The frontman for Black Moth Super Rainbow, Tobacco, has another album on the horizon called Maniac Meat, due out May 25 on Anticon and the track “Fresh Hex” features a collaboration with none other than the master himself….Beck. Happy Friday.
Typically I loathe the actor turned singer/songwriter schtick. But Charlotte Gainsbourg is the exception. The arbiter of everything cool and indie, the woman can do no wrong. At least in my eyes, but I admittedly have a crush. So let me break it down for you and see if you agree.
She’s the daughter of British actress, singer and style icon Jane Birkin and French actor/singer Serge Gainsbourg. (That pedigree alone is enough cool quotient to last a lifetime.) Is a critically acclaimed, award winning actress in her own right with an impressive roster of cool indie films under her belt – like La Bûche, Jane Eyre, Lemming. This year she won Cannes Film Festival Best Actress for her role in Antichrist. Musically, she’s turned out two albums and has worked with the likes of her father Serge, Madonna and French pop star Etienne Daho. And her upcoming album, IRM, was produced by non other than Beck himself.
Due out January 26, the minimalist album title, IRM, (French for MRI) was inspired by Gainsbourg’s frequent MRI’s she endured after suffering a brain hemorrhage from a water-skiing accident in 2007. “I had to do so many [MRIs] and every time I was in that tube I was thinking it would make great music,” she’s quoted as saying. And great music it did make. Her lyrics on the album’s single, “IRM”, offer a detailed, psychedelic journey into her experience and sets the tone for the album. Which, you can hear, is amazing.
Only Charlotte can make an MRI cool and straddle the realms of indie film and music with credibility and aplomb. She’s effing rad. If I could be half as cool as her I’d be so happy.
In this essay, guest blogger Adam presents his opinion on the present state of the music industry, how it got here and where it’s going.
Listen to: Beck covering Sonic Youth’s, “Green Light”
Which Way to the Record Store, Brother?
Saturday, April 18, 2009 marked the third annual Record Store Day (RSD) where independent record shops hold promotions all day to encourage patronage. Among the events that took place that day were in store performances and special releases formatted exclusively on vinyl. I frequent record stores many times a year but I was extra excited about this particular day because I was hoping to score limited 7” pressings from Sonic Youth, Beck and The Flaming Lips. A good friend and I fought long lines, vinyl sniffing-uber-nerds and small confines at three different wax factories in New York, coming away with the last copies of everything we wanted.
Why is there a record store day?
Many small indie labels will be left standing, and unless their current out of date (and out of touch) paradigms and business models are revamped, major labels will disappear. RSD promotes INDEPENDENT record stores and labels. Labels pressed vinyl records just for this day and sold them exclusively at indie shops. Artists on independent labels performed for free in the actual stores. It’s this kind of fresh thinking that will keep small, independent institutions afloat and will drive interest in purchasing music.
The Death of the CD
It is still the status quo for bands to press their albums on compact disc, but unlike just 10, or even 5 years ago, many new albums are also pressed on vinyl or even pressed EXCLUSIVELY on vinyl. The major draw for the CD was its ‘superior’ sound quality and track seeking capability (as compared to the tape). With the onset of digital music, both purchased and pirated, the CD doesn’t continue to serve much of a purpose. I have read (and fully agree) that the end of the compact disc era could be marked as September 09, 2009 when Capitol/EMI re-issues the Beatles’ entire catalogue re-mastered on CD for the first time. 9/9/9. Revolution #9, #9?! This release will mark one of the last epic releases on CD as labels will find that the interest will be slim to purchase music on a CD that will scratch and skip, in a jewel case that will crack and stain. The last CD that I purchased was Idlewild’s Best Of collection in 2008…this will probably be the last CD I ever purchase.
The Vinyl Re-Emergence
A few years back, owning a turntable and browsing the vinyl section of your local record store might have been reserved mostly for record store geeks and your dad. If this indeed was true in recent years past it is becoming less so now. My girlfriend has informed me that the mainstream ‘hip’ clothing and knickknack repository Urban Outfitters now sells vinyl records. Your dad does not shop at Urban Outfitters. As the mp3 completes its campaign to overtake the CD, vinyl record sales are increasing. Believe it or not, people enjoy spending money and receiving something tangible in return. People want to own something physical. The vinyl record has a much larger presentation area than the CD and people find the large format artwork more enjoyable. More importantly the record produces a warmer, more dynamic sound than both CD and mp3 are capable of. Indie bands, labels and stores recognize this (see Record Store Day) and are heavily promoting music on vinyl and usually include a coupon for a complete digital album download with the record at no extra cost.
How Does the Current Music Industry Landscape Affect the Band and Label?
As I have mentioned before, the internet has all but killed record sales, which has taken a critical toll on large music retailers and the major record labels that rely so much on those record sales. Major labels have for long been known to put record sales in front of artistic freedom and integrity. If this wasn’t enough reason for a band to sign with an indie, the dire shape the majors are currently in should be.
Large, established bands are moving to independent labels. Sonic Youth recently left Geffen after nearly 19 years to join Matador. This will continue to happen. What smaller labels lack in money for promotion they make up for with being in touch with what people want. It will be wise for labels to use the internet, the same force that killed record sales, to promote bands by giving away music. GIVING AWAY MUSIC! Many less established bands rely on an album leak (some are even leaked intentionally by the band) to create buzz and blog coverage. Where major labels are paying high court fees to prosecute bit torrent site masters (see Pirate Bay’s recent conviction in a Swedish court), smarter, band friendly labels would see a leak as a cheap promotional tool.
Although album sales in general are way down, bands themselves never made their living from pressing albums…the label takes most of that. Bands make a living from touring. The bands and labels that are able to adapt to the age we live in will use album leaks and blog buzz to generate show attendance.
Licensing. Bands might not be selling records like they did 10 years ago, but there will always be a need for music licensing- especially with the omnipresence of the internet. Major corporations like Apple are buying songs from indie bands and so it is such that the term “sell out” will change meaning. I was upset when Wilco licensed tracks from their last record (Sky Blue Sky) to Volkswagen because “Impossible Germany” made me think about 20-somethings with smart haircuts stuffed into small cars in transit to their desk jobs…but this is not selling out- this is making a living. One might argue that Wilco doesn’t need help from Volkswagen to sell concert tickets (and I fully agree), but lesser known bands might. The term “sell out” will be applied to bands that don’t choose who they license to well (I’m looking at you Billy Corgan) and sell their music to the first uninspired bidder.
No one ever said being in a band was easy.
Every year I host a music swap with my music geek friends where we share our top albums of the year. This year we spiced it up a bit by adding a new component – a mix of your favorite songs of 2008 by artists not represented in our Best Albums of 2008 list. (Ryan’s rules, not mine.) So here it is, my mix of some of my favorite indie rock tunes for 2008. I was struck by a lot of San Francisco local music this year and have noted those artists with an asterisk (**). I enjoyed the emergence of such good music from my hometown and hope you will too. Enjoy!
- ** Pigeonhold by Port O’Brien
- Testify by Carney
- ** The Drag by Ty Segall
- Pot Kettle Black by Tilly and the Wall
- Operation by Deerhunter
- There Are Birds by The Ruby Suns
- The Dazzled by Crystal Stilts
- The Shedding Path by The Lord Bird Dog
- Chemtrails by Beck
- Oppressions Each by Brightblack Morning Light
- The Columbia by Lackthereof
- ** Hellhole Ratrace by Girls
- ** New York Through York by Lady Genius
- Charlyn, Angel of Kensington by Jason Collett
- My Baby by Juliana Hatfield
- Furr by Blitzen Trapper
- ** Peg by Cryptacize
- Lady Luck by Richard Swift
- Don’t You Worry by Jim Noir
From the Basement is a UK-based music TV show that has launched a series of live performances from an impeccable collection of indie artists – like Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes, The Kills, Andrew Bird, Beck and lots, lots more. The program is featured on the Sky Arts channel in the UK, Rave in the US and, starting in January 2009, the IFC channel.
Until then, you can catch sneak previews of some performances. Like this one from my current obsession White Denim. Click here to check out this blistering rendition of ‘All You Really Have to Do/ Mess Up Your Hair’. Oh yeah, these guys rock! Well worth the jump, I promise.
Whoo hoo! Two more days to Outside Lands and Radiohead. Here’s a mix I compiled of the bands I’m looking forward to seeing on Friday. If I can cram it all in. Enjoy! If you want the MP3 file, you’ll need to sign up for the OCMD Mixtape newsletter.
- Carney – Testify
- Howlin’ Rain – Dancer at the End of Time
- Black Mountain – Angels
- The Black Keys – Psychotic Girl
- Cold War Kids – Something is Not Right with Me
- The Benevento Russo Duo – Best Reason to Buy the Sun
- Manu Chao – Welcome to Tijuana
- Beck – Gamma Ray
- Radiohead – Bodysnatchers
I know Beck’s ‘Gamma Ray‘ has more to do with global warming than children, but I can’t help but think of my boy Judah every time I hear that song. After all, what are gamma rays but the smallest and most energetic form of wavelength on the electromagnetic spectrum. That sounds exactly like… JUDAH! His life force never ceases to amaze (or exhaust) me. This morning on the way to preschool as Beck’s Modern Guilt was playing, he asked me: “Is this Beck, Mommy?” Awww…I just want to eat him up. Boogers and all.
I realized after obsessing this week over Beck’s new album, ‘Modern Guilt‘, that I was listening to yet another Danger Mouse production. What is this guy up to and what else is he working on? A lot, so it seems.
Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) is famously known for remixing Jay Z‘s ‘Black Album‘ over samples from The Beatles ‘White Album’ to create, ‘The Grey Album.’ From there he collaborated with Cee-Lo (as half of Gnarls Barkley) to release the hugely popular ‘St. Elsewhere’. He’s also produced the debut album from The Good, The Bad and The Queen, and the latest releases of Sparklehorse, The Rapture and Gorillaz.
This year he’s in top form with producer title for the following releases:
With his influences firmly rooted in electronica/trip-hop, I’ll definitely be tracking his next move.
Topspin officially emerged from stealth mode last week to unveil their technology platform that aims to help music artists build their business and brand directly with fans – without the help of a label. There’s not a lot of public information on the product itself other than it sounds like a Salesforce.com (CRM) for the music industry – a suite of tools designed to help artists build relationships and distribute music directly to fans.
What’s great is that Topspin is not trying to brand this product to consumers. It’s completely B2B, which means artists will be able to incorporate Topspin technology into their own websites and social networking platforms. Reportedly artists like David Byrne and Dandy Warhols are already using the technology to offer a subscription model to fans that will give them access to a host of content either exclusively or before general release.
While the direct-to-fan model is not a new concept – think Radiohead, The Raconteurs and supposedly the forthcoming Beck album – not every band has had the longevity or popularity of groups like these to implement such a strategy successfully. That’s where the beauty of technology like Topspin comes in. As Topspin’s new CEO, Ian Rogers, stated in this month’s Billboard interview, it empowers the middle class of artists – those either past their commercial prime or too new to enjoy the marketing support of a major label.
It’s a paradigm shift either way you slice it, for both artists and fans in terms of how music is distributed and consumed. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. I just hope Topspin plans on launching a similar platform for the film industry too!