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by Christian John Wikane and Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo

20 Nov 2008

Thirty-five years ago, the Pointer Sisters debuted with one of the most musically eclectic albums ever to grace the pop and R&B charts. From Allen Toussaint (“Yes We Can Can”) to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross (“Cloudburst”) to Willie Dixon (“Wang Dang Doodle”) to their own jazz-inflected compositions (“Jada”, “Sugar”), Ruth, Anita, Bonnie, and June Pointer effortlessly navigated a range of musical and vocal styles. The Pointer Sisters (1973) marked their first of five albums for Blue Thumb Records with producer David Rubinson before Bonnie Pointer ventured solo on Motown and the remaining trio teamed with Richard Perry for a string of memorable pop and R&B classics on Planet/RCA. Then and now, their versatility remains unparalleled.

PopMatters recently sat down with Ruth Pointer at her home in Massachusetts to discuss the incredible legacy of the Pointer Sisters. She also gave us a peek into her “trophy” room! Look for the complete interview in early 2009!

by Rob Horning

20 Nov 2008

Via Barry Ritholtz comes this transcript of the keynote speech by Ian Rogers, who runs Topspin, an online music distributor, at the Northwest MusicTech Summit. He cites some interesting data with regard to the future of music: Media companies are making less money from music sales, but music consumers are as eager as ever to consume music.

Rogers argues that power in the music business has shifted to artists: “when I talk to managers and artists they feel it, they feel an ability to take their careers into their own hands, to redefine what success means for them, and that is the emergence of the new music business.” The redefinition of success seems to me the pivotal idea—the idea that success is less a matter of money than what it is to most working artists, to be able to make a living through their art and not have to treat it as a passionate hobby. The trouble begins when ambitions begin to exceed that horizon—art is denatured and brokers seize control. Right now, technology is disintermediating the brokers (from the A&R people down to the record-store clerks), which has given musicians across the board a chance to recalibrate their ambitions on a sustainable scale, rather than going into it for the stardom and the cash.

That’s not to say the essence of Rogers argument is an appeal to making art for art’s sake. His point is the new music industry promises to remunerate artists more directly, since there is next to no overhead with regard to production and distribution costs. “When your costs are low, your royalty rate high, and your channel direct, the marginal profitability from the artist’s perspective can be far different than in the old model, to be sure.” Key to the marketing plan Rogers outlines, though, is something I instinctively cringe at—price discrimination, or letting people decide what they will pay in return for the same product.

fundamentally I believe the model is shifting from mass-marketed (via radio and TV) and one-size-fits-all (one $15 CD suits fans of all levels of commitment) to a target-marketed approach where fans can self-select where they fit on the scale (when Trent [Reznor] offered Ghosts at five price points he was really asking, “How big a fan are you?”).

I don’t why this bothers me so much, since this is the essence of what’s probably the oldest form of commercial interaction, bartering. The idea that a fair price for a product is established and applied uniformly is a relatively new phenomenon, a response to the massive problems of information asymmetry that larger-scale production brings on. Still, the idea that someone else can get the same thing for cheaper fires my competitive spirit. It makes me feel like a chump. In other words, I won’t be on of the superfans volunteering to pay musicians as much as possible for their music so that I can prove my fidelity or earn their gratitude or whatever the rationale is. When I read about volunteer spenders, I end up thinking that those people are under the sway of some kind of irrational personality cult with regard to the artists they are supporting. Am I really supposed to believe that Trent Reznor gives a single shit about how big of a fan I might be? (Not a fan at all, for the record.) I suppose the idea is that you can prove to other fans that you are more in love with the leader by spending more, but that seems almost worse than the pre-digital star system in which we were told which mass artists were acceptable by A&R people, and at least had to be creative or much more dedicated if we wanted to manifest our superfandom. So when Rogers claims that consumers are “more satisfied” in today’s music market, I have to assume he means that we can let our money testify to our devotion—as opposed to the fact that anyone can get anything they want for free. But since I play music myself (in a total amateur way) I always want trends in the music business to lead away from creating more fans and toward creating more garage bands. I can’t tell if the game Rock Band is the beginning or the end of that dream.

by PopMatters Staff

20 Nov 2008

Check out the PopMatters tribute to the 40th anniversary of the White Album. Side Three songs highlighted below posted today.

Side Three


Paul McCartney
Birthday [Video]

 

Dirty Mac (John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Mitch Mitchell)
Yer Blues [Video]

 

The Beatles Ensemble
Mother Nature’s Son [Video]

 

Anne Ducros
Sexy Sadie [Video]

 

U2
Helter Skelter [Video]

 

Paul McCartney
Helter Skelter [Video]

 

George Harrison
Long, Long, Long [Video]

by PopMatters Staff

20 Nov 2008

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Red, the movie based on the book by Jack Ketchum.

2. The fictional character most like you?
Carrie Bradshaw (from Sex and the City).

3. The greatest album, ever?
Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars

5. Your ideal brain food?
Chicken and hummus.

by Chris Gaerig

19 Nov 2008

Tetris is a difficult game to screw up. A certified classic, it’s gripping in its ease of play and demands thumb-numbing madness because of its no-two-snowflakes-are-alike conception and ever-increasing difficulty. There’s little that hasn’t already been written about or executed in the puzzler, which was originally released in 1985 and has seen countless new incarnations and spinoffs, and just when you think you’ve seen everything, the WiiWare-released Tetris Party finds a way to add more to the discussion.

Tetris Party‘s main selling point—besides the fact that it’s, ya know, Tetris—is its mass of new features, which includes a co-op mode, online battle, field climber, stage racer, and a fill-in-the-blanks-style puzzle. Many of these spinoffs are Wii-exclusive and haven’t been seen in the Tetris lexicon in the past. But for all of the ingenuity in these new formats, Tetris Party is worth little more than its already-proven foundation.

The most useful function of Tetris Party is the online play. An obvious addition to any game at this point, it was just the sort of thing that would’ve been forgotten, making this game almost completely useless. What’s most innovative about this mod, however—and this is true of the regular battle mode as well—is the addition of a Mario Kart-esque weapons system. By eliminating specific blocks, players are afforded a number of different weapons ranging from time attacks (stop the other players or make their pieces come extraordinarily fast), who-is-that-little-dude attacks (taken from the field climber mode), and attacks that allow you to utilize the Wii’s point-and-shoot controls.

Outside of the battle and traditional marathon modes, Tetris Party offers little in the way of enticing incentives. In stage racer, you’re given a single block that you have to navigate through a scrolling level, making sure you don’t fall too far behind. It’s a good idea but its execution becomes increasingly simplistic when you realize you can basically just mash the turn buttons until your piece craftily moves its way through the seemingly dead end puzzle.

Field climber features a tiny man that climbs up the blocks you’ve already placed, in order to make his way to the top of the screen. It’s an interesting idea, placing the focus on the negative space of Tetris rather than the space you fill, but it offers little in the way of replay value—once you meet your goal the first time, it’s not a very captivating play. The other negative-space-related mode is one in which you use custom pieces to fill such shapes as letters and apples.

The worst part about Tetris Party? 1,200 Wii points. For what you’re getting, it’s pretty hard to justify spending more than most Virtual Console/WiiWare games because ultimately, you’re just getting online Tetris in return. So if you’re a huge puzzle gaming fan or have just been jonesing for some new Tetris mods, this is right up your alley. If you’re like everyone else, however, Tetris Party is very hit or miss.

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