Archive for the 'In the news' Category

On coming out: Frank Ocean’s note

A few days ago, Christian Bale visited a hospital in Aurora, Colorado, to check in with some of the victims from the tragic shooting that took place at the midnight screening of the latest Batman film.

Marketing ploy?

It’s getting harder and harder to tell these days. Marketing is getting clever. It wasn’t long ago that we used commercial breaks to jump up for a bathroom break or to grab a snack from the fridge. Today DVRs allow us to skip them altogether. And yet, companies have somehow convinced thousands to tune in to their spiel. McDonald’s has over 21 million likes on Facebook. Coca-Cola has twice that.

So when I heard about Frank Ocean’s now infamous “coming out” letter, I was skeptical. Not skeptical of the sentiments he expressed, his strength, or the authorship of the note. I was hung up on the timing of its release.

Frank Ocean (photo courtesy of the artist)

Though the letter was written last December, Ocean published it on his Tumblr account on July 3rd. His album, Channel Orange, dropped two weeks later.

Check out this screen shot (via the music tracking site Last.fm) of the chart for “Thinkin Bout You,” from his new album.

And lest you think the sharp increase in popularity coincides with the release of the album, here’s another screen shot, this time of “Swim Good,” the single that was released last fall.

Suspicious, no? The track nearly doubled in popularity at the beginning of July. Of course, proving Ocean’s announcement increased his listenership (in addition to garnering him a ton of press) doesn’t prove there was an ulterior motive behind it.

So I got my hands on the album.

Take a listen to “Thinkin Bout You,” the first full-length song from Channel Orange.

The words in the first hook are simple.

I’m thinking ’bout you (Ooh no, no, no)
I’ve been thinking ’bout you (You know, know, know)
I’ve been thinking ’bout you
Do you think about me still? Do ya, do ya?

But the emotion behind them is powerful. And the words in the verses have both a cool detachment (“No, I don’t like you, I just thought you were cool enough to kick it”) and a more vulnerable, heartfelt hope:

It won’t ever get old, not in my soul, not in my spirit, keep it alive
We’ll go down this road ’til it turns from color to black and white

And despite the straight-forward commentary on the plight of the poor, I can’t help but wonder if the track “Not Just Money” was also thrown onto the album with cynics like me in mind.

Please decondition yourself
It’s not just money
It’s happiness
It’s the difference between happy, being happy or sad

Despite the poignant announcement, Channel Orange is still rife with references to things like drugs, cops, and beautiful women with “big full breasts.” But I’m eager to hear what comes next. If it’s anything like the slow jam “Bad Religion,” which includes the line “I can never make him love me,” I’m all ears… even if the “him” in the song actually refers to God and not to a lover as many have speculated.

And one thing is for sure. Marketing ploy or not… I’m glad we now live in a world where coming out can boost sales instead of crippling them.

In case you’re under a rock…

The new Radiohead album, The King of Limbs, dropped today (a day earlier than promised) via the band’s website.

Like many big indie bands, somehow I never spent much time with Radiohead. Sure, I’ve listened to songs or albums here and there, and I’ve always been aware of their talent, but for whatever reason, I’ve never really spent quality time with them. But I think this time, I’m giving in… and I’m kind of excited about it.

So many indie heavyweights are clearly confined to phases. You’ve got your Bright Eyes phase. Death Cab for Cutie. The Decemberists. Spoon. The Shins. Heck, if you’re honest with yourself, you may have even had a Coldplay phase (I know I did).

But with Radiohead, it’s different. Radiohead isn’t a phase. How is it possible that the same people who went gaga over OK Computer in 1997 are still salivating over The King of Limbs but wouldn’t be caught dead listening to anything else from their middle school years? What makes Radiohead different? What makes them eternally hip and forever untouchable? Why are they the standard? It really is fascinating. Let me know what you think!

What would give the staff at Pitchfork more pleasure – a searing review of the new album or a fawning 10.0? They may love to stir up controversy, but something tells me there’s simply no way The King of Limbs will get below a 9.6.

Take a look at “Lotus Flower,” the promising new single from the album:

In the Bedroom (with Bradford Cox)

I’m not sure why I’m only just getting wind of this (and this, this, and this). Apparently, Bradford Cox has had some time on his hands this fall.

At last night’s show at the Bell House, he said:

I got off tour with Deerhunter, I got home, and I didn’t have anything to do.  I started feeling wild – like Cabin Fever, you know? I watched two seasons of Law and Order: Criminal Intent… in like 52 hours. I wasn’t returning phone calls, and it was dark. So I get out my little recording machine and I made some recordings.

Except, well he was underselling himself a bit by his choice of words. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, he posted four – yes four – Atlas Sound albums on his site – available to download for free! That’s 49 songs, if you’re counting.

Cover art for Bedroom Databank, Vol. 4

Initially, the release of his Bedroom Databank was met with some controversy from Sony.

The day after he had finished posting all four volumes, Cox apparently received several copyright-infringement e-mails from Sony Music, ordering him to delete the download links to volumes 2, 3 and 4 due to:

Unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copyrighted sound recordings owned or exclusively distributed by Sony Music

This is of course odd given the fact that neither Deerhunter (4AD) nor Atlas Sound (Kranky) are signed to Sony. The only possible infringement was the small handful of cover songs (Bob Dylan/The Band, Kurt Vile, and Royal Trux).

Cox responded to the email by voicing his frustrations on his site:

Apparently Sony Music owns my bedroom. Feel free to call or email and let them know what you think. I can understand them requesting for me to remove a cover but the only one I can imagine that happening with is Dylan. Which was on Vol. 1. Which was not deleted.

Sony has since claimed that the whole thing was some kind of weird misunderstanding.

So get to it, kids. After hearing a number of the new songs previewed last night and sampling some of the recordings, I am eager to hear more. With its brief instrumental interludes, warm lo-fi recording quality, and intimately revealing lyrics, Cox’s Bedroom Databank collection has much in common with (dare I say it?) what is perhaps my favorite album – The Microphone’s The Glow, pt. 2. Good stuff indeed for the cold, dark, wet, and windy days to come.

[A full review of last night’s show will soon be available on Brooklyn Vegan. I just have to write it…]

The age of Sufjan

After an extended period of silence, Sufjan fans have had numerous reasons to celebrate this year (what with the EP, full-length, and subsequent tour), and 2011 is looking good, too.

I love The Age of Adz, don’t get me wrong, but I think my favorite album still has to be Seven Swans in all its erratic splendor, and this March the blog On Joyful Wings is slated to release a tribute album. And, well… with 15 different artists contributing a song each, the redux may just get even more colorful and unpredictable.

Seven Swans (tint added for effect)

Seven Swans Reimagined Track List:
1. Bonnie “Prince” Billy – “All The Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands”
2. The Gregory Brothers – “The Dress Looks Nice on You”
3. Derek Webb – “In the Devil’s Territory”
4 Joshua James – “To Be Alone With You”
5. Damion Suomi – “Abraham”
6. Unwed Sailor – “Sister”
7. Wakey!Wakey! – “Size Too Small”
8. Elin Smith – “We Won’t Need Legs to Stand”
9. DM Stith – “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”
10. Half-Handed Cloud – “He Woke Me Up Again”
11. Carl Hauck – “Seven Swans”
12. David Crowder Band – “The Transfiguration”
13. Jason Harrod – “I Went Dancing With My Sister” (B-side)
14. Shannon Stephens – “Waste of What Your Kids Won’t Have” (B-side)
15. Inlets- “Borderline” (B-side)

Ok, ok. So technically this little project isn’t exactly coming from the heart and mind of Sufjan himself, but it should still be worth a listen. Oh yeah, and did I mention it’s for a good cause? All the proceeds will benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. March 22nd. Mark your calendars.

Another big blow for eMusic (and its subscribers)

As reported previously, the mp3 downloading site eMusic is on the brink of undergoing some big changes. If the news in October didn’t make you cringe, the latest certainly will.

Late last night, a number of big hitting indie labels decided to pull their catalogs. Soon, you’ll be able to download artists from major labels like Sony and Universal, but in just a few hours, you won’t see anything from Domino, Merge, or Beggars Group (which includes Rough Trade, Matador, XL, and 4AD). In other words, if you want to download something by Animal Collective, Spoon, the New Pornographers, Dirty Projectors, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Panda Bear, Pavement, Elliott Smith, Deerhunter, Blonde Redhead, (the upcoming) Iron & Wine, Camera Obscura, Efterklang, The National, St. Vincent, Bon Iver, Beirut, Mountain Goats, Pixies, tUnE-yArDs, Cat Power, Belle & Sebastian, Shearwater, Yo La Tengo, Arcade Fire, Antony and the Johnsons, Jeffrey Lewis, Little Joy, Sufjan Stevens, Taken By Trees, The Decemberists, Vampire Weekend, Sigur Ros, Beck, Caribou, Teenage Fanclub, well… you may just be out of luck.

When it comes to a record store, what’s more important, a comprehensive selection or a carefully curated assortment of options?

That’s the question posed by NPR Music in regards to the news. I think you know where I stand on the issue.

With their huge ads in (now largely defunct) Paste magazine, eMusic has traditionally catered to an indie-music loving audience, but with such a painful hit to their catalog, will they be able to keep the very audience that got them going in the first place?

This is your two-hour warning. If you’re an eMusic subscriber, you may just want to download some of your favorite artists… before it’s too late.

How long before Sub Pop, Secretly Canadian, Jagjaguar, Polyvinyl, and Fat Possum follow suit?

eMusic gains Universal, but at a steep price

As an alternative to iTunes, eMusic has long been in the hearts of many music lovers because it boasts a decent catalog of indie music and offers low subscription plans that allow you to download a set number of tracks each month for a price much lower than many major competitors .

But everything is about to change.

Starting in just a few weeks, eMusic, a decent (but surprisingly under the radar) source for mp3s, will be adding more than a quarter of a million tracks to its library. Surely that won’t affect me, you might be thinking to yourself. I mean, it might become more mainstream, but I’ll deal. Sorry. Think again.

With the addition of the Universal catalog, the site will no longer be offering neat little monthly download packages. Instead, everything will jump to a pay per model – like iTunes. Sure, the prices are still lower, but long-time members will lose their handsomely discounted packages.

According to the site,

“Under the new currency pricing system, eMusic members will enjoy savings of 20%-50% compared to iTunes a la carte prices. The majority of albums on eMusic will be priced from $5.19 – $8.99. Single track pricing for members will vary as follows:

○      $0.49 for most tracks currently in our catalog

○      $0.69 – $0.79 for more popular content

○      $0.89 for tracks that generally sell for $1.29 at iTunes
The exact difference this will make remains to be seen as eMusic settles on its price points, but I can’t help but feel like we’re at the end of an era here.

 

“The Geese of Beverly Road” takes on a whole new meaning

I recently took my first stroll through Beverly Road in Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park, and let’s just say I was enchanted. The houses are brightly colored and mostly Victorian in style, and there are trees everywhere. It’s one of those streets you just walk down with a smile on your face.

A house on Beverly Road (Photo 'Flatbush Gardener')

Shortly after I walked to the subway stop (and vowed to find a way to live in Ditmas Park), I began to think about the National song “The Geese from Beverly Road,” and I got this great image in my head of Canadian geese hobbling down the road.

Canadian Goose (Photo John Glass)

Fast forward a few weeks, and I can’t believe what I’m reading in the paper. The New York Times ran an appalling story that detailed the capture and execution of thousands of geese in an attempt to lessen the complications between geese and airplanes.

The captured geese are placed alive in commercial turkey crates. The geese would be brought to a secure location and euthanized with methods approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Euthanized geese would be buried.

On Tuesday night, The National played their song “The Geese of Beverly Road” in Prospect Park where sadly, the geese had been wrangled up and killed, but they refrained from getting into the politics of the situation much, saying only “This song has definitely taken on a different meaning recently, but we don’t want to be distasteful.”

Here’s hoping the zombie-like impulse that drives “Conversation 16” doesn’t come back to haunt us, too.