This almost isn’t really news — Pete Doherty mucks things up? Really?!? — but it’s pretty amusing (entertaining? telling?) to read the Spiegel story in juxtaposition with the one from NME.
It totally makes me want to use the cheap blogger comment ploy: What do you think? Was Doherty trying to make a political statement, or did he really have no clue what he was doing? Or, as ever, was he just being an unpredictable, nonsensical loose cannon whose activities defy speculation and interpretation?
Is this even a real thing? Do its practitioners even now that they are practitioners of Chillwave? What in the heck is the Chillwave Sound? Does one simply need to dual-wield a bong and Garageband to chill their waves?
Does the world need another Horrorcore, Bloghouse, or Ghettotech on its hands? Haven’t we already watched house/dance/acid house/trance/post-house/prog-house/prog-dance/omg music dissect itself into oblivion for the past couple of decades?
We seem to be on the edge of a paradigm shift. Orchestras are struggling to stay alive, rock has been relegated to the underground, jazz has stopped evolving and become a dead art, the music industry itself has been subsumed by corporate culture and composers are at their wit’s end trying to find something that’s hip but still appeals to an audience mired in a 19th-century sensibility.
For more than half a century we’ve seen incredible advances in sound technology but very little if any advance in the quality of music. In this case the paradigm shift may not be a shift but a dead stop. Is it that people just don’t want to hear anything new? Or is it that composers and musicians have simply swallowed the pomo line that nothing else new can be done, which ironically is really just the “old, old story.”
Certainly music itself is not dead. We’ll continue to hear something approximating it blaring in shopping malls, fast food stops, clothing stores and wherever else it will mesmerize the consumer into excitedly pulling out their credit card or debit card or whatever might be coming.
There’s no question that in music, like politics, the bigger the audience gets the more the “message” has to be watered down. Muzak’s been around for a long time now but maybe people just can’t tell the difference anymore. Maybe even the composers and songwriters can’t tell the difference either. Especially when it’s paying for a beach house in Malibu and a condo in New York.
Of course, we could all just listen to all of our old albums, CD’s and mp3’s. In fact, nowadays that’s where the industry makes most of its money. We could also just watch old movies and old TV shows. There are a lot of them now. Why bother making any new ones? Why bother doing anything new at all? Why bother having any change or progress at all as long as we’ve got “growth”? I’m just wondering if this is in fact the new paradigm. I’m just wondering if in fact the new music is just the old music again. And, if that in fact it would actually just be the end of music.
Did any of you see Kill Your Idols? I appreciate Branca’s contributions to music as much as anyone, but the guy has a wildly inflated sense of self-importance. This is not him mourning the death of music, as it were, but mourning the death of his own stature as an innovator. Wah.
This has been bugging me for a few days: Can anyone explain why the words “Russian roulette is not the same without a gun” are bleeped out whenever Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” video airs on MTV (MTV Hits, that is) — but the network seemingly has no problem airing the video for Rihanna’s “Russian Roulette” unaltered? Am I missing something?
Dewey eats Truman! SOTC is happy to announce that starting Monday, November 30, we’ll be running the remaining 30 entries in F2K: The 50 Worst Songs of the ’00s, a profoundly hostile symposium/firing squad presented by former Idolator overlord Maura Johnston and noted chicken-wing enthusiast Christopher R. Weingarten. (Follow Chris on Twitter at @1000timesyes, now in the homestretch of his 1,000 Records Reviewed in 2009 fugue.) Begun last month but rudely interrupted 20 terrible tunes in by Idolator's rather unfortunate regime change, F2K rides again: If only to insure that Say Anything is not further impugned, we have commissioned Chris’ and Maura’s services. They will commence counting down (up?) from #30 to #1 starting Monday, one post a day, with, like, “Bonus Fridays” and whatnot to wrap this sucker up before Christmas.
“An ABC spokesman said the Walt Disney network “did receive a number of complaints” about the show, but did not elaborate. ABC said it received approximately 1,500 complaints. One person familiar with the situation said ABC gets more complaints from viewers over broadcasts of “Dancing with the Stars.””—
This is such a non-story, the Ad Age blogger can’t even muster the energy to really look into why the show’s ratings were up 2 million from last year — its largest audience since 2002. Clearly, everyone wanted to see what Lady Gaga and Rihanna were going to wear, right?
Let the recommendations, complaints and debates begin … NOW. (BTW, this is obviously the get-your-visa-now list for the smaller foreign acts — though, please note the lack of blog hype acts — at least as far as I can see.) Also, is that a Sixteen Deluxe reunion I spy? IT IS.
This is VERY good news. (Read a good reason as to why from Jess H. via the Idolator archives.) A bit of a stab in the dark here but has anyone thought a bit further as well on the distinction between the mixtape and the mix CD in terms of what they mean to — making a very broad categorization here — the US and the UK/European music scenes? There’s something there to be teased out more but I’m not the best person to do this.
Though the commanding Ms. Angela, as Effie, is certainly the loudest of the Dreams, they all speak essentially the same musical language, which is the belt-and-bend vernacular of “American Idol.” (Ms. Mercado was a second runner-up on that show.) When Effie and Deena face off in the second-act climax, in a song interpolated from the film version of “Dreamgirls,” it becomes a 21st-century battle of the divas, less about building character than bringing down the house.
But like the show around her, Ms. Angela’s performance is pitched mostly at one level, which is so intense and unshaded that it wears you out. The same is true of much of the rest of the cast, which also includes Margaret Hoffman as the singer who replaces Effie and Trevon Davis as Effie’s songwriting brother. Everyone registers firmly as an individual, but mostly as the personification of a single, sustained trait.
This reminds me of something I’m now convinced is apocryphal because I can’t find a link to the story I remember reading this in — Stephen Sondheim’s complaint (and I’m paraphrasing here) that all new aspiring singers aren’t prepared for packing a punch in the musical theater arena, but on American Idol instead.
[ETA: I think this is the article I remember, from 2005 — also from the Times, and also by Ben Brantley, who wrote the review above. It would seem that this is his personal bete noire, and he’ll bang that drum indefinitely.]
Oh! That’s the song in that Cadillac commericial! Phoenix’s “1901”! I live under a rock, apparently. It’s fun being a target demographic, isn’t it? Every time that ad comes on, I irrationally want to buy a giant prestige car. It would make me rather popular in my neighborhood, no doubt.
Oh, Rammstein! Don’t ever change! Apparently the band’s new album has finally peeved the German government censors enough for it to be removed from shelves — a first for the band, suprisingly. The great thing about this article is that it provides a very interesting (and educational) perspective on band’s career within the context of the topsy turvy cultural climate of the reunified Germany.
NPR’s audience skews white and college-educated; so does Animal Collective’s fan-base. In matters of musical taste, everyone has a God-given right to provincialism and conservatism, even those NPR listeners who consider themselves cosmopolitan and liberal. The numbers, of course, tell a different story. The NPR list leans not just white, but male—dudes with beards and guitars. So far in 2009, the No. 1 song on the Billboard charts has been by a black or female artist—or by groups featuring both blacks and whites or men and women—a total of 41 out of 42 weeks. (The exception is the current No. 1 hit, “Down,” a collaboration between an Anglo-Asian R & B singer, Jay Sean, and an African-American rapper, Lil Wayne.) Who are the progressives again—the public radio crowd or the Top 40 great unwashed?
Since he wrote that, there was one single that hit number one on the Hot 100 charts that was by a white male (“Fireflies” by Owl City, which hit number one twice in non-consecutive weeks), but what interested me is the update Rosen posted on Slate’s Browbeat blog yesterday afternoon:
But the most interesting DORF development in recent weeks is a striking de-DORFicization under way at NPR. If you visit the "Song of the Day" page on the NPR Music Web site—cited in my initial Brow Beat post for its unmitigated DORFiness—you will find the following message: “Every weekday from Nov. 9 to Nov. 20, Song of the Day is surveying the past decade, one year (and one song) at a time, with an emphasis on America’s most popular music. These picks don’t exactly qualify as musical discoveries, but they do have something to say about the 10 years we’re about to leave behind.”
Say what? America’s most popular music? Sure enough, “Song of the Day” has gone full-bore poptimist and full-bore anti-DORF: The series so far has included smart considerations of 50 Cent’s “In Da Club,” Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean,” Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella”—all of them actual hit records by living African-Americans. If this keeps up, DORF lovers may well have to get their fix elsewhere.
I’ve had a lot of fun mocking the blandness of NPR’s best of “All Songs Considered” list earlier this year (so did a lot of us) but I never really thought the solution was for NPR (or anyone, for that matter) to pretend to care about popular hip hop, but I can readily embrace “a striking de-DORFicization” anywhere.
Neon Gold sez: This band is like a pot of synth gold at the end of the pop rainbow. Gypsy & The Cat are Xavier Bacash and Lionel Towers, two chill bros from Melborne, Oz creating some of the best new soft-pop sounds around. Within the first few seconds of “Jona Vark” I pretty much had a flashforward to singing this chorus at a bus stop in five years time, because This. Song. Sticks. It’s just swimming in a hazy soup of reverbed Fleetwood Mac vocals, acoustic guitars and smooth blasts of synth, and you know how we love a bit of synth. We’re a sucker for the whole blissed-out pop aesthetic Australia seems to have mastered with the likes of Empire of the Sun, Gotye, PNAU and Tim & Jean so when these guys hit our peripherals we were eager to hear more, but as they’re still yet to put out an official release, we’ll just have to keep this on single repeat in the meantime.
Look, I don’t get nostalgic for much, but occasionally, when I’m in the LES, I can see the ghosts of The Velvets and Television chasing down the ghost of the Interpol-That-Was (er, yes, I realize like, none of those people are actually dead…), and sometimes I have to duck under a shiny condo awning that used to be a rotted old tenement where that mad dog crazy old drug pusher still plied his trade in 2001, flush with new customers — and wipe away a small tear that springs up for the year we were all motherfucking loathsome hipsters. Everyone hated us, but dammit if we didn’t look and sound so, so good.
Too little, too late? Or am I too jaded? It seems nice that MySpace is pouring efforts into becoming a more dedicated music-focused platform — providing better functionality and metrics to users and bands. In reality, however, the kind of users they hope will power a commitment to up-and-coming artists, the ones who will indicate — through their listening preferences — what’s “bubbling up” (*gag*), have already moved on from the site years ago. And they probably can’t be won back. Problematic!
Just got around to reading Carrie Brownstein’s Monitor Mix major indie label roundtable already discussed here (I got this quote via The L), and this really stuck with me:
Carrie Brownstein: Aside from putting out good music, what’s the single most effective thing a label can do to get people to buy their music? Matador: Not sure what the single most efficient thing would be (other than, you know, the Pitchfork 9.1), but getting people excited is never easy to quantify or predict. Carrie Brownstein: Does a Pitchfork 9.1 help? Kill Rock Stars: Absolutely. Matador: Sadly, yes. A Pitchfork 9.1 is more influential to the audience and the retailers than a Rolling Stone or New York Times review. Carrie Brownstein: What does a Pitchfork 4.5 do? Kill Rock Stars: A 4.5 can kill a record. Unfortunately. Merge: Agree on the Pitchfork thing, though I do think that a 9.1 helps more than an average number hurts. Saddle Creek: I’d be inclined to say a high Pitchfork number helps; a low Pitchfork number is irrelevant. Matador: There remain great things that aren’t even on the Pitchfork radar. Merge: Impossible! Matador: The Beatles. Secretly Canadian: Cold War Kids were killed on their debut and did quite well. Matador: Just having a number next to a review discourages anyone from reading. Merge: Yes, and often the review will be enthusiastic and then the number is like “6.9” and you’re like, “Thanks for nothing.” Kill Rock Stars: There’s a difference between getting an average/decent review and being a band who is loved by Pitchfork. We have two bands who are doing well despite being basically ignored by Pitchfork right now. Secretly Canadian: Anything under a 7.6 or 7.7 is a non-review.
It seemed like an impossible task, but that didn’t stop us from trying. With the first decade of the new millennium coming to a close, we decided to compile a list of the 50 most important recordings of the past 10 years — a list that covers a wide range of styles and genres, with indelible songs and albums that challenge, inspire and captivate. These are the game-changers: records that signaled some sort of shift in the way music is made or sounds, or ones that were especially influential or historically significant.
But I think more importantly tomewing has his own thoughts in response to that, which I find all the more valuable (thus the full reblog here):
At the same time, especially with regard to Stylus and Plan B and now Idolator, one finds a slow limiting of a burst of spirit that had had a good decade-long run, of balancing out the passion of writing and thoughtful debate via the vehicle of music — and quite often the subjects under discussion reached far beyond the notes heard and the lyrics comprehended — with an appreciation for the here and now, that engaged with music that was six seconds old as much as it was six decades, and sought to do so beyond the realm of simple yeas or nays or presumptions of one particular style of music ruling over all else.
Ned waxes elegiac over the passing of a critical era. It’s a gloomy way of framing it: I think there’s something in it, though. What I think happened is that a bunch of people who were fans of, or had been inspired by, print music writing in the 90s decided to have a pop at seeing how the stuff they’d been inspired by might work on the web. The source materials were stuff like (variously) Melody Maker, Sassy, The Wire, Village Voice, Smash Hits…
…and the answer, ultimately, was no, it mostly didn’t work, or at least not commercially. The “burst of spirit” you’re talking about was a transitional thing, I think. Stylus, I would say, is WAY more fondly remembered now than it was admired when it was going. Plan B is the same. Freaky Trigger’s relevance rested on NYLPM and was pretty much wiped out when MP3 blogs came along. ILX is splendid and wide-ranging and way better than it was a few years ago, but the barriers to entry are pretty daunting.
Idolator was good because it was being done by somebody who loved music, and who believed in music writing as something inclusive and intelligent and questioning, but who was also commercially aware and web-experienced enough to know that just ‘writing well about music’ wouldn’t necessarily mean much on its own. If Maura couldn’t make that site’s numbers work - and I do mean “if”: I have no idea if that was or wasn’t why they parted ways - I don’t know who could.
The two “transitional phase” sites that really have succeeded on their own terms are Pitchfork in the US (always a weird exception to anything, and I’m not even sure Ryan WAS inspired by any particular publication or type of writing) and Popjustice in the UK, which has managed to actually be a Smash Hits for its era. Of course, neither are as generalist as Idolator or Stylus. That particular dream is pretty much gone. But not, I’d guess, for individual listeners, who’ll pick their critical sources from a huge range of partisan voices which they can blend as their feed-reading leisure.
Which may sound flippant — still what I like about this story (which is by default a bit parochial given it’s about a business located not fifteen miles or so from where I type) is its recognition of both the economic superstructure that ‘music’ as such encompasses and the technology it covers. Even in a time of direct downloads and all there’s still a question of what equipment one uses to listen to things and why — on ILM today there was a debate about external audio interfaces and DACs and the like — and there’s somebody somewhere working on that, in one capacity or another. Further, when maintenance and recycling are all that much more crucial in life, why not the same with one’s speakers?
My own main stereo speakers were purchased by my dad back in the sixties some years before my birth and they’re still holding up strong from what I can tell. Rightly or wrongly I always thought they had that ever-dreamed-of ‘warmth’ that people talked about CDs lacking for all this time (and probably still do). I don’t sweat over it all that much in the end, I admit — but yourselves?
Oh, kids today. They just don’t know how good they have it with the star-studded soundtracks for Twilight movies. Even television series like Grey’s Anatomy and Gossip Girl toss off soundtracks like I throw pennies from my car’s window. There was a time, though, when the soundtrack-as-promo-vehicle wasn’t a concern. Sometimes they’d just use any old song in hopes half the audience would hang around through the closing credits.
That said, I sort of love how absolutely terrible Stephen Bishop’s “Walking on Air” is. It predates the theme from Full House by a year or two, but they definitely were pulled from the same well of sunny, carefree and purposely worthless music. Yet, it lives forever! I’d put money on no one talking about a Thom Yorke song from New Moon 23 years from now.
“As an engineer, the only people I’m concerned about are the other people in the room, the band members. I mean literally everyone else in the world can go fuck themselves. — Steve Albini”—
The Daily Swarm interviewed Steve Albini and, even though Albini has been interviewed a gazillion times, there’s always some marvelous new nugget that makes the read worth it. [Of note: dude has recorded 2,000 albums now. Sleep? Ever?!]
I invite everyone to use the headline created as needed in Mad Libs fashion, switching out publication/timeframe information where appropriate. (The part after the semicolon has to always remain the same, though — ILM is currently arguing here and there are plenty of other spots going through similar right now.)
Complaining about lists (and complaining about complaining about lists and etc.) = old hat, I realize, but that leads me to this photo of the main guy behind the band that’s number two on the list, as featured in the linked story:
But perhaps Jack White’s hat is older.
As for me, the list is about what I expected, further reminding me that I’m certainly very glad I had my obsessive UK-music-press-best-of-lists following phase — and even gladder that it ended. (I feel the same way about listening to classic rock radio; a year in high school was just what I needed and just about all I could take.)
“I feel like full iPods are an illustration that a large part of the population now consumes music like they did in the ’60s. It’s primarily singles-driven, or track-driven. It feels like a jukebox culture with iPods so ubiquitous. People are generally more into songs right now than bands, albums or labels. — Chris Swanson”—
Carrie Brownstein hosts a roundtable discussion about ‘The Role of the Record Label’ at Monitor Mix. (via MBV)
I must mention that near-favorite band of mine tindersticks have (has?) a new MP3 (“Black Smoke”) out in advance of their upcoming album, Falling Down A Mountain. It’s pretty rough-edged for them—driving, shaggy, and soulful—which is a nice turn. Stuart Staples and Co. are so deft at doing “pretty” that it’s easy for them to just hang out in a pleasant hermetic orchestral terrarium. I always like it when they shake things up. They remain rock’s greatest musical historians, in my mind, able to hone in on that familiar-but-hard-to-place sweet spot that so many others attempt while falling into parody. If you’ve never heard of them, youngsters, they’re like the National with hooks and variety. Burn!
I’m a week or so off, but I felt compelled to give some love to Fiona Apple’s When the Pawn… on the 10th anniversary of its release. “On the Bound” recently came on my iPod and it reminded me just how sublime the album is. There are certainly better pieces of songwriting on the album (cf. "I Know"), but “On the Bound” is a perfect encapsulation of the album as a whole (outrageously good vocals, crazy wordplay, Jon Brion’s over-the-top-but-just-right production).