Trendspotting: Vinyl’s Comeback – Part 1

I’ve been tracking this trend for a while, the resurgence of vinyl.  I find it intriguing. Not long ago, vinyl was presumed as dead as the 8 track. While there was always a market for used and vintage vinyl among the hardcore collectors, the appreciation for analog has now crossed over to the younger generation and more casual listener. Now record shops, vinyl record shops, are back en vogue and popping up everywhere.

It got me curious to know what’s behind all this.  Is vinyl a fad that will fade or is it here to stay? Is it any coincidence that as the CD has died, vinyl as re-emerged in it’s place? As much as we love the convenience of digital music, do we – at the end of the day – need something to hold and touch? Or is it the music industry that needs a physical format? Does analog truly sound better than digital? Or is being a vinyl lover just a way to differentiate yourself from the music masses?

I decided to ask the experts and have gathered perspectives from a cross section of industries and disciplines. Over the next few days, you’ll hear opinions on the subject from:

  • The Acoustics Expert: John Dahl of THX
  • The Vinyl Expert: Vince Slusarz of Gotta Groove Records.
  • The Music Industry Expert: Shamal Ranasinghe of Topspin
  • The Marketing and Trends Guru: Seth Godin

It was a fun project and I hope you enjoy the series and their perspectives.  And please, chime in and tell us what you think.

Trendspotting: Solo, Side Projects and Collaborations – Part 1

2009 seems to be the year of artists embarking on new solo efforts, side projects and collaborations.  It’s become quite a task to keep up with it all.  So much so I’ve actually created an Excel spreadsheet to track it. (But hey, I’m OCMD like that.) The proliferation of new projects and good music being put forth this year is astounding. And it’s a good thing.  It points to the positive – and much needed – evolution of the music industry.  This multi-part series will try to make some sense of it all by laying out the notable artists and projects released this year in all of their various incarnations. Enjoy.

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Artist: Volcano Choir
Album: Unmap
Type: Collaboration
Who’s Involved: Justin Vernon of Bon Iver with Collections of Colonies of Bees
Featured Track: Island, IS

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Artist: Lightning Dust
Album:Infinite Light
Type: Side Project
Who’s Involved: Joshua Wells and Amber Webber of Black Mountain
Tour Dates: October 6 @ The Independent in SF with The Cave Singers
Featured Track: “Never Seen”

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Artist: Julian Plenti
Album:Skyscraper
Type: Solo Project
Who’s Involved: Paul Banks of Interpol
Featured Track:”Fun That We Had”

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Artist: Brendan Benson
Album: My Old, Familiar Friend
Type: Solo Project
Who’s Involved: Brendan Benson of The Raconteurs (tho his solo work preceded it)
Featured Track: “Feel Like Taking You Home”

Trendspotting: Indie Bands Making Films, Part 3

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First it was The Dead Weather and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, then Sufjan Stevens, now add Noah and The Whale to the list of indie bands making films. With this endeavor, Noah and The Whale’s chief singer/songwriter, Charlie Fink, has crafted and directed a film to coincide with the release of their new album, The First Days of Spring, which is set for October. The First Days of Spring will be released on Cherrytree/Interscope alongside a film of the same name which marks the directorial debut of Charlie Fink and runs the same length as the record.  The release is the highly-anticipated follow-up to their gold- selling 2008 debut album Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down.

Trendspotting: Indie Bands Making Short Films, Part 2

I’ve noticed a trend of indie bands making short films (see Part 1). Well, it looks like Sufjan Stevens has jumped on the bandwagon too with The BQE, a 40-minute symphonic and cinematic exploration of New York’s infamous Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Stevens directed and scored the film himself, which consists of footage of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway alongside hula hoopers. Asthmatic Kitty will release The BQE CD/DVD on October 20 with a 40-page booklet with extensive liner notes & photographs and an accompanying stereoscopic 3-D Viewmaster reel.

And if that’s not hip enough for you, Asthmatic Kitty will release a limited edition double gatefold vinyl edition of The BQE on 180-gram vinyl with a large-scale 32-page booklet including liner notes, photographs and a black and white version of a 40-page BQE-themed Hooper Heroes comic book.

Ah but wait, there’s more. The film is going on tour, with modern string quartet OSSO performing a re-arrangement of Stevens’ album Enjoy Your Rabbit. I don’t know what you think, but this smacks of a little too much self-importance for me.

Trendspotting: Indie Bands Making Short Films

It seems The Dead Weather has launched a trend with the premiere of their ‘short film’ by Jonathon Glazer for “Treat Me Like Your Mother” on Showtime last week.

Then I found this crazy short film for The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Snakesweat”. Glamorous and weird only in the way Karen O can pull off. Who’s next? I’ll be watching to find out.

Twitter Concerts – SF Band Logs 3000 Downloads Using Twitter

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Moonalice.  Heard of them?  Yeah, you and no one else outside of Silicon Valley either. Luckily lead guitarist Roger McNamee knows a thing or two about technology, being one of the Valley’s most well-known venture capitalists. TechCrunch reported that the band staged it’s first Twitter-integrated concert at a venue in San Francisco recently and logged 3000 downloads of their music using the platform.  Pretty impressive for a band no one’s ever heard of and an eye opening tactic for bands to successfully leverage Twitter as a viral marketing tool.

These so-called Twitter Concerts work something like this: immediately following each live song performed, it’s digitized, uploaded then tweeted about it’s availability with a TinyURL where users can listen and download the song.  It’s like a virtual live concert feed. And if a small local band can see that much success, imagine the impact if well known artists jump on the Twitter Concert bandwagon. By golly, I think we’ve just spotted a trend in the making – Twitter Concerts!  

According to The Underwire, hip hop artist K’naan is leveraging the Twitter platform in equally innovative ways to promote his music as well. Here’s to Web 2.0!

Trendspotting: Girl Drummers – Eagle and Talon

I love the drums and have become obsessed with girl drummers.  Not so long ago they were all but a rarity, or just a novelty act associated with an all girl band.  It seemed that being a drummer was strictly part of the macho boys club. While female singers and guitarists have earned respect, female drummers still struggle to be taken seriously (think Meg White).  And if they do get credit, it’s in that ‘not bad for a girl’ kind of way.

But more and more I see girl drummers turning up in new, up and coming indie bands. They’re not just a novelty act anymore.  And I love it!  So much so that I’ve been compiling a list of these hot young ladies to be featured in this trendspotting series:  Girl Drummers.

Note: my intent with this series is to uncover the new, fresh talent.  Not to shortchange the pantheon of fabulous and established female drummers out there –  like Sheila E., Samantha Maloney (Hole), Cindy Blackman (drummer for Lenny Kravitz), Tobi Vail (Bikini Kill) or even Karen Carpenter (yes, she was a drummer!) – but I’m going to stay away from the history lesson and fast forward to now.

EAGLE AND TALON

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Meet Alice Talon (on the left) of LA-based Eagle and Talon, a post-punk girl band whose stripped-down minimalist rock “makes you wonder whether you’re being pet by a kitten or mauled by a lynx.” They’re primarily a guitar and drums-based affair and from some of the video footage I’ve seen, this girl can play drums.  Alice is a classically trained pianist who started drumming when she went to Taiwan to discover her roots and subsequently spent many an afternoon drumming in the basements of Taipei.

The duo has toured with Sia and shared stages with the likes of The Airborne Toxic Event and Bodies of Water.  They are currently on tour supporting their debut LP, Tracian.  You can catch them live in San Francisco tonight at The Hemlock.

Listen to ‘Hot Caught‘:

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Introducing MBV – The First Blog Conglomerate?

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No friends, this is not a My Bloody Valentine blog, though that was where my mind first went as well.  This appears to be perhaps the first indie music blog conglomerate, so to speak.  MBV is a new website bringing together five great indie music blogs:  Said the Gramophone, Fluxblog, Large Hearted Boy, Catbirdseat and Chromewaves.  All of their sites will be syndicated here and will include additional content as well.

An interesting concept and possibly an emerging trend?  Let’s watch and see.

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What the F**K?!

Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be an unusual number of up and coming indie bands of late with the word f**k in their name. There’s Fuck, Fuck Buttons, Holy Fuck, Starfuckers, Fuck the Writer, Fucked Up. And those are just the bands.  I’m not evening delving into recent album titles using said profanity.  I guess we’re just one pissed off generation.  We are amidst tumultuous times, but instead of adopting the peace, love and rock-n-roll attitude of the 70s, I guess we’re just going for piss and vinegar.  

I personally would like to see a little more Hope, Faith and Sunshines in our world, but I tend to be a bit of a Pollyanna like that.  That being said, I do like the sounds these f**ckers are putting out.  Aside from Fucked Up, these bands don’t really sound at all what you would expect them to.  Take a listen.

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Fuck

Oakland, CA based Fuck’s pop melodies are consistently at odds with their vulgar moniker.  I like their sense of humor in their naming convention, however.   

Listen to ‘Motherfuckeroos’:

 

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Fuck Buttons

I like the experimental sounds of Bristol, England-based duo Fuck Buttons. They just released their first album, Street Horrrsing, this year.  

Listen to Colours Move (Mogwai Remix)’:

 

 

 

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Holy Fuck

“Holy Fuck, these guys rock!” That’s probably how the Toronto-based lo-fi electronic group got it’s name. Their music is created entirely with old analog musical and non-musical instruments — including a 35mm film synchronizer.

Listen to ‘Balloons (Foals Cover):

 

 

 

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Starfucker

I like the mellow pop grooves and overall cheekiness of this Portland-based group.  I imagine these three guys sitting around the kitchen table giggling as they brainstormed their band name and song tracks like ‘German Love’ (I’m gonna give it to you).  Their self-titled debut, released earlier this year, is quirky and easy on the ears.

Listen to ‘Florida‘:

 

 

 

 

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Fuck the Writer

Fuck the Writer is Emil van Steenwijk from the Netherlands.  Amsterdam-based indie folk.  Go figure.  He’s had a couple of solo albums so far: ‘Maar Ik Dans Niet’ and ‘Keeping The Aspidistra Flying’.  Don’t ask me what any of that means or how to pronounce it.  I just know it sounds good.

Listen to Inside Out’: 

 

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Tobacco, Fucked Up Friends

Tobacco is the new endeavor of Black Moth Super Rainbow’s Tom Fec.  While you can definitely hear the BMSR influence, Fucked Up Friends is much more tweaked-out and…fucked up!

Listen toHairy Candy’:

 

 

 

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San Francisco Bands You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of – Part 7 and Last

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The Botticellis

These guys have a great 60s surfer, AM radio sound.  Soaked in reverb and sunny California pop harmonies, their debut album Old Home Movies sounds (and looks) like a classic from the past.

Listen to ‘Home Movies’:

 

The Dodos

The Dodos

Okay, you’ve probably heard of this band.  Their debut album, Visiter, was a darling of many a music critic.  And for good reason; it’s exceptional.  To see them perform live is spellbinding. They are one of those artists whose energy and passion translates better in a live forum. Their world tour is already underway, so all of you international readers have no excuse!

Listen to ‘Fools‘:

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The Morning Benders

Another Bay Area indie pop group on the verge, their new album, Talking Through Tin Cans, was my go to album of the summer.  Fresh and irresistible. That and my little boy loved it.  He’s got a good ear, that kid.  It was his first concert too.  If you’re local, be sure to catch their last show of the year, December 5 at The Rickshaw Stop with The Muslims and Miniature Tigers.

Listen to ‘Boarded Doors’:

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Ty Segall

I caught this guy opening for another local favorite, Girls, recently and was smitten.  Admittedly, when I first saw this virtual one man band take the stage with his jerry-rigged drum kit and guitar, I couldn’t help but think, ‘Oh Christ.’ Which was quickly followed by ‘holy shit!’  He’s touched with that way back sound I love so much. Just take a listen and you’ll see what I mean.

Listen to ‘The Drag’:

Listen to ‘So Alone’:

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