Monday, June 29, 2009

WFUV update


I spoke too soon when I announced that last week would be my final broadcast with the WFUV Music Review, where I’ve been reviewing records every Tuesday morning for two years. (Archived links below right.)

They asked me to stay on for a couple more weeks, and I can’t say no to people who have been so good to me, so now my final show will actually be next week. Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing Deer Tick’s Born on Flag Day, and next Tuesday I bow out with Wye Oak’s The Knot. And then that’ll be it. Really.

Press release of the day: Pixies play ‘Doolittle’

Start pricing those trans-Atlantic flights for the fall...


MONDAY, June 29, 2009 — To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of their 1989 album Doolittle, the Pixies — Black Francis, Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering — will embark on a very special tour this fall — the Doolittle Tour — which will kick off with two nights at the Olympia in Dublin, Ireland on October 1 and 2. Tickets for all dates (listed below) go on sale this Friday, July 3 at 9AM.

For the Doolittle Tour, the Pixies will perform all of the songs from Doolittle and its related B-sides. Pixies' classics such as "Debaser," "Wave of Mutilation," "Here Comes Your Man," "Hey," and "Gouge Away" are all on Doolittle's track listing.

"We wanted to do something special for Doolittle's 20th anniversary," said Black Francis, "and we thought his was a good opportunity to play all of the songs from that album, something we don't normally do at a regular gig."

With the first date still three months away, the band is brainstorming on Doolittle-related surprises that will also comprise the nights' entertainment.

The ultimate Pixies Collector's Set, Minotaur, will be ready to ship to purchasers in early October. To find out more about Minotaur and to order a copy, log onto

Dates for the Pixies' Doolittle Tour, and appropriate links to purchase tickets are as follows:

1 Olympia, Dublin, Ireland
2 Olympia, Dublin, Ireland
4 SECC - Hall 4, Glasgow, Scotland
6 Brixton Academy, London, England
7 Brixton Academy, London, England
8 Brixton Academy, London, England
9 Brixton Academy, London, England
11 Jahrhunderhalle, Frankfurt, Germany
13 Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam, Holland
14 Forest National, Brussels, Belgium
15 Zenith, Paris, France

Not sure what "Doolittle-related surprises" could mean. Simon Larbalestier photos? Live mix by Gil Norton? Haloed monkeys?

And here is my shameless, self-serving plug.

Monster-about-to-chomp-babe poster of the day: ‘The Savage Bees’ (1976)


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Andrew W.K. ❤’s Winnipeg


The non-Jackson charts: Amazon and iTunes

By now you’ve probably heard 300 times that ever since Michael Jackson died, he has dominated the rankings of the best-selling albums on Amazon and iTunes — which, even though they don’t accurately reflect the full marketplace, are the closest things we have to real-time sales charts.

But what else is selling? And what does this tell us about who’s doing the buying? As of Sunday evening, here are the albums in the top 25 of Amazon and iTunes that are not related to Michael Jackson:


No. 14: Wilco
PhotobucketNo. 15: Dave Matthews Band
No. 16: Regina Spektor
No. 17: George Harrison
No. 19: Green Day
No. 20: Steve Martin
No. 21: Rob Thomas
No. 22: Dream Theater
No. 25: Susan Werner


No. 7: Black Eyed Peas
PhotobucketNos. 8 and 24: Transformers soundtrack and score
No. 10: Regina Spektor
No. 11: Dave Matthews Band
No. 14: Lady Gaga
Nos. 15 and 21: Kings of Leon (regular and deluxe)
No. 16: Jonas Brothers
No. 18: Taylor Swift
No. 22: Twilight soundtrack
No. 25: Daughtry pre-order

The lessons:

  • Amazon’s customers are much older than iTunes’.

  • Amazon’s customers are mostly white. (The first nonwhite, non-Jackson artist is Black Eyed Peas, at No. 26, and after Maxwell at No. 28, you have to go to No. 58 to find the next one — Bernie Williams!)

  • Diversity is a relative term. iTunes’ top 25 has pop, R&B, country and alt-rock. Amazon’s has no R&B or country, but adds jazz, Americana and whatever Dream Theater is.

  • Amazon’s customers are out of sync with the mainstream: 16th-century vocal music (No. 43) sells better among them than Taylor Swift (No. 45) and the Jonas Brothers (No. 56).

  • Amazon’s rankings are not useful indicators of the overall charts. For example: Steve Martin’s banjo album is No. 22 on Amazon. But last week it was No. 128 on the Billboard 200, with roughly 4,000 sales. If one of Amazon’s top 25 doesn’t crack Billboard’s top 125, how much is all the other stuff selling?

  • iTunes is probably better as a chart indicator. The albums that I’ve included above under “iTunes” were ranked thus on last week’s Billboard 200: Jonas Brothers, Black Eyed Peas, Dave Matthews, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift. Albums in Billboard’s top 10 absent from iTunes’ current top 25: Eminem, Incubus, Chickenfoot, Hannah Montana, Green Day. Based on this I’m going to predict that on next week’s chart, Jonas Brothers will sink, as will Eminem, Incubus and Chickenfoot, while Dave Matthews, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift will hold strong. We’ll see.

  • You could argue that iTunes is a better predictor simply because of its bigger sample size. But if iTunes has maybe 80 percent share of digital, and digital is 23 percent of the whole pie, then iTunes represents only about 18 percent of the whole pie. That’s still huge, but statistically it wouldn’t necessarily dominate the overall picture. The reason it does is that iTunes’ customers have tastes similar to those of people buying at retail; Amazon’s don’t.

  • Daughtry is going to be pretty huge.

I’m not exactly breaking any news here, but it’s instructive to see just how big a difference there is.

The big question, of course, is whether Billboard will do anything to accommodate all the Michael sales. They’re spread over dozens of titles, which means that none of them would chart terribly high, but most if not all of them are catalog, so they wouldn’t count on the Billboard 200. Will they do anything special? We’ll see.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Could all the drum-circle guys be wrong?


Could it be that the first instrument was not a drum, but actually a flute? And does that mean that the first reaction to music was not to shake one’s ass but to nod gently and meditatively, Carradine-style? Or since it was in Germany, would it have been more like Krautprog?

At least 35,000 years ago, in the depths of the last ice age, the sound of music filled a cave in what is now southwestern Germany, the same place and time early Homo sapiens were also carving the oldest known examples of figurative art in the world....

Archaeologists reported Wednesday the discovery last fall of a bone flute and two fragments of ivory flutes that they said represent the earliest known flowering of music-making in Stone Age culture. They said the bone flute with five finger holes, found at Hohle Fels Cave in the hills west of Ulm, was “by far the most complete of the musical instruments so far recovered from the caves” in a region where pieces of other flutes have been turning up in recent years.

A three-hole flute carved from mammoth ivory was uncovered a few years ago at another cave, as well as two flutes made from the wing bones of a mute swan. In the same cave, archaeologists also found beautiful carvings of animals.

Museum of propaganda: ‘Don’t waste water’


The Berlitz metal method

Learn Spanish, the Manowar way!

Monster-about-to-chomp-babe poster of the day: ‘Grizzly Park’ (2008)


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Screamo + Auto-Tune + synthpop + dance moves = ‘crabcore’?

This is making the rounds today, but I’m posting here for people who don’t spend their time reading music blogs. It’s a song by a young band from Ohio called Attack Attack!, and it’s either the death of indie rock or the greatest ZZ Top video ever.

The Daily Swarm identifies this as an example of a new screamo subgenre called “crabcore,” which, according to its lovingly descriptive Wikipedia page, traces its origins to Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.

The crabwalk is identified by the player’s extremely low stance, wherein both feet are set apart from one another as far as possible, while still allowing the player to maintain at least a 90 degree bend in his knees. While in the crab stance, the player then purposefully transfers the weight of his upper body between each leg, achieving a swaying motion intended to have a hypnotic, nauseating and baffling effect on audience members.

I wasn’t hypnotized or nauseated, but I was a little baffled.

Make sure you watch to the end: after you get past the cookie-cutter “hard” guitars, the Korn stance, the Auto-Tune emo vocals, and the sensitive piano breakdown, you get the Ibiza electro part.

I feel the need at this point to remind you, Dear Reader, that the term “emo” came from this band. You’ve come a long way, baby.

Oxford Collapse collapses


“After eight years, 450 shows, and four albums, we’ve decided that we’ve reached the end of the line,” the band says, via Sub Pop. (Which I saw via Stereogum.) I’ve liked them, and am sorry to see them go.

Their last shows are right here in New York (and Hoboken). Gotta love the fuhgeddaboudit service info for the second one:

Friday, July 17th
Maxwell’s (early show) (SOLD OUT)
Hoboken, NJ
w/Frightened Rabbit

Saturday, July 18th
Under the Tracks
508 W. 25th Street
New York, NY
w/CaUSE co-MOTION!, The Beets, Rape Excape
Starts at 9pm, won’t cost too much
(Don’t worry about advance tix—this place is huge!)

When a Chinese festival promoter pulls the plug ...

... this is what it looks like. Courtesy of China Music Radar, a blog run by Split Works, a group of Westerners based in Shanghai and Beijing who have promoted shows by Sonic Youth, Ozomatli, Talib Kweli and, last week, Ghostface Killah.

At the beginninng of June, we pointed you in the direction of the JinShan Crazy Beach Music Festival. You can read the post HERE. If you read the post, you will remember that we were dubious about it, seeing as we were 6 weeks away and there were few if any references to it online of in the media..

We’ve just received word that, despite commitments to media partnerships (and, we presume, artists and production), the investors have pulled their investment overnight. The following email tells it better than we possibly could:
Sorry to inform that Crazy Summer Music Festival has encountered big problem and all the promotion and execution works for the festival need to be stopped right now. The investor party had stopped investing on halfway, all due payment for treatment to media partners, for tickets exchange, for artists etc all have no way to continue. Sorry for that. I highly appreciated your big support. We know there are already promotions out at this point, and all the due resources i promised to give are not dispear anyways, please help me exchange all the promotion coverage and exchange resources into countable values and give back to me. We will ask for a rightful payment for giving back to you.

If the investor party had made any behavior in order to get off this obligations, just ignore, all rights and values for you to help promoting the event will be returned.

If there are already pages of promotion out, please exchange into value, and get back to me, iwill get those values back to you. If there are enough to get every information withdrewal, please let those not out. and please still give me the value exchanged from all the preparation and pages left for it. Thanks. Sorry for the big trouble, Sorry.

Sorry for everything, and thanks for your understanding. Sorry.
Honestly, we expected something like this, and we also expect more in this vein as the market progresses. Inexperienced organisers and investors see sexy opportunity – fail to budget properly, fail to obtain the right artists/ promotion/ licenses – investors pull out, festival gets canned. Festivals are very historically tough to get off the ground – conventional wisdom is that they take 3-4 years to break even (if indeed they ever do). We may see more of this before the cycle reaches any sort of maturity...

Farewell to WFUV


I’m very sorry to report that after two years and 101 episodes, I am leaving the WFUV Music Review. It’s been an honor, and my host Claudia Marshall and producer Alisa Ali have made it a lot of fun, too. I wish I could stay on, but the weekly schedule has become impossible for me to keep up, so I have to let it go. I’m bummed.

My final review is of Regina Spektor’s Far, which was broadcast this morning and is also available as a podcast. Archived links for all of the shows I’ve done on WFUV are below and to the right on this page, and you can subscribe to the podcast here.

Monster-about-to-chomp-babe poster of the day: ‘Black Water’ (2007)


Monday, June 22, 2009

Bad cover alert: ‘Crazy Train,’ G.I. Joe style

What’s a big-budget action movie without a snotty, anonymous, corporate-rock-still-sucks punk/metal/NIN-ish cover of a classic rock song or TV theme? You had My Chemical Romance doing “Desolation Row” for Watchmen, MxPx playing the Scooby Doo theme, Green Day defacing the Simpsons theme, and zillions more that I can’t remember just now. (Can you think of any good ones? I would love to get a list going.)

Here’s the first contribution of summer 2009 that I’ve noticed so far: In the background of this new trailer for G.I. Joe (above), you can hear CTRL-ALT-suck being applied to Ozzy’s “Crazy Train.” It starts at about 0:30. No soundtrack that I can find yet, so I guess we’ll have to wait to find out whether Disturbed, Papa Roach or Trapt did this one.

Monster-about-to-chomp-babe poster of the day: ‘The Brutal River’ (2005)


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ali Akbar Khan, RIP


In case you missed the obits over the weekend, Ali Akbar Khan, the great sarod player, who along with Ravi Shankar (his brother-in-law) was one of the foremost ambassadors of Indian music to the West, died on Thursday at age 87. I saw him live only once, at Lincoln Center in August 2000, and I still often think of it as one of the few times a big outdoor concert has really transported me.

Khan’s life had a heroic, old-world sweep that may not be possible anymore. Born in what is now Bangladesh, he started as a court musician — yes, like Haydn — and then got into the movie business and parachuted into New York. From William Grimes’s obit:

Defying his father, Mr. Khan moved to Bombay and began writing scores for films, including Chetan Anand’s “Aandhiyan” (1952), Satyajit Ray’s “Devi” (1960) and Tapan Sinha’s “Hungry Stones” (1960). His father, a friend of the director of “Hungry Stones,” went to see the film and said: “My goodness, who composed the music? He is great.” On being informed that it was his son, the elder Khan sent a telegram of forgiveness....

Intent on exposing Westerners to Asian music, [Yehudi] Menuhin brought Mr. Khan to New York in 1955 for a performance at the Museum of Modern Art, where Mr. Khan made what is believed to be the first long-playing record of Indian classical music in the United States, “Music of India: Morning and Evening Ragas,” for Angel. He scored another first when he performed on Alistair Cooke’s television program “Omnibus.”

In this day and age it’s not terribly easy to find Ali Akbar Khan records. There are no longer many record stores large or good enough to stock an Indian section with more than the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, so you’re down to Jackson Heights or the long digital tail. Amazon has a decent selection, but Khan’s iTunes page is a rare ripoff: There are dozens of $9.99 “albums,” each featuring a single 20-minute raga.

eMusic is a little better, and even with their big price jump it’ll only cost you 40 cents or so per track. Both iTunes and eMusic sell this excellent album of mid-1960s recordings, which I’ve been enjoying for years.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Sad news about Chris Knox of Tall Dwarfs

The Daily Swarm relays the news from various New Zealand sources:

New Zealand rock musician Chris Knox is unable to talk after suffering a stoke on Thursday.

He had apparently been able to drink water and answer basic questions while being taken to hospital, Kean told The Dominion Post.

And here’s a line from the family’s statement, which you can read on the blog they created for updates and comments:

Chris is not in pain and is responsive to family and friends who are very optimistic and focused on Chris’s well being. He enjoyed his vegetable frittata this morning but I suffered the classic Knox withering look when I mentioned beer.

The Tall Dwarfs’ last album, The Sky Above, the Mud Below, was my No. 2 favorite of 2003.

Monster-about-to-chomp-babe poster of the day: ‘Octopus 2: River of Fear’ (2001)

Octopus 2: River of Fear (2001)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hypebot’s ‘10 commandments of music 2.0’

  1. Thou Shalt Not Worship False Prophets - Neither a record deal or auto-tune are your saviors.
  2. Thou Shalt Worship Only One God - He (or she) is called The Fan.
  3. Thou Shalt Giveaway [sic] Free Music - Like Jesus and the loaf of bread, give your flock a gift that multiplies as they pass it around.
  4. Thou Shalt Not Steal - Borrowing a beat is one thing, but stealing...
  5. Thou Shalt Blog - Your flock wants to know what you’re doing.
  6. Thou Shalt Create Profiles - Wherever your flock may go, you must be there.
  7. Thou Shalt Upload Photos - Staged, unstaged, backstage, from the stage and at every stage of a project.
  8. Thou Shalt Upload Videos - Longs Ones. Shorts Ones. Tall get the idea.
  9. Thou Shalt Share Thy Bounty. Share gigs. Share ideas. Share with your fans.
  10. Do Unto Others As You Would Have Others Do Unto You - You meet the same people on the way down that you did on the way up.

He asks for an 11th. My suggestions:

  • Thou shalt not make sudden and outrageous price hikes.
  • Thou shalt not foist weird formats and technologies upon thine customers. For it will be harder to pass Clive Davis through the eye of a needle than to get people to embrace slotMusic.
  • Thou shalt keep ticket fees down. And when thou sayest “no fees,” thou shalt mean it.
  • Thou shalt not exploit fans’ loyalty by reissuing the same product again and again with minor permutations.
  • Thou shalt have good radio stations, and not flip them unless really necessary.
  • Thou shalt have music videos on TV.
  • Thou shalt not leak thine own music while also waging crusades against piracy.
  • Thou shalt maintaineth good record stores. For even though people download music, they also liketh to browse thine physical product.
  • Thou shalt not foist poorly designed, ad-supported online services upon thine customers. SpiralFrog and QTrax, we are talking to thee.
  • Thou shalt get thine Grammy categories under control. Considereth a maximum of 30 or so awards, including technical. The reason that thine Hollywood neighbors coveteth one another’s Oscars is that scarcity createth competition.
  • Thou shalt openly debate the fairness of “dynamic pricing” in all of its forms, including the so-called Radiohead model. For the best idea that anybody hath had about the value of music was Steve Jobs, who said that everything should costeth 99 cents. Why he caved on that, only the Lord thy God knows.

Monster-about-to-chomp-babe poster of the day, pre-‘Jaws’ special: ‘Creature From the Black Lagoon’ (1954)


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Monster-about-to-chomp-babe poster of the day: ‘Eye of the Beast’ (2007)


One eMusic (ex-?) customer’s opinion

PhotobucketeMusic made a pretty significant announcement today. In a few months it will add some 200,000 tracks from Sony for download by subscribers. After years of being shunned by the major labels — who didn’t like eMusic’s lack of DRM, as well as its low prices — it has now snagged the second-biggest one. (It’s a catalog deal: it includes only songs more than two years old.)

DRM is a thing of the past. But what’s more important about this deal is what it tells us about the majors: (1) that they hungrily pursue every source of revenue, including those they once ignored; (2) that they have devalued their catalog (a couple of months ago, remember, they cut the price of most older songs on iTunes by 30 percent); and (3) that they are still trying to reduce iTunes’ market share by giving favorable deals to other retailers.

So now you’ll be able to download Michael Jackson songs for less than anywhere else. Which is good! The catch, though, is that the deal now is not nearly as good as it used to be. Sony muscled a big price increase out of eMusic, which sprung it on its customers in a most confusing way. For example, my plan used to be 600 downloads a year (50 per month) at $143.90, or 24 cents per song. On Monday I was told that this would be changing to “the new eMusic Bi-Annual 210 plan, which gives you 210 downloads for $95.90 every 180 days.” What? Do the math and you’ll see that it means 420 downloads a year (35 per month) at $191.80, or 46 cents per song — almost double the price!

I’m not thrilled about this, and need to figure out whether I’ll renew. But I’m not the only one who feels this way. A friend of mine, let’s call him Peter W. — no, let’s say P. Waisnor — has been a longtime eMusic subscriber, and he wrote a heartfelt note about his disappointment. This is the kind of customer no business wants to lose. And eMusic, you just blew it:

As a subscriber for nine years, I have weathered my share of policy and pricing changes from eMusic, but I have always continued my membership. I have to say that this new change is a hard one to accept. The price increase is far more than I would have ever expected given (what I thought was) the underlying focus of eMusic, their catalog and their membership... I work in sales and marketing, so I understand how improvements can raise the price of a product, but I also know that if I raised the price of my product by almost 50% overnight that my customers would say unpleasant things to me before switching to one of my competitors.

Even if I continue my membership, I will now be forced to treat eMusic no differently than I treat iTunes or Amazon, and this — more than anything — is what’s incredibly sad to me. iTunes and Amazon are fine, but I think of them like I think of a grocery store or an appliance warehouse — impersonal, utilitarian, get in and get out, know what you need before you go in. I have always thought of eMusic like my local record store, or like a friend’s basement in high school where I would just sit and discover new music for hours...

I was disappointed when unlimited downloads went away (which was probably eight years ago or something), but I learned to love my subscription and my 90 downloads per month. I bought booster packs until I was told that I went over my limit for the month and would have to wait until the beginning of my next billing cycle. I set up a second account just to get more music. I even changed one account from a grandfathered 90 downloads to a connoisseur plan because it was cheaper than maintaining my booster pack habit.

I have been mainlining music through eMusic for nine amazing years and I am sad to see that relationship change. eMusic has outlasted relationships, jobs, cars, apartments, laptops, and countless hard drives of ever increasing size. I have not decided whether to keep my membership yet, but I won’t let the unfortunate changes affect all the great music I have downloaded and the time I have enjoyed on the site. I just feel betrayed by what I perceive as an enormous amount of greed, and a wildly inappropriate price increase.

UPDATE: I hadn’t known, but Peter — I mean P. — posted his comment to eMusic’s official announcement. He's comment No. 335 out of 549 (and counting).