can do with reminding itself to be a little less stiff. You might not be like me, thinking more regularly about a .zip of crunk Radiohead remixes than whatever Ostgut Ton full length came out six months ago, but try putting on a Girl Talk mix rather than a Giegling one at your next afters. I know which’ll raise more of a cheer.