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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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Friday, Apr 30, 2010
A "gut reaction" to four upcoming big releases.

May is shaping up to be a huge month not only for summer movies, but for music. Four bands that have released Album of the Year-quality albums are set to release new albums in the coming weeks. As a music geek, you may have looked forward to these types of “Super Tuesday” events when two or even three big releases dropped on the same day. However, the advent of streaming releases ahead of the release date has taken much of the luster out of these musical “Super Tuesdays”.


Almost a month before its May 17th release date, LCD Soundsystem is streaming This is Happening on their website. NPR is streaming the new Hold Steady and Broken Social Scene albums. And last week, The New York Times streamed The National’s High Violet.


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Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010
Retailers are producing musical compilations in the name of branding

There’s something about a compilation CD that excites this audiophile. I went into my local record shop to celebrate Record Store Day and asked if there were any new ones to buy. It’s always a great opportunity to explore and perhaps discover something unnoticed on the musical landscape. Of course, other retailers are now in the game too, from Starbucks to Pottery Barn, offering up their own versions in order to extend their influence in the name of branding. These companies are certainly known for carefully crafted musical soundtracks in store (I enjoy playing ‘name that tune’ while shopping) but now they want to follow you out the door.


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Friday, Apr 9, 2010
The American radio scene has expanded online with countless offerings for the listening worldwide.

In a CNN interview recently, David Byrne opens with a remark how he doesn’t listen to radio much anymore. A certified tastemaker as a solo artist after leading the Talking Heads, it seemed funny from a guy who posts his personal playlist on iTunes as Radio David Byrne. I’m a huge fan, but it was just not what I wanted to hear as I’m finding my best source of new music by listening to radio programs online.

I have always been on the musical hunt for something new and American radio has provided me with the soundtrack for every decade of my life. From WPLJ in the ‘70s, to WLIR in the ‘80s and WHFS in the ‘90s and beyond, I’ve tuned into radio frequencies for inspiration. However, right as WHFS was calling it a day, I heard that a station I loved listening to during trips to LA was accessible online. The music producer Nic Hardcourt’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” on KCRW was streaming over the internet with new tunes daily. The novel concept of listening live or on demand anytime meant radio could continue to be my salvation, feeding me upcoming bands with tunes for my own personal playlists. With some decent speakers attached to my laptop, I’ve been in new music heaven ever since. I even have copy of Nic’s book Music Lust signed by him during a New York City appearance a few years back, finally having a name for this attraction.


Tagged as: radio
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