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FAQ: Writing an Album Review
FAQ: Writing an Album Review
03/30/08 at 09:51 PM by Adrian Villagomez
Every member of AbsolutePunk.net is welcome to submit album/EP reviews to the site. New releases should be given priority, but reviewing older albums, including those that have been reviewed by other members (including staff), is also encouraged. Be prepared if you take on the role of reviewing highly influential and/or popular albums - only the best submissions will be accepted. Below you will find explanations of what goes into writing a user review as well as some tips to prevent common mistakes.

How do I submit a review?

First, head to the Reviews section of the website. Near the top of the page you will find the Write a Review link. From there it's a simple matter of filling in a template, an explanation of which is found below.

Title

Write titles in the following format: Band Name - Release Title. Be sure to move the common word "the" to the end of a band's name to keep the review database easier to search through. So if you are writing a review of the album Fists Buried in Pockets by The Riot Before, the title of the review should look like so: "Riot Before, The - Fists Buried in Pockets."

Review

This is the space in which to write your review. Before writing though, be sure to include release information at the top of the page. The release information that should be included is the band name, release title, record label, and release date. It should look like so:

The Riot Before - Fists Buried in Pockets
Record Label: Say-10
Release Date: September 9, 2008


As you can see, the band's name is in bold, the release title is italicized, and the record label and release date information are both colored gray. It's understandable that some release dates can be difficult to acquire, especially for unsigned bands, but try to at least include the month and year a release became available. Release information is expected in every review submitted, so do not forget to include it.

Additionally, at the bottom of your review, include a 'Recommended If You Like' box with a link to the band's myspace page underneath it. The Recommended If You Like section should give the reader a quick idea of what the release sounds like and which people it should appeal to. It can contain band names, album titles, song titles, genres, settings, etc. Don't be afraid to be creative here; just do your best to convey the sound of a release through references. For example, here's what the Recommend If You Like section (with an accompanying myspace link) of a review of Fists Buried in Pockets might look like:

Recommended If You LikeFake Problems; Against Me!; Defiance, Ohio; Ghost Mice; American Steel; Attack in Black

myspace.com/theriotbefore

Here is a review that properly contains both album information at the top and a Recommended If You Like section and myspace link at the bottom.

Ratings

There's another section of the FAQ in which review ratings are discussed (What do the ratings mean?), but here's a short explanation of Reviewer Tilt, since it can be confusing. A Reviewer Tilt rating conveys how much a reviewer enjoys a release, all technical ratings aside. So even if an album isn't very creative or fresh, and thus given a Creativity rating of 60%, a reviewer may still find said album highly entertaining and issue a Reviewer Tilt of 80%. Also, if you are reviewing a release that does not feature spoken words, leave the Vocals and Lyrics ratings as "N/A."

Album Cover

Don't forget to upload high quality 150x150 cover art with your reviews. Art for a signed band's release can usually be found on amazon.com; for art from a smaller band search through their official website, myspace page, and record label website.

After taking care of these four sections (Title, Review, Ratings, and Album Cover) you're ready to preview your album review. Always proofread your work to avoid errors before you submit.

Note: Before clicking the "Post New Album Review" link at the bottom of the page, be sure to create a backup copy of your review as insurance.

How do I make that nifty "Recommended If You Like" box?

[fs=Recommended If You Like]genre; Band Name; Band Name - [i]Album Title[/i]; setting/mood[/fs]

What should my review look like? Is there a special format to follow when writing a review?

There is no prescribed format to follow, and you're only limited by your own creativity, so feel free to write using your own style. But if you need help getting started, often writers use the first paragraph to give a bit of history on the band and release, taking note of the transition from the band's previous release (unless, of course, it's a freshman release being reviewed). The body is usually reserved for track descriptions and the overall impact of the release. "Track descriptions" does not mean you must abide by a strict track-by-track description - such a review can get tiring quickly. Instead, narrow your focus on select tracks and use them as examples; if you decide to discuss lyrics, be sure to wrap them in quotation marks and let the reader know which song you pulled them from. Also, don't neglect to include in your review some kind of conclusion, in which you sum up your thoughts on the release or provide some new insight.

As examples of the different paths you can take when writing, here are some reviews of varying styles:

How long should my review be?

Between 350 and 750 words is a reasonable length. Lengthier reviews should be reserved for highly influential and/or popular albums (example 1, example 2).

What's a "once-over" review? What do they look like?

Once-overs can be simply described as mini-reviews. They are brief and usually reserved for EPs, especially from unsigned bands. Once-overs have a specific format and are broken up into two sections: "Who?" and "How is it?" Who? provides a bit of background information on the artist in a few sentences, and How is it gives an overview of the music.

Here is a review written in the once-over format.

In addition to writing standard reviews, submitting once-overs is also acceptable.

Am I only limited to reviewing punk music?

Not at all. Though bands that fall under the gray area of punk will receive more attention on this website, reviewing anything from country to hip-hop is fine.

Are there any rules to keep in mind when writing my review? How can I avoid common mistakes?

The following conventions should be upheld when writing a review. Refer to this section to find the most common mistakes made by user reviewers. If your review was not approved, most likely it broke more than one of these.

  • Do not forget to attach album art that is exactly 150x150.
  • Always include release information at the top of the page and a Recommended If You Like section and myspace link at the bottom.
  • Do not adjust the font, size, or color of your writing. The only exception is the gray color of record label and release date information. If your review looks like this when submitted (notice the excessive font, size, and color adjustments), it will not be approved. Often contributors will write their reviews in Word, then copy and paste to AbsolutePunk.net, bringing along unnecessary formatting. Here's a possible solution if you're having this problem: first copy and paste your review to Notepad. Then copy and paste from Notepad onto AbsolutePunk.net, which will remove all formatting (italics, font, and so forth) in the body of the review. This is what your review should look like when you're submitting.
  • Italicize album titles, and place quotation marks around song titles.
  • Consider band names plural nouns. So if you are writing about Brand New, make sure to use "are" rather than "is": "Brand New are from Merrick, New York."
  • Introduce artists by their first names and last names ("Jesse Lacey is the lead singer of Brand New"), and afterwards refer to them by their last names ("Lacey's lyrics on this song are strongly influenced by The Smiths").
  • Keep the music in the present tense, not the past - "This song is great," not "This song was great").
  • Reviews are your take on a release, so you can usually leave out phrases like "I think" and "In my opinion." More importantly, avoid telling the audience what they think and feel. Avoid phrases such as "This is when your blood starts pumping" and "You're loving this song." You can keep the same sentiment by simply adjusting your phrasing: "This part of the song gets the blood pumping" and "I love this song."
  • Reviews that look like sloppy text messages ("this album is thebest, its so good, i like it.") will not be approved. Proofread your work carefully for grammatical errors, and always run a spell check program before submitting a review.

My review was returned to me in a PM. What does this mean? What did I do wrong?

If your review was returned to you in a PM, it was not approved. More than likely, you ignored or accidentally overlooked one or more of the conventions listed above. Did you remember to place release information at the top of the page? Did you italicize album titles and place quotation marks around song titles? Did you proofread your work to check for grammatical errors? Run through the conventions while looking over your review to see where you went wrong. After reworking and improving your review, resubmit it to the review queue. Sometimes a submitted review will go through more than one edit/return, so try not to be discouraged if it takes some time and work to improve your writing. If you are unsure why your review doesn't meet our standards, contact the editor.

Will someone tell me if my review is approved?

You will not be contacted if your review has been approved, but it will be added to the review database and featured in one of the user review news posts made throughout the week.

Which staff member do I contact in regards to user reviews?

If you have further questions concerning user reviews not answered by this FAQ, contact Thomas Nassiff and Matthew Tsai.

My review has been approved! Can I promote it through my myspace page/facebook page/et cetera?

Definitely. Promote your review through every medium possible, such as myspace and facebook. Another form of promotion encouraged is adding a link to your review on Wikipedia (example). Finally, go ahead and send the band an e-mail, or message via myspace, informing them of your review. Believe us - bands value any promotion they receive, and taking the time to review music is appreciated all around.

--

Also see: 'What do the ratings mean?'
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