Nov 012009

Happy Birthday, PHM. Sorry I Didn’t Get You Anything

Albums, Artists, Songs Comments Off on Happy Birthday, PHM. Sorry I Didn’t Get You Anything

I meant to blog this earlier, but we recently saw the 20th anniversary of the release of Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine.  The album was innovative in a number of ways, but more than its musical innovation it was historically significant because it was one of the first real commercial and critical successes by an Industrial artist. It also started launched the career of Trent Reznor, who is one of the smartest and most talented artists not only in the Industrial and Metal genres, but in music today.

So, in the interests of celebrating late rather than never, here’s my favorite track off the album, “Kinda I Want To”:

Feb 102009

Tuesday Playlist for 2009.2.10

Uncategorized Comments Off on Tuesday Playlist for 2009.2.10

Intro: I have a lot of fawning and squeeing to do this week, so let’s just get right to it.

Listening: So my entire playlist for the past week has pretty much been 50 Foot Wave’s Power+Light EP and the new Franz Ferdinand album.  The Franz Ferdinand album, well, I want to love it, but so far it’s felt like listening to either of the Scottish rockers’ first two albums: really good at times, yes.  And even what’s not excellent is at least fun, well-crafted, twee-ish rock.  But, see, I’m having a hard time really falling in love with it, because I have a hard time listening to it all the way through at the moment.

That’s largely because I have a hard time going an hour without listening to Power+Light.  I seriously think I need an intervention.  It’s brilliant.  I think it’s the best thing that 50 Foot Wave have done.  It’s grunge-y, noisy rock music not just done right, but done sublimely.  It’s 26 minutes of well-structured, energetic cacophony.

And the icy on this dark, fuzzy cake of rock awesome?  The band is streaming the whole thing right now, for free.  Go click on that link.  Now.  Go do it.  Listen.  This is what Noise Rock should sound like.  Kristin Hersh’s caterwaul vocals, Victor Laurence’s haunting cello, Bernard Georges’ thundering bass, and Rob Ahlers’ drum work (at times clockwork-precise and at others blistering and messy) combine to make a truly epic and truly genius piece of work.  It’s music like this that made me stop rating things on a zero-to-ten scale.  Because this is an eleven with a bullet and a bag of broken glass and a guitar cabinet with pencils jammed in it, Link-Wray-style.  Which I guess is my way of saying that it defies rating, but suffice it to say: it’s good.

Seriously, folks: Go. Listen.

I may have more thoughts about Franz Ferdinand next week, if Power+Light sees fit to release me for long enough to listen to it.  We’ll see.

Upcoming: Well, there’s that new Moz album coming out next week, which is cool.  For those of you who like your band names unecessarily long and emo, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead are coming out with a new album next week.  M. Ward and Architecture in Helsinki will also be coming out with albums next Tuesday, which excites me.

Beyond that, it looks like it’ll be March before anything else intriguing comes out.  The first week in March will see new material from Neko Case and U2.

Thinking: So, I’ve been thinking a lot about the CDs lately.  I almost never buy CDs anymore.  Only if an album really grabs me or I want to give one as a gift do I buy a CD.  Instead, all my music gets purchased through various digital music retailers (mostly Amazon.)  And until recently, I’ve been pretty sure that CDs would go the way of casettes (as opposed to the way of LPs, which are still around and still being pressed by contemporary artists.)  But it occurs to me that there will probably always be SOME market for nicely-packaged, physical instantiations of a particular album.

One reason for this is one I mentioned above: gifts.  While it’s all good and well to give a person an iTunes gift card, but it’s a more powerful gesture to lay in their hands an album that you want them to hear and to have.  And let’s face it, my hand-writing sucks and my home-made copies of albums always look tacky (even when I try to do them up fancy, which is rare.)  I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

Another reason is an analogous one to what’s kept LPs around so long: collectors.  Many people like having a physical record of their music collection.  True-fans will definitely pay more for limited-run tokens of their favorite band, and will shell out extra money for well-designed, well-made physical media.  A perfect example of this is Trent Reznor’s success with Ghosts I-IV.  Some of it was available for free (9 of 36 tracks) by digital download.  The whole album was available for download cheap ($5).  On CDs for a little more ($10).  A deluxe edition with a DVD, CDs, downloads, and some other extras was available for about what a good box set costs ($75).  And then there was the limited run of 2500 Ultra-Deluxe edition packages which sold for $300 each.  Those Ultra-Deluxe editions sold out.  $300 x 2500 = $750,000.

Collectors will pay more for nice physical goods.

So now that I’ve done some thinking, I think it will, at the very least, be a long while before we see the end of CDs.  And when we do it won’t be because the Internet music revolution killed them, but because we’ve found a better form of physical music media.

News: Right, well no lineup yet, but at least we have a date for the lineup announcement.  Courtesy of the Sasquatch Music Festival blog:

“Memorial Day Weekend | May 23, 24, 25, 2009
The Gorge | Quincy, WA

Line-up to be announced Tuesday, February 17”

So, you can probably guess what next week’s column will be all about: squeeing over the Sasquatch lineup.

In other news there, uh, really wasn’t much other news, other than the Rihanna allegedly getting abused by her thug of a boyfriend.  Not a fan of her music, but still, here’s wishing her a speedy recovery.

Song of the Week: At the risk of sounding sycophantic or redundant, 50 Foot Wave, Power+LightGo Listen.

Jul 152008

Tuesday Playlist for 2008.7.15

Uncategorized Comments Off on Tuesday Playlist for 2008.7.15

Intro: Holy Strings of Hendrix! Three on-time columns in a row? That’s unpossible! Ah, dear readers, but it is happening. In today’s Playlist, why Sigue Sigue Sputnik are more awesome than most people give them credit for, thoughts on the newly-announced Bumbershoot lineup, and the best song ever to use the word “flaaahaa”.

Listening: So occasionally I just need synth pop.  In the same way that I drink an occasional glass of scotch or smoke an occasional cigarette, (usually together) I go on occasional synth pop kick.  Earlier this week when I found myself drinking a snifter of Laphroaig and smoking a Djarum, I suddenly felt an overpowering urge to put on Sigue Sigue Sputnik‘s Flaunt It.  It felt somehow fitting.  As if it somehow rounded out a triumvirate of bad vices: alcohol, tobacco, and synth pop.

But are Sigue Sigue Sputnik and the keyboard-and-sample heavy pop music that they helped pioneer really so bad?  I don’t think so.  I mean, sure, it can be a bit goofy at times (I’m looking at you, now, Freezepop), but there’s also something extremely endearing about it.  I mean, the combination of elements of obviously non-organic origins (samples, drum machines, keyboards, etc.) with human vocals and addressing human themes is, in a way, sort of sweet.  To me it’s the act of taking technology and making it our own.  Using man-made tools and applying them to deep human concerns.

…Okay, so synth pop bands do tend to spend a lot of their time singing about robots and space and other non-human things, but even songs like “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles hit at some pretty quintessentially human things.  That they do that largely with what amount recycled and/or artificially produced sounds is pretty impressive to me.

I mean, hell, even “Love Missile F1-11” is about love and care for one’s fellow human beings.  (Or about lust depending on how metaphorically one wants to take the “missile” images in the song.)  But hey: love, compassion, and lust are all extremely human things.

So can Sigue Sigue Sputnik be a little campy sometimes?  Yes.  But is indulging in their unique brand of synth pop ridiculousness going to hurt me?  Nope.  Just as long as I don’t get addicted.

And honestly, I can quit anytime.  .  .  Right after I hear “21st Century Boy” just ONE more time.

Upcoming: A new album by The Hold Steady is out today.  I’ve largely missed them, anyone in the audience a fan?  Is a new album from them something I should be excited about?

Nine Inch Nails’ newest album The Slip comes out next Tuesday on CD.  If you can’t wait that long, it’s been available for digital download for awhile now and it is WELL worth the download.  And it’s free!  Why?  Because Trent Reznor loves each and every one of us.  Or because he hates the record companies.  Or some awesome combination of the two.

Also: did you know that Alice Cooper’s still around?  And that he’s making music?  And that he’s given up drugs and alcohol and taken up religion and golf?  (No, seriously.)  Well he’s got a new album coming out (his 25th!) in a fortnight.  2000’s Brutal Planet and 2001’s Dragontown weren’t bad.  I may have to give the old man a shot.

Also that same week (if you’re not tired of giving them money, yet) the Rolling Stones have a new DVD out.  See, I often joke about rock stars saying “wait, shouldn’t they be dead now?” and such but the thing about the Rolling Stones is, they actually all ARE dead.  Those are just clever crafted androids parading around and giving shows and shooting DVDs and such.  Isn’t it amazing how far we’ve come?

News: Well, the new Bumbershoot schedule is finally out and it’s a doozy.  It’s got music, comedy, visual arts, literature, the whole 9 yards.  Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to make it this year (the next few months are going to be crazy and broke for me), but those who do go will be treated to everything from musical headlines Beck, The Stone Temple Pilots, and Death Cab for Cutie to science fiction luminary William Gibson.  If you can go, do so.  It’s August 30th through September 1st in Seattle and it’s going to be fanastic.

Thinking: Honestly, I haven’t had much time to think about anything but work lately.  And while at work I do try to listen to music.  Favorite work soundtracking by far is electronic dance stuff, mostly trance and drum-and-bass.  It also helps that I have headphones with both great sound quality and excellent noise attenuation.  This is doubly so, since I work in a small office with five other people.

Basically your thought for the week is “trance + headphones = good work music.”  I’ll have something deeper and more interesting next week, I promise.

Song of the Week: Ever since Ann reminded me that Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry did a cover of “Hey Jude” I’ve been listening to that and to Hugh Laurie’s “The Sophisticated Song” on pretty heavy repeat.  So here for the song of the week is my favorite Hugh Laurie tune and one of my favorite songs of all time:

Video: Hugh Laurie performs “The Sophisticated Song”
Mar 192008

"Will you bite the hand that feeds you?"

Uncategorized Comments Off on "Will you bite the hand that feeds you?"

Bob Lefsetz on Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails’ new instrumental album.

Mr. Lefsetz is, as usual, right. If the megalithic record companies want to understand how to make money in this Brave New World of internet distribution, there’s, at this point, only one man they need to look at. Trent Reznor. As Lefsetz points out, Reznor has released an odd album, at “a price point the industry doesn’t even know exists” ($5 for the full album), and he’s raking in the cash hand-over-fist.

“But”, we hear the record execs saying (or would hear them say, if they were paying attention), “that’s unpossible! We’re charging more! We have artists in the charts! We have nearly-naked pop stars! We’re getting $18 per CD!” Yes. That’s all true. And you’re losing. You’re losing to an artist who has repeatedly given you the finger and shown, conclusively, that he doesn’t need your machinations. What he DOES need is his fans.

Trent Reznor knows full well who’s going to buy his album and how they’re going to want to buy it. This allows him to market it minimally, package it effectively, and sell it well.

Mar 032008

Whoa, I just got totally blindsided by a new Nine Inch Nails album. The album’s available here, from anywhere between $5 and $300. $5 gets you downloads of the whole album and the options go up from there, with the $300 option fetching you CDs, DVDs, vinyl LPs, art prints, and more, all in a limited-edition package signed and numbered by Trent Reznor himself.

There are also 9 (of a total 36) tracks available for free download.

Now if only I had $300 to spend on NIN swag . . .

Feb 232008

Well, the Sasquatch lineup announcement is a few days away, which is good, because this Wikipedia shit is obviously not cutting it.

So Cure and R.E.M as headliners? Awesome. A few other good bands in there as well. But how sweet would it be to get to see the Kinks? I didn’t even know those guys were still alive! I mean, shit, they were old in the early 70s.

As proof, here they are performing “Lola” in 1970:

P.S: Is it just me or does Ray Davies look frighteningly like Trent Reznor?

Apr 222007

"Down among the fishes in an absence of sound"

Uncategorized Comments Off on "Down among the fishes in an absence of sound"

I snagged the new Grinderman album a few weeks ago and I have to be honest: I really don’t know what to think of it. It sounds like Nick Cave and his former Bad Seeds are trying to go all Tom Waits / coked-out blues-rock on us in his old age. The album is packed full of a dark, bluesy enthusiasm that marks a pretty significant change from earlier Nick Cave material.

I must say that I’m gratified to see that Grinderman’s lineup consists entirely of former Bad Seeds members. (In fact, it turns out that it’s just the latest iteration of Nick Cave’s solo quartet, renamed.) Nick Cave has the great ability of attracting and keeping them. (Taking notes, Mr. Trent Reznor? Mr. Fagan, Mr. Becker?) And the result of these long-time collaborators getting back in the studio is an extremely raw record of messy blues-rock.

The album is full of rough, energetic melodies (which are relatively hookless, instead tending towards a less patterned sound most of the time, giving several of the tracks a thoroughly improvised sound) and joyously noisy, clattering percussion. Cave’s vocals are in top form, comfortably alternating between moaning and fire-and-brimstone preaching through his oft-clever lyrics.

And with all that being said, I’m having a hard time figuring out why it is that I’m just not interested in the album. I mean, it has all the right elements: musically interesting, lyrically well-crafted and often clever (I’m a sucker for clever), and just generally a disc full of darkly energetic blues-rock. And yet I just can’t seem to get into it. It’s good, certainly, and it’s even the kind of thing that normally I’d be all over. But for some reason it just doesn’t do it for me. I’d much rather listen to some Tom Waits or some old Bad Seeds-era material. Who knows, though, maybe the album will grow on me the more I listen to it.

If raw, bluesy, dark, or noisy are your thing at all, then Grinderman might be an album to grab. They’ve got a couple songs streaming for your listening pleasure over at their myspace, so you can listen before you buy. I particularly recommend “Love Bomb”.