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Thursday, Jul 22, 2010
EMI, like so many major labels, is circling the drain, buried beneath a mountain of debt and public indifference. The label is wise to plumb the back catalog and offer fans of its key artists the opportunity to pick up fancy versions of their favorite albums with loads of extra stuff. But has its attitude soured the fans on future purchases?

Ever since their foppish heroes burst in the scene in the early ‘80s, fans of Duran Duran have long been derided by “serious” music fans as unsophisticated nitwits in thrall to a band built on a platform of flashy videos, high cheekbones, and a sense of style which wavered between pure androgyny and cut-rate drag queen.


But all was never as it seems, especially where it regards Duran Duran. Witness the response to the band’s former label, EMI, which sorta-kinda acknowledged an error in a recent deluxe reissue of Duran Duran’s seminal debut in the Ask Katy section of the band’s official website…


“It has come to our attention that some fans have suggested that the mastering on the recently reissued editions of Duran Duran and Seven and the Ragged Tiger is incorrect. Mastering is always subjective, and we acknowledge that the mastering on these versions is different to that of previous remasters, however that does not necessarily make it wrong. We have received both positive and negative comments about the mastering which is usual for any project – although those that don’t like the sound of these new records are by far in the minority. We will always take on board constructive criticism and act upon it, where we believe it appropriate, and we respect the opinions of the fans. However, in this case there have been some personal comments about the mastering engineer that were highly offensive, wholly inappropriate and unjustified.


“There is a glitch due to tape deterioration in the camera clicks at the very start of ‘Girls on Film’ on the Duran Duran album. Whilst this glitch is not ideal, as it is in the camera clicks and not within the main body of the music, there are no plans to replace any discs.”



Tagged as: arcadia, duran duran, emi
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Monday, Jul 19, 2010
The television and radio commercials that we see every day are selling more than just the products in the ad -- sometimes they're selling an artist as well. It may not be the traditional way for musicians to get their songs to their listeners, but it works.

Countless sums of money are spent worldwide every year on advertising, constantly bombarding us everywhere we go. Whether it is on television, radio, in print, or online, every day we see ads that encourage us to buy one product or another. I do have to admit that every so often the pitch works, and I find myself spending money on something that I don’t really need, but that I do really want. I’m not talking about buying any of the products, though—I’m talking about buying the music that I’ve heard used in the commercials. Whether it’s a current hit or an old classic, advertisers have been using pop music in commercials for decades, and have been doing so more and more in recent years. 


One such instance that will forever stick in my head was the use of Van Halen’s “Right Now” in the ad campaign for Crystal Pepsi in the early 1990s. In fact, the commercial was even shot in a similar style to the music video, complete with the “Right now…” statements:


I really wasn’t a fan of Crystal Pepsi (or of Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen), but the two will be forever intertwined in my mind. Crystal Pepsi disappeared from the shelves in 1993, and I didn’t even get the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album until a few months ago. However, there have been a few instances since then when hearing a song in a commercial has made me say to myself, “I need to find out who that band is and get their album immediately”.


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Monday, Jul 12, 2010
An album is purchased (via in a store or online) and is quickly ripped to your iPod. Does this practice make it harder for an album to grow on a listener? Or is the iPod just forcing us to become more disciplined listeners?

Right now, Beach House’s Teen Dream is my favorite album of the year. The Baltimore duo has crafted a phenomenal arrangement of baroque pop. Sadly, I’ve only listened to it three times. The National’s High Violent is another great album, but since purchasing the album, I’ve only listened to it once. One major reason was because I listened to it repeatedly when it was available for streaming weeks before the release.


I shouldn’t feel guilty for voting an album “one of the best of the year” and then watch it collect dust. After all, people have no problem dubbing a movie or book as the best they’ve seen or read this year after a single viewing or reading. But it seems that music is the only major form of pop culture that requires an unspoken demand that an album be absorbed multiple times before dubbing it “the best” of the year.


Tagged as: albums, ipod, ipod shuffle
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010
La Blogotheque use one take of the performance and present it as its played out, with a little bit of artistic editing included in the introductions of videos to introduce us to the subject matter, almost like a short documentary.

The first Blogotheque video I ever saw was of Beirut. Zach Condon, in his broken yet admirable French, joking on camera, trying to find a location for their shoot. “Un Concert a Emporter”, a take-away show, reveal the intertitles, before we get a cut back to Zach getting rejected to perform at a café, the rest of the band waiting listlessly along the city sidewalks. We hear the everyday chatter of Paris as another Woody Allen-like intertitle, black background with simple white text, introduces us to Beirut and The Penalty. Outside a bakery, Zach begins to strum his ukulele and sing, eventually making his way into a darkly-lit café from the warm outdoors, where the rest of Beirut awaits amongst the unsuspecting clientele and joins-in in an impulsive wave of musical delight.


I was immediately hooked on the concept of artistically recorded live performances. Each video is completely unique to the time and place it occurred. The next video I saw, and still distinctly remember repeating, was Grizzly Bear’s gloriously improvised a capella performance of “The Knife”. The quality of the video is at best described as amateurish, the performance riddled with laughter and uncertainty, yet the effect, once again, is completely endearing.


Arcade Fire cramped in an elevator by La Blogotheque

Arcade Fire cramped in an elevator
by La Blogotheque


What I found is that La Blogotheque brought elements of Cinéma-vérité to the established form of the music video, striving for a spontaneous and organic quality that’s sadly gone missing in music videos, as the form has degenerated over years of MTV’s formulaic artificiality and blatant product placement. Increasingly, music videos were recognized as the perfect way in which to tap into the holy grail of marketing that is the youth demographic. The medium quickly became exploited and, sadly, over-saturated with subversive advertising and cheap attention-grabbing gimmicks. It begs the question, in front of how many backdrops can the Backstreet Boys realistically sing and dance to? And just how many products can you cram into a Lady Gaga video before we get sick of the deception?


Perusing through the pages of their site, through the various international projects, and cacophony of bands, La Blogotheque has certainly made plenty of friends and admirers. Just get on Pitchfork these days, or any hip radio stations YouTube profile, and they have all created their own brand of live video recordings (albeit with much stronger production value). It has become an experimentation of the established medium of the music video, yet it somehow purifies the medium down to the most basic of characteristics: band, location, cameraman, sound recording, and “action”!


Christophe Abric, the founder of La Blogotheque seven years ago, launched the Take Away Shows with one of the collective’s many talented directors, Vincent Moon. They create a tender and melancholy effect by adding more warmth to the image, letting the bright yellows and the darkest shadows come to the fore while attempting unconventional extreme close-ups, rapid zooms, and canted camera angles. They have also brought with them certain ideals of Cinéma-vérité and the French New Wave in filming their subjects. With the aid of a small crew and a stylized filmmaking approach, they use one take of the performance and present it as its played out, with a little bit of artistic editing included in the introductions of videos to introduce us to the subject matter, almost like a short documentary. The effect is one of transparency and intimacy, expressed even more tellingly in the latest video of Plants & Animals, as we’re taken through their recording process in one long take around the rooms of a recording-studio house.


Department of Eagles by La Blogotheque

Department of Eagles by La Blogotheque


The sound in La Blogotheque may not always be the strongest but that’s one of the many charms. The honking of cars, the prattle of children and clinking of cutlery all add to the sweet ambiance of every video. It is the spontaneity of the surrounds that sometimes offer the most captivating (and hilarious) of moments, like in Bon Iver’s live performance of Skinny Love in a filled apartment, with a man in the background singing along frenziedly, as if in a trance.


La Blogotheque’s videos have been refreshing since its very inception and I look forward to every new episode. And unlike some of the videos I’ve grown up with on MTV, I can never tire of them and keep returning to them. Andrew Bird’s stroll through Montmartre, Sigur Ros’ rowsing performance of “Vid Spilum Endalaust” in a restaurant booth, and Yo La Tengo’s video of an awesome cover of The Trogg’s “With a Girl Like You”, are especially a favorite in my household.


I'm From Barcelona by La Blogotheque

I’m From Barcelona by La Blogotheque


After a childhood of enthusiasm for music videos and watching it deteriorate as all signs of creativity have evaporated, its good to see that, four years on, and with each new video, La Blogotheque continues to capture something new.


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Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Just as Internet seemed to be progressing in a bold, logical, forward-thinking direction, Apple's acquisition of Lala sadly puts the business model of online music back to square one.

It was good while it lasted. Maybe too good.


Before Lala, if you read a rave album review of a band you’ve never listened to, you were pretty much at the mercy of the critic. In a pre-Lala age, the only widely-accepted way you could listen to a buzz-worthy album was visit a site like LastFM or Pandora, type in the band’s name and cross your fingers that a song from the album would come up – and hope that track would not be one of those “30 second sampler” tracks. Even as beneficial as these sites are, if you clicked on a band’s “radio station,” you would probably hear one song from the band, then several songs by similar bands. As a result, listeners wind up waiting up to an hour before hearing another track by the band. So, in short, that left you waiting by the radio for a song to come on, just like how your parents used to listen to music.


Tagged as: lala, online music
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