Emilie Friedlander, Independent Journalist / Podcaster / Strategist
💭 The Culture Journalist co-host shares her thoughts on the future of music journalism, Seinfeld, and SLIDE AWAY fest.
Thought Enthusiast is an AdHoc Project where we chat with fascinating thought leaders across various facets of music, tech, and culture whose work we admire, simply asking “what’s on your mind?” and “why do you care?” 💭
Emilie Friedlander is an independent journalist, podcaster and strategist who spent the 2010s working at places like Pitchfork, The FADER, and VICE, where she led the company’s electronic music vertical and worked as a lead story editor for VICE’s culture content. She also co-founded AdHoc, freelanced for places like the Guardian and the New York Times, and lived in the building that was home to the iconic venue 285 Kent before the neighborhood went to hell. These days, she cohosts The Culture Journalist, a podcast about culture in the age of platforms, and works as a strategist for Moon Phase Agency, an editorial studio she co-founded with Drew Millard and Leslie Horn Peterson.
🎯 Current focus
My podcast co-host Andrea Domanick and I just kicked off a new season of The Culture Journalist. Out first episode was a conversation with music journalist Eli Enis, who was the author of a big story at the end of last year about the big shoegaze revival that's currently being fueled by TikTok. For a musician's perspective, we also brought on DIIV drummer Ben Newman, who happens to be our new audio editor. We thought it would be interesting to talk about the current crop of young shoegaze musicians going viral on the platform in the context of an earlier wave of shoegaze-inspired bands, like DIIV and Nothing, that was associated more with the millennial generation and was rooted more in physical scenes. I love doing the pod because I love connecting the things we see on the surface of culture to the economic and technological forces that are swimming all around us.
🔮 The future of music journalism
Obviously, something on my mind right now is the future of music journalism and also culture journalism more broadly, especially in the wake of Condé Nast gutting Pitchfork and folding it into GQ. Things are pretty gnarly right now, probably gnarlier than ever, though I have to say it feels like we have come full-circle from the time when Ric and I first started AdHoc, which was sort of in the scrappy aftermath of the 2008 recession. I think over the next few years, we're going to see a lot of very cool independent media projects emerge from the rubble. I also think we're going to see a lot of institutions that you wouldn't expect to be in the business of journalism or criticism jumping into the game—not just because the field is wide open, with a lot of extremely talented people looking for work, but also out of necessity, because AI and a glut of meaningless SEO content is going to make it harder and harder for places to cut through the noise. I'm excited to be operating on both sides of that development, as someone involved in different independent media projects of my own and as a strategist for other people.
Bear with me on this, but over the past couple months, I've become really obsessed with this app called Betwixt, which is this very cool indie phone game that doubles as a tool for managing stress and anxiety and was designed by a former therapist. It's hard to describe exactly how it works, but it takes the form of a choose-your-own-adventure game that takes place in this imaginary snow-covered world called "the in-between," which feels like it is supposed to represent the human subconscious. It also has this gorgeous, piano-driven ambient score that I can't really get out of my head, and I've found it to be both very moving and very haunting.
📚 Brian Merchant’s Blood in the Machine
Ever since Brian Merchant published his new book, Blood in the Machine, I've been very interested in the 19th century luddite movement, and how we seem to be on the verge of a luddite revival of sorts. Importantly, as Brian's history reveals, the original luddites were never "anti-technology"—they were skilled machinists who were rebelling against specific technologies that their industrial-revolution-era bosses were using to put downward pressure on their wages or automate them out of a job. The analogy with AI and today's extractive Web2 platforms is real, and I think the book has been really important in reclaiming the term as something that doesn't have to be synonymous with throwing out your phone or something and opening up space for people to critique technologies that don't seem to be serving most people. We interviewed Brian on the podcast as well – check out that episode here.
🎶 SLIDE AWAY fest
Speaking of shoegaze and bringing together different generations of shoegaze artists, I'm really looking forward to SLIDE AWAY festival next month, which was curated by the band Nothing and is happening both here in Philly and in LA. The Philly edition is being headlined by the Swirlies, along with Nothing playing their 2014 album Guilty of Everything in full, and I'm really interested in how the curation is meant to represent Nothing's idiosyncratic interpretation of the genre's evolution through time, through something of a stateside lens, rather than simply rehashing a canon that begins with My Bloody Valentine's Loveless.
One thing I can't live without is Seinfeld. I've been falling to sleep to it every night for several years now, though sometimes I switch to Curb. I think it has something to do with comforting memories of growing up in NYC in the 90s.
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