DRM-Free iTunes Plus Launched; No Need to Cheer too Loudly

The wait is FINALLY over! Yes, yet another glorious day of innovation has come to pass in the scintillatingly exciting world of online music sales. Last week, Apple’s iTunes shop began offering higher quality files unencumbered by nasty DRM nonsense -- as we reported a little while back. Of course, the files are nearly a third more expensive than the regular, low-quality shit you can get from iTunes, and out of all your favorite caring, cuddly major labels, only EMI (at least for now)is making its catalog available in the new format. But still, great news, eh?

Not really. Apparently, the whole business of Joe Schmoe from Idaho actually getting his calloused hands on high-quality versions of the entire Norah Jones catalog and other gems from the EMI vaults is sort of fiddly and crap. First of all, you have to update your iTunes to the latest version, then opt-in to the iTunes Plus service from a separate area of the site that’s not particularly easy to find -- it’s not set as the default in the iTunes store. Switching back to normal iTunes means further grubbing about with Apple’s (beautifully presented) digital entrails.

Furthermore, and more importantly, the DRM-free banner that Apple and EMI have pinned above their king-sized conjugal bed is looking a little tatty tonight. An interesting little tidbit I just found out is that every track that’s downloaded from iTunes has your full name and e-mail address embedded in the file. And the new DRM-free stuff does as well. Sort of puts you off sharing that precious $1.29 worth of file with your chums, eh? And what about all the information that’s kept on your iTunes account, like your credit card number and where you fucking LIVE? If your file ends up on some torrent site and a brave RIAA freedom fighter picks up your e-mail address and name from an iTunes file -- is he then in a position to grab all that other info prior to chasing your ass down the street?

Oh well, whatever. It’s not as if anyone who does upload a torrent to the web gets the files from iTunes anyway. Fact remains that the attempts of the record industry to curtail file-sharing have all been pretty much a total bust for the last five years, and you can be certain that this latest attempt to scare you into compliance is bound to fail miserably too. And for that, I guess we can all continue quietly rejoicing.

Heckle Bradford Cox – I Dare You; Deerhunter Spend Summer Touring

Deerhunter's Bradford Cox wears a dress on stage. If you use the Internets and enjoy independent music, you've seen the pictures. And yes, his bandmate has been photographed giving Cox a "bro-job" on stage. Scandalous maybe for the Voxtrot set, but certainly not for the G.G. Allin set (no feces has been reported as of yet). In terms of shock factor, I'd rank him somewhere above Don Imus but below Iggy Pop in his prime. What's more, the man is also 6'4" and abnormally lanky, a symptom of Marfan syndrome from which he suffers (see also: Joey Ramone). Cox's skeletal frame barely holds up his floral print getup, as his crackling howl pierces the distorted static noise riled up by Cox's bandmates. But don't let the debutante demeanor fool you. This man is stone cold.

When I saw Deerhunter, the show took place on the hill of a quaint northeastern college campus, while girls tanned and shirtless bros drank cheap beer and high-fived a lot. A man on stage in a green dress does not mix well with Natty Light. When technical difficulties plagued the group's drummer, Cox strutted his stuff and attempted to strike up conversation with the crowd to shouts of "Faggot!" But like a seasoned veteran of drunken hecklers, nary missing a beat, Cox responded with a scathing verbal assault, along the lines of "You want to see how much of a faggot I am? You think I'm a faggot? Well you're right. And I'll show you how much of one I really am. Come on stage and I'll fuck you so hard that my cum will be your snot for a week." As this particular mongrel walked away with his tail between his legs, another man thought it might be a good idea to take questions for the crowd, as one audience member inanely asked "Did you come from Auschwitz?" as a meatheaded, inappropriate crack on Cox's physical appearance. To which the man with the mic replied with a query: "Would any Jews in the audience like to take this man on stage and disembowel him as we all watch? Because I want to see what's inside this person. I can assure you it's not pretty." PWN3D.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself 'cause shit-talking Deerhunter is bad for your health:

Jim Carrey to Star as Peanut Butter Wolf in the New Film “The Number 7”

It’s all seven. Can’t you see? It’s so obvious:

Peanut Butter Wolf = 16 letters; 1 + 6 = 7

Seven Different Music Genres = 25 letters 2 + 5 = 7

Huge Boners For All = 16 letters; 1 + 6 = 7

It’s almost as if Peanut Butter Wolf is trying to uncover an evil numerological curse. Last year, on 06.06.06, he spun a live set consisting of death metal, industrial, and other music that might reasonably be expected to bring about the rapture and released it for free on his podcast. Titled The 666 Mix, it consists of six “books”; it is 66 minutes long; and if you play the MP3 backwards, you can just make out the sound of Béla Lugosi saying “Hip-hop is undead.”

Now PB Wolf is playing seven live sets of seven different genres on seven different days in seven clubs throughout L.A. He will play only vinyl, not repeating any records. Just to cover all his bases, he is also releasing The 777 Mix online on 07.07.07. He may not trigger the apocalypse this year, but it’s only a matter of years before the DJ/alchemist figures out which number to repeat three times to make someone go crazy or to end the world.

Stones Throw Records, the label that PB Wolf founded in '96, brings PB Wolf himself on a very far-reaching European tour. Some labelmates will follow on these dates, 14 shows in 14 cities.

Oh no, the number 14, twice. Fourteen is two times seven. Oh God, it’s happening. I’m not crazy. You have to believe me. If you circle every seventh word in the previous paragraph, you get...

"PB" "Wolf" "Tour" "Dates":

# Peanut Butter Wolf only

Drag City Gets Sucked Into Playing Hardball With the Big Boys, It Seems, Most Likely

Drag City did not win Best Label of the Year Award at this past year's Plug Awards, the independent music award show similar to the Grammys or to the Billboard Awards, but independent, so with a much better list of nominees, winners, and performers. Sub Pop won, and good for them, but what I'm taking issue with is the fact that Drag City didn't even garner a nomination.

Let's see. What did Drag City do in 2006? Well, they released Ys by Joanna Newsom, The Letting Go by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, The Black Swan by Bert Jansch, II by Espers, The Sun Awakens by Six Organs of Admittance, Dat Rosa Mel Apibus by White Magic, and Introduction by The Red Krayola, not to mention The World's Funnyman DVD by Neil Hamburger. There was more, but you get the idea: a slew of quality releases, most of which saw the light of day on vinyl. That's the sort of thing one expects from Drag City. So, no nomination from the Plug Awards? Bad form. Tisk, tisk.

But maybe there's something to it. What many labels have done (or are in the process of doing) is "go digital," making songs, albums, etc. downloadable for a fee, so the technophile elite amongst us — those with laptops and cell phones, instead of CD and record players — can listen to, correction, hear music as well.

Drag City, it seems, has recently alluded to the possibility of going digital, turning the smooth, round, accurate sine waves of an analog source into rough, spiky, one-and-zero approximations. According to a news posting on their website, "Drag City has got her opposable toe in the water for sure — and variety still being the spice of life as it was back in the stone age (of the 60s), she'll continue to offer alternative formats as they come along. First it was 8-tracks, then came cassettes, then the CD revolution... now it's mp3s. Whatever it is you want, we'll see what we can do — though reel-to-reel format might be a problem."

So, there you have it; my technophile neighbor will be hearing the new Meg Baird album Dear Companion on her cell phone earpiece in no time. How comforting.

Blitzen Trapper Holds Steady Long Enough to Brave Tour; Duels Bear at Dusk

It was a blustery February night when I first encountered Blitzen Trapper. I’d been navigating a log raft down the Columbia River for over a month, not-so-hot on the trail of the Pacific Northwest’s most hirsute resident, Bigfoot. Last seen crossing state lines with armfuls of booze, speculation around the basin suggested that he was close, but, low on supplies, my raft was near ruin.

The party was a mess: Bryan was sick with dysentery, other Bryan succumbed to diphtheria just a week ago (strangely he requested his tombstone read ‘peperony and chease’), and noisemakers and tin-foil tiaras littered the floor of the craft. Myself? Well, the squirrel fur on my ushanka had nearly frozen to the curls in my heavily waxed moustache -- in short, I figured it was time to find some rest.

I anchored the vessel in a kindly looking hamlet, where the glow from the gas lamplights shone on falling salt shaker snow enveloping the browns and blacks of the steeply pitched roofs in a halo of light. We had apparently taken a wrong turn somewhere because the blizzard-charred peak of Mt. Hood loomed heavy over the village.

“Is this place on the map?” asked Bryan, breath visible in the night air.

The vacant, narrow streets wound around the wooden houses as we spotted an inn, door obscured by snow, along the incline. Once inside, the short, round innkeeper led us past a raucous beer hall, music flowing up the stairway, to a room upstairs.

Downstairs, the rafters of the beer hall rang with anthems of Oregonian frontiersmanship. And in a dark corner of the ale house, nursing a goblet Scotchguard, was Blitzen Trapper -– mammoth marauder of the unseen Oregon forest, said to have scaled Mt. Hood on the back of a grizzly (and later befriend that grizzly, convincing him to become partners in a joint business venture before skipping town with the cash advance and critically damaging said grizzly’s credit rating). I sat down across from the flannel-clad beardsman, as the fellows at the bar launched into another song.

“The El Dorado of Northwest,” he mumbled. “We tried to telegram the news out... but in those days the lines could only take so many dots and dashes... only thing we got was more snow... and rain... and a volcanic eruption.”

“Is that why everything here’s so dusty?” I asked, dusting some ash off my cup. “Say, have you heard any news about Bigfoot?”

“Huh? Oh, hello. Are you interested in joining the Wild Mountain Nation?” said Blitzen, ignoring my question. “I have some reasonably priced CDs coming in around June 12 . Top-of-the-line, three easy payments.”

“Is that some kind of album you’re self-releasing?”

“Yes, and if you find yourself in Portland on July 5, we’ll be throwing a belated CD release party for it. I also have some reasonably priced watches.”

“Oh yeah? Sounds like fun. I have a raft, and we’re... [Blitzen Trapper falls asleep] ...hello? ...WHERE’S MY BEAR MONEY?”

[Blitzen Trapper jumps awake]

“What? Oh, it’s you. Stream music from the new record online, but beware -- there be album outtakes. You know we’re actually already on tour,” continued the newly cogent Mr. Trapper. “We’ve been busy playing shows while you’ve been putting off this news story.”

“Oh, right. Sorry.”

Join me as I ditch the raft a take a dogsled across the taiga of Oregon to see Blitzen Trapper duel the grizzly at dusk:

*The Hold Steady

EU Approves of Universal/BMG Music Publishing Merger

The music industry is always a-changin'. Least that's what my grandpappy used to say. Actually, he never said that, but I'm sure if he wrote for Tiny Mix Tapes in his time, he would've stuck something like that in a news story. In fact, let's watch me do the rest of this story like my grandpa would:

As you may see, by that there title of this story, Universal has acquired BMG Music Publishing for two point nineteen billion smackaroonies, and the EU has givin' it the old go ahead! Hot chili cheese dog! Could you imagine what I could buy with two point nineteen billion? I could buy that '79 Chevy! Oh, how I've had my baby blues set on that beautiful machine. I'll tell ya today, they just don't make cars like they used to; that was before the god damn unions went corrupt and people started sleepin' on the job. Forgetin' the nuts and bolts. I'd like to give 'em a piece of grandaddy's nu-- Oh right. I was talkin' about music. Well they just don't make music like they used to either! All of it today is just horse manure! Ain't a damn bit of any good.

Oh snap crackle pop! Yer grandmother's callin' for me, so I'll make this short. On May 22, 2007, Universal Music Group, known for such pop idols as Bono of U2, decided to aq-- U2? Bono? I'm the original Bono, so listen to yer grandaddy because way before Bono, I was sportin' better sunglasses than him and a gave a damn about charity because my family would donate a hog to the annual hog roast. Now that's what I call charitable. Oh sorry, lost track of myself, anyway -- Hold on, woman! Okay! Hold yer horses! Okay sorry again, yer grandma is gettin' old, so sometimes we gotta deal with her yappin'. Universal Music Group has decided to adopt BMG Music Publishing permanently, so they're surely goin' ta make loads of money. But let me tell ya right now; it's goin' ta smell like roadkill. Well, I better go help out yer grandmother in the kitchen; we're preparin' the hog for the annual hog roast. You scurry on home to yer ma and pa now, and I'll tell ya youngsters one thing and ya better damn well heed my advice; the music industry is always a-changin'.

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