I’ve been on a roadtrip in the Central Coast of California all this week, and it’s beautiful, but I think I am temperamentally more suited to grey Seattle, icy Cambridge, or even foggy San Francisco. This became particularly apparent to me as I took a look through my music collection for this trio of songs. No sunshine, no surfing, no California dream in sight.
Archive for January, 2009
Tomorrow night (Thursday, January 29) is the premiere of “Influenza,” a new Boston-based monthly show that features local artists playing a mix of their original material and covers of songs that influenced them (hence the title). I think this is a great idea – one of the things that makes it a little tough to see a new band for the first time is the absence of the familiar. You don’t really know what they sound like, or what to expect, and unless you are a dedicated neophile, that’s a little off-putting. “Influenza” makes it a little easier to go out and try some new music, because you know you’ll hear something you’ll recognize, even if it’s from a band you’ve never heard before. Conversely, however, you’ll get to hear original music too – it’s a far cry from cheesy cover bands.
So, last Friday, my friend dragged me out to see this guy Jonathan Colton. We got there right at eight and we didn’t have to wait very long at all, which was good because my mom wanted me home by 11. *pout*
The opening band were pretty fun – I don’t really remember their name. Paul and…something? Thunder? But ewww! One of them got some things called jafa cakes, they didn’t really look like cakes, they looked more like cookies and he dropped one on the floor and HE PICKED IT UP AND ATE IT! EWWW GROSS!!!
I didn’t really get a lot of the main guys songs. There seemed to be a lot of robots. And there was something about a vacuum cleaner? All of the songs seemed to be about guys who have crushes on girls. Just ask them out already! Unless you’re really a dork, cause then they’ll probably just say no.
All in all, it was a pretty good concert. I got to wear a really cute outfit but it was really, really cold in the theatre so I had to keep my coat on so no one could see it. But it was still really cute.
Current mood: happy
[For those of you thinking 'WTF?', today is Rabbit Hole Day. For those of you not thinking 'WTF?', might I refer you to some of my other postings? If you actually prefer this one, you may wish to return to the LiveJournal from whence you came. And my sincerest apologies to Jonathan Coulton and to Paul and Storm.]
We’ve spent a bunch of time here at z=z discussing different models for the future of music. Here’s an interesting one. Boston-based Illius Rock runs ‘campaigns’ for artists. Emerging artists ask their fans to make contributions, typically for studio expenses, to shoot videos, touring and the like. In exchange, fans get treats, like exclusive songs, parties, cameos in music videos and the like. Interested in learning more? They’re throwing a launch party tonight (Monday, January 26th) at the Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge, featuring z=z faves The Main Drag.
[via Bradley's Almanac]
A new report, commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands, to look at the effects of downloading was just released (here; it’s in Dutch, of course). Some of the findings were not entirely unexpected – for example, 35% of the Dutch population has downloaded content (music, movies, games) without paying for it, but they pay for content as much as those that haven’t ‘freeloaded.’
But the most interesting point was the following (it’s quoted from Ars Technica, who posted about the report):
The study concludes that the effects are strongly positive because consumers get to enjoy desirable content and also get to keep their cash to buy other things. Because the consumers save much more money than the producers lose, the net economic effects are positive. The report also reinforces the truth that unpaid downloads do not translate into lost sales in anything close to a one-to-one ratio.
It’s refreshing to see downloading considered in the context of society as a whole, rather than just in terms of money lost by corporations.
If anyone reads Dutch, I’d be interested in the rest of the report. Feel free to e-mail me or to share in the comments.
[via Ars Technica]
The Pitchfork 500, subtitled “Our Guide to the Greatest Songs from Punk to the Present,” is an excellent example of the upstart music criticism website using its powers for good, not for evil. Covering the period from 1977 to 2006 (with a few late-breaking tracks from 2007 snuck in, including z=z fave “All My Friends“), the book presents capsule reviews of each of the chosen songs. As lists go, five hundred is quite large enough to include many songs that you’d agree with, and as well as bunch that you wouldn’t, and some of the choices were surprising but inspired – for instance, Duran Duran get Rio‘s tense and disturbing closer “The Chauffeur” and not either of the megahits, “Hungry Like the Wolf” or the title track.) Unsurprisingly, the list is a bit American-centric (the omission that jumped out at me was the band Squeeze, who were much bigger in the UK and Canada than in the US). But the beauty of the format is that the writers get to enthuse about the songs they love – even a casual perusal of the book rewards with a new appreciation of songs that you’re familiar with, and an urge to go and search out the unfamiliar ones. Being Pitchfork, they couldn’t quite leave out the snark entirely, and the book is peppered with sidebars focusing on specific genres, ranging from grime to ‘post-Fugazi emo,’ to ‘yacht rock’ (yes, songs about sailing).
MP3: Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen in Love? (1977)
MP3: Animal Collective – Grass (2006)
[embedded YouTube link: if you can't watch it, click here]
Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, has a show called The Truth About Germany, and on this four-minute segment, they consider the question: “Why are Germans so mad about [techno]?” The clip is pretty fun to watch, although I think there might be some people in Detroit who would take issue with the assertion “Germans invented techno.” There’s a brief interview with Sven Väth, but mostly it’s pretty high on the self-mockery scale (not a trait that is stereotypically associated with Germans), including bits like “let’s get some Germans to hum their favourite techno tunes!” and “let’s see how creative techno dancers can be with their light sticks!”
Word on the street (well, actually, in the coffee shop) is that the Seattle’s famed Crocodile Cafe, which closed abruptly nearly a year ago, is on track to re-open. While the Croc is still pretty mum and the website is still under construction, The Ting Tings are scheduled to play on April 12th. zed equals zee didn’t relocate to Seattle until after it closed, so I am really looking forward to checking it out.
(thanks to Peter for the tip!)
Hey Marseilles nearly made me miss a flight. I saw them at the Three Imaginary Girls holiday party, and they were so good that I decided to catch their headlining show at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard last week, even though I had a 4:45 am wake-up call for a 5:15 am cab to the airport the next morning. Unfortunately, the late night meant that I slept through my alarm and only woke up when the cabdriver called my landline.
It was totally worth it, though. The Tractor show started with a procession by the band through the crowd, and I do mean ‘procession’ – with seven members, the band is quite a crowd themselves. Matt Bishop’s appealing voice is backed by viola, cello, trumpet and accordion, in addition to the more conventional rock instruments. They sound like a rather less fey version of The Decemberists – more grounded and earthy.
MP3: Hey Marseilles – Rio
Like pretty much the rest of the world, Canadians are excited about the new US president, and apparently they get to convey this excitement by collectively making a mixtape. CBC Radio 2 is soliciting votes for a 49-song playlist, to showcase Canadian music for President-Elect Barack Obama. You can go here and vote for your favourite Canadian song in one of four categories: rock, classical, French-language, and jazz. While they’re calling it ‘Obama’s Mixtape,’ it’s really more in honour of the inauguration. But who knows – Obama has confirmed that his first foreign trip, as is traditional for US presidents, will be to Canada (his predecessor broke with tradition and went to Mexico instead – big surprise there), so maybe they’ll present him with a shiny new red-and-brushed-aluminum iPod preloaded with CanCon. Or something.
As would be expected, Wonkette has a snarky take on it: “This thoughtful gift shall represent the very essence of Canada, distilled into 49 beautiful songs about being polite, speaking passable French, and having depressoid sex under a pile of blankets 10 months of every year.”
If you want to get in on it, hurry – voting closes at 8 pm EST on Friday, January 16th. I don’t think you actually have to be Canadian to vote (I did fine with my IP address 100 miles south of the border), but it probably helps to have some familiarity with the songs. Vote.
Over the course of last weekend, Justin at Anti-Gravity Bunny complained about music blogs not posting on weekends, and my friend Matt at Sub Ubi teasingly gloated that he scooped me about z=z fave Freezepop being on NPR (and Matt alludes to why).
Okay, how could any blogger with a heart (or pets) resist this? In support of her new album, Middle Cyclone (out March 3 on Anti-), Neko Case has released a free MP3 single. So far so ordinary. But get this – for every blog that posts the MP3, she and her label will donate $5 to animal welfare charity Best Friends Animal Society. If you’re not a blogger, but you still want to get involved, they’ll make a $1 donation for every user who adds the track to their iLike profile. Full details here. And the song’s pretty good too!
The creator of The OC, Josh Schwartz, has a new project, Rockville, which is a web-based serial centered around a music club, presented in four-minute chunks. Unsurprisingly, given the setting and Schwartz’s history of launching new bands with The OC, he’s announced that he plans to showcase indie bands in each webisode, if ‘showcase’ is the right word for ’15 second cameo.’ More interesting, however, is what he plans to do with the rest of the footage – Schwartz plans to put the full live performances online, with possible plans to release a DVD. Here at z=z, we’ve spent a bunch of time thinking about music in advertising and in TV shows, so it’ll be interesting to see how well it works in this mostly untried medium.
[embedded YouTube video; if you can't watch it, click here]
I’m sad to have to report that Vancouver-based The Buttless Chaps are calling it quits after nearly a decade. As well as having one of the best band names ever, it’s not like we had a surfeit of electronica-country bands. They’ll play at the Dawson City Music Festival (yes, in the Yukon) this summer, and the word is that there’ll be one last hometown show, but then it’s the end of the line.
Guest blogger Scott writes:
Buffetlibre has just released the second half of their epic compilation of new artists (many of whom I’ve never heard of) covering 70s, 80s, and 90s (but mostly 80s) songs. I had a few tracks from the first half, but hadn’t sat down and dug through it carefully. This release gave me the opportunity to really look at both parts. There’s the odd dance remix track and a lot of more tribute-y tracks that don’t distinguish themselves from the original to any great extent, but I’ve found a few real gems. I won’t offer too much commentary here, because part of the enjoyment for me was plowing through the list and stumbling across covers of songs I haven’t thought about in at least a decade. For those who might prefer a faster approach than song-by-song, there’s a single (large) downloadable archive with all the files in the right-hand sidebar on the front page. The sidebar claims that they have a similar downloadable archive for Part 1 on their MySpace page, but I couldn’t find it.
MP3: Freezepop – Only You (Yaz/Yazoo cover)
Two recent articles, one in the Economist’s culture magazine (link) and one in the Independent (link) both take the recently released 2008 concert revenue figures as a starting point to discuss the future of touring musical acts. Unsurprisingly, the Economist gives a deeper historical perspective (I’m impressed by their ability to work in a reference to Tom Stoppard), whereas the Independent’s article focuses more on the numbers, including a list of the highest-grossing tours of 2008, with Madonna (pictured) at the top of the heap. The Independent reports that music sales have fallen in the last five years due to, among other factors, “the corrosive effects effects of piracy.” They also note that concert revenues are up by 13%. While they fail to connect these two things, both articles quote David Bowie:
The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within ten years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. …Music itself is going to be like running water or electricity…you’d better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that’s really the only unique situation that’s going to be left.
Even more remarkable is that it’s from an interview with the New York Times in 2002.
So looking forward to this. Bryce and Aaron Dessner, of The National, curated a 2-CD release called Dark Was the Night. It’s being released by the “Red Hot” organization, who’ve put out about a dozen or so albums to benefit AIDS research and related causes. The lineup looks amazing – as well as an unreleased National track, it includes a collaboration between Feist and Ben Gibbard, Spoon, the New Pornographers, the Kronos Quartet, and more. The release date is set for February 17th on Beggar’s Banquet.
It’s official – Apple announced today that it will no longer use digital rights management on songs from iTunes, taking effect before the end of the quarter. This goes hand-in-hand with a change in the pricing structure, with song prices ranging from 69 cents to $1.29. In case you’ve ever wondered why z=z only linked to eMusic, Beatport, and Amazon – this was why. I still listen to CDs that I bought twenty years ago, and Apple had no interest in making sure I can do this with their protected songs – why should they care, after all, since I’ve already paid them? So I’m delighted to see Apple take this move away from the dark side.
Reuters article: link
(thanks to Scott for the heads-up!)
[trivia note: Propellerheads' "Take California" was the first song used to advertise the iPod, way back in 2001.]