Apr 2, 02:19 PM: EMI gets it, who will follow?
It make sense. I’d be much more willing to buy an album online if it’s not encumbered by DRM. I’m very excited about the possibilities, and I’m hoping we will finally see a change sweep across the recording industry.
We’ll have to see what the RIAA’s reaction will be.
Apr 1, 09:59 PM: Download music, help save the planet?
I was reading TIME Magazine’s special report on Global Warming, and it got me thinking. Currently I spent $3.00 per month to Cool Driver to offset the carbon emissions of my car. The Time article got me thinking about how much carbon is emitted in the production of a compact disc, and how much these emissions are reduced as a consequence of music downloading.
These are very rudimentary calculations, but I would imagine the general idea is fairly accurate.
The first figure I found for how much carbon is emitted from the production of a compact disc was via a blog, which cites its source as a Canadian firm called Offsetters. Their figure is .212 tonnes of CO2 per $1,000 of record sales. Figuring an industry typical $18 per CD (which is admittedly a bit high), that comes out to .0038 tonnes per album.
The music industry throws around large numbers for how much they have suffered, and one popular figure is $4.2 billion in lost revenue. This is attributed to multiple source of piracy, but we’ll work with the figure anyway.
Taking the .212 tonnes of CO2 per $1,000 figure, we come to an estimated carbon offset of 890,400 tonnes.
Sure, that figure may not be very accurate, as some of that may include “hard” copies made by pirates, which would have the same carbon emissions. So, say you go with a figure of 700,000.
That’s a fairly substantial figure. Add in legal downloading of music, with over 1 billion songs downloaded on the iTunes Music Store. Running that through my non-scientific calculations, that’s another 200,000 some tonnes of carbon. We’re now at around a million tonnes of carbon emissions reduced. Not too shabby.
Something to think about.
I’d be interested in more accurate calculations. If anyone has a source for CO2 emissions for the production of compact discs, let me know. Also, if we figure in full-length movie downloads… that would be interesting as well.
Apr 1, 04:42 AM: Belle & Sebastian break up.
Belle & Sebastian just posted the following MySpace bulletin, announcing their decision to break-up, as well as some tour dates for a farewell tour.
Date: Apr 1, 2007 3:51 AM
Subject: Calling it quits, farewell tour.
Body: Greetings friends,
This decision was made with quite a heavy heart, but the gang has decided that it’s time for Belle & Sebastian to split up. It’s been 11 years since we wrote our first record, and alas all good things must come to an end.
However, we’re not about to say good-bye without saying farewell to our beloved friends. This summer, we will be embarking on a farewell tour, which will include gigs on both sides of the pond.
We will be joined by our dear friend Isobel Campbell for this tour, and Stuart David may very well make a few appearances. So far, we have the following dates scheduled:
JUNE 15, 2007: ABC, Glasgow, Scotland
JUNE 16, 2007: Music Hall, Aberdeen, Scotland
JUNE 17, 2007: Ritz, Manchester, England
JUNE 22, 2007: Hammersmith Apollo, London, England
JUNE 23, 2007: Hammersmith Apollo, London, England
JUNE 30, 2007: Nokia Theatre, New York City, U.S.A.
JUNE 31, 2007: Hammerstein Ballroom, New York City, U.S.A.
JULY 1, 2007: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, U.S.A.
JULY 2, 2007: 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C. U.S.A.
JULY 5, 2007: Avalon, Boston, U.S.A.
JULY 6, 2007: The Docks, Toronto, Canada
JULY 7, 2007: Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, U.S.A.
JULY 10, 2007: Commodore, Vancouver, Canada
JULY 11, 2007: Paramount, Seattle, U.S.A.
JULY 14, 2007: Wiltern, Los Angeles, U.S.A.
JULY 17, 2007: Trafalgar Square, London, England
JULY 19, 2007: Princes St. Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland
More dates to be confirmed soon.
We love you all, and thank you so much!
Mar 22, 01:14 AM: Live Show: Oh No! Oh My!
Oh No! Oh My!
March 21, 2007 at the Black Cat, Washington, DC
Oh No! Oh My!’s self-titled album was ranked #22 on my top records of 2006 list. When I reviewed that album back in October, I talked about how I was hoping to see them live. Well, my wish came true the other night at the Black Cat.
Prior to the show, I joked that they would most likely play the songs I didn’t like on the album, mixed with “new material.” When the band opened with “Skips the Foreplay,” I knew my prediction was going to come true. I always wondered why they opened their album with that track, let alone the show. I find it to be a bit of an awkward song, but I held out hope for the rest of the set.
On the positive side, the sound quality at the Black Cat was excellent. This is often the case at the Cat, but last night was impressive. Unfortunately, though, high fidelity sound can’t make up for a poor set. The band played several new songs, including one that featured the drummer on vocals, singing “I’m not a monster.” That song was supposedly a “dance number” but was more just an awkward show of some awkward guys jumping around on stage.
They played every track off their record except for “On the Town,” “Farewell to All My Friends” and “The Backseat.” Unfortunately, those were some of the best songs. Their live versions of “Lisa Make Love” and “Jane is Fat” were awkward, and the instrumentation seemed to be off. “I Love You All the Time,” which relies on some synths and keys, seemed too focused on an acoustic guitar, which completely changed the sound.
I came away from the show thinking that they should just stick to the acoustic guitar and play songs such as “Farewell to All My Friends” rather than awkward renditions of the songs that sounded great in the studio.
Of course I give a band leeway in playing songs differently live. Most of the time the band can bring the song to life in a way that’s not possible listening to it at home. However, in the case of Oh No! Oh My!, it was much like watching a completely different band cover some Oh No! Oh My! songs.
It was the first night of their tour, coming on the heels of SXSW, so I’ll give them some benefit of the doubt. However, I wasn’t particularly impressed. Perhaps I was expecting something different, or something more. Instead I got a band that seemed like a bad imitation of The Boy Least Likely To.
Mar 14, 01:27 AM: Music wants to be free
The discussion of copyrights on creative works has been going on since the invention of radio. Most likely it was present even before that. The question all along has been how best to protect the copyright holder. Rarely, if ever, do you see a debate that also takes in account the public good, or how copyright laws should help protect creativity. Instead, it becomes a black and white issue, with the copyright holder versus the thieves.
I’ve had a cursory interest in this going back to the day I downloaded my first mp3 back in 1998. I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but indeed I “stole” the song “Walkin’ on the Sun” by Smashmouth. Oh lord. Back in 2003, I wrote a fairly extensive piece on the RIAA’s lawsuits against college students. I consider myself fairly informed on this issue. I also have some first-hand knowledge of the music industry, having worked with, and become friends with, many musicians.
What would I like to see? Congress should limit copyrights to perhaps, say, 3-5 years. Three-to-five years of exclusive commercial distribution, with an greatly expanded fair-use exclusion. Take for example, Girl Talk’s sampling. He takes various source material, which is copyrighted, and uses it to create new songs. Girl Talk is but one example, you can choose your own (The Avalanches, The Go! Team, etc., etc.). One of the songs sampled is “Bittersweet Symphony” by the Verve. Is anyone going to buy the Girl Talk record as a substitute for the Verve record, because it uses a short loop sample? No, of course not. Is someone going to be confused and think that Girl Talk is the Verve? I should think not. Fair use should extend to new works created from something old, something that is materially different than the original. Fair use should also extend to the non-commercial sharing of copyrighted material.
Now let’s address the typical counter-argument of, “Doesn’t this hurt the artists? Why would they create music if they couldn’t get paid for it?” This assumes a few things, one being that all artists are solely concerned with eventually making obscene amounts of money, and second that a majority of an artist’s income is from record sales. For most musicians, both of these are false. For 99.5% of artists, the second is definitely false.
Take a smaller band, on a small record label. Maybe, if they are lucky, they can produce a thousand or so records. Even at $15, that’s $15,000 for the band. Not exactly bling-worthy. Smaller labels have less distribution, so often the only way to purchase the record is directly from the record company, or at a show. Most bands sell very few records at a show, and it would take a long time to sell 1,000 records. So how do they eat? They play shows. Why do you think most independent bands tour 6-8 months each year? So they can sell a bunch of CDs at their shows? Bands make money by playing shows, period. They sell what merchandise they can, whether it be CDs, shirts, posters, etc—but their main source of income is from playing live music.
An interesting phenomenon has taken place in the past few years. Bands on small indie labels, and even unsigned bands with self-released records, have been able to sell out shows all across the country, and in some cases all around the world. Can you imagine, in the 1980’s, 90’s, or at any time prior to the “spread of piracy” that an unsigned band could sell out shows in towns across the country? A band that releases maybe a couple thousand CDs, selling 500+ tickets in one city? How do you think that happens? Certainly not from hearing the band on the radio, and I’ll bet not from listening to 2-3 songs on a band’s web site or Myspace.
Take Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, for example. After the release of their self-titled album, they played a sold out show here in Washington. They sold probably around 400-500 tickets at the Black Cat. I’d venture to guess a majority of those people did not legally purchase the record. I’ll bet most of them downloaded the album, or a few tracks, liked it, and went to the show. So again, how exactly did the band lose out on that one?
The purpose of copyrights is to spur creativity. The idea is to provide an incentive for creativity, in order to further the public good. If you’re iffy about this, just check out the U.S. Constitution, it’s in there. Copyrights were not designed simply to provide a perpetual revenue stream for the content owner.
That said, those who would be harmed the most by free sharing of music would be artists who rely on the sales of millions of records for their revenue, and more importantly, the large corporations who own their music. It could be argued that these are the artists who contribute the least to the public good, but perhaps that’s a bit shaky of an argument. A vast change in copyright law would “hurt” musicians who write a few songs and hope to live off record sales for the rest of their lives. On the flip-side, it would “help” musicians who make their livings playing their music for their fans.
Music wants to be free. The public clearly wants music to be free. Both free as in beer, and free as in speech. As I see it, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be free. I’ll admit, if I had paid for all of the music I have on my computer, I would have paid some $22,000 for it (or more). That’s about $21,500 “worth” of music I would never have heard. That’s about 75 artists I would have never known to go see play a live show. I would bet most artists would rather have someone listen to, enjoy and appreciate a shared copy of their music than have someone who had never heard of them. Any artist who tells you different shouldn’t enjoy the privilege (and it is a privilege) of a copyright.
Mar 7, 10:27 PM: Norfolk, Dismemberment Plan, Telograph
Yes, there’s been a lack of updates here. I’ve been keeping myself busy, though.
Last weekend I went down to Norfolk to see my friends Dirty on Purpose and the Lymbyc Systym play at the Boot. The Boot is quite an interesting venue—a seafood restaurant by day, a rock venue by night.
Here are a couple photos:
I’ll soon have galleries posted from the Boot show, as well as the Lymbyc Systym at the Warehouse Next Door here in D.C.
In other news, the Dismemberment Plan has announced two benefit shows in D.C. The d-plan broke up in 2003, so these two shows are a Pretty Big Deal. I’ve got tickets to the Friday show, on April 27. I’ll be taking photos, of course.
The last item for this update is that Telograph will be supporting O.A.R. for five shows in April. And yes, I’ll be there to document the whole thing. Five stadium shows, it’s going to be quite an experience.
Feb 26, 05:10 PM: Review: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Some Loud Thunder
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!
Some Loud Thunder
I didn’t get around to listening to this record until, well, a few days ago. In the past I’ve referred to CYHSY as “Clap Your Hands Say Meh.” I thought their 2005 self-titled debut was just OK, and I was not part of the blogger brigade that brought this band and their self-released record to the forefront of indie music.
I’m done tooting my own horn. Let’s talk about music. 2007 is the year of hype deflation. The Shins, the Arcade Fire, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, all records that will bring bands back to reality.
Since I never understood the hype behind CYHSY’s first record, I’ll be honest and say I enjoyed Some Loud Thunder. It’s not exactly my cup of tea, but this record isn’t bad. “Love Song No. 7” is my favorite track, along with “Five Easy Pieces.” The band takes things in a bit of a new direction on this release, adding a bit more complexity to their songs.
There isn’t so much anything akin to “Over and Over Again (Lost and Found)” or “Is this Love?” on Some Loud Thunder. The songs aren’t as shiny, I’d venture to say there’s a grittier sound which does the band well. “Yankee Go Home” evokes a Dan Bejar sound, which was certainly unexpected, and I haven’t rendered a verdict on it yet.
The album has it’s low points, though, and I’m not afraid to say “Satan Said Dance” is a fairly awful song. It’s an “Electronic Renaissance”-style song, but with terribly annoying lyrics. Hearing “Satan Said” crooned over and over becomes grating after a while.
Overall, Some Loud Thunder is an average release, and the band continues to get some brownie points for doing things themselves.
Feb 24, 04:59 PM: Review: Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
It’s been joked within the indie circuit that when Neon Bible drops, it will be a competition over who can pretend to hate it the most. After all, it’s our duty to bring the leader of the Overhyped Canadian Import Brigade™ back to Earth, no? The sophomore release is what makes the band, and certainly no band could ever live up to the hype that the Arcade Fire saw after 2004’s Funeral.
And guess what, they don’t. Neon Bible certainly isn’t the best thing to ever happen to music. Upon hearing it, you don’t drop whatever it is you’re doing and write on your blog about how the record has changed your life. However, it is a good record. A solid release.
If you’re looking for more “epic” songs along the lines of “Rebellion (Lies)” you’ll be pleased with “Intervention.” The already-released single, starts off with the powerful pipe organ and doesn’t quite let you go. “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations” and “My Body is a Cage” also have potential to be stand-outs. However, none of these are quite on the same level as “Wake Up,” which is one of the best songs of this decade.
My main beef with Neon Bible is that it relies on rather cliched subject material. Religion, sin, war, etc., can make for good material, sometimes. The Thermals’ The Body, the Blood, the Machine comes to mind. However, I always associated the Arcade Fire with more interpersonal subjects, or at least more personal than the general subject of “war,” for example. I think my dislike of the title track says it all. There’s only so much you can say about the commercialization and general bastardization of religion in today’s culture.
Neon Bible is a decent sophomore effort by the Arcade Fire. It shows some development and evolution in their sound, which is always a good thing. This record confirms that the Arcade Fire has staying power. It also confirms that they are human, and that the hype over this release was impossible to live up to.
Feb 5, 09:14 PM: Band to Watch: The Lymbyc Systym
The band consists of brothers Mike and Jared Bell, who recently completed a nationwide tour with the Album Leaf and Dirty on Purpose. They will now be touring in support of their new album.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the Lymbyc Systym live show many times, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing them play at the Warehouse Next Door here in D.C. on February 28th. The Lymbyc Systym isn’t quite your traditional Mogwai-sounding post-rock band. The Bell brothers manage to put together a unique sound, coming together for a very powerful live presentation. Jimmy LaValle of the Album Leaf was a contributor on Love Your Abuser, so if you’re a fan of his this gives you all the more reason to check this band out.
2.14 | JOHNNY BRENDA’S, PHILADELPHIA PA
2.15 | MERCURY LOUNGE, NEW YORK NY
2.16 | GALAPAGOS, BROOKLYN NY
2.17 | RALPH’S DINER, WORCESTER MA
2.19 | TT THE BEAR’S, BOSTON MA
2.20 | VALENTINE’S, ALBANY NY
2.21 | HIGHER GROUND, BURLINGTON VT
2.22 | SOUNDLAB, BUFFALO NY
2.23 | MODERN EXCHANGE, SOUTHGATE MI
2.24 | MIKE N MOLLY’S, CHAMPAIGN IL
2.25 | EMPTY BOTTLE, CHICAGO IL
2.26 | LITTLE BROTHER’S, COLUMBUS OH
2.28 | WAREHOUSE NEXT DOOR, WASH. DC
3.02 | THE BOOT, NORFOLK VA
3.04 | DUBLINER, BOCA RATON FL
3.05 | NEW WORLD BREWERY, TAMPA FL
3.06 | BOTTLETREE, BIRMINGHAM AL
3.07 | SPANISH MOON, BATON ROUGE LA
3.08 | PARISH, AUSTIN TX
4.18 | MODIFIED, PHOENIX AZ
4.19 | PLUSH, TUCSON AZ
Jan 29, 10:49 PM: Confirmed, Pretty Girls Make Graves Breaks Up
You heard it here first.
From the band’s site:
28 January 2007
We are sorry to announce that our upcoming tour in May will be our last. Nick quit the band and the rest of us feel like it wouldn’t be right to continue on without him. The 5 of us feel very lucky to have met and worked with some truly amazing people over the years. Thank you all so much…
Jan 29, 09:06 PM: James to Reunite
Remember James? They were a 90’s alt-rock band, you may have heard their song “Laid” on the radio.
Well, they’ve been on “hiatus” for a while now, but it looks like they will be reuniting. From NME:
James have announced plans to reform and embark on a UK Spring tour.
The Manchester six-piece, who have not played together since Tim Booth left the band at the end of 2001, are to play five dates in April.
James, who recorded ten studio albums and had 20 Top Forty singles in the late 80s and early 90s, will be supported by ‘Best Midlands’ newcomers The Twang.
No U.S. Tour, but hey.
Jan 28, 09:57 PM: Telograph Photo Set Posted
33 photos of Telograph performing with Gomez and O.A.R. at the Patriot Center are now posted.
Jan 27, 01:49 AM: Quick Photos: Telograph at the Patriot Center
Quick update. Spent the day at the Patriot Center with Telograph, O.A.R. and Gomez.
Here’s a few shots of Telograph. More coming soon.
Great show, also.
Jan 25, 09:47 PM: Pretty Girls Make Graves Breaking Up?
This could be a bunch of hogwash, but the Black Cat updated their show schedule with the following:
SUN MAY 20- PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES (Last DC Show EVER) $13 mainstage 8:00 (on sale 2/2)
So either the Black Cat has some bad information, the band is going to avoid D.C. forever to make some kind of statement, or the band is breaking up.
Given the lack of updates on the band’s web site, I’m going to speculate that indeed Pretty Girls Make Graves is breaking up.
Jan 25, 09:29 PM: Coming Up: Telograph at the Patriot Center
DC band Telograph will take the stage tomorrow night in support of Gomez and O.A.R. at the Patriot Center.
For those not from the area, the Patriot Center is an arena, which serves as the home of the George Mason University basketball team.
I’m going to be shooting the show tomorrow for Telograph, so check back here this weekend for photos. If you feel like trekking out to the Patriot Center to support a local band, feel free. Telograph will also be headlining at the Black Cat a week later on Feb. 3.
Jan 23, 11:17 PM: Exit Clov Photo Set Up
Finally, I’ve got 23 photos of Exit Clov up and ready to view.
Jan 22, 03:07 PM: Middle Distance Runner Photos Up
Jan 22, 01:16 AM: Update: De Novo Dahl in Accident After DC Show
And here I was, worrying about the brightness being off on their photos. On their way back from the DC show last night, De Novo Dahl lost control of their van on a slippery interstate.
From their blog:
Hey everyone. Thanks for your concern. In case you weren’t aware, at about 7 this morning, we were returning from a show in DC (which was great, by the way) when we hit a patch of ice, subsequently fishtailing and ending up on our side in a ditch. The trailor is dead. The van is on life-support. Some of our gear is destroyed. But thank God, we are all ok aside from a few bumps, bruises, and scrapes.
We’re stranded in Christianburg, VA (or something like that) for the evening, but when we get home, I’ll post some pictures of the damage.
We appreciate the outpoor of support we have received thus far. We also want to thank everyone who came out for a great weekend of shows. Despite the ending, we had a wonderful time in Lexington, Newport, and DC.
Head over to their site and show them some support. Glad to hear everyone is okay.
Jan 21, 11:35 PM: De Novo Dahl Photo Set Up
After some rather annoying issues with Photoshop, I’ve posted the photoset of De Novo Dahl at the Black Cat.
Check it out, De Novo Dahl photo set.
Sets of Middle Distance Runner and of course, Exit Clov, coming soon.
Jan 21, 01:58 AM: Exit Clov at the Black Cat
Brief update, I just got home from the Exit Clov show at the Black Cat. Excellent set, all three bands were great. I have photos of Middle Distance Runner and De Novo Dahl as well. However, I’ve only had time to pull a few off my camera. I thought I’d share with you a few of them.
Exit Clov at the Black Cat, January 20, 2007:
Gallery of shots coming soon!
Jan 19, 04:17 PM: The Pipettes come to America
U.K. indiepop darlings The Pipettes are scheduled to play their very first U.S. show March 13 at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City.. They will be supported by Amy Winehouse. The show is $20/$18 advance. For more info, check out the Bowery’s calendar.
Jan 18, 08:47 PM: Middle Distance Runner Gear Stolen in NYC
This just in from Middle Distance Runner:
“Some jackass(es) in Brooklyn thought it would be cute to smash the window of our van and steal a bunch of our stuff yesterday. The following items were stolen:
-Fender Jazzmaster 1962 re-issue (sunburst w/ tortoise pick guard)
-Fender American Telecaster (sunburst w/ white pick guard)
-Fender 5-string Jazz Bass, HM model (white w/ paint chipping off near pickups)
-Drum hardware … cymbals, stands, tambourine, cowbell, shaker, etc…”
As a reminder, MDR will be playing with Exit Clov this Saturday at the Black Cat. Buy a t-shirt or CD while you are there and help these guys get some new gear. At this point, I lack any kind of inside information about how much of this loss (if any) would be covered by any kind of insurance. They are still playing the show on Saturday, no worries.
That’s a bummer for them, but you know, I can’t think of a band I know who hasn’t had their van broken into while in New York. Everyone I know has their horror story of coming back to their van and seeing broken glass.
Moral of the story, uh, well, I’m not sure there is one. Don’t park your van overnight in New York City, I guess.
Jan 15, 05:41 PM: Death Cab's Ben Gibbard turns actor
Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard has appeared on IMDB marking his first role in a feature film. The film, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, is based on a David Foster Wallace novel.
The adaptation, written and directed by John Krasinski (Jim Halpert on NBC’s The Office) is currently in production, for a release sometime this year.
I have not read Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, but from reviews I understand the basic gist of the novel is a woman interviewing various men in order to make sense of a recent breakup. Gibbard will be portraying “Harry,” though I do not know anything about that character. If you’ve read the book, please feel free to shed some light things.
Jan 10, 01:12 AM: Favorite Albums of All-Time (Part IV)
Q and Not U, No Kill No Beep Beep (2000, Dischord)
I had a hard time picking between this and Different Damage for a Q and Not U record to feature. This is the record that got me into the band, so I figured it was a good bet. I was only a fan for about a year and a half before the band called it quits in 2005, but I was at least able to see them three times at the Black Cat. Other than Fugazi, Q and Not U is what first introduced me to DC music. With their breakup, the disbanding of Black Eyes and Fugazi’s indefinite hiatus, the Dischord empire has for the most part crumbled.
“A Line in the Sand” from this record is one of my favorite songs, and is a fairly good example of the Q and Not U sound. “And the Washington Monument (blinks goodnight)” is another stand-out, with clashing guitars and a driving beat. “Kiss Distinctly American” also demonstrates a slower side, even maybe “prettier” side. It’s a bit difficult to describe this band’s sound. I can pick some rather meaningless genre names, such as “post-hardcore” or “dance-punk” but that’s not helping you understand. There’s a lot of rhythm, dance beats and other unique uses of percussion. I haven’t heard a lot of things like Q and Not U, and I pretty much refer to it as having a “DC sound.” It’s catchy, and makes for great dance music and works well for encouraging speeding while driving.
Q and Not U only produced three records, and I’m just going to suggest picking up their entire catalog. The first three songs of Different Damage are some of my favorite Q and Not U cuts. I wouldn’t want you missing tracks such as “Soft Pyramids” or “So Many Animal Calls.” I really miss the sound of Q and Not U. The closest thing I’ve heard to a band building on this style was an ill-fated DC band, the Guins, that have since disbanded as well. Hopefully someone will revive this sound eventually.
Jan 9, 12:59 AM: Favorite Albums of All-Time (Part III)
Tarkio, I Guess I Was Hoping for Something More (1998, Barcelona)
I’m not going to pretend that I knew of this album before the Decemberists existed. For those not in-the-know, Tarkio was Colin Meloy’s band while he was in college at the University of Montana. I spotted the exit for Tarkio while driving across Montana in November, however I was not able to get my camera out in time to take a photo.
Some have dismissed Tarkio as a simple college-rock band, and that’s partially correct. Tarkio was a fairly simple college rock-band. What this album has going for it, though, is the fact that it’s Colin Meloy’s songwriting before he decided to take things in a different direction. You won’t find 13 minute ballads about mariners, or any other historically-based epics. You have Colin Meloy in the raw, singing about things that are fairly easy to relate to. You still have elements that are undeniably Decemberists-esque, such as the song “Eva Luna.” It doesn’t get much better than hearing Colin growl a bit while singing “darkly lacquered.”
For me, songs such as “Caroline Avenue,” with lyrics such as “and you’re trying so hard / it takes more than flipping off the traffic cops to impress me” carry more meaning than the latest Decemberists fare (“When the War Came,” for example). It’s hearing Colin Meloy tackle what it was like to grow up in Montana, which as best I can tell isn’t that much different than growing up anywhere else in the United States. For a college band out of Missoula, Montana, this is quite a masterpiece.
Jan 2, 04:52 PM: Favorite Albums of All-Time (Part II)
Dntel, Life is Full of Possibilities (2001, Plug Research)
Take your pick, which song changed your life: ”(This is) the Dream of Evan and Chan” or “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea?” Answering that question probably says a lot about your taste in music. Or maybe I’m full of it. I first heard this Dntel record before I had any idea who Ben Gibbard was, or that he was in some band called Death Cab for Cutie. I was blown away by ”(This is) the Dream of Evan and Chan,” but for some reason neglected to do any further research into who Jimmy Tamborello was, or how this album came to be. It was only a year or so later that I heard Give Up by the Postal Service. At that point I put the pieces together, bought Something About Airplanes by Death Cab for Cutie, and the rest was history. If only someone had sent me the memo earlier.
Now don’t make the mistake of thinking because you like the Postal Service, you’ll enjoy this record. Sure, Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel) is part of the Postal Service, but this record is electronic music—not radio friendly pop songs. If you like Massive Attack, Autechre, Telefon Tel Aviv or other electronic artists, you’ve probably already heard this record. If not, well then go to it. One reason I enjoy electronic/ambient music is that I tend to listen to the record as a collective piece of work, rather than waiting to hear individual songs. It makes it harder to pick stand-out tracks, but the overall effect is generally more powerful than a pop record.
Jan 1, 09:24 PM: Favorite Albums of All-Time
Now that I’m done with my Top 40 of 2006 list, I figured I might as well keep going and do some write-ups on my favorite albums of all time.
The albums I’m going to describe in this on-going series are the ones that have shaped my current tastes. Many of these aren’t particularly “indie” or anything of that sort, they come from many sources.
And now, the first in the series. These are not in any order.
Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes (1992, Atlantic)
I was introduced to Tori Amos about 4 years ago, when I first started college. I’ve seen her live once, performing in Chicago with Ben Folds. It was called the “Lotta Pianos Tour.” Aside from classical pianists, I’ve never seen anyone play the piano like Tori Amos. At one point, she was playing two pianos at the same time. It was incredible. Say what you will about a hetrosexual male enjoying Tori Amos, I can take it.
Little Earthquakes is my favorite Tori Amos album, and “Crucify” is one of my favorite tracks. Everything on this record is wonderful, but for me it is also attached to many memories of my first year of college. This is going to be a common theme in this list of albums. For me, an album is especially powerful if I end up associating memories with them years after the fact. I can’t listen to “Winter” without thinking about sitting around in my freshman dorm getting used to college and wondering what the rest of my life would be like. It’s often said that the music you hear growing up is the music you will love for the rest of my life—and I think this is the reason why. It’s not so much that your taste gets locked in at a certain age, but that you associate so much with the songs.
Of course any song can become attached to certain events or memories, and that doesn’t actually mean it’s a good song. But if you have an amazing song, or album, and it is also associated with powerful memories, it will always be a favorite.
This entry is part of the Favorite Albums of All-Time series.
Dec 28, 01:19 AM: Best Album of 2006: Asobi Seksu, Citrus
01. Asobi Seksu, Citrus (Friendly Fire)
Is “Thursday” the best song of 2006? Perhaps. At this time, I’m going to refrain from constructing a list of best songs. It’s close, though. Citrus has a lot in common with Dirty on Purpose’s Hallelujah Sirens. “Shimmery” comes to mind when discussing both records, though Asobi Seksu has a bit of a softer touch. I wouldn’t say it’s due to more production, perhaps just the use of more instruments and the amazing vocals of Yuki Chikudate. I love this record for many of the same reasons I love Dirty on Purpose, and it’s really no surprise that both of these are in my top 10.
Why album of the year, though? Well, all of the top 10 records made it in because I felt they were worthwhile and offered something new in 2006. As far as their individual placement, that is really more just up to my own taste. I can’t say I used some computer algorithm to determine Citrus was totally awesome. It’s a beautiful record that takes themes that I have long loved (Post-rock themes mostly, but also shoegaze. Think of the Appleseed Cast’s Low Level Owl records) and adds a new twist. This band has matured much since their ‘04 self-titled offering. I look forward to hopefully seeing them live in ‘07, and it should be no surprise at all that they are touring with the Appleseed Cast.
This entry is part of a series, The Top 40 Albums of 2006
Dec 26, 11:52 PM: Top 40 Albums of 2006 (Part X)
04. Dirty on Purpose, Hallelujah Sirens (North Street)
I’ll say right now this album was very close to making it up to the number one spot. There’s nothing about this record preventing it from being number one, it’s just that I’ve listened to a lot of music this year. It was hard, in fact, to put this at number four rather than three. And that’s not just because I spent more than three weeks on the road with these guys. Dirty on Purpose makes great rock songs, and puts on an even better rock show. “Monument” is my favorite song of 2006. Hallelujah Sirens is a blend of the older sounds of Ride and My Bloody Valentine, (think “wall of sound”) with some elements of post-rock, sprinked in with the ability to write touching slower songs. I’ve seen comparisons to Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo, and that’s no stretch. These four create real rock and roll songs. George Wilson is far and away guitarist of the year. You want to see a rock show, go see Dirty on Purpose. You will not be disappointed. I’ve seen them play 12 times. It never gets boring.
03. Herbert, Scale (!K7)
I don’t know anything about Matthew Herbert, aside from what I’ve read from some basic Google searches. I understand this record was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, and that he samples a lot of strange items in order to create his sound. I know very little about electronic music, or sampling, or anything of that sort. In 2007, perhaps I will make it a point to learn more about this genre. All I know is that I love Since I Left You by the Avalanches, and that Scale is the one record of 2006 that seems to be in that vein. Matthew Herbert creates some very, if not corny, extremely danceable music. The sheer originality of sound on this record is what propels this into the top three records of the year. I don’t understand what I’m hearing most of the time, but it makes even me want to move my feet a bit. Not to mention the vocals are beautiful. Check out “Moving Like a Train” and “The Movers and the Shakers.” Be sure to include one of them (probably the former) on your New Year’s Eve party mix.
02. TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain (4AD/Interscope)
First comment: Terrible album art. Awful. I like pretty much everything else about this record. When I first heard TV on the Radio over a year ago, I heard some song called “Bicycles are Red Hot,” and I was not that convinced this was going to be a great band. The song, though, was fairly catchy. It clearly sounded different. I sort of overlooked TV on the Radio for the next good while, until someone told me that Return to Cookie Mountain was the best record they had heard in 2006. I decided to give it a listen, and I slowly became a fan. And I’ve now jumped on the Cookie Parade, and am now going to tell you that “Wolf Like Me” is one of the best songs of 2006. If my running tally is correct, I’ve told you that about 8 different songs are the best song of the year, including one just a few paragraphs back in the Dirty on Purpose review. Oh well. If you liked, or thought that Apologies to the Queen Mary was one of the best records of 2005, I’m sure you liked (or will like) this one. It’s hard to say which I prefer, but to me they seem to be approaching a similar sound.
This entry is part of a series, The Top 40 Albums of 2006
Dec 25, 10:04 PM: Top 40 Albums of 2006 (Part IX)
07. Pelle Carlberg, Everything. Now! (Labrador/Twentyseven)
“How I Broke My Foot and Met Jesus” is the reason this album made it into the top ten. To be fair, the rest of this record is very good as well. I should also point out I am violating one of my own rules of my Best Of lists. This album was originally released in 2005, but was released in the U.S. in 2006. I only realized this as I began typing this entry. Considering I didn’t want to rework the entire list, I am just going to roll with it. Forgive me, please. Everything. Now! admittedly sounds a bit like Belle & Sebastian, but I’m really okay with that. This list is making my indie-pop roots become fairly obvious, I suppose. Favorite tracks, “Tasteless Offer,” “How I Broke My Foot and Met Jesus,” and “Mind the Gap.” There are worse things in the world than writing what could be a second disk of If You’re Feeling Sinister.
06. Peter Bjorn and John, Writer’s Block (Wichita)
Now here are some indie-pop songs that are better than those on Everything. Now!, hense landing on the list one space higher. I fear my top 10 lacks some diversity, but oh well, I couldn’t see myself placing this record any lower. This record uses all kinds of styles that make excellent pop songs, but still manages to sound cohesive. I’m not sure why it all works, but it does. You’ve got some low-fi songs, and a whole lot of channeling of 1960’s pop. I love it. Listen to “Up Against the Wall,” “Amsterdam” and “Young Folks” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Top top everything off, “Let’s Call it Off” is quite possibly the best break-up song ever. Had I not considered music that doesn’t sound pleasant or like Belle & Sebastian, this album would probably be #1 of 2006.
05. The Thermals, The Body, the Blood, the Machine (Sub Pop)
The last concept album I really enjoyed was We Have the Facts, and We’re Voting Yes by Death Cab for Cutie. The concept behind that album was more a traditional depressing tale of loss. Here, the Thermals tackle the idea of a country taken over by fundamentalist Christians. First off, points for relevence. Should it be any surprise that this album was produced by the drummer from Fugazi? Too bad the Thermals are from Portland and not D.C., they’d do us proud. I’ve heard this album called typical “radio post-punk” or something to that effect. Maybe that’s because it’s so damn catchy and full of energy. I can’t help but compare this a bit to Green Day’s American Idiot, had that record been a bit more genuine. I suggest watching the video for “A Pillar of Salt” if you haven’t seen it. PDX major label star Colin Meloy even has a cameo. Favorite tracks: “A Pillar of Salt,” “Test Pattern,” and “I Might Need You to Kill.”
This entry is part of a series, The Top 40 Albums of 2006
Dec 24, 06:32 PM: Top 40 Albums of 2006 (Part VIII)
And now into the top ten!
10. Beirut, Gulag Orkestar (Ba Da Bing/4AD)
I want to make one thing clear, I don’t believe Zach Condon is the next Jeff Mangum. Furthermore, I don’t see Beirut as the reincarnation of Neutral Milk Hotel. That’s fine with me, though, and I still believe this is an amazing record. How a 20 year-old from New Mexico was able to do this still leaves me scratching my head. I’ve read the stories about Condon travelling to Eastern Europe and whatnot, but this is still breathtaking. There is perhaps some Mangum influence here, and comparisons can also be made to Devotchka, but there’s a lot of originality here as well. “Postcards from Italy” is the song most people probably associate with Beirut, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The title track is amazing as well, and check out “Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)” as well. I’m curious what direction Condon takes Beirut next, but in any event Gulag Orkestar was something refresingly different.
09. El Perro Del Mar, El Perro Del Mar (Memphis Industries)
Uh-Oh, here’s where my soft-spot for pretty music invades the top ten. There are some stunngly beautiful tracks, such as “Here Comes That Feeling,” but Sarah Assbring knows how to switch things up enough to make each track a bit different. This record takes you through many different sounds, both in instrumentation and in style. From acoustic guitar to full strings, from pure and innocent to the more driving and pleading sound of “Party.” This variety is what makes this record so appealing, you can listen straight through without getting tired. I feel myself comparing El Perro Del Mar to Belle & Sebastian, but perhaps it would be better to say that Sarah Assbring is able to make a better record than Isobel Campbell. Don’t get me wrong, I love Isobel, but this is a much stronger record.
08. The Blow, Paper Television (K Records)
A while ago I mused about a new genre that would emerge, which I dubbed “post-twee.” Now, K Records was the home of famed twee pioneers Beat Happening. “Post-twee” referred to carefree or happy music, but incorporating more aspects of electronic music, whether that be beats and loops… or perhaps merely picking up an electric guitar and using some effects pedals. Anyhow, if anything could be classified as post-twee, it would be “Parentheses” by the Blow. I’ve heard people call the Blow “the future of music.” Maybe so, maybe not. I will admit that I haven’t really heard anything that sounds like Paper Television before.
This entry is part of a series, The Top 40 Albums of 2006
Dec 23, 07:43 PM: Top 40 Albums of 2006 (Part VII)
15. Belle & Sebastian, The Life Pursuit (Matador)
This one came out early in 2006, and didn’t immediately win me over. On my third or fourth listen, though, I was convinced Stuart Murdoch was still relevant. I then saw Belle & Sebastian three times. I still prefer If You’re Feeling Sinister and Tigermilk, but this is #3. Best tracks: “Dress Up In You,” “White Collar Boy” and “Sukie in the Graveyard.”
14. The Knife, Silent Shout (Mute)
There’s a lot of hype over this one. It didn’t make it into my top ten, but it’s worth singing some of it’s praises. I enjoy electronic music, and this is well produced and well done. I don’t think it’s album of the year material, but to each their own. If you haven’t heard it, check out “Neverland” and you’ll probably be hooked.
13. Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti)
When this record first came out, I figured it would be in the top ten. Then I listened to a hundred or so albums this year. Number thirteen isn’t bad, and this is indeed a wonderful album. And yes, this is the third record with members of the New Pornographers on this list. Favorite tracks, “Hold On, Hold On” and “That Teenage Feeling.”
12. The Pipettes, We Are the Pipettes (Memphis Industries)
The Pipettes need to come to America. Earlier this year, Coke Machine Glow wrote a terrible review of this record, incorporating all sorts of theories of feminism and other things not at all related to the fact that this music is excellent. Fun, upbeat yet somehow not tacky. I worry for their follow-up record, but this one is great. “Pull Shapes” is one of the best songs of 2006.
11. The Avett Brothers, Four Thieves Gone: The Robinsville Sessions (Ramseur)
Well damn, I never thought something classified as country would make it onto a list of mine. But honestly folks, if you haven’t heard this record, visit their web site and listen to a preview. Then buy it. You won’t regret it. This one nearly made it into the top 10. “Talk on Indolence,” “Colorshow” and “A Lover Like You” are great songs, no matter what genre.
This entry is part of a series, The Top 40 Albums of 2006
Dec 22, 10:06 PM: Top 40 Albums of 2006 (Part VI)
Ok, we’re in the top twenty now. So you get a little thumbnail of the album art. Enjoy!
20. Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s, The Dust of Retreat (Artemis)
I’m surprised these guys have not been signed on a major. I’ve met them (briefly), and they seemed like cool guys. They make good music, music that is accessible enough to attract a fairly diverse audience. When I saw them, I remember talking to a 50-something guy, who had driven to Chicago from Michigan with his 20-something son to see them. Standout tracks: “Skeleton Key” and “On a Freezing Chicago Street.”
19. Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, No. 3 (Labrador)
No, Stephin Merritt is not in this band, though they sort of sound like it. You’re probably thinking of Future Bible Heroes. Again, a band that seems to channel the Magnetic Fields, but is still original and fun enough to warrant a spot on here. Check out “Rent a Wreck” for a good introduction.
18. Camera Obscura, Let’s Get Out of This Country (Merge)
At this point, we can stop the Belle & Sebastian comparisons. And I also know about the other band named Camera Obscura. For this band, the one from Scotland, this is their finest work to date. Favorite songs: the title track, “Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken” and “The False Contender.”
17. Califone, Roots & Crowns (Thrill Jockey)
Oops, I missed the first four albums by this band that’s based in Chicago. I’m a bad former Chicagoian, as well as a music fan, I suppose. I’m not sure what to compare them to, so just go have a listen. Maybe start with “the Orchids.”
16. Destroyer, Destroyer’s Rubies (Merge)
So this is the second year Dan Bejar is on my top record list, and this is the second time one of his projects appears on the 2006 list. That’s because he’s amazing. I saw Destroyer open for the New Pornographers back in 2005, so I saw Dan Bejar sing “English Music” as well as “Jackie Dressed in Cobras.” I love how aloof he is on stage. “Oh, I’m singing? Oh yeah!”
This entry is part of a series, The Top 40 Albums of 2006
Dec 20, 04:10 PM: Top 40 Albums of 2006 (Part V)
25. The Ballet, Mattachine! (Self-released)
I really like this record. In fact, each time I listen to it, I want to put it higher on the list. That’s because I like the Magnetic Fields and Belle & Sebastian, which is what the Ballet sounds like. Hello! Yet another New York band in the top 40.
24. The Album Leaf, Into the Blue Again (Sub Pop)
Having seen most of this record performed live a dozen times, listening to the record now barely does these songs justice. Live Jimmy and company have a video light show, which fits perfectly with the music. I’ve heard that “Writings on the Wall” was in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I’d be a fan of more tracks with vocals, I think even a 50-50 mix could work.
23. Man Man, Six Demon Bag (Ace Fu)
I can’t decide what to say about this record, short of “I like it.” It’s a fun record, all over the place and full of energy. What a great description, I know. All I know about this band is that the vocalist goes by the nickname Honus Honus. Whatever.
22. Oh No! Oh My!, Oh No! Oh My! (Self-released)
This is a great record. I even wrote up a nice review of it back in October. A perfect summer record. This year’s the Boy Least Likely To. All of that. Self-released to boot. I’m hoping for big things from these guys. Best tracks: Jane is Fat, I Have No Sister.
21. Built to Spill, You in Reverse (Warner Brothers)
Short of “The Story of Yo La Tengo” I think “Goin’ Against Your Mind” is the best 8+ minute song this year. I’m a strange Built to Spill fan, i only started listening to them with Ancient Melodies of the Future. That record remains my favorite of theirs, and I’m not completely familiar with their entire back catalog. That said, compared to others my expectations for this record were probably lower. Favorite track: Liar.
This entry is part of a series, The Top 40 Albums of 2006
Dec 19, 08:20 PM: Top 40 Albums of 2006 (Part IV)
29. The Mountain Goats, Get Lonely (4AD)
Here’s another repeat contender. Last year’s The Sunset Tree marked the Mountain Goats’ departure from their traditional low-fi sound. While I appreciate the experience of loneliness as much as the next music fan, Get Lonely is just a bit too much melancholy. And this comes from a fan of Okkervil River and sadrock bands. It’s another topnotch effort, though.
28. Cansei de Ser Sexy, Cansei de Ser Sexy (Sub Pop)
So yeah, when I first saw the music blogs talking about CSS, I was confused about the sudden interest in cascading style sheets. Turns out CSS was instead referring to Cansei de Ser Sexy, a band from Brazil. Same thing, really, when it comes down to it. The video for “Alala” won me over, and “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above” is pretty good as well. This record is so cheesy, with track names such as “C.S.S. Suxx” and “Music is My Hot Hot Sex,” but great at the same time. Be sure to check out “Meeting Paris Hilton” as well.
27. The Essex Green, Cannibal Sea (Merge)
I love pleasant, upbeat twee more than your average reviewer, so that’s why this record appears on the list. “This isn’t Farm Life” is one of my favorite tracks of the year. Well, at least in the top 20. “Snakes in the Grass” is nice as well. The Essex Green will soon be touring with Camera Obscura, which is a perfect fit. Of course, you’ll probably leave that show with a toothache.
26. Yo La Tengo, I am not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador)
To be clear, I wasn’t a big fan of 2003’s Summer Sun. So I, like many (I think), wasn’t sure what to expect with this release. Suffice to say I was very pleased. With two songs hovering around 10 minutes, everything I love about Yo La Tengo is present in this album. It even can be abbreviated with an absurd indierock acronym (IANAOYAIWBYA), much like Belle & Sebastian’s FYHCYLAP. Favorite track, “The Story of Yo La Tengo.”
This entry is part of a series, The Top 40 Albums of 2006
Dec 18, 05:30 PM: Top 40 Albums of 2006 (Part III)
33. Danielson, Ships (Secretly Canadian)
I feel a little bad placing Ships all the way down at #33. Namely because “Did I Step On Your Trumpet?” is one of my favorite songs of 2006. If you haven’t heard of Daniel Smith, you must check out this album, as well as the Danielson Famile back catalog.
32. The Elected, Sun Sun Sun (Sub Pop)
I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve been listening to “indie” music long enough that I can remember before Blake Sennett (Rilo Kiley) had a side project. Perhaps the indie alt-country wave has become a bit overdone, but the Elected have a special place in my heart. Standout tracks for me were the title track and “Fireflies in a Steel Mill.”
31. The Black Heart Procession, The Spell (Touch and Go)
I was afraid grade inflation may creep into this list when we reach bands where I casually know some of the members. So I tried to avoid packing my top 10 with people I had drank beer with. The dark, driving sound of the Black Heart Procession personally appeals to me, especially in the tracks “The Letter” and “Not Just Words.” A friend of mine once described this group as “sounding older than they are.” I’m not sure what exactly that means, but I think I understand. There is a sort of retro sound here.
30. Band of Horses, Everything All The Time (Sub Pop)
Shimmery, high-pitched and epic. That could sum up Band of Horses pretty well. “The Funeral” sold me on this album, along with the charm of seeing the first track was named “The First Song.”
This entry is part of a series, The Top 40 Albums of 2006
Dec 17, 08:31 PM: Top 40 Albums of 2006 (Part II)
37. ¡Forward Russia!, Give Me a Wall (Dance to the Radio)
I’ve heard some people compare this band to Thursday or other pop radio bands, though I disagree. These guys (and gal) create some kind of British post-punk—it’s loud and has a lot of repetition. I think they put on a good live show, and they’ve been getting some buzz, so they were able to land a spot on this list.
36. The Long Winters, Putting the Days to Bed (Barsuk)
This spot was originally going to be for the Silversun Pickups. then i realized that i didn’t really like Carnavas that much, and that their sound was too unfocused and “pop radio” formulaic to land it a spot in the top 40. But, Putting the Days to Bed, on the other hand is a solid listen. “Honest” is probably my favorite track.
35. Swan Lake, Beast Moans (Jagjaguwar)
[Some joke about Spencer Krug being in yet another band]. [Anecdote about how Dan Bejar will appear on this list more than once]. Bottom line: Not as good as Destroyer, not as good as Wolf Parade. Better name than Sunset Rubdown.
34. The Hidden Cameras, Awoo (Rough Trade)
In 2004, the Hidden Cameras released an album called Mississauga Goddam. I stayed in a hotel in Mississauga, and had a nice breakfast at a diner called “Sunny’s” or something like that. While completely unrelated to this album, I felt I should tell that story. This is a very well done indie-pop record.
This entry is part of a series, The Top 40 Albums of 2006
Dec 16, 02:28 AM: Top 40 Albums of 2006 (Part I)
Part one in the series.
40. Comets on Fire, Avatar (Sub Pop)
So I dig the sound of Comets on Fire. I’ve seen them classified as noise rock, lo-fi, and I believe last.fm calls them “indienoise.” To me, it sounds like taking the best of 70s guitar rock, adding some more effects, and maybe adding a bit of a twist. It’s new, but to some degree a bit nostalgic. The downside, it feels a bit too much like a gimmick.
39. Tapes ‘n Tapes, The Loon (Ibid)
This album is kind of catchy. I don’t find it particularly amazing. Some people are fawning over them (see also, the Hold Steady). It’s decent rock music. “Insistor” was a cool track.
38. The Lovely Feathers, Hind Hind Legs (Equator)
This is not music you would necessarily expect from a band called The Lovely Feathers. It’s catchy, a bit low-fi, and has a few moments of over-modulated shouting. It’s good indiepop, and I’m curious how their next LP will shape up. I’ll forgive lyrics such as “I’m so lonely when i brush my teeth,” because I think “Photocorners” is an awesome track.
This entry is part of a series, The Top 40 Albums of 2006
Dec 7, 11:02 PM: The Grammy Awards
So the Grammy Awards continue to prove their irrelevance.
Nov 2, 09:33 PM: Marshall Kirkpatrick takes on indie music, loses
Yesterday, Marshall Kirkpatrick over at TechCrunch wrote about some new features at last.fm. The article starts off fine enough, discussing the new features and how they fit in with Last.fm’s long-term strategy.
But then Kirkpatrick decides to go on a tirade about how much indie music sucks. It starts off with the comment: I find that the sheer majority of so called “indie bands” just aren’t very good.
He goes on, wrapping things up with this:
On principle I would love to be supportive of all these moves to support independent musicians, but my experience makes that difficult. Independent punk is good, but in most other genres the bulk of unsigned musicians are not music I want to listen to. I can’t help but think that all of this emphasis on indie bands is motivated primarily by economic necessity. Check out the songs of the day at GarageBand and PodsafeMusicNetwork right now – I can’t listen to either all the way through. Be honest, you probably can’t either.
What I want is this. Give me an iTunes plug-in that recommends music through both user habits and musical qualities, lets me opt out of “indie music” if I prefer and gives me access to free or dirt cheap files with related concert tickets and other value added items for sale.
I’m not sure what he means by “economic necessity,” and it seems he has a fundamental misunderstanding of the phrase “indie music.” But of course, I don’t particularly care about what music Marshall Kirkpatrick listens to. My problem is that he seemingly has little understanding of what makes Last.fm popular, and that the site would have little or no utility if it was filled with people playing the latest Dave Matthews tracks, or the latest Eminem songs. It’s a music social networking site, which helps you to discover music you probably never would have heard had you not seen it on the site. In most cases, these are “indie bands,” even though that term is so absurdly broad.
Clearly, though, the conclusion we can draw is that the guys over at TechCrunch do not use marijuana.
Nov 1, 11:49 AM: This just in: Music taste linked to drug use
NEW REPORT LINKS MARIJUANA USE TO INDIE MUSIC
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy
FEMALE VOICE: (Computer voice) Being popular was all I could think about last year. I wanted to, like, be cool with everybody. I listened to music that I didn’t like and laughed at stuff that wasn’t funny. I programmed myself to be a totally different person to everyone.
Computer voice starts to change into a real human voice.
FEMALE VOICE: But I wasn’t myself. Now I’m not pretending to like indie rock or anything like that. And people think that’s cool.
MALE VOICE: Live above the influence. Above weed. Check out abovetheinfluence.com. Sponsored by the ONDCP and the Partnership For A Drug-Free America.
In Other News…
You are only reading this web site because you are high, and you don’t really enjoy art or classical music either. Now be a good little sober person and listen to your Nickelback, Ludacris, Five for Fighting and Fergie. And don’t you dare forget to watch Survivor. Creativity is only for mindless druggie-drones.
Oct 29, 07:40 PM: The Wrens perform at Georgetown
On Saturday, New Jersey indie rockers the Wrens played a set for Georgetown’s radio station. The show was free to those who knew about it, and took place in a rather small performance/storage space known as Bulldog Alley.
I managed to get some decent photos of them setting up, and playing in a very poorly lit room. A crowd of maybe thirty gathered to hear them play. The band dealt with some equipment problems, but overall it wasn’t a bad set. Especially considering it was free. And as with any proper post-Meadowlands performance, they closed the set with “She Sends Kisses.”
I have to give the Wrens credit for playing a University show, especially for a radio station that only broadcasts over the Internet. Cool guys.
Oct 22, 12:19 AM: Upcoming on WWU
Okay, so there are a few things I’m working on that will appear here soon. Here’s a quick rundown.
1. A new photo project. I’ll still continue the leaving beauty behind project, but this one will most likely be a bit more interesting. I’m probably also going to include a writing component with this one. This could be big, so keep your eyes peeled here.
2. Upcoming record reviews. There’s some grade inflation here, with my reviewing mostly records I love. Obvious exception was the Decemberists review. Hopefully in the next couple weeks I will be posting more reviews. On deck are records by the Pipettes, Okkervil River, Neko Case, the Hold Steady and TV on the Radio. Some of these aren’t new releases, but they are all from 2006.
3. That’s probably it for now.
Oct 19, 08:56 PM: Review: Dirty on Purpose, Hallelujah Sirens
Dirty on Purpose
North Street, 2006
It’s getting close to November, so I feel like it might not be too soon to anoint something as the best record of the year. If I were to do so, Hallelujah Sirens would be the front-runner. I’m still waiting to find a 2006 release that tops this.
From the opening bars of “No Radio,” I was hooked on this band. I came across this album in July, and have been waiting for them to take a trip down to D.C. They had to cancel a show at the Black Cat due to van trouble, but will be playing with D.C. favorites Exit Clov at the Rock and Roll Hotel as part of the DAM! Festival.
Back to the album, though. The word I see used most often to describe Dirty on Purpose is “shimmery.” I’m reluctant to use that adjective myself, but if your introduction is “No Radio” and “Light Pollution” (the songs featured on their MySpace profile), then I can see how that’s fitting.
Speaking of which, “Light Pollution” is certainly worthy of attention, and is a very beautiful song. However, not every track on this record is marked by dramatic crescendos and (I’ll say it, epic, builds). My personal favorite track would be “Lake Effect.” Its a quiet, rather slow song, and has the best lyrics of any cut on the album. They manage to pull off lyrics such as:
The microphone caught every sigh
The microphone caught every comment you made
It caught every cry from the depths of your dreams
Another bonus of this record is that it builds to the best material, nestled right in the middle. “Always Looking” (Part 1) reminds me of Low Level Owl era Appleseed Cast, fading into “Marfa Lights” which brings together everything I loved about, well, the Appleseed Cast, among others, but also makes it fresh. The record mellows out again towards the end, with “Kill Your City,” which clocks in at 5:30 but builds to a beautful end.
This album brings together everything I enjoy about indie-rock. Some may call it derivative of early favorites Jawbreaker, or later favorites such as the Appleseed Cast. However, I find their take on these themes to be original enough to make it worth a listen, and worth the investment of becoming a fan of Dirty on Purpose.
Oct 13, 01:56 PM: Review: Oh No! Oh My!, Self-titled
Oh No! Oh My!
Oh No! Oh My!
Oh No! Oh My! is another one of those bands you want to love. And it’s not hard—considering how well done their debut album is. Falling back again on the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! meme, this self-produced album comes from the minds of two home-schooled songwriters, Greg Barkley and Daniel Hoxmeier. Along with drummer Joel Calvin, the trio has been a band called by a few different names, including the Jolly Rogers. In 2006, though, they morphed into Oh No! Oh My! and quickly became the darling of bloggers everywhere.
So how about the actual music? It’s good. Very good, in fact. Though I will be the first to say this is not a perfect album. The opening track, “Skips the Foreplay” is a bad first track. It’s not the worst song on the album, but it doesn’t quite capture what the rest of the album holds. This simple sounding song about teenage pregnancy seems rather out-of-place and the “oohs and ahhs” just don’t mix well with the song’s lyrical content.
Oh No! Oh My!’s sound is all over the place in their debut, ranging from nearly twee-poppish in “Walk in the Park” to electropop in “I Love You All The Time.” These guys are versatile, and can pull off most of these songs, but it’s hard to say if they all mesh to form a cohesive album.
The standout tracks are by far “I Have No Sister” and “Jane is Fat.” Both of these songs show off a unique sound Oh No! Oh My! has been able to accomplish, probably thanks in part to their band’s multi-genre past. “The Backseat” is another lovely tune off this LP, even if the theme of songs discussing backseats is a bit overdone.
There are some duds on this album, though. “Reeks and Seeks” attempts to make twangy repetition interesting, but comes up very short. “Women are Born in Love” is along the same vain, but includes handclaps. This gives it a few points in my book, but it was a weak ending to an otherwise strong album.
These guys have a lot of potential, and I’m hoping one day they will swing through D.C. on a tour. In the meantime, I suggest picking up this record, it’s one of the better albums of 2006.
Oct 8, 09:10 PM: Review: The Decemberists, The Crane Wife
The Crane Wife
It’s not so much that this record breaks my heart. The Decemberists were never one of my all-time-favorite bands. I discovered them in early 2004, picking up Castaways and Cutouts and Her Majesty. Those albums, Castaways in particular, will always be associated with memories of the last half of my sophomore year in college. The inevitable commercial success of the band some two-and-a-half years later won’t diminish those memories.
However, Colin Meloy and company’s major label debut leaves much to be desired. In a lot of ways, it is exactly what could be expected of a major label record. Sure, there are a few tracks where the Decemberists sound like the Decemberists—those selected 10+ minute songs clearly are not aimed for radio play. Several songs do maintain the band’s unique sound, “The Island, Come and See, The Landlord’s Daughter, You’ll Not Feel the Drowning” is an epic 12:44 song that will undoubtedly be attractive to the Decemberists core fanbase. It maintains the unique instrumentation and songwriting that got the band where they are today. “The Crane Wife 1 & 2” is another tune that follows in the tradition of some of their earlier work.
However, the record is packed with filler, something which seems to come with the territory of being on a mainstream label. Songs such as “The Perfect Crime #2” and “When the War Came” are, for the most part, unlistenable. The latter, especially, sounds like Colin Meloy playing with Fall Out Boy (or some other generic rock band).
This isn’t so much a story of bad music, but more of lost potential. Maybe it isn’t fair to hold the band to a high standard for a major label release, but this record has too many low points to score even average.
A lot of people like this album, and for the life of me, I don’t understand why. I’ve read comments by people saying that the band was forced to sign on a major label because “they have families to support.” These arguments are all hogwash, it’s very much up for debate whether or not a band sees more profit on a major versus an indie. Add into the equation Colin Meloy’s diatribe on major labels (and dedication of “Los Angeles, I’m Yours” to record executives) and the whole thing just stinks.
Of course there’s another explaination, that maybe Capitol Records didn’t ruin the Decemberists—maybe they have just burned out. Maybe they weren’t as creative as we all thought.
I’m sure we will all be hearing “Sons and Daugthers” in the background of some happy-style advertisement, maybe a Canon, Sony or HP ad. But if you want to hear something creative, don’t bother with this album. Colin’s college band, Tarkio, is more enjoyable than this record.
Oct 5, 11:23 PM: Test Drive: Songbird 0.2
Over the past few months I’ve found myself in a bit of a jam. My primary computers are now Windows machines. Both my PC at work, and my laptop at home. Unfortunately my Titanium G4 Powerbook is out of commission, and while I also have an older G4 400Mhz desktop… I don’t use it on a daily basis (other than to store my music, and it’s hooked up to the aux input on my stereo).
Back in the day, I used to use Winamp and manually keep my files organized. Of course, after using a Mac for several years, I became accustomed to all of the features in iTunes. So of course, I gave iTunes for Windows a try. Not a huge fan. Personally, I don’t think the GUI translates very well, but aside from that it was sluggish and it just didn’t work as well as I wanted.
Then I discovered Songbird. It’s an open source media player, based on the Mozilla code that powers applications such as Firefox. I thought I’d give it a try.
Songbird is only on verson 0.2 (“Test Flight”), so I didn’t expect much. A lot of features I would really like are not there. It doesn’t provide library organization (yet, and yes, I understand some people don’t want that… but it would be a nice option). It also is missing a few things such as the ability to reorder items on a playlist. But, it shows promise. It also integrates with a ton of online music resources and stores, and while I don’t use that functionality, it’s still kind of cool.
I’m hoping by version 1.0 it will truly be an open source iTunes killer. I am a bit worried about the future of iTunes. A friend of mine predicted that by iTunes version 10, it will only play music files with DRM. I potentially see that as a real possibility. We’ll see. I also just like the idea of an open source player.
Other options include Foobar2000 but it lacks the pretty GUI that I’ve gotten used to.
Anyhow, if you’re curious, I suggest giving Songbird a whirl. It probably won’t replace your current music player, but it’s interesting.
Oct 4, 08:59 PM: Live show: The Little Ones
The Little Ones
w/The Oranges Band and French Kicks
October 3, 2006 at the Black Cat, Washington, DC
I was very excited about this show. More excited than I’ve been about a live show in a very long time. I didn’t know much about the band, I had only listened to (and loved) their self-produced EP. I had no idea how many people were in the band, what they looked like, anything.
I knew it was going to be a good show the minute they came out to set up their equipment. I was able to get up close, first row dead in front of the keyboard. The Little Ones is a five-piece, two gutiarists, bass, keyboard and drums. The keyboardist also plays bass on a few songs. He also plays the Powerbook. The members were energized and looked very happy to be playing for a fairly large crowd for the headliners, the French Kicks.
The band opened with “Cha Cha Cha,” and I was blown away. I don’t know how many people at the Black Cat had heard the Little Ones before, but people started bobbing their heads and moving their feets—a rare occasion for indie shows in D.C.
Their set, nearly an hour long, covered most songs off their Sing Song EP, but also incorporated several new songs. I don’t know the names of any of the new songs, but they were very well done live. My worries about their ability to put together a full length album were pretty much quashed.
I remarked that the Little Ones are like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! if I actually enjoyed the vocals. I’ve never sen CYHSY live, but I’ve heard their show leaves something to be desired. The Little Ones do not have this problem, they know how to play out. You can tell they love playing their songs, and they do it well.
“Lovers who Uncover” was certainly the highlight, and was their second to last song. It was a little hard to tell, but I think a lot of people started shouting “Hey, Hey, Heyooooo” along with the band—and I would bet most of them had never heard the song before.
They closed their set with a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia,” which became a fun sing-a-long. After their set, a fairly large group of people crowded around the merch table picking up their EP. Definitely a hit, and the Little Ones’ show at the Cat is up there on the list of best shows this year, and perhaps ever.
Oct 3, 11:29 PM: Some site news...
So, I’ve fooled around with a nice Flickr plug-in for Textpattern… so now the Portfolio section has been updated to include some photo galleries. This includes the featured photography gallery, which I suggest you check out.
Also, I doubt many will care, but my writing for The Georgetown Voice have been organized by type of article. This new site is coming together nicely.
In other non-site related news, I saw the Little Ones play tonight. It was a spectacular show. Spectacular. These guys have a lot of energy, and it made for a very fun night. If they come to a city near you, check them out. The show will be cheap, and well worth it. I’ll writing up a more comprehensive review in the next few days.