Write reviews that are too long
The purpose of a review is for its reader to find out if an album is worth listening to for them personally, yet it seems more and more like reviewers are just being self-indulgent for the heck of it. Pitchfork reviews can be over a 1000 words. This is not what people are after when they read an album review. I’m not implying that people don’t care about music journalism. See what I’m doing? It’s just that the review format is not made for jerking off to your own superior knowledge. They are meant to inform. No one is going to read long-form reviews if they just want to know if a particular album is for them.
Write reviews that are too vague
In extension of point one, these dragging reviews tend to lack a clear structure. If you want to write a long review, a set up that could work is the track-by-track review style. This has a clear structure and the reader will be able to skim read quite easily if they’re not ready for the whole shebang.
Sound elitist and indifferent
I can’t help but feel that certain reviewers have this “with great power comes great responsibility” mindset when it comes to writing their pieces. Guess what? Reviewers have to do research before writing. They don’t have all this knowledge ready to be dispersed. It’s hard work. The more elitist a reviewer sounds, the more they are trying to hide that they don’t actually know shit. Let me tell you a secret: I’m horrible with record labels. To be honest I don’t care enough. When people ask me “oh what label was that released under, I know this or that artist was with this label bla bla bla” my eyes just glaze over. I see labels more like drug pushers than business representatives. As a result I often kind of ignore the whole label business and just mention them for whoever might care. This is something I could work on, read a bit more about. Hey, I’m still learning, and that’s ok! I’m still trying to put these words to paper so you might have an easier time finding something new to listen to. The reviewer writes for an audience. Why do they sometimes come across as not giving a hoot whether someone will actually read their piece?
Use complicated words that don’t mean anything
Here’s a mindblower: the word “atmospheric” doesn’t mean anything. It’s a clever sounding cop-out that can be used for A LOT of music. Anything with synths, or effects like a high reverb on guitars or drums a-la Ben Howard, simply an echo on a voice can make something sound slightly “atmospheric” when phrased the right way. Conclusion: don’t use the word “atmospheric”.
Pretend they are neutral and that their opinion is objective
As Marc Woodworth writes in his introduction to “The Album Rewiew” (How to Write About Music. Bloomsbury, 2015):
How the critic sees and hears a record […] isn’t neutral or objective, but determined by their own experience, passion, and focus […] the critic both uses and is sometimes blind to his [sic] prejudices and ideals–the more you know about yourself and how you process what you’re writing about given that self-knowledge, the better. (18-19)
Use rating systems
This one is a personal preference probably, but using rating systems is dumb. Why would you read a review when you already know it got a 6 out of 10. Or a 2 out of 10. Or a 9 out of 10. Three stars. One star. Five stars. If something is really good or bad, this will already be a reason to check something out or avoid it. If something is so middle ground the reviewer can’t really decide, then reading the review will probably be as boring as its rating suggested.