Archive for March, 2008

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More on concert etiquette

March 30, 2008

click for full comic

Apparently, I’m not the only person whose mind wanders to concert etiquette while I’m at a show. A friend of mine dug up this early Questionable Content cartoon strip. Click on the image for the full list.

[thanks, Rob!]

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Got a question for Dan Bejar?

March 30, 2008

eMusic Dan Bejar header

eMusic is soliciting questions for Dan Bejar (aka Destroyer), whose album Trouble in Dreams came out this month and who is currently on tour. Send your questions to asktheartist@emusic.com before this Tuesday, April 1st, and keep an eye out for the interview, scheduled to be on the eMusic homepage during the week of April 21st. Bejar’s lyrics are notoriously obscure – now’s your chance for some enlightenment. What I really want to ask about the New Pornographers’ concert in Boston last fall: “Dude, was that really an orange in your hand when you wandered onstage to sing?”

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Listen local: Freezepop

March 28, 2008

Freezepop

Freezepop is the band that dragged synthpop out of the 80s and into the 21st century. Their third full-length release, Futurefuturefutureperfect, is as perfect a piece of danceable electronic songwriting as you’ve ever heard. But they are really at their best live; I saw them a few weeks ago, in front of a full house at the Middle East, and it was the most fun I’ve had at a concert in ages. The show featured duelling keytars, a shark-encased microphone, and generally playful behaviour from the band, especially the aptly-pseudonymed Liz Enthusiasm. They did a brilliant live version of “Melon Ball Bounce,” a jingle that Raymond Scott wrote for Sprite (which they recorded as a bonus track on Fashion Impression Function). One of the highlights was the Duke of Pannekoeken‘s virtuosic theremin performance on ‘Frontload.’ Sadly, the Duke (Kasson Crooker) has severely curtailed his touring with the band; his day job is keeping him pretty busy.

website myspace emusic

MP3: Freezepop – Frontload

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Top indie-rock albums of the last 25 years

March 27, 2008

EW.com’s Best Indie Bands

As if Rachael Ray liking Holy Fuck wasn’t bad enough, Entertainment Weekly decided to take a kick at the indie-rock can with their special supplement on The Indie Rock 25. The format – exactly one release from each year since 1984 – is pretty much tailor-made to invite disputatious responses. It’s worth checking out, if only to contrast the picture of REM in 1986 (the picture in the dead-tree version is dorkier still) to their rock’s-elder-statesmen cover photo on April’s Spin.

[thanks, Chris!]

Got a disputatious response of your own? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.

EDIT [May 10, 2008]: Looking for some listening suggestions? Check out these posts:

Wrap-up: guest DJing on WMBR

Heartbreak, mix CDs, and something happy [tracklistings: Heartbreak, Unrequited Love and Clever Lyrics; The Heartache Continues]

A Mountain Goats sampler

Already into indie music? Use the comments to tell us what you’re listening to!

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Read: Dan Kennedy, Rock On

March 26, 2008

An Office Power Ballad</i>

Dan Kennedy is clearly a man who knows how to make the best of a bad situation. He realizes a lifelong dream of working in the music business, only to discover that he’s just gotten himself a deckchair on the Titanic. The year is 2002, the company is Warner, and the record industry is imploding. Warner itself is about to be bought by ‘the billionaire grandson of a man who made the family a fortune in booze and chemical dealings,’ resulting in hundreds of layoffs, including Kennedy’s. Fortunately for us, he turned his experiences into a acidly funny memoir, Rock On: An Office Power Ballad. This book certainly made me laugh, and it also made want to loudly cheer the ongoing demise of the traditional record industry. However, my favourite part of the book was a lengthy, loving account of an Iggy Pop concert, possibly because Kennedy was writing about something he loved, not about something he had to be self-protectively cynical about:

…Iggy is everywhere at once. He flies like a computer-animated god-beast deity in an unhinged and hijacked Lucas film. You suddenly realize every punk band you thought was blowing your mind back when you were sixteen was simply a cute little messenger delivering a wadded note to you from this man, wherever he might have been that night.

You can see a promo video for the book here, and Michael Azerrad wrote a review for the New York Times, here. You can also download audio of Kennedy telling a story from the book at a Moth gig in Seattle.

website amazon

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Concert notes: Miracle Fortress

March 25, 2008

[Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA; March 22, 2008]

Montreal-based Miracle Fortress played a sold-out show at the Middle East Upstairs, opening for fellow Canadian scenesters The Most Serene Republic. Based on their single ‘Hold Your Secrets to Your Heart,’ I expected them to be quite a bit more ethereal than they were, especially given their fairly dreamy start – frontman Graham Van Pelt began with a solo piece. Instead, driven by Jordan Robson-Cramer’s propulsive drumming, they turned out to rock quite a bit. Their set was mostly drawn from their first full-length release, Five Roses (which, if you grew up in Canada, doesn’t evoke music so much as it does baking), as well as some new material.

myspace emusic amazon

MP3: Miracle Fortress – Maybe Lately

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Concert notes: Holy Fuck

March 22, 2008

[embedded YouTube video; if you can't see it, click here]

[Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA; March 21, 2008]

I wrote about Holy Fuck the last time I saw them – they are utterly phenomenal live. You can look at the clips on YouTube, but they don’t really capture the experience (that’s why that’s a video above, not a live clip). Unfortunately, they are wrapping up their North American tour – but if you happen to live in the UK or Ireland, you should definitely try to catch one of their shows.

And I’ve decided that Rachael Ray can’t be all bad if she’s a fan.

website myspace

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Watch: Altamont Now

March 21, 2008

This looks awesome. Altamont Now is having its world premiere tomorrow, March 22nd, at the Boston Underground Film Festival. From the director: ‘it’s the story of a mysteriously square journalist who happens upon a cult of rock and roll revolutionaries living inside an abandoned nuclear missile silo with little idea of what they are “revolutionizing” against.’ Shot inside an actual underground silo, it’s an absurdist, satirical look at how youth rebellion borrows from its past.

Saturday, March 22nd, 5 pm at the Brattle Theatre, Cambridge [details]

If you can’t make it tomorrow, you can keep an eye out for future showings: website myspace

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Coverage: The Mountain Goats, “The Sign”

March 18, 2008

Well, I totally failed to post anything about either of the Mountain Goats shows I went to last week, so here’s a taste of what John Darnielle is like in concert – this is their cover of Ace of Base’s 1993 hit, “The Sign“. A quick YouTube search reveals that The Mountain Goats have played this song live many times. The MP3 below is from yet another version, in which Darnielle alternately threatens and encourages the audience, and it still makes me laugh, even after scores of hearings.

MP3: The Mountain Goats – The Sign (live)

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Release notes: Destroyer, Trouble in Dreams

March 18, 2008

trouble in dreams

Destroyer‘s eighth album, Trouble in Dreams, could be the perfect album from the 70s that you never heard. Like John Darnielle‘s, Dan Bejar’s distinctive voice polarizes listeners; if you didn’t enjoy his previous album, Destroyer’s Rubies, you probably won’t like this one either, although the vocal acrobatics are less in evidence. But Bejar writes songs that are both listenable and interesting, both lyrically (inventive phrasing about time-honoured topics, like women) and musically, foregoing the traditional verse-chorus-verse structure, but still remaining – well, catchy is probably too strong a word – but certainly you’ll hear his songs in your head. This characteristic of his songwriting came home to me when I realized that, despite my devotion to the three-minute pop song, my favourite song on the album was the eight-minute long epic “Shooting Rockets (From the Desk of Night’s Ape). Bejar is widely compared to David Bowie, although I have to say that this album sounds more like early Roxy Music to me – in a good way, not in a boringly derivative way – especially “The State.” Trouble in Dreams definitely holds up to repeated listening and is worth checking out.

amazon emusic

MP3: Destroyer – The State

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The changing music industry

March 16, 2008

obsolete media

I’m a little late blogging this, but Seth Godin, a marketing guy, posted a transcript of a talk that he gave to a roomful of music company executives. This is the stuff I wave my hands about and try to explain to everyone I know, when I talk about why I have a music blog and how the music industry is changing. Godin starts by summarizing the factors that made the traditional music industry so sweet (the ubiquity of Top 40 songs, music as a physical artifact that was coveted and which wore out, free promotion via radio and TV, an oligopoly of record companies, and so on) and then makes the case that they are all gone:

Music is not in trouble. I believe more people are listening to more music now than any time in the history of the world. Probably five times more than twenty years ago…that much! But, the music business is in trouble. And the reason the music business is in trouble is because remember all those pieces of good news?…every single one of them is not true anymore….

Having explained how all these factors have disappeared, he goes on to discuss how record companies now have to change the way they do business:

There is a lot of music I like. There is not so much music I love. They didn’t call the show, “I Like Lucy”, they called it “I Love Lucy”. And the reason is you only talk about stuff you love, you only spread stuff you love. You find a band you really love, you’re forcing the CD on other people, “you gotta hear this!”. We gotta stop making music people like. There is an infinite amount of music people like. No one will ever go out of the way to hear, to pay for, music they like.

The final point that Godin makes is that music creates tribes of people, who want to interact with each other and the musicians, who want to go to concerts – nobody who really loves a band wants to be a passive consumer. Godin persuasively argues that the music industry has to start thinking about ‘tribal management.’

I’m not convinced that record label industry execs are the people who are going to make the transition (Nettwerk aside) but hey, at least they invited the clue train to visit.

link to transcripts: html, pdf

Seth Godin

via Boing Boing

Image: Vinyl albums, via Wikipedia Commons.

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Stars: Live on NPR

March 16, 2008

Stars

Stars, who sing perfect Smiths/Belle and Sebastian-style pop songs, performed a live set on NPR‘s Studio 360. The show aired yesterday, and the segment is available for streaming or download. They also did a live bonus version of “Personal”, which is archived below.

Stars on Studio 360

MP3: Stars on Studio 360 (interview + live set)

MP3: Stars – Personal (live on NPR)

Image: Stars/Phoenix Concert Theatre/November 28, 2007 by Flickr user * Janice, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.

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Coverage: The Main Drag, “All My Friends”

March 8, 2008

The Main Drag

I should add to my previous post that The Main Drag endeared themselves to me forever when they chose to cover LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” for Coke Machine Glow (I kind of like that song). Their version loses the staccato piano and swaps out James Murphy’s world-weary but assertive voice for the straight-up emotion of Matt Boch and Adam Arrigo.

MP3: The Main Drag – All My Friends

About Coverage

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Listen local: The Main Drag

March 8, 2008

Boston-area’s The Main Drag played last night with Freezepop and The Information and they were phenomenal (actually, all the bands were terrific). They first impinged on my consciousness in late 2006, when they won the Salon Song Search with “A Jagged Gorgeous Winter.” (Boston was well represented, with another local band, Hallelujah the Hills, taking third place). The Main Drag’s second album, Yours As Fast As Mine, came out last year – I can only presume that they spent their $5000 in contest money wisely. ‘Jagged’ and ‘gorgeous’ are both excellent descriptors of their string-laden songs.

myspace

MP3: The Main Drag – A Jagged Gorgeous Winter

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Wrap-up: guest DJing on WMBR

March 6, 2008

microphone

Well, I had a terrific time guest-DJ’ing on WMBR this morning. Emphasis on the ‘guest’ – I got to do all the fun parts, like choosing all the songs and talking. Keith handled the control panel with gracious professionalism, and made me feel very welcome and less like the total newbie I am. I decided to focus on Canadian indie music, just because I know it pretty well and I needed a theme to narrow down the universe of possibilities. You can listen to the stream (.m3u file) for the next two weeks (until the morning of Thursday, March 20th). Note that I don’t come in until about the half-hour mark; Breakfast of Champions, WMBR’s morning show, runs from 8 to 10 and I was officially in from 8:30 to 9:30 am.

EDIT [March 20, 2008]: If you missed the streaming, but still want to hear it, feel free to contact me at debcha at gmail dot com and I can hook you up.

Here’s a copy of my notes from this morning; you can guess what I thought was the most important thing to remember (click on image to see a PDF).

playlist notes

Here’s the full playlist:

Treble Charger: Red (NC-17 version)

Destroyer: The Leopard of Honour

Ladyhawk: Fear

Les Breastfeeders: Tout Va Pour Le Mieux Dans Le Pire des Monde

Leather Uppers: Say It In French

Mother Mother: Touch Up

Wintersleep: Weighty Ghost

Caribou: Melody Day

The Besnard Lakes: Devastation

Miracle Fortress: Hold Your Secrets in Your Heart

Immaculate Machine: Dear Confessor

Tokyo Police Club: Nature of the Experiment

Born Ruffians: Hummingbird

The Awkward Stage: Heaven is For Easy Girls

Sloan: Underwhelmed

The Weakerthans: Tournament of Hearts

[background music]

Broken Social Scene: I Slept with the Bonhomme at the CBC

Broken Social Scene: Love and Mathematics

Top image: Speak into me, by Flickr user billyv, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.

Previously: Listen local: my guest DJ slot on WMBR, Advance warning: my guest DJ slot on WMBR

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Listen local: my guest DJ slot on WMBR

March 5, 2008

today’s fortune

I’ll be guest DJing on WMBR tomorrow, Thursday, March 6th, from 8:30 am to 9:30 am EST, sitting in on their weekday morning show, Breakfast of Champions. My playlist is focused on Canadian indie music, probably including songs from the new Destroyer and Ladyhawk albums, which haven’t yet been officially released (man, I’m enjoying having access to WMBR’s library!).

Three ways to listen:

Over the airwaves: If you are in the Boston area, tune into 88.1 on your FM dial.

Live streaming: Go to WMBR and click on one of the links in the top right corner to listen live.

Archives: If 8:30 am Eastern doesn’t work for you, but you’d still like to listen, the show will be archived for two weeks, starting pretty much immediately after it airs. Click here and select March 6, 2008.

Stay tuned for a follow-up post, with the complete playlist.

So obey my fortune cookie and turn way to the left of your dial as you head in to work tomorrow morning!

Previously: Advance warning: my guest DJ slot on WMBR

 

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Upcoming: March concerts

March 2, 2008

[Click on the photo and mouse over for details.]

See also: Holy Fuck, British Sea Power, Mountain Goats

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Concert notes: Born Ruffians

March 2, 2008

[Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge MA; February 29, 2008]

Toronto-based trio Born Ruffians played at the Middle East Upstairs on Friday night. They were astonishingly tight, especially considering that it was only the second night of their tour. Luke LaLonde’s jagged, warbling vocals were ably backed by both bassist Mitch DeRosier and Steve Hamelin, the drummer, leading to an almost 50s vibe, with barbershop-quartet-style harmonies. The cheerful-sounding music belies dismal lyrics, however, like these from “Badonkadonkey”: The disappearing kindness/that I show for you, I know/the loving that you gave to me/was wasted too. Their new album, Red, Yellow and Blue, is slated for release on on Tuesday, March 4th (I nabbed a physical CD – complete with lyrics sheet – at their concert).

Link to MP3 download page: Born Ruffians – Badonkadonkey

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