Happy Turkey Day! We are blogging via Blackberry as we travel up the turnpike, so this'll be short and sweet. No frills whatsoever.
Five honorable mentions, 10 nominees. Winner to be announced New Year's Eve.
Lily Allen - Alright, Still
(Smartest, funniest pop album we've heard in a long time)
Tori Amos - American Doll Posse
(A nominee if it was only 14 tracks)
Okkervil River - The Stage Names
(A near miss; great stuff)
Shearwater - Palo Santo (Expanded Edition)
(Definitive version of the now-classic album that finished second last year)
Neil Young - Chrome Dreams 2
(Dirty Old Man alone is worth price of admission)
Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
(Not Funeral, but in no way a sophomore slump)
Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
(Never left our active playlist all year; his second nomination)
Feist - The Reminder
(Apple ad in no way influenced this pick; her second nomination)
The Innocence Mission - We Walked in Song
(Another overlooked treasure; they won in 1995 with Glow)
Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
(Full band brings them to new level)
The National - Boxer
(One of our favorite discoveries of '07)
Radiohead - In Rainbows
(We paid five pounds; they won in 2000 with Kid A)
Rogue Wave - Asleep at Heaven's Gate
(Joined ranks of our favorite bands with this one; their second nomination)
Bruce Springsteen - Magic
(Maybe we've lived in Jersey too long, but this one's simply great)
Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
(Not as ambitious as usual, just solid; they've won with their last two records - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in 2002 and A Ghost is Born in 2004)
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Happy Turkey Day! We are blogging via Blackberry as we travel up the turnpike, so this'll be short and sweet. No frills whatsoever.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Sunday, October 07, 2007
In some ways, Apple is just as evil as any other corporation.
I've never liked buying tracks on iTunes. It has a great UI and a strong selection, and is dead simple and lightning fast. But the songs are DRMed, and that makes them almost completely worthless in my opinion. When I buy a song, I want to own it dammit, not be told when, where and on what devices and computers I can listen to it or how many times I can burn it to a disc or turn it into a ringtone, etc. Of the more than 7,500 songs I currently have crammed onto my laptop harddrive, just 352 of them are iTunes purchases, almost all via gift cards I've received or from Pepsi bottle cap credits. Occasionally, I might buy a song, but only out of laziness.
Until iTunes drops DRM completely, I am an Amazon man.
I downloaded my first Amazon mp3 today, Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens (it's also the theme song from Extras). I had to download an additional application, but it was a relatively smooth process, the mp3 cost 99 cents (albums are $8.99) and the bit rate was twice that of iTunes. And no DRM.
Posted by Matthew at 11:19 AM
Monday, October 01, 2007
Figured I should wrap up the podcast expo blog so that the InterWeb can rest easy. I arrived back in New York in the wee hours this morning, and I return to the office tomorrow.
On the last day of the conference, I only had time to attend one session -- a basic video podcasting using iMovie course (I was there when he filmed this) -- and the keynote, where I met the Ninja from Ask a Ninja and had a grainy cell phone camera shot taken. The two guys behind possibly the most successful video podcast there is, Kent Nichols and Douglas Sarine, spoke about the show and the show's new community portal Ask a Ninja Fans, which I believe launched that very day. Their keynote was the best of the conference, as the two guys are extremely funny (no surprise) and really got into the history of the show, which was a real shoestring affair in the beginning. Actually, the original idea was for an animated comedy about a whole series of Ninjas, which asked the question, "Everyone wants to be ninjas. What do ninjas want to be?" The answer: to be like regular Joes. Accountants, high school students, whatever.
It turned out to be too elaborate and failed, which I believe was one of the reasons behind the main tenet of Ask a Ninja's production: keeping it simple. One camera, one actor, simple costuming, no background or special effects. Davina seems keen on green screens -- following Alex Lindsay's model -- but I'm not sure if that's really necessary.
To sum up, I learned as much as I could, considering the fact that no one really knows a) What they're doing, b) How to make money doing it or c) What the future holds. But man, podcasting has come a long way since I started listening back in 2004. For one, some people ARE starting to make at least a little bit of money. And, perhaps even more importantly, more than a few dozen people in the world now know what the word "podcast" even means.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
I took a crash course in Audacity today, and I think I've come around. I might be more apt to use it than Garageband. I especially like that it's free, cross-platform and open source.
Turns out the big podcasters party tonight was literally three doors down the hall. Mike, Davina and I attended, until the cops came and shut it down. Got to meet Adam of the Maccast finally and Justine of iJustine fame. No, she wasn't filming. Dawn and Drew were there, too, as was the Ask a Ninja guy, Brother Love, C.C. Chapman, and I believe I saw Alex Lindsay as well. Plus, some guy was literally tying up a half-naked girl with rope. RopeCast? BondageCast? I'm not sure.
Pictures of Adam and me, Justine and me (I look like an ogre next to her, even more than usual - she is TINY) and other assorted shots including the bondage stuff, will remain in the vaults.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
This morning's keynote was given by Revision 3 boss Jim Louderback. He mainly spoke about Revision 3's business end and how they've developed their content, such as Diggnation, around identifiable hosts with ties to the community (and not dumb blondes, to paraphrase him). Of course, Diggnation is a pretty strong example of community, as readers submit and vote on stories at Digg, which in turn leads to them being highlighted on the front page and in the subsequent podcast. Hence a built-in community around the site and a show that helps people feel "empowered," to use Louderback's word.
He also talked a bit about advertising (down with pre-roll!) and also about how new media is affecting old media. So of course I flagged him down after the presentation and asked him for thoughts on how newspapers can better use new media techniques. Funnily enough, he asked me if I had ever seen or heard of The 1Up Show, which happens to be one of my favorites (Jen is forced to listen to me singing the theme all the time). He suggested a similar format for a paper podcast, with a mix of different departments and a "what's happening in the newsroom" sort of vibe. (He seems to think big-name writers and columnists still write from their desks as opposed to filing remotely.) Still, you can't argue with it - The 1Up Show really is extremely well done.
Following that, I met up with Davina and we headed up to Alex Lindsay (of Pixel Corps and MacBreak Weekly fame), and he gave a great lecture on how the MacBreak video podcast is done, along with some other projects, including Food Science with Kirsten Sanford, aka Dr. Kiki, who was in the audience and sat there looking embarrassed (and also cute). I liked what he had to say about podcast length and frequency, basically 30-90 minutes for audio, 3-8 minutes for video.
Any more, especially with video, and people start to tune out. Also, once a week is perfect for both. More than once a week, people feel overwhelmed; less than once a week, they forget about it.
He also showed a video podcast that would make an awesome model for something to put together on our own site, if we can work out the (numerous) kinks.
The show wasn't as packed as I was expecting on Day 1. I spent the day attending various sessions, some more helpful than others, and the floor exhibits were a bit hard to navigate because a lot of the booth operators weren't good at making it clear what exactly they do. Davina was frustrated with Podango, as they seemed to lack a sales rep, and just had geeks who could speak about plug-ins for free blogging software, but seemed to know nothing about the expensive platform we're running. Still, they could be a good option. I also introduced her to Adam Bloom, who flagged me down during a mixer later last night.
I missed my chance to meet with Adam Christianson, but he's doing some live shows from the floor today so perhaps I'll get another opportunity. It would be refreshing after yesterday, when all the folks we met at the show represented the business side of things. Even the Podcast Awards, given out in the late afternoon, were often accepted by proxy, as the podcasters themselves weren't attending. Brother Love accepted for Keith and the Girl, for example, in his usual flamboyantly obnoxious way, so at least Davina got a proper introduction to the podsafe music network's legend-in-his-own-mind.
Mostly, I enjoyed the more technical sessions, because the more theoretical ones really weren't stimulating. I scooted out of the Viral Video session early, because all the viral videos they were highlighting were old news to me, and I didn't feel they were adding much to the discussion. Maybe it got better after I left, but in 15 minutes about the only point that grabbed me was when one the panelists made the point that these YouTube sensations represent the model for new technologies/forms of expression, such as what we saw during the early days of film - "spectacle comes first, then storytelling." At least I'll have another quote to throw out at dinner parties (perhaps even this one).
My two favorite sessions were the Sound Production and Post-Production talks, because although they sometimes got a bit too technical and steps were rushed through to fit an hour, I learned a few tips that could come in handy when working with audio. Note of interest: I expected a lot of home hobbyists in the podcasting world, and there seemed to be at least a few there in the audience, but the podcasters on the panels were all pro-level editors, filmmakers, actors, etc., who were using the medium of podcasts to get their material out there. I guess when a conference costs $300, some of the non-pro enthusiasts stay home. I look forward to checking out the podcamp in New York in February, because it's free and I'd expect to meet a lot more amateurs.
As for the technical stuff, I learned things that Geoff will tease me about, because he spent four years at NYU film school and I'm trying to pick up this stuff in an hour, like the difference between dynamic, condenser and ribbon microphones, what polar patterns are, and other various tips about sound recording. I did get some recommendations for various gear, including some handheld devices that could be useful for audio podcasts.
The Post-Production speaker was really interesting. He's a sound editor for IT Conversations, and the developer of The Levelator, free software for podcasters that completely automates levels adjustment and is now on my must-download list. Also, he makes an Audacity plug-in for deleting with crossfade, which, to sum up because I need to get in the shower and head for breakfast, removes ums and ahhs from recordings smoothly. I am not comfortable in Audacity, having been a Garageband guy, but if I could master this plug-in, it would make life much easier.
By the way, note to the powers-that-be: the Sound Engineer in the first session recommends Garageband among his favorite tools for editing. Just sayin'.
I joined Davina for some monetization session, given by podcasting's version of a motivational speaker. It did little for me, but he did make the point that Diggnation is essentially an hour-long promo for their Digg.com, which is pretty smart. Also, he got into targeted ads a bit, and I mentioned to Davina that targeted niche ads in podcasts, when done well, don't seem intrusive because they're for products I'm interested in -- making the ads feel informative, not intrusive. I forward past TV ads with my DVR, but I've been turned on to cool, geeky things, by ads in certain podcasts. Or by hosts just talking about the products, as editorial content.
There was a party later on, with, of all things, belly dancers and a ballet dancer who hung from the ceiling by a cloth and did things that would have broken every bone in my body. She was good, but we really only hung around to see if we'd won the raffle. We also saw the Ask a Ninja guy at dinner.
Okay, off to the shower.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Podshow is a mixed bag in my opinion. I think the concept is absolutely fantastic -- it provides a connection between unsigned bands and musicians and the podcasters who want to play music without being sued by the RIAA. It also gives unsigned bands a great distribution method for the material and helps them get noticed not just by podcasters and podcast listeners, but by music fans of all shapes and sizes on the Web.
My only beef is that the music to be found there leaves much to be desired. But I'm an elitist snob, and as Ed Ovett, host of "Ed's Mixed Bag" podcast -- a Brooklyn native, no doubt -- told me tonight, "you gotta dig" for the good stuff. Fair enough.
Which brings me to the party, which was excellent (it's still going on, but I wanted to get back and jot down some of my thoughts). Most of my efforts to bring up the newspaper business were met with excitement -- a newspaper sent you out here to look into podcasting, great! -- but most of the talk was about music, although I consistently tried to swing it back. I spent much of the time talking with Ovett and "Podshow Radio" host Brent Bradley. Bradley, who says he's a diehard print fan when it comes to getting his news, was more than enthusiastic about the idea of news podcasts, pointing to a few other organizations that already do them. We discussed the podcasts put out by 60 Minutes and Meet the Press, but agreed that they are only carbon copies at best of the programs themselves, and not Web-exclusive content. When it came to a newspaper podcast, Bradley stressed that reader response is key, saying "letters to the editor" should be as large part of the focus and that audio voicemail with host response is killer.
Mostly, I spoke with Bradley -- whose show focuses on one podsafe artist each episode -- and Ovett about the music business and how the Net has allowed artists to avoid the trappings of record company deals or at least get their music out without those deals. Are artists who use Podshow or Facebook or MySpace just trying to get their music out there -- or are they hunting for record deals? And, if a Podshow artist goes mainstream, is that a win for Podshow or a betrayal? Ovett and Bradley, as purists, were fascinated by the question, but didn't have an answer.
Note: This all led to an idea for a great podcast we could do. Won't make it public here, though.
I later had the chance to speak to Podshow exec Adam Bloom. He was quick to say that a Podshow artist gone big-time would be a triumph. As for newspaper podcasts, he wasn't much help. After I told him the name and circulation of the paper I represent, he asked if it was an alternative weekly. Blame it on geography -- or on his own expectations. To be fair, it's not his field. At any rate, he stressed video, video, VIDEO as being the medium of choice right now. Like me, he's a radio/audio guy, but "more people watch TV."
I also met Chris Naaden, who runs a podcast transcription business, but also happens to be a huge Dodgers fan (married to a Red Sox fan, his business partner April). We spent a good twenty minutes talking about a Yankee podcast, mainly about the benefits and drawbacks of having a beat writer host it -- as opposed to the grass roots, fan-based approach.
Naaden came around to the idea of a beat writer podcast, but raised an interesting question that's been on the back of my mind: Are independent podcasts successful because, though they sacrifice polish and editorial balance, they are full of passion and fire? Would a podcast hosted by a carefully chosen fan be more entertaining, or does the beat writer's access to the clubhouse and exclusive interviews give him an insurmountable edge? I've always thought the latter, but so many of the best sports blogs are run by amateurs who live and die with every play, which other fans can relate to. Beat writers are forced to be impartial, which takes some of the color away. Do people expect a more straightforward approach from newspapers because it's what they've always gotten -- or because it's what they really want? Anyway, it just got us both thinking.
Finally, as the room started to get too crowded and I started thinking about heading for the door, in walked The Podfather, Adam Curry. I don't think I made much of an impression, as I simply told him I was a big fan and that he was one of the key inspirations for me pitching podcasts at work for the last two years. I asked him if he had any words of wisdom and he started talking about how he and Podshow have created content for newspaper Web sites in the UK. I apparently disappointed him because I didn't seem interested in his sales pitch. Had I had more time, I would have been, but, instead, I told him I was far more interested in our own original content.
Said Curry: "Great. Just hit record and go!"
And then a couple of cute blondes cut in and my time was at an end.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Just hopped out of the shower and am preparing to meet coworker Davina at some point tonight, plus I plan on heading to the "Welcome to the Expo Party, Party" in suite 1312 of my hotel in about 45 minutes or so.
I've been using these down hours -- when I should be napping, but I'm wired -- to do some research about what's going on this weekend. I've contacted Adam Christianson of The Maccast -- "the show for Mac geeks, by Mac geeks" -- and he's agreed to speak with me tomorrow morning at the iProng booth. Hopefully he won't be too distracted by the gaggles of geek fans that will surely be surrounding him. Hey, I enjoy his show, so I'll be one of them.
I also hope to run into Cali Lewis from GeekBrief TV, who I believe will be holding court at the Premiumcast.com booth, as well as the Podfather, who arrives either tomorrow or Saturday, though pulling him aside seems like it would be a real challenge.
As I've been researching meetups and writing emails and listening to podcasts, I continue to wonder what I've been wondering for the past several weeks: What should I ask podcasters if and when I get a chance to pick their brains? Obviously, I hope to get a lot out of the seminars and keynotes, but I want to make the best of any opportunity I get to speak to my favorite podcasters, or to podcasters and techies I've never heard of before. As hobbyists, I'm not expecting them to have grand ideas about newspaper Web sites -- in fact, they in many ways represent the opposition to old media, or at least are a great example of how people can provide and package content in ways old media is failing to -- but I'd love to get their take on what they'd like to see, in a perfect world. What should newspapers be doing as they attempt to work with this new medium? What would pique their interest about an old media podcast, if it were done well? What makes a good podcast, anyway? How can we catch up? Can we catch up?
Of course, there are tons of other questions, both general and specific, mostly about content (although I hope to pick up on the technical and possibly the marketing side, too, if at all possible). I'll be brainstorming some more questions this evening, and I hope Davina has some suggestions, too. I'm not sure if our paths will converge a lot this weekend, but I'd be disappointed if they don't.
I woke up this morning at 4:30 a.m. EST and have been riding trains, planes and rental cars ever since. Just now, I'm finally in my room at the DoubleTree in Ontario, California, where you get a free cookie when you check in, but 1 liter bottles of Evian cost $4.50 each.
So far not much to write home about, besides the sunny weather and lack of humidity. National was out of compact cars, so I got a minivan, with two rows of seats in the back, at the same price. There's plenty of room in the driver's seat, and with all my experience begrudgingly driving gargantuan SUVs, it could easily pass for a midsize sedan in my mind. Nevertheless, I'm thinking of offering my services as a shuttle bus driver for wayward podcasters.
The drive here was a breeze, about an hour all things considered, and 57N takes you right past Angels Stadium and numerous signs for Long Beach and Los Angeles (hear that, Jen?). In Ontario, there's a Blvd. called Inland Empire (my joy at this is further proof of my undying David Lynch geekdom, so much so that I almost pulled over and took a picture of the street sign) and an In-N-Out Burger on North Vineyard Lane, within sight of my hotel.
If my first-ever No. 3 combo with onions counts as an adventure, then I'm ahead of the game already.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Early tomorrow morning, I'm embarking on a weekend business trip, flying across the country to attend the Podcast and New Media Expo in Ontario, California.
Because my boss, Adam, claims he "must have been high" when he gave me this plum assignment, and because I'll (essentially) be attending alone and will likely have a lot of time to myself, I've decided to blog about the experience here, as I diligently and dutifully attend conferences and keynotes while not spending a single, solitary moment in the hotel pool (I didn't even bring my bathing suit, I swear).
Maybe this blog detour, as it were, will turn out to be the basis of the report Adam expects from me upon my return, and prove to Adam -- and his superiors -- that he was not, by any means, "high" when he decided to send me.
So, to him and any other coworkers or friends who may stumble upon this, I hope there is some value to me dumping the contents of my brain here, as I wander through a faraway convention hall. I'm bringing along my rapidly aging gear -- a G4 PowerBook that desperately needs replacing, a digital camera, a Blackberry and other assorted sundries -- and will try to use them if and when I can, if only to keep myself busy when I'm back at the hotel each night, completely and utterly sober -- and eager for an early rise the next morning.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Metroid Prime 3 is our current Wii obsession. It's a fantastic game on so many levels - think of Zelda as a futuristic first-person shooter.
It only occurred to us tonight to make mention of its fantastic opening theme music. So, without further ado, here's a little video we shot just now. It's not the same as sitting down and playing it yourself, but it captures it well enough. The first few seconds are usually all you'd hear before you open up your save file, but those few seconds are the best part.
Posted by Matthew at 12:18 AM
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Okay, we'd of course love the Innocence Mission to find new life as an Internet sensation, now that they've posted this incredibly beautiful in-studio performance of Brotherhood of Man on YouTube. Unfortunately, they made the mistake of not branding themselves as amateurs playing in their living room, a couple of poor working schlubs who greet customers at Walmart during the day and spend nights just trying to get their music out there to the people. That's what America digs - a combination of freaks like Tay Zonday, American Idol winners and total fraud Marie Digby.
Rant over. Now watch the video, because it's perfect.
Posted by Matthew at 8:00 AM
Monday, September 10, 2007
We still own a brick-like black and white no-frills iPod 2G, and now Jen has an iPod that's impossibly small, plays video and displays her photos in full, vibrant color. She also has an Intel Macbook to our PowerBook G4. Suddenly, our Luddite girlfriend's hardware is far more advanced than ours is.
Here's the proof:
Sigh. BUT -- will her iPod still be going strong after five years of continuous abuse, without ever needing a new battery? I think not!
Posted by Matthew at 8:54 PM
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Because we are still too lazy and/or too busy to set aside adequate time for blogging lately, here are some more YouTube videos that have caught our fancy recently.
First up is this video, which we saw the other day posted at imdiscog.com by Keith Abbott, the undisputed king of all things Innocence Mission. Apparently, IM's song Clear to You was used in the two-hour Beverly Hills, 90210 pilot, to heighten the romantic drama between Jason Priestly (aka Brandon Walsh) and some chick who rides a motorcycle. The two (underage, right?) teens end up sipping champagne in a hot tub, which I'm sure Karen Peris and Co. will wholeheartedly endorse when their own children reach puberty.
The second video, if you dare to watch it, shows Roller Girl Heather Graham's unfortunate decision to become a recording artist. Since she was a waitress at the Double R diner on Twin Peaks, she gets a free pass from us, but her voice is so awful, her lyrics so trite and her band so terrible, that it's a close call indeed.
Third up, is the new iPod nano video. Why? Three reasons: 1. We have long been unpaid Mac spokespeople. 2. We love Feist. 3. Dan got a job with Apple! Congrats, sir. We plan on drinking heartily to your future success quite soon (and on more than one occasion).
Finally, there are enough musical elements in this hilarious Ricky Gervais video to give us reason to post it here. But we would anyway, because it's freakin' genius. Gervais and Steven Merchant (with or without Karl Pilkington) are a comedy team for the ages. There is a version at rickygervais.com without audience response, if you want to stay totally pure.
Posted by Matthew at 8:05 AM
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Sunday, August 12, 2007
So our Austrian bureau sent in these five questions about They Might Be Giants several weeks ago, and they have been collecting dust along with all the other music items we've been meaning to write. Once again, the three w's -- work, Wii and woman -- have grabbed the lion share of our time and blogging has been on the backburner. But we did pick up the new TMBG album -- The Else -- so it's time to answer Moni while we try to recover from our latest Mario Strikers Charged wrist injury.
1. What, where, when and why was RIB's first contact with They Might Be Giants? What happened afterwards?
We didn't see the Johns live until college, but we were introduced to them the summer before freshman year of high school, if we remember correctly, when a friend (Zared Goldfarb, better known at the time as Ziggy) at summer camp turned us on to Flood. We fell in love with it immediately, and soon we were scowering Poughkeepsie department stores in search of a prosthetic forehead to wear on our real head. We never found one, but we did wear fake wigs and dance to Istanbul (Not Constantinople) with Ziggy in the camp talent show. Things haven't been quite the same since.
2. What can I imagine a typical TMBG show to be like?
We saw them so many freaking times while at NYU that we got our fill and have only seen them once or twice since. Possibly the best was getting to see John Linnell perform "State Songs" -- our 1999 album of the year -- with the State Songs band. Made us all proud to be Americans. In general, you can expect a few surprises -- one show they had an entire lineup of guests singing their songs (with Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes and Frank Black among them). Several times we saw them bring out "Stick", which made a booming noise when pounded on the stage, and Exquisite Dead Guy was performed by two ventriloquist dummy heads on the end of long poles. Basically, though, Linnell hangs out at the keyboard and Flans plays the part of nerd rock guitar god.
3. How do you tell someone who's never heard of TMBG why they really need to listen to this band?
We would never even speak to anyone who hasn't heard of TMBG.
4. In a sparkly shiny perfect world, what would the new album sound like in RIB's opinion?
Now that we have it, we'd like to say it would, in a perfect world, sound more like the bonus disc that comes with it -- Cast Your Pod to the Wind, which has some of (though not nearly all) the best selections from their podcast. Not all the songs hit home, but there are some gems that have that quirky quality that is lost on The Else, which is a bit too slick and over-produced. Once upon a time, TMBG recorded crazy songs for fun, then put them on their albums. Now they show up on their podcasts instead. CYPTTW is free, but it'd almost be worth it at full price just for I'm Your Boyfriend Now, the funniest stalker song ever. Too bad Miniature Sidewalk Whirlwind and It Was a Very Good Year are missing, as is the commentary version of (She Was A) Hotel Detective in the Future. On the album proper, the only song we find ourselves listening to regularly is Upside Down Frown, which reminds us of TMBG's second career as brilliant children's song writers.
RIB's 'Perfect' Tracklist for The New TMBG Album (in no particular order):
I'm Your Boyfriend Now
Miniature Sidewalk Whirlwind
It Was a Very Good Year
(She Was A) Hotel Detective in the Future
Yeah, The Deranged Millionaire
Upside Down Frown
Why Did You Grow A Beard?
Take Out the Trash
Cast Your Pod to the Wind
My Other Phone is a Boom Car
5. Where is Particle Man today?
The water got him?
Posted by Matthew at 12:40 PM
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Simon has apparently already begun talks to sign her to some seven-figure record deal, so very soon she'll become unbearably annoying, or plain ruined, or both.
UPDATE: So I figured I'd check to see if she won the competition. She didn't. Turns out the guy who beat her is an even better story. Check this out:
Posted by Matthew at 12:34 AM
Sunday, June 03, 2007
So the New School finally updated their servers and, as a result, our brilliant Podsafe Music Info Site - a handy-dandy guide to the wonderful world of podsafe music that we made in about 20 minutes as a continuing ed HTML class final project - is no more. Thankfully, the New School warned us beforehand, so we were able to salvage its rich content in order to reproduce it for you here. Enjoy!
PODSAFE MUSIC INFO SITE
What is podsafe music? Podsafe music is a low fat alternative to actual music and, for some, the solution to the RIAA's campaign of international terrorism. With this Web site, I hope to introduce one or two people to both the wonders - and dangers - of podsafe music, which now has both its own network and its champion. Please follow the links below to begin your journey through the past, present and future of podsafe music, which sucks ass right now but once they get talented artists who can actually write lyrics to join up, then, man oh man, the record industry is in for REAL trouble.
The History of Podsafe Music
The first evidence of podsafe music was discovered in this cave drawing. It depicts the mirth and disdain of the fertility goddess after attending a show by an unsigned band. Squirting milk from her breasts was not only a prehistoric version of throwing a tomato, but also mocked the band members' inability to get women.
This podsafe group seems to date back well before the advent of recorded music, but, in truth, they had this portrait painted at a Ren Fair.
The pop artists of the '60s briefly suffered through a podsafe music period, when artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein decided to ignore "establishment" performers like Elvis Presley or even The Velvet Underground and go totally podsafe. The experiment did not last very long.
Of course, with the advent of the Internet and the development of the iPod, crappy musicians now had a way of truly squeezing blood from a stone; finding each and every person of bad taste in a small city was hard enough, but getting that wider, international audience was near impossible, especially with the evil record companies pissing all over their demo tapes. Now, the literally five or six people in Europe who might actually find their shit amusing could, with the simple click of a mouse, download and enjoy their tripe from the privacy of their one-bedroom apartments overlooking tiny, rat-infested alleyways. True freedom of expression was born.
Once the robots take control, who the fuck will care about podsafe music?
Podsafe Music Artists
There are hundreds if not thousands of podsafe musicians out there. None of them are very good.
Imagine David Lee Roth. Now imagine David Lee Roth some more. Do you still want to listen to Brother Love? If so, click here.
The Lashcshivvioussshsh Biddies
Adam Curry has a vocal orgasm whenever he plays them.
Podsafe For Peace
I implore people to check out the Podsafe for Peace Christmas track. It's mediocre at best, and Brother Love completely ruins it with his ridiculous bellowing at the end, but all proceeds go to UNICEF. I bought one.
Best Things About Podsafe Music
1. It's free -- You can download it, play it, share it and actually listen to it without being sued.
2. Actually, that's the only thing cool about it now.
Worst Things About Podsafe Music
1. It sucks -- You can download it, play it, share it and actually listen to it without being entertained.
Posted by Matthew at 12:38 AM
Thursday, May 31, 2007
So music has been very very good to us in 2007, but it's been a bumpy ride the last several weeks. Bjork's album disappointed, then Wilco's basically did too (Geoff, where's your freakin' review already?!) and last week we learned that the already rescheduled Innocence Mission show at Southpaw had been cancelled.
Then along comes The National.
Boxer is yet another album that is making our ears happy to be alive. We downloaded the first track, Fake Empire, from Idolator quite awhile ago and after a few listens realized that the album proper was worthy of a release-date purchase.
And, as you can see by the fact that we've affixed an album sticker to our bike, it was worth it. Yet another album that we see finishing in our top 5 this year, although how we'll fit a dozen albums in the top 5 remains a mystery.
Boxer is very much about becoming an adult, sacrificing your social life for the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Mistaken for Strangers, the second track, sums up the message of much of the album pretty well, although it's a bit rockier than some of the better tracks: "Showered and blue-blazered, fill yourself with quarters/you get mistaken for strangers by your own friends/when you pass them at night under the silvery, silvery Citibank lights".
Green Gloves, Jen's favorite, builds on the leaving your old friends behind theme with the opening stanza, "Falling out of touch with all my/friends are somewhere getting wasted/hope they're staying glued together/I have arms for them", while Squalor Victoria ("I'm a professional in my beloved white shirt") and RIB's favorite track, Start a War ("I'll get money, I'll get funny again/walk away now/and you're gonna start a war") further develop the album's financial issues.
But since we don't want this whole blog entry to be about regurgitating lyrics, we'll leave it at that. Suffice it to say the songs, besides being smart - and relevant to our age group here at RIB - are gorgeous, haunting and definitely worth prime sticker real estate. Released: May 22. MONEY
Posted by Matthew at 8:43 PM
Monday, May 21, 2007
As you read here a week or so ago, Tori Amos has released her best album in years. True, that's not saying much, but we have to give credit where credit is due: If you are a lapsed Toriphile, American Doll Posse should get you back on track. I never expected to own another one of her albums, or post gushingly about her again, but here I am.
Still, it's 23 tracks long. By RIB's count, that's at least nine too many. So while we certainly recommend that you pick it up, we figured we'd provide this handy breakdown of what's worth keeping and what you're better off trashing -- and a few we haven't decided on yet (note that we've left out references to the album's various "characters" and which songs "they" sing, because, frankly, it's a ridiculous conceit that only contributes to the album's unwieldiness):
1. Yo George. This is a not-very-subtle dig at George W. Bush which asks the pertinent, but heavy-handed, questions: "Where have we gone wrong, America?" and "Is this just the madness of King George?". I'm keeping it for now, because it's pretty, but it might not last. Better as a decent b-side than an uninspiring album opener. STATUS PENDING.
2. Big Wheel. Great, great song. Upbeat, a bit country but not too much, and about 2/3 of the way in, Tori declares, "I'm an M-I-L-F, don't you forget." KEEP.
3. Bouncing Off Clouds. Like a Kate Bush song Kate Bush never recorded, in a Running Up That Hill vein. Fantastic. KEEP.
4. Teenage Hustling. This has had us singing "I'm at your door, I'm at your door, I'm at your do-o-or" repeatedly in our shower, which opens us up for a lot of snarky criticisms, but we're very confortable with both our musical taste and our sexuality. KEEP.
5. Digital Ghost. This is the first track where the annoying side of Tori starts to come out. It seems to be packed with lame technology double entendres, including "I am not immune to your net". But I don't hate it enough to trash it yet. STATUS PENDING.
6. You Can Bring Your Dog. In which Tori compares herself and others to pets, with a boring roadhouse rock band backbeat. DELETE.
7. Mr. Bad Man. Starts off like it's going to be a Herman's Hermits greatest hit. But "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter" is a lyrical masterpiece compared to lines like "The bad man made her cry". DELETE.
8. Fat Slut. All I can say is thank God it's only 41 seconds long. DELETE.
9. Girl Disappearing. Okay, we're back on track here. The lyrics are pretty blah, but the piano and the music are worth the ride. KEEP.
10. Secret Spell. Reminds me of solo Stevie Nicks. But better. Will I wake up in a cold sweat one night, needing to hear Secret Spell and nothing else? No. But I like it. KEEP.
11. Devils and Gods. Another short one, clocking in at 53 seconds. Not long enough to be much of anything, but at least it doesn't suck like Fat Slut. Would have been better as a little hidden bit at the end of another track. KEEP.
12. Body and Soul. The song starts and I think to myself, "I don't really like most of the Y Can't Tori Read throwback stuff." Then the chorus kicks in and I'm singing along. Could see this as a single, although there are better choices. KEEP.
13. Father's Son. Could be a track from Boys For Pele. And since that is by far her best album, IMO, that is saying a lot. KEEP.
14. Programmable Soda. This song is total nonsense, but so was Mister Zebra. It's not as good, but, like Zebra, this is fun. And at 1:25, it doesn't have quite enough time to wear out its welcome. KEEP.
15. Code Red. I'm sorry Tori, but THIS IS THE FIFTEENTH TRACK. I am already not in the mood for you anymore. I don't even care if this is a good song or not at this point. But since I've undertaken the task of listening to the whole thing, I will have to be fair to Code Red. Which is really not that great of a song. DELETE.
16. Roosterspur Bridge. Zzzzzzz. DELETE.
17. Beauty of Speed. Okay, you've won me back with the opening drum/piano stuff...yes...yes, the spirit of Kate Bush rejoins us on track 17. Good stuff. KEEP.
18. Almost Rosey. Poor lyrics, lackluster performance. More dull than anything else. DELETE
19. Velvet Revolution. As a former resident of Prague, I was hoping for something else. I guess "something more" would be appropriate too. DELETE.
20. Dark Side of the Sun. Tori's version of Blowin' in the Wind-meets-Big Yellow Taxi, anyone? Not good. DELETE.
21. Posse Bonus. As this is track No. 21, don't you think we've had enough Posse bonuses? I could have stomached this better earlier in this sitting. On second though, nah. DELETE.
22. Smokey Joe. Can't quite make heads or tails of this song yet, which appears to be about revenge. But it seems to work and I will return to it. KEEP.
23. Dragon. Nice, dark keyboard and piano. The lovely chorus is "stay awhile, stay awhile, stay a-whi-le" - but how much better would that sound if this was track 11? KEEP.
CONCLUSION: Tori Amos needs an editor. American Doll Posse would have been perfect at about 11 or 12 tracks. As is, there's a whole lot of crap to float through to get to the chewy cookie center. Worth it though - especially now that we've got it all sorted out.
Posted by Matthew at 4:26 PM
Sunday, May 20, 2007
I've been holding off on this post for a couple weeks, because I didn't want to have to type what I am now going to type:
The new Bjork album just isn't that good.
Volta isn't terrible, mind you. I like Innocence when it's not giving me a headache, the Antony duets are strong enough and I See Who You Are is a mostly good example of the recent spate of songs about lovers dying and, presumably, burying eachother (see Iron & Wine's Naked as We Came or Wilco's new On and On and On or, well, pick any Decemberists song). But the latter, like many songs on this album, never takes off. Where are the hooks?
I am so not a "where are the hooks?" kind of guy, but when you make an album with Timbaland that has several songs based on very hard beats - Declare Independence is Industrial Rock, for Chrissake - you expect to want to maybe, at least once, if only for a minute, get out of your seat and dance. Or maybe even just bop your head.
But Bjork isn't having it.
I guess maybe I tapped my toes once or twice for Earth Intruders, but the production - I can't believe I'm saying this about a Bjork album - is kind of murky and the beats don't get the chance to beat your brains around a bit. Even her quirky English issues - I think she means Earth Intruders as some kind of return-to-the-soil revolutionary guerilla force, not space aliens - annoys me here. And why does it end with a minute-and-a-half of foghorns?
My favorite track on the album is The Dull Flame of Desire - Bjork and Antony have two of my favorite voices in the world - but I'm still trying to understand why the song had to last seven-and-a-half minutes when there are only 10 lines to the lyric. Like Declare Independence, it starts off with such great promise, then just plods along, with peaks that just aren't majestic enough. In the case of Dull Flame, the high points are the highest on Volta, but if I'm within reach of my mouse, there's little chance I'm making it all the way through.
I do love the high school band horns on this album, and I hold out hope that Bjork will sneak up on me with this one. But I expected it to put her earlier albums to sleep for awhile and, instead, it's only making me appreciate them more. Released: May 8. UNNECESSARY VOODOO.
Posted by Matthew at 12:00 PM
Monday, May 07, 2007
There are numerous reasons why I haven't posted in ages - from the usual (laziness) to the unusual (click here for details) to the hopefully never again (oral surgery, followed by a week of walking death after a terrible reaction to the anasthesia) - but I've also been busy picking up and listening to a lot of new albums. So before the new Bjork comes out and throws some of these on the backburner, I figured it was time to give them some quality blog time.
Shearwater - Palo Santo (Expanded Edition)
Shearwater's Palo Santo finished second in last year's Album of the Year countdown, and it would likely have won had it not been for the fact that I HATED the production. When it was soft, it'd be too soft, so you'd blast the volume and the loud parts would rip your ears off. And although the album has a dark, murky feel to it, the production was just a bit too, well, dark and murky.
Apparently Shearwater felt the same way, because, after signing a new deal with Matador records, they've re-released the album, with five tracks completely recorded, the rest remixed, new packaging and a bonus disc with new tracks and demos.
Just about every problem I had with the original version has been fixed and the songs have improved from muted, almost-epics, to clear, ringing full-fledged epics. The old "Hail, Mary" was one of my favorite songs - it rocked, but also seemed a bit held-back. This one soars, ending with a lengthened, now-breathtaking jam session that really pops. The new opening drumbeat of "Red Sea, Black Sea" is a call to arms and the banjo is luscious.
Shearwater's new-and-improved Palo Santo owns the original, and the bonus tracks are great, too. If you didn't pick this one up last year, now's the time. Released: April 10. ESSENTIAL
Shearwater - Red Sea, Black Sea (New Version) [mp3 via Pitchfork]
Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
So with the new-and-improved Shearwater and Neon Bible burning a hole in my iPod, you'd think Andrew Bird would get short shrift. Not so. Despite those two albums, I keep going back, time and time again, to Armchair Apocrypha.
This is going to be one of my favorites when 2007 is all said and done.
It doesn't quite catch you on first listen, but several of these songs - Fiery Crash, Plasticities, Heretics and Simple X, for example - are already old friends. Days have passed where I sang nothing in my head but "Thank God it's fatal, thank God it's fatal..." over and over again.
And his whistling! This one's a real gem. Released: March 20. PRECIOUS TERRITORY
Feist - The Reminder
Okay, the rest of the albums on this list have been getting short shrift, to various degrees and for various reasons.
Feist is an undeserving victim of the Shearwater-Arcade Fire-Andrew Bird triumvirate, as her new album seems great. "My Moon, My Man" has been known to poke "Heretics" out of my head at times, although my version goes "My moon, my man, my bah-doo-be-doo-doo", which tells you a lot about how many times I've listened to this one so far. But it will get the attention it deserves soon enough. Released: May 1. BAH-DOO-BE-DOO-DOO
Tori Amos - American Doll Posse
A lot of the songs are total crap and will be deleted very soon. But the good ones are really good. Who would have thought?
I lost interest in Tori a long time ago (she peaked with Boys for Pele, and everything since has been a let down), but songs like "Big Wheel", a country rock number in which Tori declares herself a MILF, and Teenage Hustling, featuring an irresistable "I'm at your door, I'm at your door" refrain, are the best Tori songs I've heard since my days as a Toriphile. These two alone are worth it; the others have yet to get final judgement. Some seem like they could be keepers ("Father's Son" is on now and I'm digging it), but a lot of the time I find my cursor hovering over 'send to trash'... Released: May 1. MILF
Bright Eyes - Cassadaga
One that is being ignored as well, but is most likely to collect dust.
I liked I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning but I was hesitant to buy this because I find him a bit too precious. I got it anyway and regretted it from the first track, which begins with Revolution 9-like orchestral music and a talking woman, and features the cringe-inducing line "get your revolution at a lower price". I do like "Four Winds", though, and it's always great to hear Gillian Welch (she sings backing vocals on "Classic Cars") so maybe I'll buy into this one down the road. Maybe. Released: April 10. I'M FALLING ASLEEP, IT'S EVENING
Various Artists - A Tribute to Joni Mitchell
Was thinking about buying it, then found it in the free bin at work. What a steal.
Unfortunately, it's not really that great. The Sufjan and Bjork offerings are good - you knew I'd say that, but they really are, especially Sufjan's mad-genius version of "A Free Man in Paris" - but Prince sounds like a parody of himself and most of the rest I'll probably never listen to again - why bother when I already have the originals?
And why does the picture of Joni on the cover make it look like she's dead? It's a tribute, not a memorial. Released: April 24. BLUE
The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
*Snore* Released: January 23. SNORE
Posted by Matthew at 7:45 PM
Monday, April 16, 2007
Excuse me for gushing, but my girlfriend Jen finally bought an album that doesn't make me wretch. Our musical tastes diverge quite a bit, and although she's tolerant of my stuff (and even likes some of it), I have trouble swallowing her music. I'm a snob and she's a top 40 girl.
But a few weeks ago, Jen bought the new Lily Allen - and I really dig it. So I sat down with Jen (okay, we did this via email) and asked her about the album.
1. First off, who the heck is Lily Allen and what is Alright, Still? And is it any good?
Sorry, I still don't know that much about Lily Allen. I could have done some research, and I really meant to, but it felt too much like homework and I am going to have a lot of that to do come September, and I don't plan on starting a minute earlier.
I was introduced to her one Saturday night as I was watching SNL, not something I normally watch but I was up waiting for a certain person (more on that later; see my answer to question No. 3), and I needed a distraction, even a bad one, at the moment. While watching the show I thought I found something new -- me, finally, finding something different and interesting in music!
I could not wait to share that with others, especially the ones that tell me I need to find some new music, but when I went to tell my sister she said that Lily Allen was old news and I was still "behind the times". That did not change my opinion of the album, however. I can relate to many of the songs. I think most people, especially women, but also those in and out of relationships, having to go to clubs to meet people, or still young enough or possibly optimistic enough to find good things in not-so-great situations can relate, too.
2. The album is hip-hop, is it not? Records I Buy doesn't really dig hip-hop but it likes this album. Is it because we're elitist (it's European!) or are we outright racists (she's white!)?
3. Let's talk about the first track, 'Smile'. Might you have a story about that song? Perhaps about a boyfriend going out drinking and not calling? How was that song helpful?
Smile was the song I saw performed on SNL. It's about a girl whose relationship ends because the guy is a schmuck (aren't they all;) and now she wants to see him hurt. I took it to mean emotionally hurt, unlike the video (which takes on another form of hurting that I could get behind for the right person, or should I say If the right person did something to deserve it). The video is posted below.
Anyway, the song is a great break-up song, or at least a great "revenge" song and at the moment I was watching it, that felt like something I needed to hear ... posssibly because a certain boyfriend stayed out all night long drinking with his buddies and not bothering to call to let his girlfriend know how late he was going to be. Or maybe it was another reason, and perhaps the first one was just an example -- because, as you all know, MY boyfriend would NEVER do something like that. He is way too thoughtful.
4. Do you have another favorite song on the album? What do you like about it?
My other favorite song is Knock 'Em Out. This song is for any person, guy or girl, who has been hit on by someone that they are just not interested in, and that person will not take the hint. I am sure that everyone has had this happen at least once in their lives. I was usually too nice and would get stuck talking to that particular person.
The main character in this song would not have stood for it. She had some great excuses that I may want to keep on file for future use, such as, " Nah I've got go cuz my house is on fire".
5. If you had to sum up your impressions of this album in one illustrative vocabulary word - a la Record I Buy reviews - what would that word be?
I DON'T HAVE A WORD, YOU THINK OF SOMETHING.
All in all, I may not have been the first to discover her, but I am glad that I did. Now I have music that is included on the "2007 playlist".
Posted by Matthew at 8:06 AM
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Welcome to Part II of the All Hell Breaks Loose in Hoboken series on this formerly music-themed blog.
The following is a video I just shot of my basement, which is rapidly filling with water. When we got home from the Newport mall this afternoon, water was rushing into it like a waterfall but you could still walk to the washer and dryer. Now it's up to the third step.
No one in my apartment building seems concerned. A guy from the third floor came down this evening with laundry and when I told him he might want to rethink that, he laughed and told me the thought hadn't occured to him that the basement might be flooding. To his credit, he called the building's maintenance number from his cell phone. He was told to "wait until it stops raining."
I also took a video of my front steps and Madison St., but it's too dark to see. Hoboken is the new Venice.
I have Hoboken411.com's live police scanner streaming through iTunes. About a half hour ago, they announced that all personnel should remain at their posts - meaning a shift change was due. One guy radioed back that he'd stay at his post - but he needed to change his wet pants first. UPDATE: There has now been, according to the scanner, a giant mudslide on Sinatra Drive. Oy vey.
Oh, and Hoboken is still burning, at least somewhere. Fire trucks are making a major racket.
Posted by Matthew at 11:52 PM
A break in our regularly scheduled music program for some pictures of Hoboken, flooded and on fire. Jen and I had to wade home from the PATH this afternoon in knee-deep water. No joke. Our basement is flooded, too, and the water's still rising...
These shots are from 2nd and Madison and 2nd and Jefferson, looking at a huge fire still burning at a lumber yard on 2nd and Clinton. We knew there was a fire somewhere because we smelled smoke. Jen went around the corner and saw heavy black smoke filling the air, and came inside to get me.
The floodwater shot at the end is not nearly as impressive as what Jen and I saw during our swim home. Waves were crashing against buildings, cars were nearly submerged and you couldn't even see the sidewalk in places. But I didn't have my camera then, and all we wanted to do was get home and get warm...
For more photos, and to see the above shots in their full-sized glory, click here.
Posted by Matthew at 7:24 PM
Monday, April 09, 2007
1) Observe many underaged Spanish girls dancing wildly.
2) Decide to be retro (in honor of the recently married groom.)
3) Decide early R.E.M. is a good era to represent.
4) Find out the DJ has no "End of the World as We Know It"
5) Settle for "Losing My Religion (Nuevo Remix)"
6) Wait for said "Nuevo Remix" to come on.
7) Literally watch the lithe, ripe, undulating, underaged Spanish girls stop undulating and go back to their tables as the song you selected starts playing.
Posted by Geoff G. at 4:35 PM
Saturday, April 07, 2007
This has been making the rounds for several days but I'm posting it now because 1) Steph emailed me a link to it today and I finally watched it and 2) I am sick of seeing Keith Richards at the top of my blog. And, yes, 3) it's funny. Although I am not sure if Alanis is one to talk, considering some of her past gems.
Posted by Matthew at 12:15 AM
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Keith Richards mixed his dead father's ashes with cocaine and inhaled it. Really. I'm not making this up. UPDATE: Now it appears HE was making it up. Not that I totally believe him, but whatever. I'm tired of this story now anyway.
From the original story:
"The strangest thing I've tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father," Richards was quoted as saying by British music magazine NME.
"He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared," he said. "... It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive."
Posted by Matthew at 8:13 PM
Monday, April 02, 2007
Yes, indeed. And no, it's not April 1 anymore.
You can read more about it at Pitchfork. To me, it looks like a soda bottle with feet. Or, even better, like one of these with feet:
But here's where I piss Bjork haters off: I like it. I am not only still psyched about Volta, I am even more stoked about it now. Why? Because, like Bjork says in the Pitchfork interview, the bright colors (and comic elements) are a real contrast to her last several albums (re: every one since Post) and represents a thematic change as well. To me, that's refreshing. A fun, danceable Bjork album sounds just about perfect.
Posted by Matthew at 3:40 PM
Saturday, March 31, 2007
And now for a few musical tidbits as I wait for my hearing to return after last night's Long Winters show at Maxwell's - which was excellent, by the way, especially when lead singer John Roderick, suffering from a cold that forced him to miss soundcheck while asleep in his van, finally got his mic levels right. I'm still kicking myself for not bringing enough cash to afford one of those damn $3 Long Winters kazoos, having foolishly spent everything I had on beer. What was I thinking?
Not long after chronicling my run-ins with Yo La Tengo in Hoboken (see link at end of note), I found myself on the PATH train with Georgia Hubley. I was sitting in a mostly empty car when she walked in and sat next to me on the other side of the bench for the trip into Manhattan. She wore ratty old sneakers and carried a well-worn bag, looking more like a homeless lady than a rock star. She got off at 14th street (or was it 9th? I forget now). I don't think anyone else recognized her. [A Taste of Hoboken: Stalking Yo La Tengo]
Once again, The Innocence Mission has cancelled tour dates due to illness. I can't remember who it was that was sick the last time I had tickets, but now it's Karen with "bronchitis/laryngitis" and the World Cafe Live show in Philly and the Southpaw in Brooklyn shows are off - or more likely just postponed, we don't know yet. I have tickets to the latter, of course. [The Innocence Mission Official Web Site]
R.E.M. made a big hubbub on Thursday, sending out emails to fan club members (which I am no longer because I got lazy and never renewed several years ago) telling them a major announcement was coming yesterday afternoon. Speculation on Murmurs.com ran rampant - including the usual Bill-Berry-is-coming-back chatter. As it turns out, the band simply announced a five-night stint at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin and a presale for fan clubbers.
No big deal, really, except for one heartening aspect of this: It's being called a "working rehearsal" for the new album. Very refreshing - a lot of fans, including myself, feel that the last couple albums could have been helped by fleshing them out live beforehand. [REMHQ]
Speaking of R.E.M., my all-time most hated R.E.M. lyric - "Leaving was never my proud" from Leaving New York - made a Spinner list of the 20 Worst Lyrics Ever, checking in at No. 15. They also (cleverly) revisit their assault on Stipe in their comments on entry No. 13 if you're interested. [Spinner's 20 Worst Lyrics Ever]
Pitchfork does an excellent roundup of all the little teaser videos and sound clips Bjork has been floating around the Interweb concerning her upcoming album Volta. [Bjork Trickling Out Volta Teasers]
I have been listening quite a bit to both the new Lilly Allen and the new Andrew Bird records. Eventually I will write more about each of them. For now, I will say that both are excellent and certainly worth checking out.
Merlin Mann, of MacBreak Weekly fame, started up his own new video podcast called The Merlin Show, which so far has featured interviews with John Vanderslice, Peter Hughes (of The Mountain Goats) and the aforementioned Roderick of The Long Winters. I haven't watched them yet, although I did see the first few minutes of the Vanderslice interview. I was digging it before my ADD kicked in. [The Merlin Show]
And finally, a video that reminded coworker Eric of my music snobbery:
Posted by Matthew at 9:03 AM
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The Long Winters are coming to Hoboken/NYC this weekend. (I'll be at the Maxwell's show on Friday night if you want to say hi.) So Moni would be remiss not to provide Records I Buy with another fine review, as all bands seem to head for the tri-state area after conquering Austria. Click the photo below for the Flickr set.
Band: The Long Winters
Venue: Veilchen, Graz, Austria
I made the two-hour trip to see The Long Winters in Graz. The Veilchen is a cosy little venue (capacity maybe 200) in a huge park in the city. The show started late (maybe twenty minutes before midnight), and the place was almost packed with mostly not-too-drunk people. It always adds to the quality of a show when there is chemistry between the band and the audience, which was certainly the case that night.
When a friend of mine recently saw The Long Winters in Paris (opening for Keane), he said he it had seemed to him singer/songwriter/guitarist John Roderick was "under the influence". To which another friend said "Oh no, John's just naturally high." In Graz, at the last show of the band's Euro spring tour, John Roderick's natural highness peaked. The man’s got charisma he should sell in bottles and also delivers some great banter along with the music. And tonight John was in a particularly playful mood.
After opening with a semi-acoustic It’ll be a Breeze, the energy of the set rose and remained at peak level throughout — as opposed to their last show in Vienna in November, where for some reason things just didn’t quite take off. My personal favourite was Sky Is Open, a song they just added to their setlist on this tour. John introduced Honest, a song about falling in love with a rock singer, by stating that it was totally okay to be in love with him, but not “the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy. Or Robert Plant. Don’t do that.” I’ve seen Nora performed a few times, but this one crushed pretty much any other version I’ve heard so far, with John going nucking futs during his solo. Setlist staple Cinnamon got the whole crowd singing and dancing.
The Commander Thinks Aloud has gone from “we only play it when we feel like it” to a regular in their live repertoire, which is a very good thing. I just secretly wish they would leave the synth-bits off the live version. I once saw the song performed by Roderick, accompanied by the members of the fabulous Centro-Matic, who joined him on stage. If I would normally use grand words like “visceral” or “poignant”, that’s what I would say to describe this performance. The simple instrumentation carried the feeling of the song better than all the synth stuff. Generally one can say though that the band tries to recreate many of the arrangements, sounds and flibbity-jibbity from their albums, but thankfully without sounding too much like the recorded versions of the songs.
When John said, in reference to the Turkish-Austrian wars, that, "I like the Turks. They’re nice people. Unless of course they come slicing your head of. Well nobody likes that", a voice from the back of the room stated matter-of-factly, "I like it." A touch of Monty Python was in the air. Then John went on to introduce the band, claiming that global warming was all Eric Corson's (bass) fault (“You hippie!”), and partially Jonathan Rothman's (keys, guitars, kazoo). But certainly not Nabil Ayers' (drums, moustache).
Theoretically I could complain there were too few songs from the first record played — there were the lovely Scent of Lime and a sexy Carparts, but that song has never been the same since Sean Nelson left the band — but after all, I could have requested them. The Long Winters honor almost all requests, sometimes even those for a Van Halen cover (Hot for Teacher!), and they even might give you a vandalized version of Stairway to Heaven if you ask for it one too many times.
Posted by Matthew at 9:13 PM
Monday, March 26, 2007
If you don't already podcast NPR's All Songs Considered, you should start now. Their current episode, at least as this blog entry is being posted, is a spring music preview that includes clips from the new Wilco, Will Hermes' very glowing first impressions of the upcoming Bjork album (did you notice in my last post that the fire spells Volta?!), and a preview of the upcoming Tori Amos album, American Doll Posse. They mention the (surreal) photo above (click for the full-sized image) in the podcast, so I figured I'd track it down and post it here. Notice the blood dripping down her leg and the word Shame scrawled on her left palm.
I haven't cared about Tori Amos in a long time, but the clips they play of the new album actually have that old fire that Tori used to have before she went adult contemporary. Will she hold that fire through the whole album, and, if she does, will it just get annoying? Probably.
Posted by Matthew at 10:13 AM
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Sunday, March 18, 2007
I guess every rock fan in Hoboken has some cute/obnoxious little run-in story about Yo La Tengo, our own local living and breathing rock Gods (and Goddess). My story has always been about taking the PATH train from Manhattan in the middle of the night with husband-and-wife band members Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley.
If I remember correctly, it was already quite a night for rock 'n roll, as I was on my way home from the Arcade Fire show in Central Park that featured a surprise appearance from Mr. David Bowie. Georgia and Ira were on the PATH with their bikes and I found myself standing right between them, arms distance away. Of course I never trust my instincts so for a second or two I wasn't entirely sure it was them, and neither, apparently, was some other guy on the train, leaning against the door with headphones on. I looked at him and our eyes met for an instant. "Yo La Tengo?" he mouthed to me. I smiled and nodded.
My other Yo La Tengo sighting was on a certain street in Hoboken, in front of a particular apartment building that will go unnamed. Again it was Ira and Georgia. They were sitting on the front steps. For a while, every time I passed this building I kept an eye out for them, assuming this was where they lived. Eventually, I moved to a new place and stopped passing the building on my way to work. And I basically forgot all about it.
Until last week.
Jen and I were out with a real estate agent looking at apartments (we were thinking about buying, but I think we've abandoned that for now) and, sure enough, she takes us to the Yo La Tengo building. Was Georgia coming out of the elevator? Was Ira in his bathrobe grabbing a copy of the Hoboken Reporter? Were we being shown THEIR apartment? No, none of that. But because I'm a freak, I just had to know if this was really their building. So when our real estate lady was busy talking to Jen and my parents, who were down for the occasion, I snuck into the little corner where the mailboxes are. Sure enough, there was a list of tenants' names on the wall.
One of them was "Kaplun".
With a "u".
With that, my little spying adventure ended, and I rejoined the group down the hall. The apartment was nice enough, but not exactly what we were looking for. So I'll probably never know if the tenant really is some schlub named "Kaplun" or if it's a spelling error. Oh well. Rock on.
Posted by Matthew at 12:47 PM
My vinyl copy of We Walked in Song arrived this week, with the far superior paper-cutouts artwork. (And since I use the vinyl art in iTunes, the CD artwork basically no longer exists in my world.)
I have a nice little collection of IM vinyl - including my Holy Grail, the ultra-rare Tending the Rose Garden EP - and this one I would have bought regardless of the fact that it contains a bonus track, Shooting Star (sketch). Shooting Star is the perfect little gem of a bonus track. Short, sweet, just what you want in a song that you and five other people will ever hear. (Sort of like We Walked in Song, the album.)
The lyrics, about the frequent IM theme of watching a loved one go away, contain the chorus, "Wherever you go, it's too far/You're a shooting star".
Now all I have to do is find a way to get it on my iPod.
(By the way, according to the packaging, the vinyl was pressed in the Czech Republic. I wonder where exactly. Hmmm.)
Posted by Matthew at 12:29 PM
Friday, March 16, 2007
Bill Berry rejoined R.E.M. briefly for Monday's Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which I missed because I don't have cable and my Internet was out. %$%&^#^&&)^%$%!
Oh, well, it's only the Hall of Fame anyway. Still, if you want to hear Berry playing with the boys again, he does so on their latest track, a cover of John Lennon's "#9 Dream" that I really want to love but actually doesn't do too much for me.
Judge for yourself.
At least it's for a good cause.
#9 Dream - R.E.M. [iTunes]
Posted by Matthew at 8:26 AM
Sunday, March 11, 2007
With Colin Meloy @ Co. coming to Jersey City's Landmark Loew's Theatre next week, it seemed a fine time to introduce fellow Decemberists fan and RIB's brand new foreign correspondent (no kidding), the delightful and talented Moni. Moni was born and raised in Salzburg, Austria, but spends a lot of time in the U.S. stalking Ken Stringfellow and The Long Winters. She also attended Bowling Green and got a master's in music history. She now lives in Vienna, working as a secretary for the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera. She caught The Decemberists last month and filed this review - plus Flickr photos (just click the image below) - for your reading pleasure.
Band: The Decemberists
Venue: Flex, Vienna, Austria.
The Flex in Vienna, a popular DJ club, is a completely impractical place for a live show. It's basically a long, dark tube, so be prepared to bring your binoculars when the concert—like this one—is sold out and you walk in relatively late. Luckily, I snuck in at just the right time to claim a spot in the second row.
I don't really want to lose too many words on the support act, Lavender Diamond. Suffice to say their music is actually pretty good, but the front lady has an insufferable hippie-thing going on. When the keyboard player cut his finger, she introduced every song by calling "more blood!" Oh how we laughed.
Colin Meloy, looking like your favourite English teacher, came onstage for a short solo rendition of Ultravox's "Vienna", before finally opening the set with "The Crane Wife 3". The band is tight at all times, Colin's voice is spot-on.
I have seen the Decemberists only once so far, at the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle in 2003. Above all, I remember Colin rolling on the floor during the outro of "I Was Meant For the Stage". The biggest question on my mind going into to The Flex was how would they bring their elaborate musical arrangements to the stage. They are not going to bring a French horn ensemble, right? Well they did not, and they didn't need to. A battery of string instruments, a xylophone and a hurdy-gurdy were sufficient to never make you feel that there is something missing from the music. It's all there, just more lively, and more intense.
The heart- and gut-wrenching "The Island" probably left me with the biggest impression. After a very quiet rendition of "The Shankill Butchers", the hit-single double "O Valencia" and "16 Military Wives" gives way to a neat little moshpit in the back of the room.
Lavender Diamond are allowed back on stage for the last song before the encore, "Sons and Daughters". Colin conducts the audience through the la-de-daah-chorus of "16 Military Wives", sends his drummer and his bassist crowdsurfing and goes for a guitar-solo duel with Chris Funk (it's a tie!) during a neverending version of "Chimbley Sweep". And he's having fun, just like the audience and the rest of the band.
Posted by Matthew at 8:16 PM