Archive for March, 2009


Coverage: Commissions at Cover Me

March 23, 2009


Guest blogger Scott writes:

Cover Me, a cover song blog, has begun commissioning covers from independent artists. In blogger Ray’s words:

Here’s the gist. Every month we will present to you an artist, one who’s probably showed up on the blog before, one whom I feel has a lot to offer cover-wise. Said artist has signed on to produce a special, never-before-heard cover for Cover Me. A commissioned work minus the money. What song will be covered? Well that depends on the artist, but as often as possible, the song choice is up to you!

The first commission has been completed and posted, a cover of Devo’s “Beautiful World.” I’m not a huge fan of the original, but this definitely an interesting sound. James Eric also submitted a cover of the third place finisher, MGMT’s “Time to Pretend,” which is more to my taste.

The second commission is to be performed by John Anealio. When the poll closed, the final tally of votes on the second commission showed a tie between The Flaming Lips’ “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” and Styx’s “Mr. Roboto.” So clearly, whatever Anealio chooses, we win. But here’s hoping he goes with the commenter who suggested “Yoshimi Battles Mr. Roboto.”

MP3: James Eric – Time to Pretend (MGMT cover)


How $1500 headphones are made

March 20, 2009


Ever wondered how ultra-high-end headphones are made? CNet UK went on a tour of the Sennheiser factory in Hanover, Germany to watch the fabrication of their HD 800 headphones, and they are sharing a photo tour. It’s pretty cool – while some parts are shipped to the factory from elsewhere, all of the electronics are assembled in-house, by hand, and only fifty pairs are made each day.

If you have (or are thinking of getting) a pair of these babies, you damn well better be able to tell the difference between MP3 bitrates and you’d better prefer higher-fidelity music. Otherwise, me and a crack team of my music-loving friends will have to come to your house and administer a stern talking-to.

Photo tour of the factory here, and a review of the HD 800s here.


Anonymous: “The X-Factory”

March 20, 2009


Okay, these guys get full bonus points for intrigue (not to mention snark).

An excerpt from the e-mail I received today, from one Quentin Coward (all links are mine):

This year, as for several years, “The X-Factor” and its coven of related “reality” shows such as “American Idol” have been a subject of much debate, controversy and – in many musical circles – derision.

This year in particular, this began to rub a lot of people up the wrong way.

Hundreds of campaigns, backing alternatives from Jeff Buckley (whose version of Hallelujah in fact reached Number 2) to Rick Astley to Peter Kay to Terry Wogan to Chris Difford from Squeeze launched across social networking sites, radio and TV stations and press outlets.
“The X-Factory” is a response, from a group of musicians who are, for the time being, keeping their identity to themselves. They are also refusing to share their sandwiches.

The mission statement was simple and two-fold:
1.) The project budget must at no time exceed £15.
2.) Real instruments and players must be used at all times.

Also, it had to be fun. We had fun. And we hope you do too.

Can you guess who Anonymous are? There will be prizes and possibly hats.

Team Anonymous

I think it’s highly likely that the artists involved are not quite as famous as the ones they cited, and I appreciate this mostly as a creative and humorous guerrilla marketing campaign.

MP3: Anonymous – The X-Factory

If sarcastic folky Brits are up your alley, you may also appreciate Mitch Benn‘s musical takedown of James Blunt, which I think is rather wittier, both musically and lyrically (“he’s the only man alive who’s his own rhyming slang”).

MP3: Mitch Benn – I May Just Have to Murder James Blunt


How-to: Digital submissions to music blogs

March 19, 2009

Music bloggers are in the game for love, not for money. We love listening to new music and helping out emerging musicians, and most of us welcome submissions from artists. But the whole ‘doing it for love’ thing also means we trying to listen and write about new music in the interstices of our day job and the rest of our life. Here are some tips to help make it easy on us, which means that we’re more likely to listen and write about what you send.

The farther away your e-mail is from a form letter, the more likely I am to listen to your music. In particular, I can practically guarantee I’ll give it a listen if you say nice things about my blog and can relate your band’s music to my love of Britpop/geeks/overeducated musicians/(insert topic here).

Tell me why I should listen to it. Writing about music may be like dancing about architecture, but it’s the tool you have at your disposal to convince me to spend more time on it. No matter what, you should say something about your music, even if it’s the dreaded ‘we sound like x, y, and z.’

Send me links to individual MP3s – don’t just send me the whole album in one chunk. I’m not going to dedicate the hard drive space or listening time to a whole album from an artist that’s new to me without checking out a bite-sized piece first.

Use logical filenames. It’s your baby, so you don’t need this information. But I do. If I want to find it again, it helps if your fantastic new opus has a more mellifluous title than ‘Track 03.’ At the very least, put the song title into the filename. Note that I also have a new appreciation for band names that don’t start with ‘the.’

On a related note…

Give me good metadata. If I download your song to my computer, I’d like to be able to keep track of it. Make sure all the metadata is in place. Artist, song title, and album, please.

If I’ve gotten this far, there’s a good chance I’ll want to say something about your music. Make it easy for me.

Point me to an electronic press kit. It can be a website, a PDF, a SonicBids page. Anything with a bio and photos I can download (SonicBids disallows right-clicking and saving, which is annoying).

Hosting the MP3s yourself is a nicety (but not a necessity). While I host MP3s for my blog, not everyone is happy using their own storage and bandwidth. If you provide an MP3 link to share, it’s a bit nicer for the blog and it also makes it easier for you to track downloads.

Help me decide what song to post. Tell me if you’d like me to post a particular song, or if I can choose a song I like. If you don’t want me posting any songs, I won’t—but it’ll also make me disinclined to write about you, especially if you aren’t well-known.

Finally, please don’t send me DJ mixes. I don’t care what you do in your bedroom; I only want to hear you live, in front of a crowd. Figure out how to get shows in your area.

This list of tips is a work in progress – I’d love to get feedback, especially if you’re an artist who’s been on the other side of the process.

MP3: Clatter Clatter – Downpour [buy]

Edited to add:

Do not add me to your mailing list without first asking for and receiving permission. There’s a name for unsolicited commercial e-mail:  spam. Cluttering up my inbox will not predispose me kindly to you, to put it mildly.


Neophile: Ten Minute Turns

March 18, 2009


One of the most intriguing bands on the MPress Records sampler CD is Ten Minute Turns, out of Brooklyn. Following in the long tradition of rock bands birthed at art schools, principals Roger Mason and Alan Foreman met while at RISD. Their sound occupies the middle ground between guitar-driven indie pop and the electro sounds of bands like Cut Copy; evident in, for example, the slightly-vocodered vocals on “Aluminum Shine,” of their sophomore full-length, Leaving Robot City. The driving rhythms are accented by horns and accordion, and the resultant songs range from gently melacholic (“Somethin’ That I Don’t Know”) to out-and-out stompers (“Sad Animals,” from the EP of the same name). Plus, any band gets bonus points from me for referencing circuit-bending in their lyrics.

MP3: Ten Minute Turns – Aluminum Shine [buy]


Are we starting to prefer MP3s?

March 17, 2009

ipodnano1According to Stanford University music professor Jonathan Berger, the number of people who prefer MP3s to higher fidelity formats is rising every year. Every fall, he asks his incoming students to listen to music in a variety of formats and rate which ones they prefer. Apparently, there is a steadily-increasing fraction of students who actually prefer the overly-compressed sounds of low-bitrate MP3s, at least for rock music. (I say ‘apparently’ because a quick search in Google Scholar failed to turn up published data – if you can find it, let me know.) This reminds me of the debate about what tastes better, tap water or spring water. The Ontario Science Centre had an exhibit that showed that your preference just depended on what you normally drank. It looks like MP3s are the same way – people prefer what they are used to, even if other formats are objectively better.

Predictably, audiophiles are freaking out. However, as the price of storage and bandwidth drops, there’s no reason to think that higher fidelity formats won’t become the norm. I’m sure there were lots of people who preferred the sound of cassette tapes, or AM radio.

Interested in whether you prefer 192 or 320 kbps MP3s? Check out an earlier z=z post here.

[via O’Reilly Radar]


Early warning: z=z happy hour!

March 16, 2009


Put it on your calendars, everyone – the first official zed equals zee Happy Hour has a date! Join myself, guest blogger Scott, and intrepid correspondent Tim Smith at the Miracle of Science on Monday, March 30th, from 6 to 8 pm. I’ve talked to the bar about taking over their stereo for a playlist of z=z faves from Boston, Seattle, and beyond.

I’m looking forward to putting some faces behind the usernames, and we’d love if you can join us. RSVPs to me or in the comments are appreciated for planning purposes, but are by no means necessary.

Hope to see you there!

MP3: Logan 5 and the Runners: Subtitles [buy]