Noise Pop 2008

By going to the Noise Pop Festival official website, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. I know this because, if you're anything like me (which you are), you'll go straight to the schedule link and shit your pants over the slated acts, before realizing that you've messed yourself in public over what in fact is last year's lineup. Spare yourself the humiliation and read on.

A select few acts of 2008 have been disclosed to the media, and I'm telling you now, they are indeed shit-worthy: our lord, Stephin Merritt's very own Magnetic Fields will headline two shows at The Herbst Theatre in support of their justly anticipated album, Distortions. The Mountain Goats will play three separate shows at three separate venues soon to be announced. Then there's Gutter Twins, the collaboration between Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs and Mark Lanegan, performing in support of their debut album Saturnalia, which is set for an early 2008 release through Sub Pop.

Want more? How about Cursive, Kelly Stoltz, Tilly & The Wall, Capgun Coup, and Blitzen Trapper -- and that's just the start of a soon-to-be-fully-unveiled roster of 100+ bands to appear from February 26 - March 2 at a dozen or so close-to-our-heart San Francisco venues, like The Great American Music Hall, The Independent, Mezzanine, 12 Galaxies, and Bottom of The Hill.

As you can see, it's shaping up to be a damn good hoopla, with 2008 marking the sweet 16 of a festival that's been bringing bay area rockers the dope-est (I've heard a lot of people saying that again, "doooooope") in indie, punk, and electronic music since its establishment in 1993. At its advent, Noise Pop was a one-night hoo-ha, but that hoo-ha has evolved into the week long, hip-hop-happenin hoodang it is today, shooting above and beyond your average West Coast gala. Some would go as far to call it a veritable cultural shin-dig, its sticky fingers now involving gallery art shows, a music-themed film festival, a discussion panel led by musicians and minimally sordid music industry professionals, and a number of planned and spontaneous events, of which there's nothing more exciting.

Unlike the overwhelming nature of CMJ or SXSW, Noise Pop has forever been unique in its dedication to bridging the gap between fans and bands, keeping the venues intimate and ticket prices low. Year after year, show-goers revel in performances by the not-unknown-for-long, who add themselves to a roster that's showcased acts the likes of Modest Mouse, The White Stripes, Devendra Banhart, Bright Eyes, The Decemberists, Frank Black, Jeff Tweedy, and Spoon.

Dooooooope.

Belle and Sebastian Release Calendar; Me to Use a Non-Digressive Headline for the First Time

NOTE: The following is too funny to riddle with absurd metaphor, irony, or funny hahaha details. The biz of news is direct, sparse, and... manly. True to form, so is this update. Just call me your stone-cold-cigarette-fanning Ed Murrow. Do not call me Al. Unless I ask you to be my bodyguard, or if I happen to be your long-lost pal.

NEWS: Belle and Sebastian recently announced plans to release a calendar, titled “Toast to Glasgow 2008,” in tribute of their hometown.

Photos were taken by Marisa Privitera and band-man Stuart Murdoch.

For updated information on appearances, DJ sets, and the like, visit their site.

While we join as an indie-pendent-minded nation in noting the absurdity of HUAC and Joseph McCarthy, Belle and Sebastian continue to plug and chug away on “God Help the Girl,” an opportunity for competition-winners Brittany Stallings and Dina Bankole to send some vocal cha-cha Glasgow’s way.

Girls will not be in the calendar.

Good night, and good luck.

Terra Firma’s Guy Hands Gets an Unpleasant EMI Surprise

It was the pre-holiday shopping season. Billionaire mogul Guy Hands strolled leisurely through the streets of London. A particularly shiny piece of jewelry in a shop window caught his eye. "Avast!" a startled Guy exclaimed. "What an exquisite bauble. It will make a perfect gift for my wife." He gallivanted into the store and was excited to discover that, with every purchase over €500,000, the customer was entitled to a multinational firm at the paltry cost of €1,000. It was the high-end version of getting one of those lotion box sets with a makeup purchase. "Well," mused Guy, "I like rock ‘n’ roll, so I think I'll take EMI."

Pleased with this impulsive buy, he pranced back home. But when it dawned on him that he'd just acquired one of the world's Big Four record labels, he promptly began hyperventilating. He went into panic mode, assigning two-thirds of his team to the new project and effectively disregarding most of his other companies. He also told his investors, in a frantic conference call, that he would fire all artists who were not "working hard enough." But even the potential gains of this outlandish claim would not sufficient to satiate the monstrous appetite of EMI's losses. He sat on his luxuriously upholstered armchair, curled into a ball, and began sobbing.

And that, boys and girls, is why you don't buy debt-ridden multinational corporations on a flight of fancy.

Gibson to Unleash SELF-TUNING Guitar Next Week, Guitar Hero-Trained Guitarists Rejoice

Okay, so I know this sounds contrived, but last night, in a bizarre turn-of-events that is certainly in no way a journalistic exploitation of the fact that it's almost Christmas or to a certain Victorian word-monger, I was visited by THREEEEEE SPIIIIIIIRITS!

Spooky, I know. Here's a recap from my journal... I mean, "Xanga":

- 1:00 AM

Ghost of Musical Christmas Past arrives in my room. I freak out.

- 1:05 AM

I calm down. We fly out the window, stop at Waffle House. Ghost of Xmas Musical Past has an egg white omelet. I just have coffee.

- 1:35 AM

Ghost flies me to Memphis 1952, where jazz guitarist and inventor Les Paul and the Gibson corporation prepare to release their new "Les Paul Gold Top" guitar just in time for Christmas! This 1952 Les Paul features two state-of-the-art, P-90, single-coil pickups and a one-piece, ‘trapeze’-style bridge and tailpiece, with strings that were fitted under (instead of over) a steel stop-bar. Despite these technological amenities, guitar playing is still quite the act of performance art, as this original Les Paul guitar has problems with intonation, neck angle, and pitch and require a good ear and a real "musician's touch" to perform on.

- 1:53 AM

Ghost flies me home bewildered. I go in for a hug. Ghost backs away and extends hand for shake. It's awkward. Ghost then disappears promptly.

- 2:00 AM

Huge guy appears in my room, calls himself the Ghost of Musical Christmas Present. I know the routine this time, so I put my shoes and coat back on.

- 2:03 AM

We hit the streets. It's the next morning, somehow, and everyone is staring. I'm tired. Ghost wants to bum a cigarette from me. I try the “dude, I only have like 3 left” line, but it doesn’t work.

- 2:10 AM

Ghost of Musical Christmas Present whisks me over to a present-day Memphis guitar plant where the Gibson guitar company is eagerly preparing to release the world's first self-tuning guitar on December 7, 2007 (also just in time for Christmas!). This technological whiz of a guitar, apparently called the “Bigson Robot Les Paul,” will retail for around £1,400, the ghost tells me.

- 2:12 AM

I explain to the ghost that I'm American and don't know what that price means. Ghost rolls his eyes and tells me that it's $2,200.

- 2:13 AM

Ghost continues his diatribe, explaining that, aside from being ludicrously expensive, this new gadget will actually allow different tuning presets to be "stored in its memory," meaning tomorrow's players can simply push buttons to flick between presets without actually having to alter the string tuning by hand. Gibson apparently bills this as a "remarkable music experience" and claims that this new axe will be available at 400 music retailers across the world.

- 2:21 AM

I think that this technological advance sounds "sweet." But the ghost disagrees. Says something about how, in time, advances like these will lead to the ruination of creativity and artistry in popular music, etc.

- 2:40 AM

I'm weary from his lecture. Ghost of Musical Christmas Present rolls his eyes, snaps his fingers. Boom. I'm back home.

- 3:02 AM

Ghost of Musical Christmas Future shows up. "You're a little late," I say. Ghost flips me off. Apparently, this guy doesn't really talk.

- 3:03 AM

Ghost wastes no time shuttling me to the Gibson plant of the distant future, which is now located not in Memphis, but in Beverly Hills, California. I take a look around and see, to my horror, that manual electric guitars are no longer being produced. I pick a Guitar Center Christmas ad book out of a nearby trash can and promptly read the front-page advertisement for the 2057 Gibson "Guitar Hero XXIV" model. There are no strings; there is no wood. Lights and buttons are everywhere. Thanks to the needless technology first used by Gibson's 2007 "Bigson Robot" model, guitar playing has apparently now become a video game that any idiot can play as long as he or she is willing to shell-out the cash. A "free tab" sheet in the ad depicts a very foreign series of triangles, squares, Xs, and stars. The title at the top of the page reads: "Master of Puppets," by Metallica. I realize that the Ghost of Musical Christmas Present was right after all. There is much wailing, gnashing of teeth, etc.

- 3:15 AM

Distraught and upset with Gibson, I commit suicide by running in front of a Gibson truck that is hastily leaving the plant in order to deliver these sinister, self-playing guitars all over the world. But just as everything is fading to black... I WAKE UP.

I know! Creepy, right?!?

What does all of this MEAN, you ask?

Well, to be honest, I don't rightly know if it was all a dream or not. My girlfriend assures me that it was. My stoner friend who listens to Tenacious D all day swears that it wasn’t. Either way, just to be on the safe side, if you want to keep the musical world safe from swift, mechanized, creativity-squelching oblivion, DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES visit this address this Christmas.

You have been warned.

Doin’ It for the Artists: Sarkozy Backs Three Strikes & No Internet Plan

So, I guess the French have totally stellar internet, and it's mega-easy to illegally download stuff.

Sarkozy is not down.

Sarkozy says illegal file-sharing will cause a complete destruction of French culture.

On November 23, Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France and leader of the conservative party UMP, officially endorsed the three-way agreement that would entail tracking the habits of all internet users. For those users who are caught illegally downloading, three warnings will be sent via e-mail before their broadband would be either suspended or cut off completely.

In an effort to make nice with all this broadband cutting-offage, the agreement also includes an obligation for France's film industry to release DVDs of films six months after their cinematic release rather than seven-and-a-half, as well as an obligation for the music industry to remove copyrights from archived French music, therefore making it possible to play material on all types of players. The idea is that this would make everything more accessible, and you wouldn't have to steal it.

But then again, monitoring all internet usage kind of steps on the toes of some civil liberties, so say some members of Sarkozy's own cabinet.

But then again, the international recording industry is all about it.

Discuss.

Iran Declares Rap Music Illegal

Rappers, put down your passports! Just when you thought Iran has made enough headlines this year, the country has now decided to make rap music illegal due to its "obscene" lyrical content. But can they really do that?

The answer, my friends, is yes. Unlike in America, where we have this little thing called “Freedom of Speech” -- however debatable that might be -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad likes to instead spend his time dealing with things of greater importance, like constantly trying to make nice with the U.S. or saying "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country" (sure, the Western conception of "homosexuals" can't easily be applied to Iran, but possible death penalities?).

So, why the sudden crackdown on rap music? “There is nothing wrong with this type of music in itself,” said Mohammad Dashtgoli, an official for evaluation of music at the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry. “But due to the use of obscene words by its singers, this music has been categorized as illegal.” Dashtgoli continued, “In coordination with the police, illegal studios producing this type of music will be sealed and the singers in the genre will be confronted.”

Daaaaamn, a possible confrontation between the Iranian cops and rappers?! Sheeeeiiit.

Let’s Write A News Story: Marah – Which Sounds A Lot Like Mirah – Is Touring; Hey What Is Mirah Up To?

1. Look for a band on tour. Let’s see... hey, Marah, that sounds awfully like Mirah. Maybe it’s a typo?
2. Alright, it’s not a typo. Marah is, in fact, its own band. Now we’ve gotta make the most of it.
3. Angle, what’s a good angle. Let’s look at the website of the band’s booking agency, The Billion Corporation...
4. Aww shit, Mirah gets hooked up by these suckaz too. Wut a crazy tidbit.
5. Fact from booking agent: "Marah turned ten years old in July 2005"... one of those little kid bands maybe?
6. Damn, those entrepreneurial munchkins are selling their You Can’t Take it With You EP on vinyl and Der iTunes. Whoa, then they’re releasing a record called Angels of Destruction early next year.
7. They grow beards fast for prepubescents. Kids are growing up older these days I guess.
8. Okay, that’ll do. Results: name recognition of ‘Marah’ increases by 5.8%; confusion about the difference between ‘Marah’ and ‘Mirah’ at an all-time high.

Let me try to help:

Mirah: (1)woman

Marah: (1)man + ((x)man + (y)woman)

Mirah: Name that contains the letter ‘I,’ the ninth letter of the Latin alphabet sometimes used to indicate an imaginary unit in mathematics.

Marah: Name that twice contains the letter ‘A,’ first letter of the Latin alphabet whose origins can be traced to a scratchy Egyptian drawings of an ox’s head.

That about sums it up.

Oh yeah.... Marah tourdates:

Mirah also has shows, so I might as well:
01.23.08 - San Francisco, CA - Great American Music Hall $$$
01.25.08 - Los Angeles, CA - Henry Fonda Theater $$$

$$$ Co-headlining with The Blow

Fuck Diamonds: Take Your Lady To An Upcoming Richard Hawley Show

You may know him from his time as touring guitarist for Pulp or as a member of the Longpigs, but Richard Hawley (not to be confused with the classical composer of the same name or techno mainstay Richie Hawtin) is a mighty fine solo musician in his own right. He released his latest LP, Lady's Bridge (Mute) late last summer and has been receiving raves for it, as he had for his previous three LPs. 2005's Cole's Corner (Mute) was even nominated for the UK's Mercury Prize.

This man hearts ‘50s music, his hometown of Sheffield, and Scott Walker (does anyone from Pulp not L-O-V-E SW?), and has taken those influences and spun them into something romantic, lovely, and new. Maybe one day he will be coined the "Godfather of Post-New Romantic," a genre that does not yet exist. Of course, some johnny-come-lately prat will probably swing in a few years later and make shit-tons of money off his musical ideas and "Post-New Romantic" in general. Ugh.

That is kind of depressing, so let's not think about it -- we should focus on RH's upcoming North American tour. It starts December 1 in NYC and finds the man going for about two weeks, until the festivities wrap-up in LA on December 13.

Add Some Iron and Wine to Your Diet with a Delicious Extended Tour!

There are so many things that one can extend! What about a ladder, or say, a foreign visa? Maybe you feel like getting a tax extension, or doing something similar with your hair? The possibilities don’t stop there, though — oh no! You can extend a warranty or condolences to a loved one. Now I’m sure you’ll agree with me that these are all fine things, but definitely not on the same level of fun as when a favorite artist extends their touring schedule.

That’s what the wonderful Iron and Wine have just done, and in a BIG way!
Our man Sam Beam will transform cities from Cali to Copenhagen this winter with a little iron, a little wine, and a whole lot of haunting lo-fi songwriting. And in honor of Mr. Beam’s hard work, I will extend this article no longer and provide you with a dazzling array of opportunities to see Iron and Wine in a city near (or not so near) you.

* Califone

Note to New Zealand/Australia/Japan RE: Gossip

Have you seen The Gossip live? If not, you really need to prioritize and go see them when they come through your town... actually, anywhere NEAR your town. Admittedly, I don't own any of their records, like 2006's Standing in The Way of Control (TMT Review), but I can tell you without hesitation that The Gossip are amazing live.

Why, you ask? One reason is that no matter who Beth Ditto is performing in front of, she acts exactly the same. I have seen this band both in basements and at huge festivals (via live footage), and Beth sings and screams with all her heart, takes her shirt off if it's too hot, and then tells you about watching crap reality TV. She's been on the cover of NME, and she's still the same, awesome queer feminist lady that she was in the basements of Olympia playing for five people. Another reason? I saw them once at this weird show in Berlin, where the sparse audience consisted mainly of middle-aged industry dudes -- she ended the set by making a fake dick with a beer bottle under her dress, before flipping off the audience. It was totally hilarious.

Not to mention that Hannah and Brace are totally electric to watch.

So go already!

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