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by Sean McCarthy

12 Jul 2010


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.

by Henry Guyer

25 May 2010


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.

by Sean McCarthy

19 May 2010


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.

by Sean McCarthy

30 Apr 2010


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.

by Jane Jansen Seymour

28 Apr 2010


Memory Tapes

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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