4/30/07

Neil Haverty on the Toronto music scene

I'd like to reprint for you here something Lefsetz reprinted over the weekend in one of his emails that doesn't seem to have made it into his actual archives. It's an email from Neil Haverty (listen to "The Caged Bird," it's beautiful), who plays also in Bruce Peninsula.

I've often marveled when talking about artists from Toronto at how interwoven and robust the scene there must be that everyone seems to makes guest appearances on everyone else's records. Neil's email is an inside look at exactly how vibrant the Toronto independent music scene really is.

It got me really excited.
I've been meaning to write you for a while but only found some time today. I'm at work and everybody else is in meetings so I'm stealing time to do what I want. I'm a musician living in Toronto, trying to balance a full-time job with an obsession with music. This is pretty common practice for me and a lot of folks I know. We all spend 40 hours a week doing jobs that we don't care too much about, dreaming of the whistle at the end of the day when we can go home and create. Nobody I know considers working a day job to be a hold-over before we get rich and famous (as I'm sure a lot of musicians do); most of us have come to terms with the fact that this is the way its going to be for the rest of our lives. And I think, for the most part, we're all okay with that.

I would never assume that we were the only ones who felt this way but I can say that I feel Toronto has a pretty unique thing going on. Let me give you a little background on what it's like to play music here...

This city has experienced a cultural renaissance over the last few years and, even though I only moved here in 1999 and am by no means an authority, it's generally agreed that Toronto's music scene has never been as healthy as it is now. I'm not talking about Nu-Metal bands playing for a line of teenagers at the Reverb. I'm not talking about shined-up rockers who brag about the A&R reps that were at their Friday night showcase at the Horseshoe. I'm not talking about buzz bands that swing through town for a one-off at the Phoenix. I'm talking about the real homegrown community that exists here, that peculates below the surface, sustained entirely by the people who create, contribute to and take part in it.

My introduction to this world came thanks to the Wavelength music series. As a freshly minted Torontonian, the weekly series gave me a window into what was really going on in the city. You could always count on unique and interesting bands on Sunday nights and, as time wore on, I could see what it was doing to help plant the seeds for a vibrant climate for independent music in Toronto. Partly inspired by Jonny Dovercourt and the other folks who helped kick off Wavelength, it seemed that every forward-thinking guitar player or show-goer started to try their hand at putting on shows, putting out records and generally throwing their two cents in the pile. It's continued exponentially since then and now there's almost too much to see or do in the city every week.

Labels like Blocks Recording Club and Fig Records have made it possible to work with like-minded people that live where you live, venues like Sneaky Dee's, the Boat and the Tranzac have opened their doors to the weird and wonderful underbelly, promoters/booking agents like Eric Warner, Keith Hamilton and Steve Himmelfarb have ensured that good bills are happening all the time and new series like the All Caps all-ages shows (booked by Ryan McLaren) and the Poor Pilgrim experimental weekly (booked by Matt Cully) have provided a consistent supply of amazing live music. Surrounding cities like Hamilton and Brantford have come on board too, building strong communities of their own and providing more outlets for people just like us to play.

The masses don't know about this stuff and the weekly papers only just scratch the surface of it but the people who are surrounded by it rarely think of anything else... and I think you'd be surprised how many of us there are. Shows by local bands are constantly sold-out, hand-crafted CDs are flying off the shelves at Soundscapes and Rotate This and people who just live down the street are responsible for the most important pieces in our record collections. Records by Glissandro 70, the Constantines, Rockets Red Glare, Les Mouches and many more are far more important to us then what would normally be considered a "classic" record.

Aspirations for the big-time just don't come into play. Truthfully, the real big-time seems pretty ugly to most of us. In Toronto, we aspire to impress our peers. We set up shows with our favourite local bands and try to out-do one another. Most of the people who show up in the audience are other musicians and the mutual enthusiasm for each other's work is what keeps us coming back. If we do look outside of Toronto, we look to similar communities and people around the world (something like this exists, to varying visibility, in ever city) to latch onto what we're doing and visa versa.

There's been a lot of international attention put on people like Feist, Broken Social Scene, and Final Fantasy lately but I don't think that would have happened if those people didn't get their hands dirty in this community first. Sure, a couple favourable write-ups in Eye can give way to some coverage on CBC, which can give way to a Pitchfork review (and from there, world adoration), but all of those musicians would tell you that it was the local support that truly launched them. And that's why you still see Kevin Drew or Leslie Feist or Owen Pallett at the Boat on a Friday night or watching some new band at Sneaky Dee's on a Wednesday. They know the terrain and, I think, they're just as eager to boost up Toronto as anybody still operating within it. And the cycle will continue... when the world starts talking about Jon-Rae and the River, Oh Bijou, Great Lake Swimmers or any number of local bands poised to take things to that next level, those bands aren't going to forget where they came from. In fact, they're gonna try their hardest to bring their friend's bands along for the ride.

It's this support system and overall good vibration in the city that makes it easier to play music without making tons of money. Nobody really makes any significant dollars around here, a lot of people lose some with every show, but the reaction that we receive from the crowds or the encouragement we get when somebody says "Hey, I want to help you put out a record" is more than enough.

I guess I just wanted to give you a glimpse of what's going on here, if for nothing else than the fact that it's a pretty remarkable model of where I think things could go in the music "industry". We buy locally, we go out and support our friends, we don't wait for somebody else to put things together for us, we just try it out for ourselves...

Without that, I'm sure we'd all be left wondering why we spend 40 hours at our jobs and another 40 at home recording or practicing every week. With it though, there's really no other way to live. I could work a shitty job for the rest of my life, just as long as I got to play for friends and peers in the city every few weeks.

I don't doubt that this phenomenon is happening in cities all over the world - an alternate music industry that never wanted much to do with the old model. The more that this localization and collaboration spreads, the less relevant big time marketing and publicity stunts seem to matter. I could avoid ever listening to a mainstream pop act again if I wanted to and I couldn't be more thrilled about that. I'm interested in seeing what this community and other like-minded people in suburbs and cities elsewhere have to offer and I spend my time scouring the Internet for the chance. I haven't been into an HMV in 4 or 5 years and I haven't paid $50 for a ticket to a show or a t-shirt since I was 15. It's going to stay that way and I know that there are a lot of people who have made a similar vow.

Anybody that thinks they need marketing dollars and radio plays to feel successful is missing the point entirely. To really feel like you made it, all you need is some supportive people around you and a local community that cherishes its own.

Best regards,
Neil Haverty (of Bruce Peninsula, www.bruce-peninsula.com)

PS - if I've piqued your interest about Toronto, check out these links...

Wavelength Toronto - http://www.wavelengthtoronto.com - weekly music series still going strong

Stillepost.ca - http://www.stillepost.ca - local message board, responsible for a lot of community bonding/bickering

Poor Pilgrim - http://www.myspace.com/poorpilgrim - local avant-garde music series

All Caps - http://www.allcaps.ca - all-ages show promoter Ryan McLaren

Aperture Enzyme - http://www.apertureenzyme.com - local photo galleries

Over the Top - http://www.overthetopfest.com - Eric Warner's annual music festival

Fig Records - http://www.figrecords.com - new label with lots of local releases coming up

Blocks Recording Club - http://www.blocksblocksblocks.com - well-known Toronto-loving label

The Ford Plant - http://www.thefp.ca - amazing all-ages venue in Brantford, ON

Oh Bijou - http://www.ohbijou.ca

Great Lake Swimmers - http://www.greatlakeswimmers.com

Jon-Rae and the River - http://www.theriversings.com


When I lived in Providence I witnessed something like this almost happen. For whatever reason, the critical mass required to sustain a self-supporting scene never quite materialized when I was around. But I'm liking what I saw when I went back the other week. Band Stand Live (not actually in Providence, but close enough) provides an impressive performance venue in addition to rehearsal space, and could really be the Petri Dish that finally brings the scene to life. And AS220, a non-profit community arts center located right downtown that was in danger of closing its doors when I left town seems to really be surging.

The guys in The Beagle Club get a glimmer in their eye when they talk about vocalyouth.org, which has, in various incarnations, been an online home for the Johnstown, PA scene since before every scene had a message board. Incidentally, these lyrics from Endless Mike and The Beagle Club's "Nobody Listens to the Last Song on a Compilation" ran through my head as I read Neil's letter:

I'm playing a show at home tonight
I'm friends with all the bands
The PA's too quiet to hear the words
But we all understand
We sing about what we came here for
And why we'll come here again
So pick the perfect song to end your set with...





Not everyone is doing it as well as Toronto yet, but you can be sure Neil's right when he suggests that small cities all across North America are experiencing similar musical renaissances. Your future favorite band is playing tonight at the KOC. With three other bands they're friends with. None of them have dollar signs in their eyes, and none of them will ever sign with a major label. You will be able to believe in them always. You will feel compelled to give them $5 for a burned CD. And you will want to tell all your friends.

4/26/07

Prince is too awesome

princeSince the Idolators posted it, I too have had Prince's take on Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" stuck on repeat. It's amazing. Prince, in case you weren't convinced by the Superbowl or, you know, his entire amazing career, is awesome. Here's one more reason to say so: he totally pwnd She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Honestly...

what would lefsetz doSurely by now you've read about Atlanta band Cartel's latest attention grab -- to live in a cola-sponsored, biosphere-like bubble in NYC's Hudson River Park as they write and record their sophomore release.

Predictably, everyone who's bothering to write about it is shitting all over it. But it was music's most nonpracticing attorney, Bob Lefsetz, who really got underneath lead singer Will Pugh's skin. Not sure whether or not Pugh knew that Lefsetz takes personal emails sent to him and forwards them to his entire audience all the freaking time, but I guess it doesn't matter because it's out there now. Here are a few choice quotes:
We think we fucking rock. We think we’re one of the best bands making popular or any other kind of music right now. Our producers don’t do shit to our songs and we don’t listen to our A&R…he just got fired anyway. We’d dropkick most of the top 40 artists right in the face if we were put up to the tests of live performance or songwriting ability.
...just because pete wentz doesn’t tell everybody they should like our band doesn’t mean we don’t belong.
This marketing scheme shows the world that we are a real band with real inspiration and real songs. Not some american idol winner or a label lottery contestant. People get to see us do what we do under intense pressure and scrutiny and still hit a fucking grand slam while in the meantime people in your position are hating like there’s no tomorrow on a band that they know little to nothing about.
All you guys think we’re just another dickless band with mediocre songs without even giving us a chance. That’s no way to find out about a band you might actually like.

Mr. Pugh, I say go for it (nice dig at Pete Wentz, btw). You've shown in your letter that you fully understand the damage to your cred and that you are convinced you have the chops to overcome it. I, unlike Lefsetz, have listened to Chroma and I thought it wasn't bad. I, like Lefsetz, am skeptical at best that you will be able to write a record good ENOUGH to overcome all the hate, but I admire your faith in your craft. Half of being a rock star is the swagger and you've clearly got that to spare.

Good luck, and Godspeed.

4/23/07

Responsibility, free speech, and Bill & Ted

bill and ted
I'm tired of hearing Imus sympathizers invoke the First Ammendment in his defense. It's not an issue of whether or not Mr. Imus had the right to say what he did. Nobody hauled him off to jail. He's been pilloried metaphorically, but physically nobody's laid a hand on him and he'll be licking his wounds (back to metaphors again) very comfortably in the privacy of one of his own lavishly furnished dwellings until such time as he sees fit to announce his triumphant comeback. He had and he has and he will have the right to say what he did.

I think the debate should be about whether he should have said it and I think the reason that's not what most people are talking about is that for the most part, reasonable human beings can agree that he shouldn't have.

I think what we should be focusing on is RESPONSIBILITY. As this media storm continues to gain strength and the frying pans cast eyes on larger and larger fish, I sincerely hope the organizations that truly profit from those who would do hurtful things in the name of ratings continue to feel the heat. And I hope Imus isn't the only casualty.

Imus, Limbaugh, Coulter, the KKK, etc. all have the right to say what they want to say. But none of them have the right to a nationally syndicated radio program. None of them have the right to step on whomever else they please (verbally) as they claw their way ever upwards to the top of the dung pile. They have every right to stand on the street corner and rant and rave. They are not entitled to a paycheck in return, and they are not entitled to a nation-wide public address system. Always remember that the airwaves are licensed to the employers of these blustery windbags by the federal government and by extension, the American people.

"But that's censorship!" you cry. Well, no. But even if it were the FCC already applies archaic censorship rules to the public airwaves. Hefty fines await those who would dare utter a fuckword or two during afternoon drive (children might be listening!) but Jerry Del Colliano compiled today a pretty stomach-turning sampler of what passes for decent broadcasting these days.

No, I advocate not censorship but responsibility. I ask why advertisers have to pull spots before companies hurry out press releases about doing the right thing and excising a tumor. I wonder when decency will be more than a euphemism for PR expediency. I wonder when the major purveyors of this bile will heed the advice of Bill & Ted, who told us to "Be excellent to each other." And really, I don't think it's ever going to happen on the airwaves at all.

Which is why, as I commented on Mr. Del Colliano's blog and as you might have already guessed if you read this blog often, I've turned my back on broadcast radio almost entirely. With a few notable exceptions, radio has become a vile, wretched tar pit, and I could care less that these dinosaurs are sinking into it. Let them shriek and howl all they want on their way down.

I'll be on the Web, where the voices that resonate with me can be heard (and read) loud and clear.

4/18/07

Talkin' 'bout their generation


I guess I'm a little late to the party here, but this is too good not to post just because I'm not the first one to post it. The lead singer in this band, The Zimmers, is 90 years old. Some of the folks in the chorus are 100.

You're never too old to rock. Remember that next time you go see a band and you're the oldest person in the crowd even though you're in your mid-20's.

myspace.com/thezimmersband

4/16/07

Triangle Forest: Mind-to-ass blowin' beats

triangle forestThis weekend I went to Providence to judge the final round of the 2007 WBRU Rock Hunt. The winners, a three-piece electronic group called Triangle Forest, completely blew me away. I'll stop just short of saying it felt like my "mind being pushed through [my] ass with a triangle wave," though. Which is a good thing, because the bathroom situation at The Living Room leaves much to be desired in the privacy department.

I'll admit feeling a little skepticism when they didn't set up any drums. Or sound check any guitars. And although I was put at east a bit when I saw a keytar make its way onto the stage, nothing prepared me for what was to come when the lights went down.

Brendan Britton (vox, keys, MIDI guitar), his brother Ben (drums, kinda), and Alexandra Kleeman (keytar, other less exciting key-based instruments) are each immensely watchable in their own way; the combination of the three is mesmerizing. Their sound, pop-sensible electronic dance rock with the occasional vocoder appearance, brought members of the audience who didn't know what to expect from WTF to OMG in about half a song. A straight-up rocker crowd began to dance. I moved in for a closer look. I took my earplugs out. I kept trying to make eye contact with people I knew, to shoot them "can-you-believe-this?" looks. And before I was able to fully wrap my head around what I was witnessing, their 30 minute set was over.

So today I do an elbo.ws search for Triangle Forest to see what everyone else is saying. And I find...nothing. One quick mention from the Boston Phoenix. How can a band this good be under everyone's radar? It's not that they're too new; when I asked them at the afterparty how long they'd been together the answer was two years.

A quick mental review of the NYC area bloggers I think would do backflips for these guys yields...well all of them. I don't know why nobody's talking about these guys yet (maybe they need a manager to beat on some doors for them) but here's me doing my part to get the buzz rolling. Remember where you read about them first.

Their record is streaming at triangleforest.com but to get a better idea of what I fell in love with, listen to these two live cuts (1, 2)from WBRU before the show. And check out the video below for "An Empty Love."

4/13/07

Drew & The Medicinal Pen - Dream, Dream, Fail, Repeat

drew & the medicinal pen
Drew is a day-dreamer and late-sleeper. He is a doodler and entrepreneur. He also makes music, lots of music: cigarette-butts-in-Chinese-food, insomniac, vodka-breathed, bedroom-pop music. Late at night, he draws graffiti of dead TV's. He is scrappy and young, and moved to NYC from Philadelphia. He currently resides on the Lower East Side where he plays shows regularly and survives on a diet of tuna and spaghetti.
-myspace.com/drewhawthorne

I've been meaning to write about this record for some time, but lately I've had trouble finding the right words to talk about things that I really like. I want to write about Dream, Dream, Fail, Repeat in such a way that you're going to listen to the mp3 below, and then need to hear more and head to Drew's myspace, and then, safe in the knowledge that I have not led you astray, maybe even buy the CD. Not because I have any stake in it. Just because it's good and when I think about all the good music that goes largely unheard in our modern-day Tower of Babel, it just breaks my heart.

Drew & The Medicinal Pen, as I've said before, is really a one-man operation. Which I mention because it makes the recording all the more impressive. There's a passage in Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet (which is great, duh) in which a character enters a studio and sends all the studio musicians home so that he can record the entire song in his head by himself. I'm attracted to over-the-top flowery prose, and that passage sticks in my mind as a wonderful description of just how hard it is to sit down and do what Drew has admirably done. But I digress.

While the arrangements on this EP are fun (There's a thank you in the liner notes to Sam Ash for unknowingly allowing Drew to buy a $400 xylophone, record it, and return it the next day), Drew doesn't let them get in the way of his true strength: his songwriting. All the hand clap beats and whistle choruses are well and good, but they're purely ornamental. I'm not sure I'm making my point as well as I could be, but the crux of it is that even though this record with all its instrumentation is a lot of fun to listen to, when Drew gets up on stage alone with his acoustic guitar, he doesn't lose that energy. Again I digress.

These songs are clever, earnest, well performed, and worthy of your time. I haven't stopped listening since I bought the EP from Drew at Goodbye Blue Monday two weeks ago.

He said I could give you a song here and I've been having a hell of a time deciding which one because they all have their strengths. But I've decided on "A City Was Born." That said, you need to go to his myspace right now and also listen to "Merry-Go-Round" while you wait for this one to download, because every time hear that song I think to myself at 2:43 that everyone I know needs to hear this.

Drew & The Medicinal Pen - A City Was Born (mp3, right click to download)

But there's still more. Drew's got a twitchy creative energy about him. I don't want to say something as cliché as "you can see it in his eyes," but you almost can. And you can definitely see it on his myspace page. There's not just music there, there are music videos. There are boastful shots of dead television graffiti. And drawings, cool drawings. I don't want to make this post any longer than it's already going to be, though. So here's what I'm going to do. Below is a cool stop-motion music video, a cool drawing, and one cool photo of some graffiti. There's lots more at his myspace. If this stuff seems cool to you, go there and see more of it.

drew & the medicinal pen
drew & the medicinal pen

If they're gonna fight dirty, you gotta fight dirty, too.


I promise I'm actually going to post about music very soon (like...later today?) but I just came across an interesting bit over at Techdirt that I just couldn't resist posting about. It seems that the RIAA is dropping lawsuits when they find out that their victims defendants are claiming that simply because they pay for the Internet access associated with an IP address, it does not follow that they themselves did the pirating. Which is, you know, a good point. An IP address is not a person. So the RIAA is dropping these cases before they get to court because they'd have to be insane to let a judge rule on this and set a precedent.

So is opening up your WiFi to your neighborhood carte blanche to download like crazygonuts? That's between you and your god, but the best protection is still abstinence. Wait, what are we talking about again?

4/12/07

HAY!!11!! YUO, WE FOUNFD U ST3ALINGT!!

Looks like my Alma Mater is getting a taste of the RIAA's latest campaign to generate ill will amongst its consumers. 12 students at Brown University have been targeted and will be given 20 days to cry uncle and settle at a discount, before the RIAA actually files any sort of law suit. From the Brown Daily Herald:
The University received pre-litigation settlement letters yesterday from the Recording Industry Association of America accusing 12 undergraduates of illegally downloading copyrighted music. The letters give the targeted students a 20-day window to settle with the record companies out of court before they will subpoena the University for the students' names and file lawsuits against them.

The letters are part of a "third wave" of RIAA action that includes 413 letters sent to 21 universities in the United States, according to a press release from the RIAA, an industry group representing the major record labels. The letters inform the students that they will be sued if they do not settle by paying a reduced amount to prevent the issue from going to court.


I know this has been done to death already, but when is someone with some real influence finally going to stand up and tell the RIAA that abusing your customers is bad business? The deafening cacophony from the bloggers seems to fall on deaf ears. I sometimes wonder if it even emboldens these people.

The consumer, not the corporation, drives the market. This may not always have been the case and 10 years ago Warner Music may have been able to make a stink-load of money on a CD full of dreck with one hit mixed in. This will never, ever, EVER be the case again. Ever. Ever ever ever. Stop suing your customers and listen to them. You'll make a lot more money.

4/6/07

4/5/07

Endless Mike and The Beagle Club - Goodbye Blue Monday, 3/29/07

The picture above is Davis's kickdrum on my lap. Davis plays the drums in Endless Mike and The Beagle Club (he's also produced all their records). I think I remember him telling me that what we're looking at here is an oil painting, which isn't the most acoustically sound way to decorate your kickdrum. It is, however, clearly the raddest. Anyway, when they were loading in they sorta piled up all their shit around on and around me (those tricksters) and it seemed like as good a time as any to snap a good picture of the thing. I kinda missed and didn't get the whole thing, but my photographical philosophy has always been that mediocrity is good enough. I digress.

Drew & The Medicinal Pen opened the show. Which is really just one guy named Drew H. I didn't take any pictures but here's one that I lifted from his myspace by a fellow named Will George:
Corporeally, I'm quite sure this was the same Drew H. that opened for The Beagle Club the last time I saw them at Goodbye Blue Monday. But on stage this time, despite a sound system that snapped, crackled and popped through his first song before just rolling over and giving up, he was a new man. I'll leave it at that for now because Drew just put out a 6 song cd called Dream, Dream, Fail, Repeat that I plan on writing about in the super-near future because it's very, very good. So stay tuned.
Mike doesn't actually know how to play that banjo (or so he says).

Only a six-piece this time out, Endless Mike and The Beagle Club were probably the tightest I've ever seen them that night. But my strength has never been concert reviews (especially, ironically, when I really really like them) so I'm going to tell you instead about some good news Mike had for me afterwards:

People are showing up at shows in far-away towns knowing the words to songs. Please understand how hard it is in this Tower of Babel society in which we live to rise above the din and get people's attention. There are thousands of new myspace pages, new blogs, new sources of noise popping up every single day. I have written about this band more than any other band on this blog, but I have no illusions about the size of the hill of beans that amounts to in the grand scheme of things.

For a band without a massive hype machine behind it to get the kind of traction necessary to bring people out to shows knowing lyrics, it requires a metric shit-ton of hard work, talent, and a little bit of luck.

It made me really happy to hear that it's all starting to pay off for these guys. It couldn't happen to a nicer, more genuine bunch.

Endless Mike and The Beagle Club - Mr. Miller's Opus (mp3, right click to download)
Buy The Husky Tenor here.

Listen to NIN's Year Zero

nin year zero the presenceI've made no secret of my admiration for the way Trent's been managing the pre-release buzz of this record. It's up now streaming (in surprisingly high quality) at yearzero.nin.com (in the upper right corner) so you can listen to it and see what all the fuss is about.

What I've kept a little more secret is that I've never really spent much time with NIN in the past. In fact, truth be told, I always thought NIN enjoyed a special breed of hype shared by the likes of Beck and Kid A-era Radiohead. That is to say, it's good, but it's really not THAT good. Seeing Trent do it live last summer changed my mind. And listening to this new record is reaffirming that shift. This shit is that good.

Make sure to listen to "The Good Soldier" and "Capital G."

Goodbye Blue Monday has big ideas

endless mike and the beagle clubGoodbye Blue Monday, one of my favorite venues in NYC (but a huge pain in the ass to get to) recently posted this message to their myspace friends:
Subject: goodbye blue monday is looking for investors with
Body: more than money.

we're looking for investors with expertise and vision who understand what we're trying to do here.
the big, virtual picture.
streaming, podcasts, live shows online, merchandise, sales and advertising.

we can't do these things with two-dollar PBRs.

this place is a setting for a lot of good stuff aside from being the coziest, naturally-sweetest sounding room in all of new york.

we're trying to build a kitchen, upgrade the backyard for summer shows and get the basement lounge and record store opened for the autumn.
we're trying to purchase the building we're located in.

there's a wealth of pics (if you don't know anything about us) on our website, as well as the press we've garnered since opening.

we're getting ready to go to blog format for the website.

interested?

you know where to find us!

here or here;
www.goodbye-blue-monday.com

please repost!! we're looking for a future here!


Sure, the neighborhood (Bushwick, in Brooklyn) isn't the easiest place to get to, but I can confirm that this place is totally worth checking out. The aforementioned $2 PBRs aside, there are a few computers set up for internet access (and free wifi if you're carrying your own), and some great acts come through, like Endless Mike and The Beagle Club (pictured above, at Goodbye Blue Monday) and Drew & The Medicinal Pen (more on both later today).

Here's to hoping they find a way to do all the cool things they want to...

(Via BV.)

4/3/07

The Hold Steady - Take Me Out to the Ballgame

craig finn the hold steadyI'm not sure exactly what it is about this video that makes me cringe. Maybe it's the jersey and hat combination, which seems a little too MTV-staged for my tastes. Or the look on Craig Finn's face at the end of it that says "there isn't enough Budweiser in the sea to wash the blood from my hands." But I'll admit that if I was at a Twins' game and I heard The Hold Steady coming out of the PA, I would get pretty pumped. So...I dunno.

Stereogum has the whole sexybackstory.

4/2/07

EMI’s DRM annoucement: on second thought…

find x there it isSo while I stand behind my earlier statement that it's a step in the right direction and certainly something that'll ruffle the feathers of EMI's major brethren, the more I think about the price hike, the more my mouth tastes like batteries. So I'd like to back off my original excitement just a smidge.

Sure, the files are of a higher quality, but Steve Jobs might wake up one day soon and realize what a Pyrrhic victory it's been to sacrifice the universal $.99 pricetag in order to set this DRM-less ball rolling. The majors have long demanded variable pricing for their wares on the iTMS and Jobs has, until now, heroically resisted. Even if the extra $.30/song eventually brings the rest of the majors into the ring, it's going to cause more than a few of the last remaining music buyers to heed the heretofore unheeded siren's call of the pirate bay's waters, depths from which few sailors ever fully return. These songs should ALWAYS have been DRM-free. And they probably always should have been 256kbps, too. Why should the cost of the RIAA's missed opportunities be passed on down to the consumers?

Why can't the majors, just once do something right without insulting its customers in the process? Can you imagine how many people would be rushing to give their money to EMI if they had made this announcement with a price DECREASE?

I'm reminded of that most torturous brand of word problem from 8th grade algebra class where you have a quadratic function and one axis is price and the other is profits and well...something tells me the curve doesn't peak at $1.29. But hey, it has been a while since I took algebra. This might be a job for indexed.

Holy freakin’ heck! EMI FTW!

pwn3dEMI announced today that they will be making their entire catalog that's already available online (The Beatles being a notable exception) available WITHOUT DRM. It's not a total victory because for the time being, iTunes will have a per-track price premium for the unprotected songs, presumably to be justified by the higher sound quality accompanying the DRM-free files (full albums will automatically be sold without DRM):
Apple's iTunes Store (www.itunes.com) is the first online music store to receive EMI's new premium downloads. Apple has announced that iTunes will make individual AAC format tracks available from EMI artists at twice the sound quality of existing downloads, with their DRM removed, at a price of $1.29/€1.29/£0.99. iTunes will continue to offer consumers the ability to pay $0.99/€0.99/£0.79 for standard sound quality tracks with DRM still applied. Complete albums from EMI Music artists purchased on the iTunes Store will automatically be sold at the higher sound quality and DRM-free, with no change in the price. Consumers who have already purchased standard tracks or albums with DRM will be able to upgrade their digital music for $0.30/€0.30/£0.20 per track. All EMI music videos will also be available on the iTunes Store DRM-free with no change in price.
This is a step in the right direction, and you should expect to see other majors scrambling to catch up now that one of their own has broken from the fold. I'm looking at you, Edgar.