Archive for February, 2009

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Live stream of Buzzcocks concert

February 10, 2009

buzzcocks

Whoa, I’m so stoked about this. Tomorrow (February 11), the Buzzcocks are doing a show in Amsterdam. UK site Fab Channel will be streaming it live on the web, starting at 11:30 am PST and 2:30 pm EST – nothing like a punk show while you’re at your desk working. If you’re not sure if you should bother to put on your headphones and watch (hint: you should), you can check out their website, Myspace page, Wikipedia entry, or this previous z=z post.

Here’s the webcast site: link.

MP3: Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen In Love [buy]

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Listen local: Clatter Clatter

February 10, 2009

too-many-boxesClatter Clatter is another Boston-based band with roots at Berklee (gee, you’d think they were educating musicians or something). They just released their debut album, Too Many Boxes, in January. The songs range from gorgeously  atmospheric (“Just to Say”), to Ben Folds-style piano-driven tunes (“Downpour”), to almost 70s rock sounds (“Australia”). It’s short notice, but they are playing at TT the Bear’s in Cambridge tonight (Tuesday, February 10th); if you miss them, you can check out their Myspace page for additional upcoming shows, including an opening spot for Youth Group in April.

MP3: Clatter Clatter – Just to Say [buy]

[Left Coasters, I promise I’ll have some more Pacific Northwest bands soon!]

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Threesome: “I liked them better before.”

February 9, 2009

elitismdiagram600

So, if you are music geek to any degree, at some point you’ve found yourself saying (or at least thinking) some variation on “I liked them before they were cool.” (“I liked their first album better.” “I saw them play this little club.” The permutations are endless.)

I heard a recent Modest Mouse song the other day, and it made me think about how much more I liked their early stuff, and why that would be. So here’s an argument for why it’s not just musical elitism: The early stuff – the first music that you heard by a given artist – is what you chose. It’s the music that spoke to you, that resonated with you in some way that led you to pluck it from the sounds around it and hold it close to your heart. The later music, on the other hand, is presented to you. (“It’s the new album by X.”) It doesn’t have to elevate itself from the background noise in the same way that the first music that you heard by the artist did. So, while it’s great when you like a band more and more as they release new music, that’s unlikely to be the norm.

In defense of the elitism aspect, though, sometimes artists make conscious decisions to be more accessible, musically or lyrically. For example, in the Dresden Dolls‘ first EP, A is for Accident, the live version of “Coin-Operated Boy,” contains the line, “I can’t even fuck him in the ass.” It was later changed, in their debut self-titled album, to the considerably more radio-friendly “I can’t even take him in the bath.” It’s hard to fault them for this, and I still love the new version, but I do prefer the uncompromised former version.

If you do happen to be a die-hard musical elitist, who stops listening to bands entirely once they go mainstream, may I recommend the lovely Diesel Sweeties t-shirt or hoody pictured above? (rstevens has a bunch of other cool music geek shirts, if that one is a bit too abrasive for you).

MP3: Spoon – Small Stakes [from Kill the Moonlight, 2002]

MP3: Modest Mouse – Tiny Cities Made of Ashes [from The Moon & Antarctica, 2000]

MP3: Death Cab for Cutie – Amputations [from Something About Airplanes, 1998]

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Coverage: Nightmare Revisited

February 6, 2009


[extended trailer for Coraline on YouTube; if you can’t watch it, click here]

Guest blogger Scott writes:

Coraline opens today and, while debcha might be most excited about the production of a favored author’s work, I have multiple reasons to be excited. I like gothic spooky, but can’t stomach horror (at least until a Hollywood hack proposes the cheap vampire crossover Underworld vs. Twilight — I may actually already be in line for that movie), and Hollywood doesn’t usually make much of a distinction. I have a lifelong love of children’s entertainment that doesn’t take a dim view of children. And this movie will fill out my double feature of Animated Films Featuring the Voice Talent of Humorous Non-Fiction Authors Who I’m Secretly Stalking.

But mostly, I’m excited for another off-kilter, animated film by Henry Selick. The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of my ten favorite movies of all time, and while it’s thought of as a Tim Burton movie, Selick was able to give the same eerie look and feel to James and the Giant Peach. That’s not to take away from what Burton brought to Nightmare, but just to point out that Selick, given good source material, can perform the same artistry again. “But wait,” I hear you say, “Isn’t this a music blog? What are you rambling on about?” I’m getting there.

debcha has previously written about the changing business model of music, one piece of which is the increasing placement of songs in other media. For television, this has resulted in the “Music From” album. But in their ever-increasing effort to squeeze out every last drop of marketability from a product, we’re now starting to see things like this—albums of covers of music from TV shows or movies. Now, unlike those Amazon commenters, I don’t think this is inherently bad, but then, I like covers. And although the initial album is a different beast entirely, it’s that same premise that brings us to Nightmare Revisited.

The album came out in September and, though it caught my interest, I hadn’t gotten around to listening to it until just a couple of weeks ago. Now, if you read blogs devoted to cover music, they’ll pretty universally claim that what makes a cover worthwhile is the artist taking the material and making it their own in an interesting way. This album definitely does that. But it took a bit more thinking, first about the songs themselves and then about the theory of what makes a good cover, to figure out why the album was disappointing (not bad, just disappointing). The instrumentals were mostly enjoyable, and the instrumentation for the songs generally sounded better than the song turned out to be.

In making the covers their own, what was missing was the sense that the performers understood what made the songs good in the first place. In particular, I think the difference is that the singers (I’ve never before used that term to describe Korn, and God willing, I never will again) are just that—singers—rather than actors. They use their voices to convey a story, but not to convey a character. So in the original “What’s This?”, Danny Elfman both tells the story of Jack Skellington’s arrival in Christmastown and gets across the somewhat-crazed excitement he feels at being there. Lacey Mosley of Flyleaf, despite making some really interesting changes to the structure of the song and instrumentals, sounds wrong to me largely because she isn’t doing that kind of emoting. And that’s not to pick on her, as most of the songs have a similar problem—interesting and promising instrumentation choices marred by voice work that doesn’t make adequate sense of the words being sung.

MP3: Danny Elfman – What’s This?
MP3: Flyleaf – What’s This?

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The Bloodsugars at All-Asia on Feb 7

February 5, 2009

bloodsugars-bqep

Brooklyn-based The Bloodsugars are doing a show at the All-Asia in Cambridge on Saturday night (February 7). Man, there’s all these great East Coast bands that aren’t making it out to the West Coast. If you’re on the right side of the country, go check out The Bloodsugars  sweet indie pop. While they are presumably supporting their recent release, BQEP, they have do two songs on the 1980s cover album Guilt By Association 2; I know I’d have my fingers crossed for their version of Chris De Burgh’s “Lady in Red.”

More The Bloodsugars: myspace website

MP3: The Bloodsugars – Purpose Was Again [buy]

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Listen local: Logan 5 and the Runners

February 4, 2009

Logan 5 and the Runners

I think that Boston’s  Logan 5 and the Runners pretty much had me at their name (if you are not as much of an über-geek as I, this is the reference. If you are, there might be a new version coming out next year.) But it’s their Britpop-esque sound that sealed the deal – if Pulp and Roxy Music, had a bastard love child who was born in the 90s and is now an avid consumer of TV, movies and the Internet, it might sound like Logan 5 and the Runners. Singer David Berndt (who bears a resemblance to actor Michael York, which inspired the band name) has a voice which sounds raw and sexual with an overlay of sophistication, or possibly the other way around. As befits their sci-fi namesake, Berndt’s vocals are backed by synthesizer hooks and tense guitars, coalescing into a catchy and memorable sound that evokes an alternate-history 1980s London.

They’re playing at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain on Friday, February 6th, in support of their recently-released debut album, Featurette. Check them out.

More Logan 5 and the Runners: Boston Phoenix article, website, Myspace

MP3: Logan 5 and the Runners – Girls of the Internet [buy]

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Electric Laser People in Nike campaign

February 3, 2009

nike-punchbag

While we’ve previously discussed the role of advertising in getting new music heard here at zed equals zee, it’s just come surprisingly close to home. Nike decided to use a riff from the song “Guilty,” by Boston band and z=z faves Electric Laser People for their “Be Transformed” campaign. The song is part of the soundtrack for an ad called “Punching Bag,” which features Hong Kong volleyball player Sonia Kong working out with a heavy bag, which then transforms into an animated monster. The whole ad campaign is really interesting, actually – it’s for Nike Women, and it focuses on women transforming themselves through sports and competition. Given that its target market is Asia and the Pacific Rim (including countries like India, mainland China and the Philippines), it really does send a strong message to cultures that haven’t traditionally valued women.

You can read more about it at the ELP blog and at TrashBagAesthetics, where you can also watch the ads. Or you can see them in the wild at one of the Nike pages, such as this page for India.

Because Electric Laser People are super cool, you can download their whole album, Straight Talk on Raising Kids, at their site (it’s free and under a Creative Commons license). Also, you should go check them out live at the All-Asia Cafe in Cambridge, MA on February 27, and if you are an MIT person (or enjoy hanging out with MIT people), they are playing The Thirsty Ear next Friday, February 13th. More tour dates at their blog.

MP3: Electric Laser People – Guilty [buy CD]

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The future of vinyl?

February 2, 2009

Diesel Sweeties on Vinyl

[click image for full-size version at Diesel Sweeties]

So, in the comments to a previous post, there was a brief discussion on the future of vinyl records. Aaron char Manders quoted the CEO of Newbury Comics as describing vinyl as a ‘novelty,’ a description which suggests a certain transience.

Here’s a couple of starting points for discussion:

  1. In the world of electronic music, long a stronghold for vinyl, there is a steady movement towards digital music – so much so that next Friday, there’s an underground party in San Francisco billed as ‘Nothing But Vinyl’ and featuring Sammy Dee and Marc Schneider.
  2. If you look at the top ten vinyl sellers last year, there is a solid mix of old (Abbey Road, Dark Side of the Moon), new (In Rainbows, Fleet Foxes, and Portishead’s Third), and, notably,  indie classic In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel.

Given that vinyl is currently, as Aaron memorably put it, ‘an unassuming pimple on the large, albeit slimming, butt of CDs,’ will vinyl remain a viable, if niche, medium indefinitely? Or is this the faddish last gasp of popularity before vinyl fades forever? I’d be interested in arguments on both sides – what do we think?

MP3: Neutral Milk Hotel – Holland, 1945 [buy]